100 books like In Arabian Nights

By Tahir Shah,

Here are 100 books that In Arabian Nights fans have personally recommended if you like In Arabian Nights. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Woman's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Who am I?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

Steil accepts a short-term assignment in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the local staff of a Yemeni newspaper in the capital, Sanaa. Intrigued by the experience of teaching and befriending men and women of totally different values and beliefs, she extends her stay for a year. She recounts the difficulties of teaching journalism and living in a country where the values she once saw as normal, are constantly being challenged. As often happens with sensitive outsiders, she also sees some advantages of Yemen’s conservative culture that make her question aspects of her own thinking. 

By Jennifer Steil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Woman Who Fell from the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn’t speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn’t I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn’t I survived fainting in a San José brothel?  Hadn’t I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could handle a walk through an unfamiliar town. So I took a breath, tightened the black scarf around my hair, and headed out to take my first solitary steps…


Book cover of At the Drop of a Veil

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Who am I?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In 1945 Alireza married a member of a prominent Saudi family and went to live with him in his extended family. She recounts her experience living mainly in the company of the women of the family. Over 12 years and the birth of four children, she grows close to her Arabian family and learns to live according to their customs. The reader becomes immersed in Saudi culture in a way not easily available to an outsider and feels the same sadness as Marianne when ultimately her husband divorces her and she has to leave the family she has grown to love. 

By Marianne Alireza,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At the Drop of a Veil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Autobiography: A harem is a female group composed of a married woman's mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, children, and servants. Californian Alireza arrived in Arabia in 1945 with her husband Ali. Shew grew to lover her expanded family and the harem. After 8 years, she was summarily divorced by Ali and escaped with the children to Switzerland, then home to America.


Book cover of Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village

Teresa Fava Thomas Author Of American Arabists in the Cold War Middle East, 1946–75: From Orientalism to Professionalism

From my list on Americans living and working in the Middle East.

Who am I?

Teresa Fava Thomas, Ph.D. is a professor of history at Fitchburg State University and author of American Arabists in the Cold War Middle East, 1946-75: From Orientalism to Professionalism for Anthem Press. I became interested in people who became area experts for the US State Department and how their study of hard languages like Arabic shaped their interactions with people in the region.

Teresa's book list on Americans living and working in the Middle East

Teresa Fava Thomas Why did Teresa love this book?

Fernea describes a lost culture in a small Iraqi village, El Nahra, in 1956, where her husband Robert was conducting ethnographic research. She met with women in the village, learned the language and culture then wrote her own study of 1950s women. The book presents insights into the life of rural Iraqi women at a time of poverty and hardship.

By Elizabeth Warnock Fernea,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Guests of the Sheik as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A delightful account of one woman's two-year stay in a tiny rural village in Iraq, where she assumed the dress and sheltered life of a harem woman. 

"A most enjoyable book abouut [Muslim women]—simple, dignified, human, colorful, sad and humble as the life they lead." —Muhsin Mahdi, Jewett Professor of Arabic Literature, Harvard Unversity.

A wonderful, well-written, and vastly informative ethnographic study that offers a unique insight into a part of the Midddle Eastern life seldom seen by the West.


Book cover of Letters from Egypt

Andrea Rugh Author Of Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey into the Middle East

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders.

Who am I?

My quest after culture began as a child reading National Geographic and wondering about exotic peoples. Later with a PhD in anthropology and living decades in the Middle East, I had a chance to immerse myself in the lives of people going about their normal activities. Eventually their thinking became almost as familiar as my own. The anthropologist Edward Hall says culture is elusive, “and what it hides it hides most effectively from its own practitioners.” He suggests that detached outsiders sometimes see cultures more clearly than local observers who have difficulty viewing themselves dispassionately. As outsider-writers, they validate insights much like anthropologists do, through comparisons of cultural values across time and space. 

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by outsiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

In the 1860s, the ailing Lady Duff Gordon is advised by doctors to seek warmer climes if she is to recover from an advanced case of tuberculous. She travels to Egypt and embarks from Cairo by sailing a boat up the Nile and deep into Nubia. Along the way she comments on encounters with people of all classes and occupations that she meets. The book stands in stark contrast to the largely unsympathetic picture of the Egyptian peasantry by other British writers of the time. Her sympathetic portrayal includes seeing the importance of Islam and deploring foreign efforts to convert the population to Christianity. Her depictions show that even during this early period certain basic values existed that in a general way still guide behavior today in Egypt.   

By Lucie Duff Gordon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1862, Lucie Duff Gordon left her husband and three children in England and settled in Egypt, where she remained for the rest of her short life. Seeking respite from her tuberculosis in the dry air, she moved into a ramshackle house above a temple in Luxor, and soon became an indispensable member of the community. Setting up a hospital in her home, she welcomed all - from slaves to local leaders. Her humane, open-minded voice shines across the centuries through these letters - witty, life-affirming, joyous, self-deprecating and utterly enchanted by her Arab neighbours.


