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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  128,183 ratings  ·  7,863 reviews

Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the

Paperback, 356 pages
Published December 30th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published March 25th 2003)
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Leah I didn't know much of anything and still understood it quite well. If anything, it will inspire you to learn more…moreI didn't know much of anything and still understood it quite well. If anything, it will inspire you to learn more(less)
blereader I'd say this is ideal for students who have read at least some of the various works (Lolita, The Great Gatsby, etc.) and who don't mind reading a 400+…moreI'd say this is ideal for students who have read at least some of the various works (Lolita, The Great Gatsby, etc.) and who don't mind reading a 400+ page book. Many of the complaints about Reading Lolita in Tehran are about how "boring" the literary analyses are, so students who enjoy analyzing classics and who can reflect from memory about their experiences with Lolita etc. would probably enjoy Nafisi's memoir better. I myself didn't read many of these Western works until my college years, so I suppose I'm biased towards thinking that this book is best for university students. Also, much of the accounts take place at a university, so it might ring well with those who are going through or who have gone through a university education.

For younger students, you might consider Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. It's more or less the same place and time period. Satrapi's work is just as serious as Nafisi's, but it might keep the interest of young students better, as it's less "pontificating," it's in graphic novel form, and it follows the life of a young girl growing up.(less)

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This book failed for me on a number of levels. The premise of it sounded interesting to me--a glimpse at the lives of women and academics under the totalitarian regime in Iran, arranged around a series of bookclub meetings and analyses of various famous books. But for such a promising concept, and for a book which deals with so many serious and complex topics, it's facile and cliched. Almost alarmingly so, in fact.

The tone was the biggest failing for me. It's smug and self-important. For me, it
Aug 01, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Sheep
I'm not sure I can finish this book. It's just so boring and self-important. And poorly written. My eyes keep crossing. It makes me angry because I think this COULD really be a good book. It has a good premise, a lot of potential, and it's about a topic I'm actually very interested in and would like to know more about. But instead it's dry as hell and doesn't follow any cohesive pattern--it just feels like a lot of random moments in the life of Azar Nafisi strung together by some run-of-the-mill ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books is a book by Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi. Published in 2003, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for over one hundred weeks and has been translated into 32 languages.

The book consists of a memoir of the author's experiences about returning to Iran during the revolution (1978–1981) and living under the Islamic Republic of Iran government until her departure in 1997.

It narrat
Feb 12, 2008 rated it liked it
I feel like I showed up for class without reading the required assignment. This book should come with a prerequisite reading list: Lolita, Invitation to a Beheading, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, and Pride and Prejudice or at least a warning for spoilers: (view spoiler). If I would have known Nafisi was going to delve into these literary pieces like she would one of ...more
Mar 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2007, phenomenal
In case you don't know about this book yet (though, honestly, how could you not know about this book yet?), it is an absolutely amazing memoir by an Iranian woman who was a professor of English & Persian literature at the University of Tehran before, during, and after the revolution and war with Iraq. Once wearing the veil became mandatory and she refused to wear one, she was forced to quit teaching, and one way she came up with to fill her time was to gather several of her most dedicated studen ...more
Greta G
Nov 05, 2018 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
“What we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.”

This book isn’t a fast read. I’ve started reading this memoir 24 October, and I only finished part 1 so far -77 pages of 347- and that already took me a while! Maybe I’m in a reading slump, but I doubt that, because I’m eager enough to read. Some other reviewers complained that the book is tedious, disjointed and all over the place, and that the author’s tone is smug and self-important. Except from the fact that whe
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The title itself is a rather catchy one, however, I must add that it is an important book. There are so many aspects of this memoir that I value a lot.

