The best books about Christians in the Middle East

Why am I passionate about this?

I was infuriated to learn how my government was misrepresenting the recent war in Syria. I learned of this deceit from Syrians who had fled their war-torn country and relayed a very different narrative from the one we're all hearing. From 2016-17 Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History sponsored and archived our collection of audio-recorded interviews of Syrian Christians. This book is the end result of their entrusting us with their harrowing testimonies. I'm a Senior Lecturer in History at Baylor University. I routinely teach, among other courses, the history of the United States from a Global Perspective in which I discuss with my students the same lessons I learned while writing Syria Crucified.


I wrote...

Syria Crucified: Stories of Modern Martyrdom in an Ancient Christian Land

By Zachary Wingerd, Brad Hoff,

Book cover of Syria Crucified: Stories of Modern Martyrdom in an Ancient Christian Land

What is my book about?

The tragic war in Syria along with the plight of the Christians there remains among the most misunderstood situations in the world today. Syria Crucified seeks to contribute to better understanding in the West by giving a voice to individual Syrian Christians living in exile from their homeland. These men and women have undergone horrific trauma and loss without losing their faith in God or the ability to forgive their persecutors. Their first-person accounts, framed by the authors' narration for historical, cultural, and geopolitical context, are both edifying and inspiring.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East

Zachary Wingerd Why did I love this book?

Based on his travels through the Middle East in the mid-1990s, William Dalrymple retraces the footsteps of the sixth-century Christian travelers John Moschos and Sophronius the Sophist who traversed the holy sites of the Byzantine Empire from Greece to Syria to Egypt. From the Holy Mountain is a reflective travel narrative that captures both the spiritual depth of the Near East as well as the modern reality of persistent Christian peoples among the majority Muslim Arab states. The reader is welcomed to both accompany Dalrymple to visit these ancient places and peoples as well as to reflect with him on how we as Westerners might more sympathetically understand them.

By William Dalrymple,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From the Holy Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spring of A.D. 587, John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist embarked on a remarkable expedition across the entire Byzantine world, traveling from the shores of Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. Using Moschos’s writings as his guide and inspiration, the acclaimed travel writer William Dalrymple retraces the footsteps of these two monks, providing along the way a moving elegy to the slowly dying civilization of Eastern Christianity and to the people who are struggling to keep its flame alive. The result is Dalrymple’s unsurpassed masterpiece: a beautifully written travelogue, at once rich and scholarly, moving…


Book cover of Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East

Zachary Wingerd Why did I love this book?

Like most Americans I grew up with a simplistic view of the Middle East. From Western news it is easy to assume that the "Arab world" is filled almost exclusively with Muslims who live and die in an Islamic world. Gerard Russell, a former British and UN diplomat, disproves this oversimplification with his detailed travelogue in which he recounts his journeying among "forgotten" religions and civilizations such as the Mandeans and Ezidis (ancient Gnostic communities of Iraq), the Zoroastrians ("fire worshippers" of Iran), and Coptics (a pre-Islamic civilization of Egyptian Christians whose language harkens back to the Pharaohs). 

By Gerard Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite its reputation for religious intolerance, the Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths: one regards the Greek prophets as incarnations of God, another reveres Lucifer in the form of a peacock, and yet another believes that their followers are reincarnated beings who have existed in various forms for thousands of years. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they…


Book cover of The Body and the Blood: The Middle East's Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace

Zachary Wingerd Why did I love this book?

For most people the concept of the Holy Land conjures up visions of Old Testament prophets and arcane holy wars whose harsh landscape was disrupted by the brief appearance of a first-century messiah which left the Roman and Hebrew world in upheaval. Journalist and historian Charles M. Sennott attempts to make sense of what are continuing realities of conflict and unease that the contemporary pilgrim will encounter when visiting the sacred sites connected to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Sennot lived among those families who continue to make the Holy Land their home in order to better detail the complicated mosaic of modern conflicts involving Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinians that have shaped the political struggles of today. 

By Charles M. Sennott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Body and the Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the Middle East has gone up in flames, no image so captured the clash of cultures as did the siege at the Church of the Nativity, where Christian monks were trapped inside the fortress-like church, as Palestinian gunmen faced off against the Israeli military for five weeks. As Muslim and Jew battled for control, the Christians were caught in the crossfire: endangered and largely forgotten, victims of somebody else's war. In The Body and the Blood, Charles M. Sennott examines the dwindling Christian communities of the modern Middle East in search of answers to the following questions: Why is…


Book cover of Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

Zachary Wingerd Why did I love this book?

Before the Holy Roman Empire, there was Byzantium. Prior to better-known names like Charlemagne or Thomas Aquinas, there were men like Justinian, who codified Roman law for posterity, or Photius the Great, who gave concise theological treatises to eager audiences of the highly literate populace of Asia Minor. Wells explores the heart of Roman civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean where the flourishing Byzantine Empire preserved ancient learning. Sailing from Byzantium investigates the historical and geographic forces at play which eventually made Byzantium a "forgotten" empire, yet which today—whether it's acknowledged or not—has left its indelible mark on the modern world in remarkable ways. This is not just a journey into history, but an intellectual pilgrimage into the time and setting of almost forgotten intellectual and spiritual giants. 

By Colin Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sailing from Byzantium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping intellectual adventure story, Sailing from Byzantium sweeps you from the deserts of Arabia to the dark forests of northern Russia, from the colourful towns of Renaissance Italy to the final moments of a millennial city under siege. Byzantium: the successor of Greece and Rome, this magnificent empire bridged the ancient and modern worlds for more than a thousand years. Without Byzantium, the works of Homer and Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle, Sophocles and Aeschylus, would never have survived. Yet very few of us have any idea of the enormous debt we owe them. The story of Byzantium is a…


Book cover of The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues on His Way

Zachary Wingerd Why did I love this book?

The Way of the Pilgrim is a Christian classic that should be read repeatedly. It is a beautiful guide to a pilgrim’s pursuit of St. Paul’s directive to pray without ceasing. Set in nineteenth-century Orthodox Russia, the penitent pilgrim wanders the countryside with a bag of dried bread at his side and the "Jesus Prayer" on his lips. For a twenty-first-century Westerner like me, this narrative was an introduction to the persisting spirituality of ancient Rus. This small book is a simple yet powerful story of a man and his rule of prayer. 

By Anonymous 19th Century Russian Peasant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues on His Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collector's edition is cleanly formatted for easy reading. The Way of a Pilgrim was written by an anonymous nineteenth-century Russian peasant and depicts his examination of how to pray without ceasing. Through his voyages and travels, he delves into the value and power of prayer. As he becomes open to the promptings of God, the reader, too, is enlightened as he shares these rich religious experiences, presented in a humble, simple, and beautiful narrative.


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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…


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