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Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  4,080 ratings  ·  312 reviews
From the best-selling author of Black Hawk Down comes a riveting, definitive chronicle of the Iran hostage crisis, America's first battle with militant Islam. On November 4, 1979, a group of radical Islamist students, inspired by the revolutionary Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They took fifty-two Americans hostage, and kept nearly a ...more
Paperback, 680 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Grove Press (first published 2006)
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4.13  · 
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While I preferred David Harris's handling of the political maneuverings in his book The Crisis, Bowden does a much better job here of blending previously published captivity narratives and his interviews to give a sense of what the hostages' experiences were like. While it's successful in being highly readable and in conveying a lot of information, I did have some problems with the tone of the book.

Bowden heavily criticizes the pro-hostage-taker rhetoric of some American lefties at the time, in
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time, and I'm glad I finally did. The specifics of the Iran hostage crisis were always obscure to me, and I've read only fragmentary accounts by various participants, mainly by members of the Delta Force element. The added perspective of the hostages and their centrality to the story is what makes this book such a gem.

The Iran hostage crisis is little remembered today, but when it is, it is unfortunately presented in a way that that reeks of partisan
Lengthy account of the Iran Hostage Crisis, which lasted 444 days, or what felt like the amount of time taken to read this book.

It's a very detailed account of the crisis and that's the only problem i had with the book, too much information, a bit leaner and it would be a much more gripping read.

If you're looking to know everything about the Iran Hostage Crisis then this is definitely the book to read but you may feel like a hostage too.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even prior to Argo's popularity, I always found myself incredibly interested in the Iranian Revolution. This is for two primary reasons: 1. it was a revolution in which the outcome wasn't preordained or even mass imagined. Indeed, it was described by both its actors and American observers as "unthinkable." The revolutionaries themselves were not a monolithic group; it was a surprising assembly leftest students, religious madrassa students, secular intellectuals, and fundamentalist islamists inte ...more
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
I was a Senior at Spring Hill College and working for the CBS affiliate in Mobile, Alabama when this occurred. I was undergoing a transformation in my politics also at this time. Having met and listened to Ronald Reagan for over 3 hours in September of 1976, I fell in love with both the man and his ideas; I became a Reagan Democrat turned Republican, and never turned toward the left again. I voted for the former President in the 1976 Republican primary rather than Gerald Ford. I proudly cast my ...more
Nov 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nonfiction
Great book about the Iranian Hostage crisis. Being born in the late 1970s, I do not remember this on TV (obviously). But some of the action was times it felt like a novel. I really liked the parts where Bowden takes the reader inside the Carter Administration. For those of you who criticize his handling of the situation, how would YOU have handled it?? It was an impossible situation. Also, similar to "The Looming Tower", by Lawrence Wright, the book helps us answer the question, "W ...more
Doreen Petersen
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Excellent book! A very dark period we could all stand to learn from.
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This is a fascinating, gripping non-fiction account of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981. I bought this book after seeing "Argo." This book is definitely not an account of the true "Argo" story; in fact, the six workers who were the subject of that film are mentioned only very briefly in this book (as in, maybe ten sentences).

This book gives a brief background of the events leading up to the overthrow of the shah and the Iranian Revolution in the late 70s. Prior to reading this book, I only
Regina Lindsey
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was amazing. I cannot believe that I read over 700 pages of exhaustively researched material on a single event (the Iranian hostage crisis in the late 1970's) and stayed riveted the entire time. I was worried after reading Black Hawk Down by the same author that I would have the same trouble of keeping people/events straight, but I didn't at all - Bowden kept the characters alive, distinct, and memorable.

The book covers as many angles as possible - it tries to tell what it was like fo
Bart Thanhauser
Guests of the Ayatollah is about the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis in which Iranian university students took over the US Embassy in Tehran and held 66 Americans hostage for over a year.

The embassy takeover and subsequent hostage crisis was, in many ways, a continuation of the Iranian Revolution that had taken place the year before and dethroned Iran’s decades-long dictator, Shah Pahlavi.

There were many motives for the embassy takeover, but the most visible motive was the desire to safeguard the rece
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book represents the art of storytelling with a vivid presentation of the Iran Hostage Crisis. The American diplomats captivity is primarily expressed in graphic detail which illuminates the authenticity of their 444 day imprisonment.

"Guests of the Ayatollah" also brings to life the response by President Carter, the Iranian students who seized the embassy, the daring rescue attempt by the U.S. Delta Force, and the role geopolitics would play with the Iraq-Iran war.

While this event occurred
Alain DeWitt
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
In 1979 when the hostage crisis began I had just turned 12. I recall how this story dominated the nightly news headlines. My father worked for the US Department of State so our family probably followed this story a little more closely than most.

(In fact our family has a very tangential connection to the story. My father was a Regional Security Officer. This means that he was in charge of security for all the agencies doing business under the auspices of the embassy. In late 1979 when the shah of
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Bowden focuses on events surrounding the Iranian hostage crisis, the 444-day period, during which student proxies of the new Iranian regime held hostage 66 diplomats and citizens of the United States inside the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Historians consider the crisis to have been an important reason for United States President Jimmy Carter's loss in his re-election bid for the presidency in 1980.