For me it is less about totalitarian Regimes and Iran, it is more about courage and integrity in times of crisis particularly when one is not allowed to do something as harmless as reading, and therefore one stands up against the bullies. When I read this book, I l felt like I were in a literature class with Ms. Nafisi her students. Reading forbid
I read this book while I was down with the flu, which added a dimention to my reading as I was isolated in my room for a couple of days. I read some of the reviews for this book on Good Reads and I must say my experience of this book is quite different from what some other people have reported. Azar's opening two chapters were enough to suck me into her world and engross me. Her reading of Lolita was wonderful and I like the way she able to bring her reading of this book, her reflections on Humb ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was the perfect opportunity for me to learn things and witness insights about a country and a culture I don't know much and for that I am truly grateful.
It is a beautiful story, sensible and educative and definitely very touchy.
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
This was a tough read. I suppose I would have appreciated it more if I had read all the books that were referenced in this one. And if I studied literature, studied the meaning of every scene, every characterization, every image from the books, I might have appreciated it.

Unfortunately this was much too deep and a serious study of literature. I enjoyed her accounts of life in Tehran and the characters in her book. I enjoyed her personal accounts and her life stories. Unfortunately true life was
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it
I am a lover of books. I am a lover of history. I am a lover of cultures. Consequently, I expected to love this book. Sadly, I found my dissappointment growing with each page I turned. The premise of the novel was certainly interesting- exploring times, the way that they were viewed, the oppression of women, religious fanaticism and political regimes that adopted Sharia, family, and the overall way that a country grew dissillusioned with iteself through novels was certainly an interesting one. Y ...more
Ivana Books Are Magic
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm utterly and absolutely in love with this book. It is a contemporary masterpiece, the kind that deserves to be called a classic upon publication. Reading Lolita in Tehran is such a rare mix of extraordinary philosophical writing, academic literature essays, national history and personal memoir, that it deserves to be called 'one of a kind'. Truth be told, I can think of a similar novel by one Croatian professor of literature (you wouldn't have heard of him), who has been just as successful in ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
I hadn't read Nabokov's Lolita when I started this one.
What aroused my curiosity here was not the artfully chosen title of the novel, but its setting: the Islamic Republic of Iran, formerly known as Persia.

Truth be told, Iran has always interested me a lot, indeed.
Amir, my best friend during secondary school, had Iranian roots and he was (and still is) one of the most clever persons I know. I used to say that when Amir and I were 12 year old, we talked about topics I haven't found anyone to s
To read a book about women who read Lolita in Tehran is to open the window to a world of dismay, in which even an act so pure and simple as enjoying fiction is considered treason, punishable by the wrongly proclaimed authorities in your life. I am constantly on the lookout for books which challenge my view of the world, or who have the power to paint a picture of another way of life, that I have been fortunate enough to never experience. "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is one of those books.

By no mea
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More than a combination of literary criticism and memoirs of living through the totalitarian ruthlessness of Islamist-ruled Iran, this book essentially examines how the author and a group of friends took refuge in literature from the totalitarian nightmare.
And at the same time using that literature to make sense of life under Islamo-Nazi repression.
The women in the group are able to make analogies of the works of Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austen, Henry James and F Scott Fitzgerald with the society
An outstanding account by a literature professor of keeping the life of imagination alive through shared experience of fiction during the repressive decades of fundamentalist Muslim rule in Iran. The rise of Khomeini after the downfall of the corrupt regime of the Shah in the late 70's ushered in a cultural revolution that purged the universities of anyone who seemed to support decadent Western values and made the wearing of the veil (or chador) mandatory for women in public settings. Nafisi sur ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
While I was reading this book, I was taken back in my mind to my college days. I enjoyed the philosophy behind the books these women studied and was unmistakably reminded of why I have always loved reading so much. I have not read all of the books discussed in the story, but many of them are on my to-read list, and now I am even more eager to read them.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, iran
I wrote this review before I read Jasmine and Stars. I was too generous to Nafisi.

This book is very personal and my enjoyment of it is very much rooted in my experience of living with Iranian people in the UK and fascination with the country's history and culture. When I first read the book about ten years ago, I was astonished to read about how the 1979 revolution, which is seen by most Westerners as the triumph of Muslim extremists and had been described to me as the British/American led repla
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
In the shadows of all the bluster coming out of Iran these days, I try to remember those stories I've heard about Iranians who do not share the religious fervor of their political leaders and long for a more open society than the one that they currently have. Azar Nafisi's memoir about her life as a literature professor in Tehran the years following the revolution gave me a moving and painful glimpse into the lives of those who chafe under a kind of repression that I can only imagine.

