100 books like The Last Shah

By Ray Takeyh,

Here are 100 books that The Last Shah fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Shah. 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 Origins: A Memoir

Steven A. Cook Author Of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

From my list on understanding the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy. 

Steven's book list on understanding the Middle East

Steven A. Cook Why did Steven love this book?

I read Maalouf's book many years ago and it remains one of the best books I have ever read about identity. It helps that he is a gifted writer and that Maalouf's story is so compelling.

By Amin Maalouf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Origins, by the world-renowned writer Amin Maalouf, is a sprawling, hemisphere-spanning intergenerational saga.

Set during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth, in the mountains of Lebanon and in Havana, Cuba, Origins recounts the family history of the generation of Maalouf's paternal grandfather, Boutros. Why did Boutros, a poet and educator in Lebanon, travel across the globe to rescue his younger brother, Gebrayel, who had settled in Havana?

Maalouf is an energetic and amiable narrator, illuminating the more obscure corners of late Ottoman nationalism, the psychology of Lebanese sectarianism, and the dynamics of…


Book cover of America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier

Steven A. Cook Author Of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

From my list on understanding the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy. 

Steven's book list on understanding the Middle East

Steven A. Cook Why did Steven love this book?

Vitalis' meticulously researched volume is about Saudi Arabia and the United States. In lucid prose, he makes the controversial case that American oil prospectors in the 20th century recreated the patterns of domination that dominated the exploitation of resources in the American West in Saudi Arabia. The argument smashes long-held truths and myths about the origins of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

By Robert Vitalis, Robert Vitalis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

America's Kingdom debunks the many myths that now surround the United States's "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia, or what is less reverently known as "the deal": oil for security. Taking aim at the long-held belief that the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, made miracles happen in the desert, Robert Vitalis shows that nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that oil led the U.S. government to follow the company to the kingdom. Eisenhower agreed to train Ibn Sa'ud's army, Kennedy sent jets to defend the kingdom, and Lyndon Johnson sold it missiles. Oil and ARAMCO quickly…


Book cover of The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda

Steven A. Cook Author Of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

From my list on understanding the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy. 

Steven's book list on understanding the Middle East

Steven A. Cook Why did Steven love this book?

The siege of Mecca in 1979 was one of the most consequential events in recent Saudi history. This book reads like a thriller, which makes sense because anyone familiar with Trofimov's work at the Wall Street Journal knows that he is a gifted storyteller and insightful analyst. The book provides context to the worldview that gave rise to al Qaeda.

By Yaroslav Trofimov,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of War in the Land of Egypt

Steven A. Cook Author Of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

From my list on understanding the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies and director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine and an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S. Middle East policy. 

Steven's book list on understanding the Middle East

Steven A. Cook Why did Steven love this book?

This brief volume was first published 35 years ago but stands up over time. It is an allegory about Egypt during the early years of Anwar al-Sadat's rule, but speaks to the larger issues of corruption, the arrogance of power, and the fraying of societal bonds under authoritarian leaders. 

By Yusuf al-Qa'id,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War in the Land of Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Egypt on the eve of the 1973 October war. A young man has been drafted into the army. His father, the village elder, persuades a poor night-watchman to send his own son as a stand-in. But the impersonation plan goes horribly wrong, with tragicomic results. Qa'id's tale of the fiasco — steeped in irony and black humor — parodies outrageous corruption and ludicrous bureaucracy. A skillfully crafted mosaic of life in modern Egypt.


Book cover of Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami

Birol Baskan Author Of Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East

From my list on the Persian/Arabian Gulf international politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

The events/developments that unsettle international politics of the Gulf are two kinds: internal and external to the region. Yet, no matter whether it is internal or external, its consequences concern us all, no matter where we live in. What happens in the Gulf does not stay in the Gulf. It unleashes ripple effects that reach directly or indirectly into our pockets and hence our lives. I am one of them and a non-resident scholar in the Middle East Institute, broadly speaking, writing on Turkey, the Persian/Arab Gulf, and the Middle East. 

Birol's book list on the Persian/Arabian Gulf international politics

Birol Baskan Why did Birol love this book?

After the US it is Iran. In fact the US is in the Gulf thanks and due to Iran. Iran poses a, real or perceived, security risk to other littoral states of the Gulf and balancing it constitutes the latter’s sublime foreign policy objective. It is also due to Iran that the Arab Gulf states spend billions of dollars on their armaments and engage in proxy-power struggles in other parts of the Middle East. Why is Iran a pariah in the Gulf? For a solid account read this book.

