Your ME reading list

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Saigon, May 25, 2012.

  1. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    What are the best books you have read on the Middle East?

    Fiction or non-fiction - but the books which you learned most from, or which most challenged your thinking.

    Here's a few that have always stuck in my head...but I'm looking forward to hearing about some new ones here.

    Off-topic responses will be ignored.

    Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt
    Understanding Israel means understanding the Holocaust, and this is Holocaust 101. Hugely controversial, the Jewish Arendt lived with Nazi philosopher Martin Heidigger prior to WWII, and her acerbic wit throughout the book offended almost everyone. Back it up with her monumental History of Totalitarianism.

    A Peace To End All Peace, David Fromkin
    This book alone would cancel out 30% of the posts in this forum! Focusing on the key years from 1914 – 1922, Fromkin chronicles the fall of the Ottoman empire and the rise of Palestinian nationalism through the period of the third Aliyah. An essential, irreplaceable read.

    The Arabs, David Lamb
    An LA Times journalist based in Cairo, Lamb travels from Mauritania to Oman, interviewing Arabs and coming to understand their language and history. Balanced, gentle and analytical, it is a terrific insight for westerners.

    Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedmann
    The most balanced book on the conflict I have read, Friedmann attacks both sides with equal venom, and in doing so, creates a sense of real truth and honesty. I don’t agree with all he says, but you have to admire his experience and commitment. Not many Jewish journalists hang out in Beirut.

    I Sweep The Sun Off Rooftops, Hanan al-Shaykh
    All of her books are beautiful, small tales or ordinary lives in Beirut and Palestine. Exquisitely written, their insight into normal, Arabic lives seems almost accidental. Her short stories are also wonderful.

    Orientalism, Edward Säid
    Probably the most significant book ever written by a Palestinian, Säid attacks the western historians who insist on writing Arabic history in a colonialist tone, demanding that Arabic voices must tell their own stories. Impressively intellectual, the books spans genres and faculties, commanding a place in most studies of the region.

    Lebanon, The Fractured Country, Robert Gilmour
    Written in 1983, this book still stands out as a model of passionate, informed history. Though biased, the book is unique in its insight into the fighting that marred Beirut in the 1980s. His writing on Palestine is also terrific.

    Arabia Through The Looking Glass, Jonathon Raban
    Even older, this warm, gentle book traces a path and length and breadth of the Arabic world, contrasting the lives of Arabs in Yemen and Qatar with those in London and Cairo. The fact that the author is a travel writer and not a journalist or historian makes the book unusual.

    My Michael, Amos Oz
    Israel’s greatest writer is always worth reading, and no more so than in this sad, profound story of life and love in Jerusalem. His writing illuminates the life of Israelis with such gentle warmth and honesty.

    Israel/Palestine, Tanya Reinhart
    Hugely controversial in Israel, the (Jewish) author catalogues human rights violations committed by Israel, and accuses Israel of faking the peace process. While obviously biased, it is also a very compelling look into a side of the conflict many people are unaware of. For those who think Israel is the good guy, it is a sobering read.
     
  2. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    It's funny - I had thought I might pick up a few good tips from posters here, and I'd certainly thought some of the titles I'd chosen might be contentious, but apparently not....
     
  3. ekrem
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    ekrem VIP Member

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    Here most of the people only want to read what fits into their stereotyped views.
     
  4. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    Yes, I think that is probably true.

    But there are so many great books on the Middle East from so many different perspectives, that I would think most people who read at all would come across some good titles.
     
  5. Artevelde
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    Artevelde Senior Member

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    Since you want some tips:

    Tom Segev: "One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate"

    Simon Sebag Montefiore: "Jerusalem: The Biography"

    Charles M. Sennott: "The Body and the Blood: The Middle East's Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace"

    Michael B. Oren: "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East"

    Martin Gilbert: "Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century"

    Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr.: "A Concise History of the Middle East"

    Walter Laqueur: "A History of Zionism"

    ...

    The list really is pretty endless. I've just given a few books from my library not included in your list.

    Obviously there are many more and it is also useful to read other books that have a baring on Egyptian history, the history of Islam and of the Arab people as a whole, the Suez crisis, etc. Etc.
     
  6. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    Some good choices, there, Artevelde!

    I'm a big fan of Montefiore - his work on Stalin is absolutely stunning. I have't read this one, but will give it some thought.

    Martin Gilbert I have read, though I think it was a history of the Jews, or something similar. Very well documented, but I seem to remember finding it a bit dry - as history can be, of course.

    The Six Day War one sounds good - it was such a pivotal time, and I don't know so much about it as I was so young at the time. I've probably read more about the Yom Kippur war, as that directly effected my home more than '67. It sounds like a good pick.
     
  7. Artevelde
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    Artevelde Senior Member

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    The Montefiore book on Jerusalem really is vey good (better than Gilbert I would say).

    Segev's on the mandate period is really a very useful book. I can highly recommend it.
     
  8. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    Ok, I'll take a look at it. It sounds as if it covers similar territory from the David Fromkin, which I thought was just amazing. I learned so much from that book.

    I won't be in the region this year, but will probably go back to Israel next year, so I'll need a few big books for the trip.
     
  9. Artevelde
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    Artevelde Senior Member

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    Fromkin's book is more focused on the period leading up toi the mandate. Segev studies the evolution throughout the mandate leading up to the departure of the British.

    So many books, so little time.
     
  10. Saigon
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    Saigon Gold Member

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    Ain't that the truth!

    I am currently reading Hugh Thomas's 'The Slave Trade' as background for a story on Benin - all 900 pages of it....gag....I don't think I'll read much else this month!
     

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