10 books like Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (translator),

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Shahnameh. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Mantle of the Prophet

By Roy Mottahedeh,

Book cover of The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran

Straddling the boundaries between academic history and historical non-fiction, this book is difficult, if not impossible, to put down and draws the reader into the rich and multifaceted world of Iran’s history, politics, culture, and religion. The book is narrated through the life and lens of an ayatollah who is caught between tradition and modernity, religiosity and secularism, and east and west, much like Iran itself. Seamlessly weaving the past and present, the book reveals the inherent complexities and contradictions of Iranian identity that have been superimposed on a state and society torn between notions and aspirations of divine and popular sovereignty.       

The Mantle of the Prophet

By Roy Mottahedeh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Drawn from the first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses, Roy Mottahedeh's account of Islam and politics in revolutionary Iran is widely regarded as one the best records ofd that turbulent time ever written. The true story of a young mullah, hi life in the sacred shrine city of Qom, and the dramatic events of the 1979 Revolution, this account paints a vivid picture of contemporary Iran, while providing a panoramic survey of Muslim, Shi'ite and Persian culture from the middle ages to the present day. From the ancient time of Zoroaster to the world of Khomeini, this saga interweaves biography with history,…


A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Book cover of A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

An engagingly written, fair and balanced history for readers interested in more detail and analysis than is found in my own slim introductory volume. In my view the single best scholarly history of Iran ever written.

A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Iran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Iran is a land of contradictions. It is an Islamic republic, but one in which only 1.4 percent of the population attend Friday prayers. Iran's religious culture encompasses the most censorious and dogmatic Shi'a Muslim clerics in the world, yet its poetry insistently dwells on the joys of life: wine, beauty, sex. Iranian women are subject to one of the most restrictive dress codes in the Islamic world, but make up nearly 60 percent of the student population of the nation's universities. In A History of Iran, acclaimed historian Michael Axworthy chronicles the rich history of this complex nation from…


Censoring an Iranian Love Story

By Sara Khalili, Shahriar Mandanipour,

Book cover of Censoring an Iranian Love Story

Against the backdrop of an unlucky courtship between two young students in today’s Tehran, this entertaining novel uses humour to ridicule the myopic mentality of contemporary Iran’s religious leadership that wishes to see itself as cultured and intellectual.

Censoring an Iranian Love Story

By Sara Khalili, Shahriar Mandanipour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Censoring an Iranian Love Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Truly original, Censoring an Iranian Love Story is an incredibly imaginative yet always charming love story set in contemporary Iran that crackles with wit, verve and social comment: Sara falls in love with Dara through secret messages hidden in code in the pages of books that have been outlawed, but then something quite extraordinary and unexpected happens. Through adeptly handled asides to the reader, as well as anecdotes, codes and metaphors, and cheeky references to the wonderfully rich Iranian literary heritage, the novel builds to offer a revealing yet often playful and hopeful comment on the pressures of writing within…


The Blind Owl

By Naveed Noori, Sadegh Hedayat,

Book cover of The Blind Owl

Written in the 1930’s, this is considered to be the first great modern novel in Persian. A haunting, nightmarish narrative where hallucination becomes indistinguishable from reality, it is something of an Iranian mix between Edgar Allan Poe and Bret Easton Ellis.

The Blind Owl

By Naveed Noori, Sadegh Hedayat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Widely regarded as Sadegh Hedayat's masterpiece, the Blind Owl is the most important work of literature to come out of Iran in the past century. On the surface this work seems to be a tale of doomed love, but with the turning of each page basic facts become obscure and the reader soon realizes this book is much more than a love story. Although the Blind Owl has been compared to the works of the Kafka, Rilke and Poe, this work defies categorization. Lescot's French translation made the Blind Owl world-famous, while D.P. Costello's English translation made it largely accessible.…


Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Reuben Levy (translator),

Book cover of Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

Thousands of years and fifty reigns are dramatised in this chronicle of sixty thousand verses. Set down in the eleventh century by an engagingly grumpy Persian poet who enjoyed the odd cup of wine and fretted about his finances. In the process, he saved (as some would have it) the Persian language and culture. The resonance of his tales has endured down the centuries: traveling in Iran, I met artists who used the story of a snake-shouldered tyrant who gobbles the brains of young men as a parable for the inter-generational tensions of the mullahcracy and the trauma of the Iran-Iraq War; whilst the romance of a beautiful long-haired princess and her tower-climbing lover is the earliest recorded iteration of ‘Rapunzel’.

Which version to read: The nineteenth-century Warner brothers produced an atmospheric full translation, but for a more modern abridgment, I’d recommend The Epic of the Kings, translated by Reuben…

Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Reuben Levy (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

....


The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

By Hooman Majd,

Book cover of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

The grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, Hooman Majd offers perspective on Iran's complex and misunderstood culture through an insightful tour of Iranian culture, introducing fascinating characters from all walks of life, including zealous government officials, tough female cab drivers, and open-minded, reformist ayatollahs. It's an Iran that will surprise readers and challenge Western stereotypes.

