Please recommend good books on Middle Eastern History

My roommate is looking for a good concise history of the middle east which isn’t a really dry read. Does anyone have a suggestion?

We stopped at a bookstore the other day but nothing seemed to cover what she was looking for. To be honest I think she’s interested in both modern and ancient times, if that helps.

Five good books I’d recommend:

The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Year by Bernard Lewis

The Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Bernard Lewis

A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin

Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923 by Efraim Karsh and Inari Karsh

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf

I second the book by Bernard Lewis. We used it as a text for a clas I took recently, and it was very detailed and helpful.

Thanks to both of you, Little Nemo and silenus.

I’ve read a little historical fiction but never anything factual. I figure when she’s done, I’ll borrow them.


You may want to check out this prior thread, though I can’t vouch for the dryness of the texts thereon:

(I know, sorry Tamerlane, I haven’t gotten through the list yet! I promise to be a better reader in the future.)

Bernard Lewis has taken some flak lately for what is being called his out-dated, “Orientalist” view of the Middle East. I unfortunately cannot back up this memory with any concrete cites. I believe an issue or two of Harper’s in the last year or so is responsible for this memory, but Harper’s website sucks so I can’t find anything substantial. Make of that what you will.

Well, the class was taught by a very “traditional” teacher, so I am not surprised that he chose an “out-dated” book. He was very down on what he considered “PC” thinking. Not that there is anything wrong with that! :smiley:

Of course, as long as it’s factual without being condescending towards the subject, a little bias is probably to be expected one way or the other. But it’s always good to read more than one source.

I appreciate everyone’s input. So does my roommate.