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The Spiders of Allah

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  139 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
The bloodshed perpetrated in the name of religion in the world today is nowhere more obvious than in the Middle East. Whether we are talking about hardcore Zionist settlers still fighting ancient Biblical battles in the hills of the West Bank or Shiite death squads roaming the lawless streets of Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam; whether it's the misappropriation and martyrd ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 7th 2010 by Black Swan (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Jun 10, 2009 Casey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I entered the giveaway for this book mainly because of I thought the cover art was by Ralph Steadman. I was completely wrong.

When I re-read the synopsis of the book after winning I thought I'd be getting a non-fiction book that would add some religious and historical context to middle eastern conflicts. I was mostly wrong.

I enjoyed the two chapters that discussed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and some of the religious history behind it. Then the book takes a nearly 200 pg diversion into Iraq,
Jun 16, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Hider has written an interesting and engaging look at the Middle East, Journalism, and even a bit of psychiatry. With a title like “The Spiders of Allah” and a subtitle of “Travels of an Unbeliever on the Frontline of Holy War” one might think that this was going to be yet another attack on Religion in general, and Islam in particular, but that is not the case. Of course, there are moments when he takes on some questionable religious practices, in particular in the final chapter, but his c ...more
Jun 29, 2009 Joanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joanna by: goodreads giveaway
Shelves: non-fiction
The title and the promise of this book is somewhat misleading. I have expected a book on religoulous fundamentalism in the Middle East, but this is rather a war diary from Iraq with some commentaries on the fundamentalism. It is well written and interesting, but it's not what the book cover promises. Having said that, I am glad that I have read it, because it adds a human face to the news on tv, and has got few thought-provoking points.

Although Hider is an atheist, he is not aggressive in his w
Jul 17, 2009 Jogar01 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: testimonios
James Hider does a good job in writing about the irrationality of religious believes in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq, Palestine, and Israel. Through out the book he also comments on the irracionality of the Western Christian believes in attempting to comprehend and explain the world through the eyes of a god. The most powerful passages of the book, in my opinion, are the ones when Hider is embedded with the US Army and witnesses the state of humanity: we are obsessed with violence. The ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Katherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. The story of the war is told from a perspective I hadn't really heard before. The book is less about the war and more about the interactions of different religions and societies. It highlights the history of the area and the history of religion in the area without getting bogged down in long narratives. It is introspective and it is funny (I didn't expect that from a book about a war torn societies). It’s obvious that the author has spent a lot of time in area ...more
Jj Sutherland
Oct 16, 2014 Jj Sutherland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Hider's Spiders of Allah is one of those books that could only be written by someone who has been there. I've spent quite a bit of time in the Middle East and Mr. Hider captures the surrealism of the place in a book hilarious, well told, and at time sobering. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to get a feel for the Middle East that lies behind the headlines, and the mentalities that drive them.
Dec 19, 2011 Kriegslok rated it really liked it
Picked this up for a few pence at a lost property sale and didn't expect much of it. It turned out to be an interesting read and a bit different in perspective from some of the other stuff I've read on the conflicts covered. Hider provides what feels to be a pretty honest gut based retelling of his time in the "religious" war zones from a position highly critical of the role of fundamentalist religion, and religion in general, in peoples lives. You get a harrowing picture of lives lost to blinke ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This is a stranger in a strange land tale - at its best there are shades of Michael Herr's Vietnam classic, Dispatches crossed with Alexis de Tocqueville's ruminations on 19th century America. Hider, the Middle East bureau chief for the Times of London provides a solid journalistic portrait of post-Saddam Iraq.

I appreciated Mr. Hider's clear but not always dispassionate writing & his keen eye for the ridiculous or ironic detail. There were times in reading this when I laughed out loud (garne
Jul 10, 2009 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It definitely contained some interesting episodes, and it provides a rather unique view of war (in that it is primarily about a war that is still raging), but it does not completely live up to its promises. Hider is a good war journalist, but not quite the "gonzo" one that the book claims he is. Yes, he consistently places himself in dangerous places, but he does not really say anything that another journalist placed in the same locations would not say ...more
Jun 24, 2009 Kerfe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mesmerizing book about the dangerous intersection between human religions and the ability to co-exist peacefully--well, it turns out to be an inablity, as the world continues to experience and witness.

The bulk of the action occurs in Iraq after God tells George Bush to impose his world-view over Saddam's. Each chapter reinforces the folly and resulting horrors, with no sympathy for any ideology. But Hider also traces the current Middle Eastern conflicts through Gods and beliefs both ancient a
I enjoyed this very much. After reading all the news stories surrounding this situation, it was nice to get a personal account. Others may have already dipped into the gonzo-style accounts of the war in Iraq, I had not.

The summary is a bit misleading. There is an undertone of religion throughout the book, but it is not another "God Delusion" by far.

Not only do you get a first person account, but there are many insights into a culture I thought I knew more about. The violence and bloodshed, the
Jul 21, 2009 Alexis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Woohoo! won another one...looking forward to reading it.

