100 books like Lords of the Desert

By James Barr,

Here are 100 books that Lords of the Desert fans have personally recommended if you like Lords of the Desert. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Merle Nygate Author Of The Righteous Spy

From my list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and script edited in a lot of different genres, from factual drama to sitcom, children’s TV to fantasy. I’ve always loved spy stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one. Recently, at the University of East Anglia I studied for an MA in Crime Fiction, and that’s where I finally got the chance to study espionage and write a spy novel myself. I hope you enjoy my selection of books if you haven’t already read them. Or even if you have. They’re all so good that I feel like re-reading them right now. 

Merle's book list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves

Merle Nygate Why did Merle love this book?

This is a non-fiction book but it reads like a novel and explores one of the great mysteries of the spy world: how on earth did Kim Philby manage to betray not only his country but also his friends over so many years? 

A former spy I had the privilege of interviewing described Philby as a shit, so maybe there’s the answer. I think this is a terrific read, and although Macintyre probably isn’t a spy, like Deighton, he knows them. 

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Spy Among Friends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, traitor and enigma, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War.

Philby's two closest friends in the intelligence world, Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton, the CIA intelligence chief, thought they knew Philby better than anyone, and then discovered they had not known him at all. This is a story of intimate duplicity; of loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience; of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and…


Book cover of At the Yeoman's House

Chris Naunton Author Of Egyptologists' Notebooks: The Golden Age of Nile Exploration in Words, Pictures, Plans, and Letters

From my list on history, archaeology, people, and places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by history and the sense of place. That has led to a career in Egyptology, but I’ve come to realise that that fascination has been a part of my other interests whether it be Arsenal Football Club, rock music, or cycle touring. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot in recent years. My horizons have broadened, and I’ve come to appreciate the natural environment and man’s place in it more and more. None of the books on my list were chosen because of this – I read them because I thought I would enjoy them, but there’s a common theme linking them all – places, people, interactions.

Chris' book list on history, archaeology, people, and places

Chris Naunton Why did Chris love this book?

This book is about a historic house in rural Suffolk in the East of England, which the author inherited from the artist John Nash. Blythe has himself made a career of writing about various aspects of the local landscape and how it, and the ways in which people have made their lives in the English countryside, have changed. The yeoman’s house itself, ‘Bottengoms’, was built in the 16th century, adapted, fell into ruin, and was then restored, and continues to be maintained to this day. It incorporates a garden and is set into the archetypally English countryside of Suffolk. Blythe’s gentle prose conveys a sense of sadness at the old ways of the traditional agricultural economy that have been lost, but in maintaining his beautiful house and sharing its story he is helping to keep some aspect of those ways, and that landscape, alive.

By Ronald Blythe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At the Yeoman's House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What happens in an old farmhouse when the farmers have left? Perhaps only a poet-historian-storyteller can say. These traditional work centres were established centuries ago, sometimes in the village street, often far away in their own fields. But the pattern of the toil was the same. This quietly vanished a few years ago. Ronald Blythe describes the going of it in his celebrated Akenfield. Some years before this his friend John Nash had rescued an already abandoned farmhouse in the Stour Valley from total dereliction. It was called Bottengoms. Nobody knows why. John Nash called himself an Artist-Plantsman. Behind both…


Book cover of The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape

Susan Cole Author Of Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss

From my list on huge life changes and the stories behind them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived on or around sailboats for over thirty years. I had never sailed before meeting my husband. Many people dream of sailing off but few actually go. In 1996, we sailed away to the Caribbean with our seven-year-old daughter. Although I didn’t want to go, by the end of the voyage I found an inner strength that has stayed with me. The books I chose are all about making huge changes, taking leaps of faith. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Susan's book list on huge life changes and the stories behind them

Susan Cole Why did Susan love this book?

James Rebanks was born in England’s Lake District into a family who valued the hard work and ancient traditions of shepherding in the high hills. Later, he winds up at Oxford, seemingly headed for a life of financial success in the city, and realizes that while the world at large may value such success, he values the quiet, steady, solitary shepherd’s life and chooses that instead. He beautifully depicts a life steeped in tradition, honoring the seasons, and filled with characters. I loved learning about a slice of life that I knew little about.

