The best books about life inside and outside of Iran

Who am I?

I'm an Iranian-American who left the country with my family after the Islamic Revolution. I'm watching the events unfold in Iran since the murder of Mahsa Amini with equal parts sadness and awe. Sadness for the loss of life and awe for the bravery of the young protestors in the country. My books will always have a nod to my culture of origin—whether about growing up in an immigrant household in my memoir, Americanized, or writing an Iranian-American character like Parisa in I Miss You, I Hate This. It's been fascinating to see people in America pay attention to what's happening in Iran and I wanted to share some books that'll help inform their perspective. 

I wrote...

I Miss You, I Hate This

By Sara Saedi,

Book cover of I Miss You, I Hate This

What is my book about?

The story follows the ups and downs of a friendship between two high school seniors, Parisa and Gabriela, during a fictional pandemic that disproportionately impacts the health of young people. Yes, a book about a pandemic. Who wants to read that?! You. Because we need to reflect and process what we've been through. Plus, Parisa and Gabriela's journey is less about life in quarantine and more about the growing pains that come between best friends during their last year of high school. The story is told through first-person narrative, text messages, and emails. I like to think of it as Beaches for Gen Z. 

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The books I picked & why

The Complete Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi,

Book cover of The Complete Persepolis

Why this book?

My family fled Iran a couple years after the Islamic Revolution, but growing up, my parents didn’t talk about that period in their life all that much. It was sort of like my friend whose dad never talked about Vietnam. So, even though I was born in Iran post-revolution, I didn’t learn much about the history of the Shah’s downfall until I read Marjane Satrapi’s incredible graphic novels – Persepolis, Books One and Two. Satrapi manages to create a funny and heartbreaking memoir about her adolescence during the revolution and her life as a young ex-pat living in Paris. 

Follow it up with her graphic novella, Embroiderieswhich delves into the sex lives of Iranian women. Another topic that was generally off-limits in our household.

The Complete Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Complete Persepolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed graphic memoir of growing up as a girl in revolutionary Iran. • "That Satrapi chose to tell her remarkable story as a gorgeous comic book makes it totally unique and indispensable" —TIME

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming—both…

Book cover of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

Why this book?

An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. Honestly, if I was Ben Affleck I would have made a movie based on this book instead of Argo. Kinzer’s book exposes the United States and the UK’s role in creating the Iran of today by detailing Operation Ajax—or the coup that caused the downfall of elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Spoiler alert: it had a lot to do with oil. What’s devasting is to picture what Iran would look like today without foreign intervention in the 1950s.  

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

By Stephen Kinzer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Shah's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country’s elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.

Book cover of Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

Why this book?

I like to say that Dumas walked, so the rest of us Iranian authors could run. I’ll take that a step further. I don’t think we’d have Fresh Off the Boat without Funny in Farsi. Dumas’ memoir tells the story of her family immigrating from Iran to Whittier, CA in the early 1970s. She writes about her upbringing with plenty of affection and humor and dispels the stereotype of cold and rigid Iranian parents. 

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

By Firoozeh Dumas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Funny in Farsi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMESBESTSELLER • Finalist for the PEN/USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and the Audie Award in Biography/Memoir

This Random House Reader’s Circle edition includes a reading group guide and a conversation between Firoozeh Dumas and Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner!

“Remarkable . . . told with wry humor shorn of sentimentality . . . In the end, what sticks with the reader is an exuberant immigrant embrace of America.”—San Francisco Chronicle

In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no…

Book cover of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Why this book?

If you want to read a book about life in Iran post-revolution, look no further than Nafisi’s poignant memoir about her years as a professor who gathered a group of young female students at her home to secretly read banned books of western literature. I wonder about Nafisi’s former students and where they are right now as protests continue to rage in the country.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

By Azar Nafisi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reading Lolita in Tehran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Azar Nafisi was fired from Tehran University (where she was teaching English literature) because she refused to wear a veil, she gathered a group of her female students and resumed her classes at home, privately and discreetly. There, a group of young women discussed, argued about and communed with Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Henry James, Nabokov and others in the canon of English writers. The surreal picture of reading "Lolita", weighing the sexuality of Jane Austen or the American authenticity of Gatsby in the severe aftermath of Iran's Islamic Revolution was not lost on either Nafisi or her students. The…

Book cover of To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America

Why this book?

So back when I was a senior at UC Berkeley, I worked as an assistant at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and totally fangirled over Tara Bahrampour when we hosted her as a guest speaker. She was basically who I wanted to be one day. What I love about her memoir is that it talks about growing up in America, and revisiting Iran—something I’ve never gotten to do but could imagine through Bahrampour’s eyes. I would have completely passed out if someone told me the day I met Tara that one day, I’d publish a book about being Iranian too. I’m not sure I would have attempted to write my memoir without having her as inspiration. 

To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America

By Tara Bahrampour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To See and See Again as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A compelling and intimate exploration of the complexity of a bicultural immigrant experience, To See and See Again traces three generations of an Iranian (and Iranian-American) family undergoing a century of change--from the author's grandfather, a feudal lord with two wives; to her father, a freespirited architect who marries an American pop singer; to Bahrampour herself, who grows up balanced precariously between two cultures and comes of age watching them clash on the nightly news.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iran, France, and politics?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Iran, France, and politics.

Iran Explore 98 books about Iran
France Explore 715 books about France
Politics Explore 498 books about politics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Daughter of Persia, Shah of Shahs, and The Woman Warrior if you like this list.