This was an interesting read. Part history lesson, part philosophical discussion, part storytelling, the author uses his experiences in the Middle East to tell a story that reawakened my interest in Middle Eastern culture and history. The book is very conversational in tone which is strange at times considering the amount of carnage and human suffering recounted in its pages. The author is an atheist and naturally describe his experiences i
Non-fiction, this book is written by an atheist journalist who spent many months in Iraq as well as Israel. In addition to his personal experiences in the war zones (everything from being in Fallujah during the US invasion to suicide bombers blowing people to bits), he also writes about his personal views towards violence based on religious beliefs. There is also a bit of history of the peoples of Iraq and Israel thrown in , as well.

I'm agnostic with strong leanings towards atheism, and was exci
Jun 26, 2009 George rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I’m conflicted about this book. I found the first 147 pages mostly boring. The British idioms, geographic references and cultural analogies didn't help its readability for me.

Both the stories and the storytelling, however, did improve in the second half of the book; but never quite rising to the back-cover, promotional promise of a “razor-sharp look at the malign influence of fanatical fundamentalism”. More like a butter knife sharp, at best.

Recommendation: Start at page 148: Ancient Feuds ---
Jul 21, 2009 Christine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The book is packed full of information (densely packed) It is interesting and certainly educational but is not necessarily an easy read. He has a highbrow writing style, which may not necessarily detract from the read. It created, for me, a sense that even though he is in the muck of it all, he is somehow completely removed. At any rate, the book is perhaps an easier for people with avid interest in the subject matter. I do think it is a good book for everyone to read, as it is important to be i ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hider reported on what he saw with no apparent bias to any side, and I loved it. One of the few books about the Middle East that doesn't present an opinion on who is the worse foe or the justified avenger. I finished the book and felt informed, and almost sorry for everyone involved. Each side is so lost in their dogmas that they cannot be reasoned with, and yet this doesn't make me angry. It was presented with humor and left me questioning all humankind, not demonizing the fighters or their bel ...more
Jul 20, 2010 Tarika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i LOVED this book. it was the one that i chose as my "extra" summer AP reading novel and i definitely made the right choice. It was about a british reporter who did not believe in a god reporting in the Middle East - a place that is so controlled by its religion. Hider exposed ridiculous customs and why people were killing so aimlessly. This book was enlightening and interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who likes learning about the middle east and isnt too religously-inclined.
Jun 27, 2009 Vicki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting stories of the journalist's time in Iraq. A chapter or 2 at the end trying to get philosophical, the author expounding on how people are killing each other for "something that doesn't exist". Not a bad book, but the subtitle and the last chapters aren't really necessary - I wish the author had let people draw their own conclusions instead of proselytizing atheism.
Jan 07, 2014 Rz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
to read this book is to dive into a terrifying, depressing sojourn into the middle east - and the darkest recesses of humanity. sensitively and sharply written. a good read.
Apr 07, 2012 Anita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a journalist writing about his many years spent in the middle-east war zones, James Hilder does a great job, and I appreciated that he didn't take sides. The blurb on the back promises to discuss the religious aspects in detail, but they only get mentioned in bits-and-pieces throughout the book. Still, it was well written and interesting.
Jul 29, 2009 Cindy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Gonzo journalism. I was a fan of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing series, Las Vegas and especially the Campaign Trail. I entered a contest to receive a prerelease of the Spiders of Allah, and I liked the chapter or two I read--I can't think of a better place to practice gonzo journalism than the Middle East--but I lost the book at LAX.
Oct 23, 2009 Esther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the first book that I've read on current events in Iraq and the middle east. I wasn't sure if I would get through it, but found it hard to put down. Some bits were difficult. I loved the glimpses he gave us of life there, little windows of moments, that we don't see on the news.
Jul 24, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat disjointed, but an interesting look at Iraq (post-invasion) and the Middle East. I'm not sure that this is gonzo journalism (as described on the back cover) and the author's anti-religious beliefs, which I thought might present an interesting perspective, did not really add much.
Srinivasan Iyengar
Good book . The start is excellent with quite gripping tale of events but the last couple of chapters is where the story takes a twist...... Which I personally think is biased against the middle east and seems to show the west as a saviour. If you overlook that, the book is good
Kevin Butler
Mar 16, 2010 Kevin Butler rated it really liked it
A good read that helps give a much greater understanding into some of the conflicts going on throughout the world. Personally I found some of the more ancient history a bit tedious to read but that is where it all stems from so it can't really be left out.
Aug 27, 2009 Turi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't the kind of book I normally read, but it caught my eye so I gave it a shot. James Hider was the Times UK Middle East station chief, and he chronicles his experiences in both Israel and Iraq. Fascinating and terrifying.
Gerard Walsh
A correspondent travels around the Middle East interviewing different people that claim to be willing to kill in the name of religion and fills in background details not only on them but on their victims and those caught up in the middle.
Apr 07, 2011 Mukhtar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking and intense look at the roots of conflict in the Middle East. Sometimes too graphic and other times somewhat numb, a must read for all who are interested in happenings in the Middle East.
Feb 18, 2010 Lulu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book by an accomplished author. Despite the subject matter it is funny and witty and will enlighten you on the Middle East. Highly recommended.
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I have always been fascinated by what you might call the pathology of ideas -- how they mutate as different societies inherit, steal or are infected by foreign concepts, customs and gods. How a Disney character can become an icon of Islamist martyrdom, how we invent gods because we are afraid of dying, then end up dying for these invented gods. Having seen at first hand, and all too often, the mos ...more
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