Back in January I drew up a short list of five titles in early Islamic history, one which unexpectedly flared into a broader series on the middle east in general — and one with a strong Persian/Iranian bent.
The original titles were:
- Destiny, Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes
- The War of the Three Gods- Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam
- After the Prophet: the Epic Sunni-Shiia Split
- In God’s Path: the Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire
- Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age
In the spirit of year-end reviews, let’s pick a few favorite.
All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer. A lively history of a night in 1953, when American and British forces reinstalled an ousted monarch and smothered Iranian democracy.
Iran and the United States: An Insider’s View, Seyyed Hossein Mousavian. A history of the lost Iranian-American relationship, from the Iranian view.
Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds, Stephen Kinzer. An optimistic look at Turkey as it stands between democracy and paternalism, between west and east. I read this right before the failed ‘military coup’ that smells like the Reichstag fire these days.
A review is pending for Inside the Kingdom, a history of modern Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey.
The above book is Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran, which mourned the fact that most memoirs westerners read about the middle east focus on negative aspects and reduce the people to masses who must be ‘helped’; in rebuttal she tells readers about the extraordinary and complicated lives of people in her Iran, and uses other Persian literature to explore the same.