The book is not as good as Biden's own Black Hawk Down, but it's also a revelation on several levels.
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in current issues in Iran
Recommended to John by: Tom Novak
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sai Deogekar
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the 444 days long ordeal faced by the people in the American embassy at Tehran. What I loved about this book was that the author has tried to be unbiased (except probably in some parts of the epilogue where he tries to portray that the strained US-Iran relations are responsible for the miserable state of Tehran, but he ends up describing any normal third world country). At times, I found myself rooting for the American victims and getting absolutely enraged by the blatant vio ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very good book. I think a lot of people like to attack Carter and, reading this, the frustration of the administration and the American people is palpable. But, ultimately, all the hostages got out alive.

I picked up the book remembering something about suggestions that the RNC was complicit in keeping the hostages there till after the election. I think this book somewhat talked me out of that suspicion but, it is important to remember, that terrorists don't do things rationally and keeping th
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read by the author of "Blackhawk Down." I learned four important things:

1. the "Desert One" rescue mission had been aborted by its commander, Col. Charlie Beckwith, BEFORE the one helicopter crashed into a C-130, causing the death of 8 servicemen. It wasn't the case that this crash caused the mission to abort.

2. Saddam Hussein's attack on Iran occurred in Sept. 1980 and was a direct result of Iran's weakened and isolated position nearly a year after the crisis began. And this assaul
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no personal recollection of the Iran Hostage Crisis, having only been a year old at the time, and until reading this book I had no idea what a game changer it was. For over a year, 52 American civilians were kidnapped and imprisoned in their embassy by a small group of young, armed, hothead "students" (including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). No one had a clue what to do next - the captors, the Iranian government, the American public, or, unfortunately, the Carter administration. Everyone involved ...more
Corey Toomey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very objective and effective weaving of many different perspectives during the Iranian hostage crisis which has since been staining everyday life in Iran by causing the rise of an absurd religious autocracy. It's hard to venerate this particular theocracy as being "better than the Shah's regime". The overthrown Shah may have been a tyrannical nutjob who purged/executed those who would utter a single syllable of dissidence against him, but at least the rule he imposed was secular.

Bowden, howeve
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a great book. Mark Bowden already blew my mind a few years ago with Black Hawk Down so I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this; then I listened to a Leonard Lopate interview with him about this book and that cemented it, I raced right to the bookstore on the way home and read it as often as I could given work/etc. commitments. Put it this way: It's a 600-some-page hardcover bigger than some dictionaries yet I carried it on the El to and from work because I just couldn't put it down. ...more
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks Bridget for recommending this one. I've never stayed up till 4am for a non-fiction book before. Since I have no recollection of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and had little knowledge of what happened or what it was about, I was enthralled with the attempt to sneak in and capture the hostages--the attempt that was a huge debacle. I was hoping it would work out...

I think the fact that I didn't know anything about the situation made the book's impact even greater. I don't have a vague notion tha
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so personal to me as I was a student in Paris during the revolution while Khomeini was in exile in Paris. I am really impressed with the research and level of intimate detail that for me, filled in a lot of blanks about things I didn't or couldn't then understand. It was the first time I was eligible to vote in a US presidential election, and that was significant too for me. I was sometimes profiled in Paris as a student for "looking Iranian" (I am not) and tried to learn why the I ...more
David Quinn
Feb 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Mark Bowden and this is my favorite book he's written (I've read all of them). I was in my early teens at the time of the Iran hostage crisis and have memories of the nightly news reports but never truly knew the story until after I read this book. It's a great read even if the events didn't happen during your lifetime.
Bryan Craig
This is a well-written book on the 1979 hostages. We hear their story and also the Iranian side, at least in a larger sense. We get to know a few of the guards. It is interesting that a number of the students who stormed the embassy are now in high positions in power, and some have torn away from the regime and push for democratic reform. A must read!
May 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bowden's another one of those authors I'll pick up regardless of what the book's about. He tells a compelling, if mostly one-sided tale here, but it feels like that's more from access problems than bias. Killing Pablo and Black Hawk Down are better books, but this one's worth looking at.
Daniel Jafari
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
breathtaking recount of the infamous hostage taking of US embassy which eliminated democratic hope for Iran and brought politics to a complete halt. Three decades after, US hardly involves himself with the trauma, but Iran's soul as a nation is haunted by the ghosts of this act of terror.
Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: understand the pivitol event in our relationship with Iran
He is not the focus of the book, but Carter may well be the last American president with genuine integrity.
Jose Roman
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book and once again Mark Bowden digs into the, "what we think we know" file.
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was six years old when Iranian students raided the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Sixty-six hostages were taken in all. The planned three day protest turned into a 444 day nightmare. I cast my very first vote (albeit unofficial) for President Jimmy Carter that following year. I vaguely remember he wasn't the popular choice, but even then I had a tendency to want to fight for the underdog. I was completely oblivious to the events that surrounded his final year in office and what would be the last stra ...more
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Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American writer who is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1973 graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979-2003, and has won numerous awards. He has written for Men's Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone over the ...more
“Like most of the great turning points in history, it was obvious and yet no one saw it coming.” 2 likes
“Sitting cross-legged on the rug, puffing on a pipe, wearing a fat gold Rolex on his wrist, Khamenei asked the colonel, “If we were to release all of you now, without any conditions, how long would it be before you could begin to supply us again with spare parts for our military forces?” 1 likes
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