The best books to understand modern Iran

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Stephen Kinzer

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

By Sattareh Farman Farmaian, Dona Munker

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

By Ramita Navai

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Shah of Shahs

By Ryszard Kapuscinski

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Complete Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists