The best books of counter history to enrich your world view

Who am I?

The excitement of new visions! Ever since growing up surrounded by Arabian deserts and then Iran’s mountains, I’ve been fascinated with diverse cultures. My path led me to Cairo and Berkeley for university and then onto Greece, Indonesia, and Italy. Today’s dominant world histories remain rooted in Anglo-American narratives. Only by challenging enshrined status quos, can we capture the truth, often long hidden. Now, an interest for critical storytelling may capture a fuller picture. History needs to be told not only from the point-of-view of the victors, but also the vanquished. Counter histories create bridges of dialogue, where there were none. This is what inspires me.

I wrote...

Searching for Hassan: A Journey to the Heart of Iran

By Terence Ward,

Book cover of Searching for Hassan: A Journey to the Heart of Iran

What is my book about?

Growing up in Tehran in the 1960s, my brothers and I were watched over by Hassan, our cook, housekeeper, and cultural guide. After an absence of thirty years and much turmoil in Iran, we all returned on a quixotic odyssey in search of our lost friend. However, as we set out on this improbable quest we had no address or phone number. Our only hope of finding Hassan rested in a small black and white photograph taken by our mother decades before.  
Reaching beyond politics, this true adventure plunges the reader deep into the rich Persian culture, past and present, showing the hidden human face of today’s demonized Iran. The New Yorker called our journey "a miraculous, harrowing pilgrimage."  Noted Iranian-American author, Reza Aslan, recently described it: “A beautiful, heartwarming tale about a friendship that transcends cultural divides. This is precisely the story we need right now!”

The books I picked & why

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Genesis: Memory of Fire, Volume 1, 1

By Eduardo Galeano,

Book cover of Genesis: Memory of Fire, Volume 1, 1

Why this book?

The most ambitious counter-history of Latin America! A brilliant way of storytelling. Short historical scenes romp through 400 years. This epic trilogy is a heart-stopping narrative. Galeano begins with the indigenous spirit world that explodes into conflict with the first arrival of Columbus and his mercenaries. In one or two-page vignettes, readers are guided through hearts of darkness and bold resistance. This groundbreaking work stands as an anti-colonial masterpiece. The grand tragedy unfolds with pain and suffering, incredible heroism and hope, irony and outrage. It will mark you…

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

By Amin Maalouf,

Book cover of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

Why this book?

This Paris-based Lebanese author may soon be awarded the Nobel Prize! His first book is a classic that forces readers into a completely different perspective. Maalouf offers in his own vivacious style, a vivid portrait of a society torn by internal conflicts and shaken by a traumatic encounter with an alien culture of invaders. His fascinating insights delve deeply into the Arab and Islamic consciousness today. All Maalouf’s books should be read! Each opens unexpected, illuminated windows on the Middle East with compassion, wisdom, and drama.

In Other Words: 40 Years of Writing on Indonesia

By Goenawan Mohamad, Jennifer Lindsay (translator),

Book cover of In Other Words: 40 Years of Writing on Indonesia

Why this book?

Open this treasure chest! A perceptive, elegant collection by SE Asia’s leading journalist, public intellectual, and poet. His magnus opus represents 40 years of essays from 1968 – 2014 and each of his 100 brief passages can stand alone as sledgehammers of provocative thought. Often called the Borges of Asia, Goenawan’s dexterous mind tackles issues of identity, literature, nationalism, culture, colonial crimes, terrorism, Islam, mythologies, historicity, and destiny. As he grapples with universal themes, his deep wisdom offers fascinating insights and compassion into questions that concern us all.

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad,

Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Why this book?

Conrad’s masterpiece is the ultimate counter-history. A testimony of actual events he witnessed during his voyage up the Congo River. Captain Kurtz represents the highly cultivated Westerner, who sinks into murderous sadism in his wilderness outpost. Casting all societal norms aside, the tragic cruelty that he inflicts on the Africans is a microcosm of the colonial violence that led to the 20th century’s first holocaust. Kurtz imported his own violence into Africa. Not vice versa. Yet, Europe still viewed Africans as uncivilized, primitive, dangerous. Conrad rejected the “imperial perspective” of his day and forced Europeans to look in the mirror at their own savagery.

The World Odyssey of a Balinese Prince

By Idanna Pucci,

Book cover of The World Odyssey of a Balinese Prince

Why this book?

Pucci’s book breaks all the clichés about Bali by writers over the last five decades. It offers an eye-opening world view - not only of the island of Bali - through the true stories of Dr. Djelantik. His mission, as a physician, take him to the most remote regions of the planet. He faces all sorts of dangers, even the arrest by Saddam Hussein’s secret police. In each situation, he responds with humanity and a sublime sense of humor. His extraordinary life is grounded in a constant search for truth. Imbued with wonder and magic, these stories awaken a feeling of “lightness of being” in this uncertain age. An incomparable vision of life that offers timeless guidance.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in worldviews, the Crusades, and Latin America?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about worldviews, the Crusades, and Latin America.

Worldviews Explore 13 books about worldviews
The Crusades Explore 33 books about the Crusades
Latin America Explore 45 books about Latin America

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, A Brief History of Bali: Piracy, Slavery, Opium and Guns: The Story of an Island Paradise, and Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean if you like this list.