The best books to understand modern Iran

Who am I?

Lois Pryce is a British author who has travelled extensively in Iran. Her book, Revolutionary Ride tells the story of her 2013 solo motorcycle tour of the country and was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford ‘Adventure Book of the Year’ Award. Her travels have taken her to over fifty countries and her writing has featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, The Telegraph and The Independent.


I wrote...

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road to Shiraz, the Heart of Iran

By Lois Pryce,

Book cover of Revolutionary Ride: On the Road to Shiraz, the Heart of Iran

What is my book about?

Travel writer Lois Pryce sets off alone on a 3,000-mile motorcycle ride from Tabriz to Shiraz, to try to uncover the heart of this most complex and incongruous country. Along the way, she meets carpet sellers and drug addicts, war veterans and housewives, doctors and teachers - people living ordinary lives under the rule of an extraordinarily strict Islamic government.

The books I picked & why

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

By Stephen Kinzer,

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

Why this book?

The true story of how in 1953, the CIA, aided by the British, conspired to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected prime-minister – an incident which is now considered to have led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Kinzer has a storyteller’s instinct and this book reads like a thriller, weaving a gripping story around the intrigue, skullduggery and the personalities involved.


Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution

By Sattareh Farman Farmaian, Dona Munker,

Book cover of Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution

Why this book?

An astounding 20th century life-story told with honesty and warmth by one of Iran’s most impressive and pioneering women. From growing up as part of her father’s harem before setting sail for the USA during WWII to attend university, then returning to Iran to create a national social care system and finally, the unbearable tragedy of her life’s work being destroyed by the Islamic regime, this is an inspiring but heartbreaking story of bravery and humanity at its best.


City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran

By Ramita Navai,

Book cover of City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran

Why this book?

British-Iranian journalist, Ramita Navai shines a spotlight on 21st century Tehran that we rarely see in the mainstream press, delving into the city’s youth culture, illicit entertainment, and seedy underbelly of drugs and despair. City of Lies exposes the reality of how young, modern Iranians really live - constantly evading the authorities to seek out the pleasures they are denied under the regime.


Shah of Shahs

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Book cover of Shah of Shahs

Why this book?

Written in a powerful journalistic style, this short but compelling book tells of the last years of the Shah’s reign, focusing in painful detail on the brutality of Savak, his secret police force, his detachment from his subjects, and setting the scene for the inevitable revolution that would seal his downfall. The fear on the streets is palpable.


The Complete Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi,

Book cover of The Complete Persepolis

Why this book?

This graphic novel went global when it was made into a film of the same name, but even if you’ve seen it on screen, it is worth seeking out the book. Charming, human and bursting with wit and character, we follow our teen punk heroine from her life in pre-revolutionary Iran through the tumultuous years of her country’s uprising and her own journey into adulthood and exile.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iran, the Iranian Revolution, and politics?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Iran, the Iranian Revolution, and politics.

Iran Explore 67 books about Iran
The Iranian Revolution Explore 13 books about the Iranian Revolution
Politics Explore 367 books about politics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Color Purple, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and The House on Mango Street if you like this list.