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

By Hooman Majd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ayatollah Begs to Differ as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hooman Majd, acclaimed journalist and New York-residing grandson of an Ayatollah, has a unique perspective on his Iranian homeland. In this vivid, warm and humorous insider's account, he opens our eyes to an Iran that few people see, meeting opium-smoking clerics, women cab drivers and sartorially challenged presidential officials, among others.

Revealing a country where both t-shirt wearing teenagers and religious martyrs express pride in their Persian origins, that is deeply religious yet highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet reformist, this is the one book you should read to understand Iran and Iranians today.


Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran

By Habib Levy, Hooshang Ebrami, George W. Maschke (translator)

Book cover of Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora

This book is the first comprehensive source on the history of the Jews of Iran, which, considering the vastness of the Persian Empire during ancient times, must be reckoned second only to Israel in importance, yet it is also the most obscure, because little of it has been published. The Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran, where the Jews have been living for over 2700 years, not only describes the history of Jews in ancient Iran (Persia), but covers all periods, particularly the 19th and 20th centuries.

Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran

By Habib Levy, Hooshang Ebrami, George W. Maschke (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora


The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran

By Charles Kurzman,

Book cover of The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran

Importantly, this book reminds the reader that the Iranian Revolution and others are rare and unpredictable events in human history that breed chaos and uncertainty. The book systematically and convincingly debunks the conventional explanations for the revolution related to static structures and processes in the government, military, economy, society, and culture. Instead, the book argues that what ultimately turned the tide of the revolution was the agency of activists who purposively created and exploited these structures and processes, translated initial fear into intensified outrage, drew power in numbers, and became convinced that success in the form of regime change was possible.       

The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran

By Charles Kurzman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would remain on the throne for the foreseeable future: This was the firm conclusion of a top-secret CIA analysis issued in October 1978. One hundred days later the shah--despite his massive military, fearsome security police, and superpower support was overthrown by a popular and largely peaceful revolution. But the CIA was not alone in its myopia, as Charles Kurzman reveals in this penetrating work; Iranians themselves, except for a tiny minority, considered a revolution inconceivable until it actually occurred. Revisiting the circumstances surrounding the fall of the shah, Kurzman offers rare insight into…


A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire

By Bruno Jacobs (editor), Robert Rollinger (editor),

Book cover of A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire

This monumental two-volume collection, published in 2021, contains 110 accessible essays by some of the most prominent scholars of Achaemenid Persian history. It introduces the ancient evidence, including written sources, artistic materials, and archaeological remains, for every major region from the Indus to the Nile and the Aegean, and ably surveys the disciplinary history of the modern study of ancient Iran.  Thematic chapters trace numerous aspects of Persia’s imperial world, including geography, languages, gender, religion, court dynamics, administration, communications, war, diplomacy, economics, art, science, and many more. The narrative chapters place the empire’s rise and fall, including but hardly limited to the Persian-Greek wars, into a longer context of Ancient Near Eastern empire formation, setting up valuable insights through comparison with Assyria, Babylonia, and other predecessors. 

A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire

By Bruno Jacobs (editor), Robert Rollinger (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A COMPANION TO THE ACHAEMENID PERSIAN EMPIRE

A comprehensive review of the political, cultural, social, economic and religious history of the Achaemenid Empirem

Often called the first world empire, the Achaemenid Empire is rooted in older Near Eastern traditions. A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire offers a perspective in which the history of the empire is embedded in the preceding and subsequent epochs. In this way, the traditions that shaped the Achaemenid Empire become as visible as the powerful impact it had on further historical development. But the work does not only break new ground in this respect, but…


The Colonel

By Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Tom Patterdale (translator),

Book cover of The Colonel

This novel was banned in Iran and published outside of it by a renowned Iranian author who grew up in a village and moved to Tehran, where he became a prominent writer and political prisoner. It lends a surreal and personal perspective to the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War – the two most dramatic and formative events in the Islamic Republic’s forty-year existence. It tells the haunting and heart-wrenching story of an unnamed and disgraced former army colonel, who futilely tries to keep his mind intact and his family together during this tumultuous period. The novel poignantly demonstrates how the revolution and war tore individuals and their loved ones apart to the point of madness and death. It is a microcosm of the deep-seated dissonance and disillusionment that Iranians have experienced over aspirational nationalism and piety, on one side, and endemic fragmentation and repression, on the other. A difficult…

The Colonel

By Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Tom Patterdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2013 Jan Michalski Prize
Longlististed for the Man Asian Literary Prize

A new novel by the master of Iranian letters that directly engages politics in Iran today
 
Ten years in the writing, this fearless novel—so powerful it’s banned in Iran—tells the stirring story of a tortured people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.
 
It begins on a pitch black, rainy night, when there’s a knock on the Colonel’s door. Two policemen have come to summon him to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter. The Islamic Revolution is devouring its own children. Set over the…


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