By James Rebanks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shepherd's Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

'Affectionate, evocative, illuminating. A story of survival - of a flock, a landscape and a disappearing way of life. I love this book' Nigel Slater

'Triumphant, a pastoral for the 21st century' Helen Davies, Sunday Times, Books of the Year

'The nature publishing sensation of the year, unsentimental yet luminous' Melissa Harrison, The Times, Books of the Year

Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and…


Book cover of Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon

Chris Naunton Author Of Egyptologists' Notebooks: The Golden Age of Nile Exploration in Words, Pictures, Plans, and Letters

From my list on history, archaeology, people, and places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by history and the sense of place. That has led to a career in Egyptology, but I’ve come to realise that that fascination has been a part of my other interests whether it be Arsenal Football Club, rock music, or cycle touring. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot in recent years. My horizons have broadened, and I’ve come to appreciate the natural environment and man’s place in it more and more. None of the books on my list were chosen because of this – I read them because I thought I would enjoy them, but there’s a common theme linking them all – places, people, interactions.

Chris' book list on history, archaeology, people, and places

Chris Naunton Why did Chris love this book?

I first came across this book in a communal library at a guest house I was staying at on Easter Island. The island is one of the most profoundly affecting places I have ever visited: even today the sense of remoteness is palpable: it’s four hours’ flight from the nearest airport, the island and its population are small, essential supplies such as mineral water and toilet paper come only once a month. And yet centuries ago a small group of would-be settlers from elsewhere in the Pacific landed and established a remarkable community, famous for its mo’ai (statues). They survived, and thrived, for a time, but it was always a precarious existence, and the natural environment has been altered forever as a result. The question of the extent to which the community is sustainable seems, to me, still to be there. It led me to think deeply about human beings…

By John Hemming,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tree of Rivers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This enthralling book brilliantly describes the passionate struggles that have taken place in order to utilize, protect and understand the wonder that is the Amazon. Hemming's riveting account recalls the adventures and misadventures down the centuries of the explorers, missionaries, indigenous Indians, naturalists, rubber barons, scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, political extremists, prospectors and many more, who have been in thrall to the Amazon, the largest river in the world, with the greatest expanse of tropical rain forest and most luxuriant biological diversity on earth.


Book cover of The Pharaoh's Shadow: Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt

Chris Naunton Author Of Egyptologists' Notebooks: The Golden Age of Nile Exploration in Words, Pictures, Plans, and Letters

From my list on history, archaeology, people, and places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by history and the sense of place. That has led to a career in Egyptology, but I’ve come to realise that that fascination has been a part of my other interests whether it be Arsenal Football Club, rock music, or cycle touring. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot in recent years. My horizons have broadened, and I’ve come to appreciate the natural environment and man’s place in it more and more. None of the books on my list were chosen because of this – I read them because I thought I would enjoy them, but there’s a common theme linking them all – places, people, interactions.

Chris' book list on history, archaeology, people, and places

Chris Naunton Why did Chris love this book?

Egyptology is a strange subject in that, even though you wouldn’t know it from the name, it really only concerns one aspect of Egypt – its ancient past – and it’s quite possible to develop an expertise in the field without having any familiarity with Egypt of the present day. One might become an expert in reading the hieroglyphic script, or in distinguishing an Old Kingdom statue from one sculpted in the New Kingdom, all without ever even visiting Egypt itself. Although this is an unintended consequence, it does rather foster the false idea that ancient Egypt is entirely unconnected from modern Egypt. But while more than a thousand years have passed since anyone worshipped the ancient gods or wrote anything in the ancient script, the two are very much connected of course – the natural environment, the land, and the climate are essentially unchanged, the modern people are the…

By Anthony Sattin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pharaoh's Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a ruined temple along the Nile, Anthony Sattin sees a woman praying to the gods of ancient Egypt to bless her with a child. Later that day, a policeman stops his taxi to ask to borrow a mobile phone to call his mother. The ancient rubs up against the modern just as dramatically as when Flaubert wrote, 'Egypt is a wonderful place for contrasts - splendid things gleam in the dust". Anthony Sattin has tracked down extraordinary examples of ancient survivals in the hurly-burly of modern Egypt.


