Looking for Book Recommendation on Middle East

Besides focusing on the parts of the world in which I have a vested interest (entrepreneurship, local government, software, etc.) I also devote a considerable amount of energy to other things. My interests are eclectic – journalism, psychology, sociology, morality, spirituality, culture/anthropology, philosophy, leadership, nutrition, neuroscience, and more. I also pay close attention to current affairs.

In the realm of current affairs, if you have a day job, it is impossible to stay on top of everything. One could spend every morning just reading about developments in Africa and not have time for anything else. Or one could spend each week reading the Economist and get a broad update on developments without a ton of depth on any one issue. Recently, I’ve focused on domestic affairs as they relate to foreign policy, in particular to War on Terrorism. My opinion on Iraq, 9/11 response, and such are more sophisticated than they were 6 months ago. I’ve also focused, to a lesser degree, on EU developments and while I’m still naive on many matters I am learning more every day.

But my big hole is in the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine situation. I’m simply clueless. If you don’t invest the energy to learn the history of the conflict then all the day to day developments mean nothing. So, I’m going to relax my focus on US foreign policy and think deeply about the Middle East. I’m looking for book recommendations – remember, I’m a dummy. Are there good books that cover the history of the conflict in a clear, accessible manner? If no one volunteers any titles, I’ll resort to The MIddle East For Dummies. Thanks.

3 Responses to Looking for Book Recommendation on Middle East

  1. John A. Lynn says:

    Ben — I would heartily recommend Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem for an excellent background on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Friedman’s description of the motives and backgrounds of the several factions who shape the current conflicts is most useful in understanding today’s events.

  2. Dan Saper says:

    I know that Bernard Lewis is considered an authority on Islamic history and the Middle East in general. And for what it’s worth, I think he is also considered to be somewhat right-leaning. I read the first 50 pages or so of “What Went Wrong? – The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East” but could not get too into it. He has some others, so you might want to snoop around. Per the Friedman rec, you might also want to check out “From Beirut to Jerusalem.”

  3. Ron Graham says:

    Here’s one that I liked: Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul. The central character of this book, which is based on actual observations by the author of a family in Afghanistan, is an entrepreneur.

    Here’s where I did a write-up.

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