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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new)

I wasn't sure where to post this. But, since reading Kite Runner and now reading Thousand Splendid Suns I am wanting now to read something more about the history of Middle East. But don't want a dry textbook read. Any suggestions?

message 2: by Kevin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new)

Kevin | 3 comments I haven't read it yet, so I can't vouch for it personally, but I have heard really great things about Friedman's book "From Beirut to Jerusalem"


message 3: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new)

Patrick | 13 comments Peggy, there are many outstanding books out there for Middle East history, but just about all of them are considered to subscribe to a "point of view" depending on who listen to, no matter what the intentions of the author.

That being said, we found What Went Wrong? by Bernard Lewis to be useful when we were trying to learn more about that region. It's about Islam, but you'll get a general history of the area from a Western perspective for the past several hundred years, and I think the author tries to be fair to all points of view. Plus it's relatively short and pretty readable.

Beirut to Jerusalem is a great book on the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon situation, but Friedman wrote it in the 1980's. However, the fundamental issues he describes probably haven't changed too much, just some of the tactics for both sides.

More recommendations later...

message 4: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Patrick | 13 comments Peggy, here are two more recommendations for you, which I think try to fairly balance all sides of the story:

David Fromkin, A PEACE TO END ALL PEACE (subtitled The Fall of The Ottoman Empire and The Creation Of The Modern Middle East) - published in 1989

Albert Hourani, A History Of The Arab People - published in 1991

If you're looking for more current material on what the U. S. has gotten itself into over the last 20 years, please advise. I don't think I've seen a really good complete book published since the 1991 that ties all of the recent events together and presents everyone's point of view in a way that could be considered "fair and balanced," not to misuse that term. Every recent book I've seen appears to focus on only one aspect of the situation, be it terrorism, or the Iraq war, or the Israeli-Palestinian situation. These are all important on their own merits, but to get the big picture you have to see how all they tie together, or you run the risk of not quite understanding why the key players made the decisions they made, or reacted as they did.

You might consider buying the latest "Dummies" guide or "Complete Idiot's Guide" on the Middle East. No joke - I find these books very helpful when i am first starting to study or learn about a subject.

Hope you found this helpful. I look forward to seeing what other recommendations you receive in response to this inquiry.

message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

I just have realized how ignorant I am when it goes to the issues over there and how one should really know. I know most will be very much the author's point of view but I figure if I get several I could maybe get the general idea. Thank you so much for the suggestions so far. I really appreciate them all.

message 6: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Patrick | 13 comments Peggy, I have had a professional interest in this area for a long time, and the more I learn about that region the more I realize how hard it is to really figure out what is going on over there. There are hundreds of little ethnic groups and Islamic sects in all those countries between Morocco and Pakistan that play some role in shaping the events we see on the news, and it gets really hard at time to understand what everyone's motivations are. Even our best government analysts find themselves hard pressed to figure it all out. But for a general idea of some of the complexity and a fairly readable book as well, I suggest you start with the Friedman book that Kevin recommended.

And I applaud your interest in trying to learn more about this are of the world. Best of luck with your efforts.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Patrick - that was one of the things I had no idea about - the little sects and all the different ethnic groups. I am really finding a love for history in this that I didn't know existed. I have recently purchased Mila 18 and will be purchasing The Haj next. Some books that were recommended. I will be going to the book store soon to pick up a few of the recommendations that you guys have suggested. I was just talking with a friend of mine saying how sad it is that I had no idea of some of the simplest things that have happened or have impacted our country and other countries as well. I also have a daughter that will be learning this things and don't want to be ignorant when I am asked questions. I know it is a difficult subject that I won't be able to figure out but to get a general idea, I would be happy. I added myself to this history group. I hope to fuel my history fascinations.

message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

I had some awful dreams last night though. Just kept dreaming of things from the book Thousand Splendid Suns. Which I know is fiction, but man, there are some evil people in this world. I am reading Catcher in the Rye for a short break then will proceed with another book on this subject.

message 9: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Patrick | 13 comments Can't blame you for switching off to Catcher In The Rye...it's tough to read constantly about a subject that is very complex and that seems to defy progress, despite so many efforts to resolve the various conflicts.

If you enjoy Mila 18 and the Haj, I would lso suggest Exodus by the same author Leon Uris. They're all kind of long, but they are a great introduction to some parts of this problem, and they're a lot more readable and interesting than most of the non-fiction.

By the way, i would not feel too bad about what you think is yoru ignorance - most Americans have a hard time following what's happening over in the Middle East. You should feel good about yourself for following up on your reading of Thousand Splendid Suns with your efforts to find out a little more about what created the background for that book.

message 10: by Carolyn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Carolyn Fitzpatrick (carolyn_fitzpatrick) If you are interested in fiction, I loved the Cairo Trilogy by the late Naguib Mahfouz. It takes place just after WWI, in Cairo, obviously. Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury, tells stories of Palestine from 1948 to 1998.

If you want nonfiction, you can't pass up Reading Lolita in Tehran. I also loved Three Cups of Tea, which is about a businessman who devotes his life to setting up secular schools in Afghanistan, which local villages love but the Taliban disapproves of. It is really great for its look at local customs. I also heartily recommend Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, even though I hadn't had time to get past the first few chapters yet.

And, if you want to watch a movie that is even more fascinating and horrifying than Thousand Splendid Suns, watch Osama, which came out in 2003. It is about a 12-year old Afghan girl who is forced to dress as a boy to support her mother and grandmother, since that Taliban has forbidden all women from work and school. I'm not sorry I watched it but it took a long time to deal with it.

message 11: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:08PM) (new)

Mark Just wanted to second your comment about Osama. I bought the movie because I had heard it was an award winner and somehow thought it would have an uplifting ending. I watched it finally very late one night and remembered just sitting there at the end of the movie, depressed and angry, and had to make myself get up and get back into my [safe and taken for granted] Western life.

message 12: by Deborah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Deborah | 3 comments Charlie Wilson's War is good start, it describes how the war with the russians in Afghanistan was concocted. Definitely not a dry read. It was after reading this book that I realized that history is critical to the understanding of any present day issue and finding the accurate history would be lifelong challenge.

Bernard Lewis' books have a perspective I tend to shy away from.

Friedman is so conflicted between what he believes and what his sponsors want him to promote...

Andrew Cockburn's books are well researched.

Teriq Ali, Edward Said are a bit more scholarly but their work is very important.

You can also try Robert Fisk and John Pilger - journalists who have been covering the middle east their entire careers.

There are many scholarly articles at counterpunch.com that try to present historical precedent to many present day issues.

I asked Mr. Hosseini why he chose not to include any historical analysis in his book to give the reader a better understanding of Afghanistan's complicated pre and post colonial history. He responded that he was restricted for the american market.

We on the other hand are not so I applaud your interest in wanting to expand your knowledge of the region. It won't be easy because there is a lot of propaganda out there but if you read enough diverse sources you should be able to draw some conclusions.

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