By Christin Marschall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iran's Persian Gulf Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The study is based on Persian, Arabic, English, French and German newspaper reports, as well as interviews with Iranian and Arab diplomats - adds a novel and interesting aspect to the study

Will appeal to the general reader interested in the Modern Middle East, as well as policy-makers and students of Modern Middle Eastern studies and International Relations

There have been no extended studies on the Persian Gulf Policy of the Islamic Republic covering the first two decades of its existence


Book cover of On Wings of Eagles

Allen Kent Author Of The Shield of Darius

From my list on underrated gems by master spy/thriller writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Four of my formative years were spent in Iran and England where I became intrigued by the history and politics that shaped the Middle East. An avid reader, I was intrigued by how effectively international thrillers, particularly those by British authors, captured the mystery, complexity, and murky ambiguities of global politics. When I launched a second career as a writer, I committed to using international thrillers as a vehicle for exposing readers to other peoples and cultures and to the unending moral dilemmas that shape our political world. My aspiration is to present those stories as effectively and provocatively as the five writers recommended in my list! 

Allen's book list on underrated gems by master spy/thriller writers

Allen Kent Why did Allen love this book?

I spent several of my teen years living in Iran, so had a personal interest in what happened to Americans during and after the Shah’s removal from power. Although Follett is best known for his epic Kingsbridge Series and thrillers such as Eye of the Needle, this non-fiction piece is as tense and engaging as much of his fiction. It details the efforts of a team assembled by Ross Perot to rescue two of his top EDS executives from Iranian captivity after a series of diplomatic efforts fail. Though this isn’t Follett’s finest prose and does seem to lionize Ross Perot, it is a great example of how factual tales of courage and ingenuity can be as engaging as the best thriller fiction. The descriptions of Tehran and the Iran/Turkish frontier are spot-on.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On Wings of Eagles is the thrilling novel based on the incredible real-life rescue of two Americans by a Green Beret colonel and a group of corporate executives from revolutionary Iran, from number one bestseller Ken Follett.

A Terrifying Prison
As Iran descends into revolution, two Americans get caught up in the upheaval. They are captured and held in a heavily guarded fortress. Their situation is desperate, with the US government refusing to get them out. But all hope is not lost . . .

A Daring Rescue
This is the fictionalised real-life story of a Green Beret colonel, who…


Book cover of The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran

Kenneth M. Pollack Author Of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

From my list on Middle East military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After college I joined the CIA. They assigned me to the Iran-Iraq military account so I had a front-row seat for the Persian Gulf War. I went on to do two tours at the NSC and a quick stop at DoD in between, all working on Middle East political and security issues. I was unexpectedly thrown out by Bush II in 2001 and so had to flee to the think tank world. I’ve since written ten books on the political-military affairs of the Middle East and am now working on my eleventh, a history of the U.S. and Iraq since 1979 titled The Iraq Wars.

Kenneth's book list on Middle East military history

Kenneth M. Pollack Why did Kenneth love this book?

David Crist is the historian of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—and the son of former CENTCOM Commander, General George B. Crist.  He knows this subject backwards and forwards and brings to light any number of topics that I had only ever seen discussed in the classified world. But he does so with the perspicacity of a military historian and the insight of a superb military analyst. Most people simply do not know about the many close calls and bloody clashes there were between the U.S. and Iran during this era, and Crist’s book fills that important gap. Moreover, this is a fascinating example of a protracted, low-intensity or “hybrid” conflict with a canny and determined foe and so it has no end of lessons to teach. 

By David Crist,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The dramatic secret history of our undeclared thirty-year conflict with Iran, revealing newsbreaking episodes of covert and deadly operations that brought the two nations to the brink of open war

For three decades, the United States and Iran have engaged in a secret war. It is a conflict that has never been acknowledged and a story that has never been told.

This surreptitious war began with the Iranian revolution and simmers today inside Iraq and in the Persian Gulf. Fights rage in the shadows, between the CIA and its network of spies and Iran's intelligence agency. Battles are fought at…


Book cover of All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran

Jonathan Alter Author Of His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

From my list on Jimmy Carter.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jonathan Alter is an award-winning author, political analyst, documentary filmmaker, columnist, television producer and radio host. He has interviewed eight of the last nine American presidents and lectures widely about the presidency and public affairs.

