62 books like The Merchant of Syria

By Diana Darke,

Here are 62 books that The Merchant of Syria fans have personally recommended if you like The Merchant of Syria. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mirror to Damascus

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

I found this book in a bookstore in Damascus in 1977 during a two-year Fulbright teaching post at the University of Damascus. Far more than a travel writer’s account of the city – the first in maybe 100 years it was a ‘love note’ to a city that had enchanted the young traveler. Reading it opened my eyes to the immense charm of the city and many of its secrets. Colin Thurbon returned to Damascus 50 years later in 2017 and found the city empty of tourists again. The first time, because it had not yet been ‘discovered’  by European tourists, and the second time because all the tourists had left. But the old city was much unchanged by the Syrian civil war with only limited damage to the Tomb of Salaheddin next to the monumental and breathtakingly beautiful Umayyad mosque.  

By Colin Thubron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A 50th anniversary edition of Colin Thubron's celebrated first book, a portrait of Syria's capital city, with a new introduction by the author.

Described by the author as simply 'a work of love', Mirror to Damascus provides a rich and fascinating history of Damascus from the Amorites of the Bible to the revolution of 1966, and is also a charming and witty personal record of an extraordinary city.

In explaining how modern Damascus is rooted in immemorial layers of culture and tradition, Colin Thubron explores the historical, artistic, social and religious inheritance of its people. Along the way, he shares…


Book cover of Syria: The Desert and the Sown

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

The Desert and the Sown is perhaps the most personal of all Gertrude Bell’s travel books revealing a deeply affectionate engagement with the people and places of Syria. It is the first of her books that I read while researching the subject of Bedouin tribes in early 20th century Syria. I wanted to know what connection the Bedouin tribal elites had to the major trading cities such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. There, in her description of Damascus, she revealed the evidence I had been looking for: “In Damascus the sheikhs of the richer tribes have their townhouses; you may meet Muhammad of the Hasene or Bassan of the Beni Rashid peacocking down the bazaars on a fine Friday; in embroidered cloaks and purple and silver kerchiefs fastened about their brows with camel’s hair ropes bound with gold…” I can just see those tribal leaders now in my mind’s…

By Gertrude Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'You may rely upon one thing - I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain.'

Gertrude Bell - traveller, scholar, archaeologist, spy - was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East in the 20th century. With T.E. Lawrence, she was a significant force behind the Arab Revolt and was responsible for creating the boundaries of the modern state of Iraq, as well as installing the Hashemite dynasty, with Faisal I as king, in Iraq and Transjordan. Her knowledge of the Arab world was forged through decades of travel and the relationships she built…


Book cover of Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

This is a truly remarkable work. I was expecting a straightforward book of art but discovered a wonderful portrait of Syria in the 20th century. It is an original, creative, and deeply contextualized lens into the modern political history of Greater Syria. It successfully brings natural Syria, Bilad al Sham, into our frame of reference through the work of three main artists: Khalil Gibran, Adham Ismail, and Fateh al Moudarres. In its early chapters, it skillfully describes and analyses Syria’s interface with the late Ottoman period. The Interwar Mandate period is particularly well researched and articulated in drawing Syrian plastic arts into view, as France and other European diplomats, philosophers, and anthropologists’ influenced individual Syrian poets, and philosophers either during their sojourns in Europe or at home in Syria. Beautiful Agitation is an enchanting read, scholarly and lively, making sense for the first time of important Syrian artists’…

By Anneka Lenssen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In modern Syria, a contested territory at the intersection of differing regimes of political representation, artists ventured to develop strikingly new kinds of painting to link their images to life forces and agitated energies. Examining the works of artists Kahlil Gibran, Adham Ismail, and Fateh al-Moudarres, Beautiful Agitation explores how painters in Syria activated the mutability of form to rethink relationships of figure to ground, outward appearance to inner presence, and self to world. Drawing on archival materials in Syria and beyond, Anneka Lenssen reveals new trajectories of painterly practice in a twentieth century defined by shifting media technologies, moving…


Book cover of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

I cannot ignore the turmoil that has become Syria over the past decade. Many books have appeared about the peaceful demonstrations that turned violent and a civil war and a proxy war for Iran, Russia, the US, and various Arab states. This book provides a detailed history of how Syria descended into such violence.  It gave me a detailed understanding of how the ‘Opposition’ to the Asad government emerged in the country. And engages with the stories of the Opposition fighters in their exile in adjacent countries. Concluding that the war is not yet over, it provides some hope for those of us who watch from a distance as Russia and Iran reposition and redeploy in response to other critical global events.  

By Robin Yassin-Kassab, Leila Al-Shami,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2017*

In 2011, many Syrians took to the streets of Damascus to demand the overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad. Today, much of Syria has become a war zone where foreign journalists find it almost impossible to report on life in this devastated land.

Burning Country explores the horrific and complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists among many others. These stories are expertly interwoven with…


Book cover of The Miniaturist

Rebecca D'Harlingue Author Of The Map Colorist

From my list on 17th-century women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the seventeenth century fascinating, and both of my novels are set in that period. The century was a time of great flux, and I am especially interested in exploring the kinds of things that women might have done, even though their accomplishments weren’t recorded. There is a wonderful article by novelist Rachel Kadish called “Writing the Lives of Forgotten Women,” in which she refers to Hilary Mantel’s comments that people whose lives are not recorded fall through the sieve of history. Kadish says that, “Lives have run through the sieve, but we can catch them with our hands.” These novels all attempt to do that.

Rebecca's book list on 17th-century women

Rebecca D'Harlingue Why did Rebecca love this book?

I learned a lot about seventeenth-century Amsterdam when researching The Map Colorist, and I loved how Jessie Burton really brings the time and place to life.

There is the young Nella, caught in a marriage she doesn’t understand, and which will ultimately have dire consequences. There is also her sister-in-law, whom we come to really know only at the very end. Overlapping it all is the mysterious miniaturist, who presents Nella with new figures for the elaborate doll house that her husband gave her. The miniatures seem to predict the future!

By Jessie Burton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The phenomenal number one bestseller and a major BBC TV series.
Winner of the Specsavers National Book Award and Waterstones Book of the Year.
A Richard and Judy Book Club selection.

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's historical novel set in Amsterdam, The Miniaturist, is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant…


Book cover of From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfavolume 17

Yasuhiro Makimura Author Of Yokohama and the Silk Trade: How Eastern Japan Became the Primary Economic Region of Japan, 1843-1893

From my list on cities, their trades, and world trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the oldest questions is: why are some countries rich and some countries poor? Adam Smith famously answered that it was the division of labor (specialization) and trade in his book The Wealth of Nations. The more you study trade, however, the more complicated the answer becomes. I have been grappling with this question since the 1990s, as a student, and I still do not have a simple answer like Adam Smith. However, I think I have come up with a framework to understand how the economic history of the world developed and I have been teaching that global history in college as a professor since the 2010s.

Yasuhiro's book list on cities, their trades, and world trade

Yasuhiro Makimura Why did Yasuhiro love this book?

This book by David Aslanian features the Armenian merchants of the New Julfa district of the city of Isfahan in modern-day Iran. They conducted long-distance trade between India and Europe and competed against some of the giant corporations of the day such as the Dutch East India Company. The experts of the old silk road trade competed against the new maritime trades well into the nineteenth century.

By Sebouh Aslanian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on a rich trove of documents, including correspondence not seen for 300 years, this study explores the emergence and growth of a remarkable global trade network operated by Armenian silk merchants from a small outpost in the Persian Empire. Based in New Julfa, Isfahan, in what is now Iran, these merchants operated a network of commercial settlements that stretched from London and Amsterdam to Manila and Acapulco. The New Julfan Armenians were the only Eurasian community that was able to operate simultaneously and successfully in all the major empires of the early modern world--both land-based Asian empires and the…


Book cover of Niccolò Rising

J.G. Harlond Author Of The Chosen Man

From my list on historical fiction to travel across Europe and beyond.

Why am I passionate about this?

My idea of ‘good fiction’ – and what I try to write myself – involves secret agents and skulduggery, crime, and romance. My own life has involved a good deal of travel. I studied Education and Drama, then Literature, History, and Politics at post-graduate level. All of which help with my research and writing. As a British ex-pat, I have lived in the USA and different parts of Europe. Now, we are finally settled near Málaga, Spain. ‘Deep-reading’ fiction set in fascinating places, quality content to indulge in on dark winter nights. I hope you enjoy your time travel as much as I do.

J.G.'s book list on historical fiction to travel across Europe and beyond

J.G. Harlond Why did J.G. love this book?

This is the first book in the breathtaking House of Niccolò series that takes readers across Europe from Flanders to Tuscany, then to Scotland, Cyprus, and Constantinople, among other places, in the mid-fifteenth century. It is the story of a humble but gifted Bruges dye-works apprentice named Claes who turns himself into the wealthy, well-respected, often feared Niccolò, who wreaks havoc on his enemies. Dunnett’s hist-fic is for serious fans of the genre: kings, duchesses, and courtiers, financial machinations with the Medici, international intrigue, and the very best sort of timeless narrative. Not an easy read, but unforgettable, and so worthwhile. Dunnett inspired me to write action-packed but quality historical fiction based on serious research. 

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this first book of The House of Niccolò series, the author of the Lymond Chronicles introduces a new hero, Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.

With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett, grande dame of the historical novel, presents The House of Niccolò series. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of…


Book cover of Mr. Smith Goes to China: Three Scots in the Making of Britain's Global Empire

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent more than a decade exploring the historic roots of Asia’s modern political problems – and discovering the accidents and mistakes that got us where we are today. I spent 22 years with BBC News, including a year in Vietnam and another in Myanmar. I’ve written four books on East and Southeast Asia and I’m an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at the London-based thinktank, Chatham House. I love breaking down old stereotypes and showing readers that the past is much more interesting than a series of clichés about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps through that, we can recognise that our future depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Bill's book list on the emergence of modern China

Bill Hayton Why did Bill love this book?