Book cover of The Coma Monologues

Kim Antieau Author Of Church Of The Old Mermaids

From my list on bringing the mythic realm into our modern world.

Who am I?

I grew up in Michigan where I was outdoors in the woods most of the time, running around with my imaginary friends. I built an entire world in my imagination where girls and women were powerful and ruled the world. I wrote stories about that world, and I’ve never stopped writing or reading myths, folklore, and fairy tales. Stories are the best way to bring the mythic and hidden realms of our existence out into the open. When I catch a glimpse of other worlds through storytelling, it always feels healing. It gives me hope that there is more to our existence than what we ordinarily see.

Kim's book list on bringing the mythic realm into our modern world

Kim Antieau Why did Kim love this book?

In The Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade famously told stories to keep herself alive. In this novel the wife of a man in a coma uses stories to coax him back to life. The storytellers she brings to his hospital bedside include a raven, a ghost, a centaur, and Scheherazade herself. Even a house gets a monologue here. I love how this book brings the mythic aspects of life into every day for the purpose of healing. The underneath here is the man’s subconscious. The entities speaking to him exist in the every day; we just don’t normally see them. This book brings them all to life. A beautiful story beautifully told.  

By Mario Milosevic,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Do stories have the power to heal? For Gary Hawken, life in a coma offers few perks. Nurses care for him and people sit by his bed and tell him stories, but the glorious mess of life passes him by. In a world where survival depends on his ability to understand his stories, Gary must recognize the value of his own soul. A hypnotic tale of one man’s struggle to find the truth in his own epic life.


Book cover of The Perfect Assassin

Jasmine Gower Author Of Moonshine

From my list on fantastical civic design.

Who am I?

Having previously worked in the Urban Affairs side of academia and drawing heavily on my own experience living in the city of Portland, OR while writing my book, Moonshine, I’ve become very interested in how fantasy authors find creative ways to incorporate the supernatural elements of the genre with the extremely mundane aspects of urban planning and civics. I find that the most immersive fantasy worlds are the ones that concern themselves with the gritty details of how their societies operate on a basic logistical level, and I think a well-written fantasy city can very much shine as a character in its own right.

Jasmine's book list on fantastical civic design

Jasmine Gower Why did Jasmine love this book?

Harsh environments provide a compelling opportunity for fantasy authors to explore how otherworldly magic or technology can help populations build functioning civilizations and survive in such conditions. The Perfect Assassins setting of Ghadid, a desert city built upon massive platforms that rise above the dunes, does exactly this with an ancient plumbing system that provides its residents with water that not only fills their cups but also fuels the magic of their healers. While the water supply allows the residents of Ghadid to survive in such a harsh climate, its limitations further inform how the city handles farming, commerce, medicine, its calendar, and—most pertinently to the story—the threat of malevolent spirits from the sands below.

By K. A. Doore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The assassins of Ghadid serve a higher power, dispensing justice in the shadows. Or so Amastan has been taught.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, fellow assassins are being killed off. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders. Even worse, the jaan of the murdered start roaming the dusty streets of Ghadid: restless spirits seeking any body to possess.

Time is running short, and Amastan must find this perfect assassin or become their next target.


Book cover of Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar

Benjamin Radford Author Of Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore

From my list on (real-life) monsters.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by monsters. Growing up I saw television shows and read books about famous ones like Bigfoot and Nessie, and always wanted to search for them and discover the truth. That led me to a degree in psychology to learn about human cognition and perception, and a career in folklore to understand how legends and rumors spread. But I also wanted field experience, and spent time at Loch Ness, in Canadian woods said to house Sasquatch, to the Amazon, Sahara, and the jungles of Central America looking for the chupacabra. Along the way became an author, writing books including Tracking the Chupacabra, Lake Monster Mysteries, Big—If True, and Investigating Ghosts

Benjamin's book list on (real-life) monsters

Benjamin Radford Why did Benjamin love this book?

While some people may not think of genies (or jinn) as monsters in the same category as Bigfoot or dragons, from a cultural and folkloric point of view they definitely are.

Most Americans probably think of the wisecracking genie in Disney’s Aladdin, but belief in genies is both serious and widespread. In his book Legends of the Fire Spirits journalist Robert Lebling describes how the creatures appear in the Koran (hint: it’s closer to the recent film Three Thousand Years of Longing).

They are in some ways the Muslim equivalent of Christian angels, imbued with magical powers and viewed by the devout not as real and tangible as you or I. What I love about this book is how Lebling reveals the real stories of jinn—in both their wonder (granting wishes) and terrible vengeance (mass murder).

As with all monsters, whether you believe in them or not is…

By Robert Lebling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Legends of the Fire Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the magical tale of Aladdin in "The Arabian Nights", the genie that suddenly appears out of the lamp is powerful, playful and utterly mysterious. Supernatural, shape-shifting figures have been given many names over the ages - genie, demon, spirit, ghoul, shaitan and jinn. Those who have seen them believe jinn shadow us in our daily lives, causing endless mischief, providing amazing services and sometimes inducing sheer terror. "Legends of the Fire Spirits" explores the enduring phenomenon of the jinn. From North Africa to Central Asia, from the Mediterranean to sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, this riveting book draws on long-forgotten…


Book cover of The City of Brass

L.J. Stanton Author Of The Dying Sun

From my list on non-western fantasy.