Book cover of The Fist of God

Jay Bonansinga Author Of Return to Woodbury

From my list on thrillers that begin with a bang.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a veteran novelist who believes this over all else: The opening is everything. This has been my modus operandi as a storyteller for over thirty books, as well as a half dozen screenplays. I love a great opening. It is how a reader or viewer will subconsciously decide whether they will devote themselves to a story. It is the first kiss. The first shot over the bow. The ignition, the countdown, and the launch. It is the alpha and omega… because the beginning dictates the ending. Oh my, how I love the beginning! 

Jay's book list on thrillers that begin with a bang

Jay Bonansinga Why did Jay love this book?

“The man with ten minutes to live was laughing.” Thus begins one of the greatest war novels by one of the greatest living writers of espionage thrillers. 

Frederick Forsyth’s epic story of the Persian Gulf War mingles fact with fiction, and never lets up its humming current of suspense. Incidentally, that laughing man was Gerald Vincent Bull, a real historical figure who invented a super-gun for Saddam Hussein. Not exactly the safest line of work. 

His assassination triggered a Rube Goldberg series of events that only Forsyth would have the… well… foresight to use as the first sentence in this violent, epochal tale. 

By Frederick Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From behind-the-scenes decision making of the Allies to the secret meeting of Saddam Hussein's war cabinet, from the brave American fliers running dangerous missions over Iraq to a heroic young spy planted deep in the heart of Baghdad, Forsyths incomparable storytelling keeps the suspense at a breakneck pace.

Peopled with vivid characters, brilliantly displaying the intricacies of intelligence operations moving back and forth between Washington and London, Baghdad and Kuwait, and revealing espionage tradecraft as only Frederick Forsyth can, The Fist of God tells the utterly convincing story of what may actually have happened behind the headlines.


Book cover of Beirut Spy

Louise Burfitt-Dons Author Of Our Man In Kuwait

From my list on spies in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a thriller writer who was born and grew up in Kuwait during a period when the country was threatened with invasion by Iraq. My father was the Preventative Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Company. At the end of 1960 Ian Fleming visited the country and they became close friends. At the time Britain depended on inside information to prepare for military Operation Vantage. The experiences I had of that time and of that relationship, even as a child, were crying out to be written about. Despite the Middle East being a hotspot for espionage during that period of the Cold War, there’s been relatively little written about it.

Louise's book list on spies in the Middle East

Louise Burfitt-Dons Why did Louise love this book?

This book is the inside story of the gossip which came out of the St. George Hotel, a famous Beirut meeting place during the 1950s for journalists and travelers and a regular hot spot for spies. It reads like a Bond thriller and no doubt Ian Fleming downed several of his pink gins there before he travelled on to Kuwait. Many Western plots took shape in its bar, including the plan to restore the monarchy in Baghdad, an attempt to overthrow King Hussein, and the assassination of a Syrian president. The value to me of this book is its historical relevance. Destroyed in the civil war that raged through Lebanon, this account of the famous bar somehow defies the bombs and keeps it alive.

By Said K. Aburish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beirut Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An insider's account of true espionage, intrigue and conspiracy in the post-war Middle East, which reads like a Bond-esque thriller. Spies, journalists, politicians, tycoons, would-be assassins and oil sheiks mingle in the luxurious St George Hotel bar, the cosmopolitan centre of Beirut. From the 1950's through to its destruction in 1975 due to civil war, the plots, deals, and stories that came out of this famous hotel and its beachside bar make fascinating reading, featuring famous names as Kim Philby, Miles Copeland, Wilbur Crane and James Russell Barracks. Many incidents which went on to shape Middle Eastern history are related…


Book cover of The Doomed Oasis

Louise Burfitt-Dons Author Of Our Man In Kuwait

From my list on spies in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a thriller writer who was born and grew up in Kuwait during a period when the country was threatened with invasion by Iraq. My father was the Preventative Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Company. At the end of 1960 Ian Fleming visited the country and they became close friends. At the time Britain depended on inside information to prepare for military Operation Vantage. The experiences I had of that time and of that relationship, even as a child, were crying out to be written about. Despite the Middle East being a hotspot for espionage during that period of the Cold War, there’s been relatively little written about it.