This is a jewel of a book. It takes a strange coincidence and weaves it into a wonderful tale of world history. It explores the lives of three Scotsmen, all called George Smith but not related, who traded in Asia during the eighteenth century, a crucial time for the development of the East India Company and ties between East and West. It really opens a window into the lives of these pioneers and brings this neglected history alive. In particular, it complicates the usual story of the East India Company by showing how it was a force for stability in trade with China and it was the ‘free traders’ taking inspiration from people like the economist Adam Smith back in London, who upset the relations and created the conditions for the nineteenth-century Opium War.

By Jessica Hanser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. Smith Goes to China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An illuminating account of global commerce in the eighteenth-century Indian Ocean world as seen through the lives of three Scottish traders

This book delves into the lives of three Scottish private traders-George Smith of Bombay, George Smith of Canton, and George Smith of Madras-and uses them as lenses through which to explore the inner workings of Britain's imperial expansion and global network of trade, revealing how an unstable credit system and a financial crisis ultimately led to greater British intervention in India and China.


Book cover of The Forgotten Majority: German Merchants in London, Naturalization, and Global Trade 1660-1815

Laura Jarnagin (Laura Jarnagin Pang) Author Of A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks: Elites, Capitalism, and Confederate Migration to Brazil

From my list on histories of merchant networks: messy, diverse, transnational, and transcultural.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired professor of History and International Political Economy. Unraveling knotted masses of string was a relaxing, enjoyable activity for me while growing up. As a historian, I continue to pick apart entangled matters,  particularly about capitalism as a complex system. Networks give structure to complex systems, and I find networked merchants in the modern era (ca. 1500- 1945) especially fascinating to study. Who were they? How did they create opportunities and work across borders and cultures? How did they work around adversities? How did they both perpetuate and diversify their networks? How did they link to and collaborate with one another? How do networks evolve?

Laura's book list on histories of merchant networks: messy, diverse, transnational, and transcultural

Laura Jarnagin (Laura Jarnagin Pang) Why did Laura love this book?

Which group of merchants in Britain played an exceptionally important role in catapulting that nation to the forefront of the global economy during the 18th century and beyond? Until you have read this book, your first thought probably would not be “Germans,” but it was. How did they do that? Through networking, of course.

I like this book because the author has brushed away the gloss-over of time to reveal how a group that was a statistical minority in Britain (migrant German merchants) made a big impact on their host society—and the world at large.

By Margrit Schulte Beerbuhl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The "forgotten majority" of German merchants in London between the end of the Hanseatic League and the end of the Napoleonic Wars became the largest mercantile Christian immigrant group in the eighteenth century. Using previously neglected and little used evidence, this book assesses the causes of their migration, the establishment of their businesses in the capital, and the global reach of the enterprises. As the acquisition of British nationality was the admission ticket to Britain's commercial empire, it investigates the commercial function of British naturalization policy in the early modern period, while also considering the risks of failure and chance…


Book cover of Wanted, A Gentleman

Sylvia Kelso Author Of Everran's Bane

From my list on journeys in them.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I wanted to be either a chook (chicken) farmer or an archaeologist. In high school, my Latin teacher gave me a copy of The Hobbit and changed my passion to travel, which, for Australians, mostly means, Overseas. In second year University, The Lord of the Rings cemented that longing, and I have "travelled" Overseas almost annually ever since. But a long research trip for a historical novel taught me that the best travel is a journey: travel with a purpose. And whether or not I'm on a plane, train, bus, or foot myself, some of my favourite reading has always been books with journeys at their heart. 

Sylvia's book list on journeys in them

Sylvia Kelso Why did Sylvia love this book?

An M/M ("male and male") romance novella that upends traditional romance tropes. There are no aristocratic major characters, and no heroine. Instead two hero/es, Martin St. Vincent, a freed Caribbean ex-slave, and Theo Swann, a failed curate-to-be now running a "marriage mart" rag and as "Mrs. Swann," writing Gothic novels, play out the original Georgette Heyer trope of a Foolish Young Female character's thwarted elopement. Their literally bruising There and Back coach journey retrieves the female, but also develops their own attraction, and brings them through emotional or financial liberations to the threshold of a "new world." The diversity of race and sexuality is thoroughly modern, but content warning: as per usual for the sub-genre, there's plentiful sex.

By K J Charles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Theodore Swann is a jobbing writer, proprietor of the Matrimonial Advertiser lonely hearts gazette, and all-round weasel. He’s the very last man that Martin St. Vincent would choose to rely on—and the only one who can help.Martin is a wealthy merchant who finds himself obliged to put a stop to a young heiress’s romantic correspondence in the Matrimonial Advertiser. When she and her swain make a dash for Gretna Green, Martin drags Theo on a breakneck chase up the country to catch the runaway lovers before it’s too late.Theo guards his secrets. Martin guards his heart. But as the two…


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