Who am I?

I am a disabled author and podcaster who loves fantasy, but wanted more out of the genre than the Eurocentric Lord of the Rings model. I grew up watching Aladdin, reading Egyptian mythology, and one of my most prized books is an illustrated Shahnameh. There are brilliant stories set in deserts and rainforests, with intense magic and danger, and I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as I do. 

L.J.'s book list on non-western fantasy

L.J. Stanton Why did L.J. love this book?

Nahri is a con artist with dreams of becoming a doctor, if only she can ever make enough money to get out of Cairo. When a con goes terribly wrong, she realizes the magic that she’s always scoffed at is real–and deadly. The only way to get the target off her back is to get to Daevabad, the City of Brass.  

I have loved Egypt since I was a small girl, and Chakraborty’s mystical world of djinn encapsulates everything I ever wanted from an Egyptian-inspired story. There is magic, intrigue, and absolutely incredible religious inclusion and diversity. There’s a little slow-burn romance too, to top it off. While the story starts in a real-world Cairo, it quickly heads towards the fantastical setting of Daevabad.

By S. A. Chakraborty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The City of Brass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she's a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by-palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing-are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she's forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot,…


Book cover of Every Rising Sun

Kathleen B. Jones Author Of Cities of Women

From my list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history.

Who am I?

In my college days, I majored in dance and political science. It was the 1960s, so marrying art with politics made countercultural sense. After realizing I wouldn’t become the next Martha Graham, I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in political science. But I never abandoned my first love, the arts. Following a more than twenty-year career teaching about women and politics at several universities, I returned to school myself, completed an M.F.A. in creative writing, and published my debut novel, Cities of Women

Kathleen's book list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history

Kathleen B. Jones Why did Kathleen love this book?

Readers may be familiar with The Arabian Nights, the source material behind this fascinating novel. Yet, what distinguishes Jamila Ahmed’s retelling is her focus on the famed storyteller, Shaherazade, whose exposure of the Seljuk king’s wife’s infidelity sets in motion a violent chain of events in twelfth-century Persia.

In lush, sensuous prose, Ahmed fills this vividly imagined, action-packed novel with compelling characters and labyrinthine tales within tales populated with mythical adventurers and creatures with magical powers.

The elaborate, psychologically complex portrait of Shaherazade at the heart of the novel celebrates the power of storytelling while paying homage to the agency of the storyteller.

By Jamila Ahmed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Every Rising Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of 2023 by NPR

In this riveting take on One Thousand and One Nights, Shaherazade, at the center of her own story, uses wit and political mastery to navigate opulent palaces brimming with treachery and the perils of the Third Crusade as her Persian homeland teeters on the brink of destruction.

In twelfth century, Persia, clever and dreamy Shaherazade stumbles on the Malik’s beloved wife entwined with a lover in a sun-dappled courtyard. When Shaherazade recounts her first tale, the story of this infidelity, to the Malik, she sets the Seljuk Empire on fire.

Enraged at…


Book cover of Haroun and the Sea of Stories

A. David Redish Author Of Changing How We Choose: The New Science of Morality

From my list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society.

Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by what makes us human. Great art is about the human condition. We are very quick to reject art that gets that human condition wrong. I’m a poet, a playwright, and a scientist.  While my science has found itself at the center of fields such as computational psychiatry and neuroeconomics, I find myself turning again and again to the insights from great novels to understand the subtleties of the human condition. So to complement the scientific questions of morality (because morality is all about the human condition), one should start with great novels that ask who we are and why we do what we do.  

A.'s book list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society

A. David Redish Why did A. love this book?

In 1989, Salman Rushdie he had to go into hiding because of the fatwa against his life. In trying to explain this decision to his young son, Rushdie spins a magical tale of a storyteller who decides to stop telling stories.

The hero, Haroun, always wondered where his father's stories came from. His father always said “I drink from the ocean of stories. They install a spigot in the wall for me to drink from.” (Yeah, right.) Until, on that one fateful day, Haroun catches the water genie uninstalling the spigot.

On his way to save the ocean of stories, Haroun finds wonderful friends and the power of teamwork. The moral contrast between the Guppees (who argue all the time, but in the end work together) and the Chupwalas (who never disagree because they live in fear, but are so unable to work together, they fight with their own shadows)…

By Salman Rushdie,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Haroun and the Sea of Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating fantasy novel for readers of all ages, by the author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses

"This is, simply put, a book for anyone who loves a good story. It's also a work of literary genius." -Stephen King

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as The Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Arabian Nights, and The Wizard of Oz. Twelve-year-old Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore his father's gift of storytelling by reviving the poisoned Sea…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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