Louise's book list on spies in the Middle East

Louise Burfitt-Dons Why did Louise love this book?

Moving back to fiction, this swashbuckling adventure story moves between Wales and the Middle East. Published in 1960 it is a little dated in style but packs a punch as a fun thriller as much as giving a background into the politics of the region and the development of the oil industry. It has been described by others as more like watching an old black and white movie. However, it still captures some of the essential elements of the time and the harshness of warfare in the boiling heat. 

By Hammond Innes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A sweeping adventure set in the Arabian Desert, where the shadow of British colonialism threatens to destroy a father and son.

Three years ago, nineteen-year-old David Thomas beat his father to death. Actually, David only punched the old man, but it was hard enough to cause him to have a fatal stroke. And the man wasn’t really David’s father at all: The fight started because David learned that his true father was Col. Charles Stanley Whitaker, a legendary figure who made his fortune in the oil fields of the Arabian Desert.
 
With the help of George Grant, a lawyer he’d…


Book cover of The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States and Postwar Imperialism

Jeffrey Herf Author Of Israel's Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945–1949

From my list on history of establishment of the State of Israel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian at the University of Maryland, College Park. In the past forty years, I have published six books and many articles on twentieth-century German history including Reactionary Modernism: Technology Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich; Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys; Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World; and Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. My personal interest in German history began at home. My father was one of those very fortunate German Jews who found refuge in the United States before Hitler closed the borders and launched the Holocaust. 

Jeffrey's book list on history of establishment of the State of Israel

Jeffrey Herf Why did Jeffrey love this book?

Louis’s excellent, and now classic work, should play a far larger role in discussions of the meanings of imperialism and anti-imperialism than has been the case in recent years. Drawing on a deep grasp of British foreign policy and domestic politics, Louis examines what he calls the “grand strategy of non-intervention and conciliation” that leaned heavily towards the existing Arab regimes. Prime Minister Clement Attlee, and especially Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, and other leading officials in the British Foreign Office and Colonial Office, believed that a Jewish state in Palestine would antagonize the Arabs and lead to a decline in British influence in the Middle East. Louis draws attention to Richard Crossman and other British critics of the policy of preserving Britain’s imperial role in Palestine. It is one of those indispensable works of scholarship regarding these events.

By Wm. Roger Louis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, which examines British disengagement in the Middle East during the Labour Government of 1945-51, is in a large sense a comment on the British response to Arab, Jewish, and Iranian nationalism.


Book cover of A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Author Of Aaronsohn's Maps: The Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Modern Middle East

From my list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the Middle East ever since being taken to see Kismet at the age of 3. I travel there extensively, married into it, and have lived inside the Middle East community in the US for the past thirty years. I’m also a journalist, a playwright, and the author of three non-fiction books, Making the World Safe for Tourism, Aaronsohn’s Maps, and INTERLOCK: Art, Conspiracy, and The Shadow Worlds of Mark Lombardi. Although I wouldn't argue that the issue of women’s rights isn't an urgent one, as a woman who focuses on history and geopolitics, I’m often disturbed at how it's being used to whip up popular emotion and obscure other driving forces. 

Patricia's book list on changing discussions about the modern Middle East

Patricia Goldstone Why did Patricia love this book?

Like Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August to which this compares in the breadth of scope and depth of knowledge, this is a huge, rich feast of a book and one of the best you can read on World War I as well as on the formative geopolitics of the modern Middle East. Like the greatest of the imperial geographers, David’s scholarship was omnivorous but his original discipline was law: his discussion of the rashly-drawn boundaries that are at the heart of A Peace to End All Peace is without peer.

Full disclosure: David was also a friend who, like his book, was incredibly generous. I owe my book to a particularly compendious footnote in A Peace to End All Peace. It caught my eye and I became obsessed with why I didn’t know more about such an enormous presence, eventually traveling to Britain, France, Israel, and the Isle…

By David Fromkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Peace to End All Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An up-to-date analysis of the historical background to the divisions of the Arab world. For politics students and the general reader.


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