Nafisi was
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars rounded up
I read this in conjunction with Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran by Fatemeh Keshavarz. The second is a reaction to the first and I found reading them in conjunction very helpful. The publicity blurb for the book is helpful:
“Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality s

You will either hate or love Nabokov, Austen, and James after reading this book. Or curiosity will make you revisit their work, like it made me. At a time when I have Austen's novels lined up to read, this book was handy.

Nafisi is an academic--"too much of an academic" she says, one who believes that you don't just read about people like you, instead you read to learn about people unlike you (can we have more professors of literature like her?). It shows in this beautiful memoir on literatu
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is a must read for all those who love modern classic literature and who are interested on what happened in Iran during the reign of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80s. I was in college that time and I have been hearing and reading bits of news about that war. This book completed that story particularly its impact on the ordinary people particularly on its main characters.

Azar Nafisi, a lady author, effectively related her favorite modern fiction works (Lolita of
Connie G
After Iran was transformed into an Islamic state, literature professor Azar Nafisi secretly met with seven women students weekly to discuss classic Western works. Many of the literary works acted as vehicles for discussion about the oppression of women, the wearing of the veil, the morality police, human rights, and political prisoners.

It will enhance the reading of Nafisi's book if one is familiar with Nabokov's "Lolita," Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," and Jame
MissBecka Gee
I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped I would.
The writing is very impersonal and detached for a memoir. The dispassionate monotone delivery of the narration made this more abundant. I was actually quite bored for the majority of this audio book, which is 18.5 hours long.
There was a large portion where dissections of the books they read at the gatherings were delivered like a university lecture. This made me a little upset since some of the books she delves into detail about I have not actually
Katie Lumsden
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very powerful read – fascinating, moving and full of a love of books.
Iqbal Al-Zirqi
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a book wich introduced me to Azar Nafisi and her life in Iran before and during the Islamic revolution. I have to admit that when I started reading the book, I was slightley restless with the way she was describing each girl student who was joining her class at her house. However, little by little, I could not sleep whole nights before finishing it. The thing is that Nafisi is very clever author who knows how to attract you in a sneaky way. She pulled me to the atmosphere of the Iran un ...more
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
From its provoking, intriguing title to its very last page, Azar Nafisi's book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, partly a narrative biography, partly a history of a nation and its people, and partly critical analysis of great American and British authors, is astonishing, enlightening, and important. Much like Marjane Satrapi's amazing graphic novels, Nafisi pulls back the headscarves, the long black robes dictated by the Guardian Council, to show us the modern women of Iran and how they fight to mainta ...more
Book Riot Community
I bought this book years ago and let it sit on my shelf collecting dust until recently. I am so glad I finally picked it up! Aside from the one-sided reports I’ve seen on the news, I’ve always been ignorant of all things Iran. This book educated me on the history of the country and opened my eyes to the beauty and fortitude of the people (specifically the women) who call it home. Nafisi writes about her life before, during, and after her time in Iran through the lense of the Western classics she ...more
May 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This memoir about the power of books in a time of crisis and oppression definitely falls short of the transitive powers the novels it details possess. Though the overall message of the book is a powerful one, its disjointed narrative structure, organized by theme rather than true chronological order, left me more confused than inspired and did not help in my understanding of the bigger picture.

For someone fairly out of the loop as far as politics and world issues go, especially issues that start
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Azar Nafisi can write elegant prose,but the pace is very slow.There is not enough meat in the story.

The book could have done with a fair bit of trimming. Has a few tense moments with recollections about the violence during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.

Generally boring,however.I couldn't really care if those women were reading controversial Lolita,in conservative Tehran.
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Azar Nafisi, Ph.D. (Persian: آذر نفیسی) (born December 1955) is an Iranian professor and writer who currently resides in the United States.

Nafisi's bestselling book Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books has gained a great deal of public attention and been translated into 32 languages.


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