Jonathan's book list on Jimmy Carter

Jonathan Alter Why did Jonathan love this book?

Sick, Carter’s White House adviser on Iran, offers a cogent, deeply insightful account of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the seizure of American hostages in Tehran, and the Carter Administration’s inadequate response to the unfolding crisis. In a later book, The October Surprise, Sick falls just short of proving that the Reagan campaign conspired with the Iranian government to delay the release of the hostages until after the 1980 election. But he is convincing in his claim that the truth in this sordid affair has never fully come to light.

By Gary Sick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A former naval intelligence officer and National Security Council staff member provides a day-to-day account of the Iranian revolution, the hostage crisis, and America's failure to deal effectively with both


Book cover of The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Randall Fowler Author Of More Than a Doctrine: The Eisenhower Era in the Middle East

From my list on American (mis)adventures in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a Communication professor at Fresno Pacific University and former Fulbright grantee to Jordan. Growing up in west Texas I was always fascinated with other countries. I encountered Arabic in college, and I quickly fell in love with a language and society that reminded me so much of my home—in fact, the word “haboob” is used by Texas farmers and Bedouin herders alike to describe a violent dust storm. While I was teaching English in Amman, I realized how much I enjoy learning how different cultures come to understand one another. My driving passion is to explore the centuries-long rhetorical history tying Americans and Middle Easterners together in mutual webs of (mis)representation, and this topic has never been more relevant than today.

Randall's book list on American (mis)adventures in the Middle East

Randall Fowler Why did Randall love this book?

A highly readable tome, Cooper’s account of how the oil politics of the 1970s revolutionized U.S. foreign policy and the Persian Gulf is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the political landscape of the Middle East. Cooper traces the personal interactions among the Shah of Iran, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford, and the House of Saud in the midst of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the consequent oil embargo, the formation of OPEC, and the early stirrings of revolution in Iran. Perhaps most helpful, this book dispels many misperceptions about Iran under the Shah while also showing how the United States played an integral role in weakening his regime prior to the 1979 revolution.

By Andrew Scott Cooper,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Relying on a rich cache of previously classified notes, transcripts, cables, policy briefs, and memoranda, Andrew Cooper explains how oil drove, even corrupted, American foreign policy during a time when Cold War imperatives still applied,”* and tells why in the 1970s the U.S. switched its Middle East allegiance from the Shah of Iran to the Saudi royal family.

While America struggles with a recess ion, oil prices soar, revolution rocks the Middle East, European nations risk defaulting on their loans, and the world teeters on the brink of a possible global financial crisis. This is not a description of the…


Book cover of Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

Larry Enmon Author Of Class III Threat

From my list on spies from a retired secret service agent.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I always wanted to be a Secret Service agent. As an adult, I became one. The job introduced me to the classified and shadowy world of national security. I traveled the globe, working in places I'd only read about in novels and meeting people who seemed like well-written characters from a book. When I was assigned as a liaison agent to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I attended numerous FBI and CIA schools—even the facility known as The Farm. But through it all, I read! When I retired and had time to think about what I did, I figured I'd try writing.

Larry's book list on spies from a retired secret service agent

Larry Enmon Why did Larry love this book?

For me, Argo is one of those rare finds in spy books. It is a book about an actual intelligence operation that went as planned, written by a living CIA intelligence officer who took part in it.

One of the hallmarks of intelligence operations is making the enemy believe what you want them to think. Misinformation and disinformation comprise a large part of the work, but sometimes, it all comes down to good old-fashioned deception. That's what makes Argo work.

And, hey, any book good enough to be made into a movie that wins an Oscar for Best Picture is worth my time.

By Antonio Mendez, Matt Baglio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio - the declassified CIA story behind the Oscar-winning film

WINNER OF 'BEST PICTURE' AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS, THE BAFTAS AND THE GOLDEN GLOBES

Tehran, November 1979. Militant students stormed the American embassy and held sixty Americans captive for a gruelling 444 days. But until now the CIA has never revealed the twist to the Iran Hostage Crisis: six Americans escaped.

The escape plot was run by Antonio Mendez, head of the CIA's extraction team and a master of disguise. Mendez came up with an idea so daring and potentially foolish that it seemed…


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