100 books like The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran

By Charles Kurzman,

Here are 100 books that The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran fans have personally recommended if you like The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran. 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 The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

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.       

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,…


Book cover of Iran Between Two Revolutions

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

This book is written by one of the leading historians and commentators on Iran. As the title suggests, the book offers an in-depth and nuanced analysis of the myriad sociopolitical forces and changes in Iran between its Constitutional Revolution (1905-09) and Islamic Revolution (1977-79). Of particular emphasis is the evolution and fate of monarchists, constitutionalists, leftists, nationalists, and Islamists. At times, the book tempts the reader to adopt a teleological perspective and contemplate missed opportunities during critical junctures or inflection points that could have put the country on a more participatory and progressive path.     

By Ervand Abrahamian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Emphasizing the interaction between political organizations and social forces, Ervand Abrahamian discusses Iranian society and politics during the period between the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1909 and the Islamic Revolution of 1977-1979. Presented here is a study of the emergence of horizontal divisions, or socio-economic classes, in a country with strong vertical divisions based on ethnicity, religious ideology, and regional particularism. Professor Abrahamian focuses on the class and ethnic roots of the major radical movements in the modem era, particularly the constitutional movement of the 1900s, the communist Tudeh party of the 1940s, the nationalist struggle of the early 1950s, and…


Book cover of Days of Revolution: Political Unrest in an Iranian Village

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

This book was written by one of the few Americans, who lived in Iran during the revolution, and helped inspire and inform my own monograph on the rural politics of the country. Based on years of painstaking ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, this anthropological work traces the sociopolitical transformations that transpired in an Iranian village located outside the city of Shiraz before and after the Iranian Revolution. The book demonstrates the increasingly blurry boundaries between rural and urban geographies and identities as the country modernized, and the opportunities and challenges behind this process. While previous scholarship contends that villagers refrained from supporting or participating in the revolution, this book paints a more nuanced and complex picture by showing that some in fact did while others did not and explains why this was the case.   

By Mary Elaine Hegland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Outside of Shiraz in the Fars Province of southwestern Iran lies "Aliabad." Mary Hegland arrived in this then-small agricultural village of several thousand people in the summer of 1978, unaware of the momentous changes that would sweep this town and this country in the months ahead. She became the only American researcher to witness the Islamic Revolution firsthand over her eighteen-month stay. Days of Revolution offers an insider's view of how regular people were drawn into, experienced, and influenced the 1979 Revolution and its aftermath.

Conventional wisdom assumes Shi'a religious ideology fueled the revolutionary movement. But Hegland counters that the…


Book cover of The Colonel

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of Shah of Shahs

Lois Pryce Author Of Revolutionary Ride: On the Road to Shiraz, the Heart of Iran

From my list on understanding modern Iran.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lois Pryce is a British author who has travelled extensively in Iran. Her book, Revolutionary Ride tells the story of her 2013 solo motorcycle tour of the country and was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford ‘Adventure Book of the Year’ Award. Her travels have taken her to over fifty countries and her writing has featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, The Telegraph and The Independent.

Lois' book list on understanding modern Iran

Lois Pryce Why did Lois love this book?

Written in a powerful journalistic style, this short but compelling book tells of the last years of the Shah’s reign, focusing in painful detail on the brutality of Savak, his secret police force, his detachment from his subjects, and setting the scene for the inevitable revolution that would seal his downfall. The fear on the streets is palpable.

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shah of Shahs depicts the final years of the Shah in Iran, and is a compelling meditation on the nature of revolution and the devastating results of fear. Here, Kapuscinski describes the tyrannical monarch, who, despite his cruel oppression of the Iranian people, sees himself as the father of a nation, who can turn a backward country into a great power - a vain hope that proves a complete failure. Yet even as Iran becomes a 'behemoth of riches' and as the Shah lives like a European billionaire, its people live in a climate of fear, terrorized by the secret…


Book cover of Song of a Captive Bird

Catori Sarmiento Author Of When We Were Flowers

From my list on diversity in womanhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in the interconnected lives of women and of womanhood. I find that it's also important to acknowledge the diversity in women’s experiences in all cultures and points in history. My first academic essay, which was published, was “Reevaluating of the Role of Women in Beowulf” which, in my youth, helped to not only flesh out the historical and contemporary roles women or persons who identify as women have had but also to begin to understand what that means to myself and to those around me. Since then, when writing about women in my numerous stories and novels, I focus on how she exists within her world and how she defines herself.

Catori's book list on diversity in womanhood

Catori Sarmiento Why did Catori love this book?

I enjoyed the presentation of the historical and biographical point of view in this book which follows Forough Farrokhzad from a forced marriage to her life as a poet and filmmaker. The poetry from Forough Farrokhzad itself is used to give insight into her thoughts and desires. Her poem "Sin" was one that I read and re-read at different points during the book because of how it intertwined with the narrative. 

By Jasmin Darznik,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Song of a Captive Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER • A spellbinding debut novel about the trailblazing Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, who defied society’s expectations to find her voice and her destiny

“A complex and beautiful rendering of [a] vanished country and its scattered people, a reminder of the power and purpose of art, and an ode to female creativity under a patriarchy that repeatedly tries to snuff it out.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh Farrokhzad is told that Persian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds…


Book cover of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the 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?

I’m going to be sneaky here and wedge two books in for the price of one. Kim Ghattas’ Black Wave is a beautifully written and reported, intimate history of the destructive ideological rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, a rivalry fuelled by the “tilt” policy of the Ronald Reagan administration that pitted the former allies against each other in an effort to keep them both weak (and unlikely to lead OPEC to attack the West again as they did in 1973). Ghattas, a Beiruti journalist who was friends with Jamal Khashoggi, grounds her history of the devastating cultural and geopolitical upheaval that followed in the personal and highly emotional stories of public intellectuals and other progressive thinkers who fought the Dark Age descending on the Middle East.

She finds her creation moment in the 1979 Iranian revolution, which occurred in the same year as the siege of the…

By Kim Ghattas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Blistering' Sunday Times
'Indispensable' Observer
'Fascinating' The Times
'Brilliant' Peter Frankopan
'Revelatory' Lindsey Hilsum

A timely and unprecedented examination of how the modern Middle East unravelled, and why it started with the pivotal year of 1979. Shortlisted for the Cundhill History Prize 2020

'What happened to us?'

For decades, the question has haunted the Arab and Muslim world, heard across Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and in the author's home country of Lebanon. Was it always so? When did the extremism, intolerance and bloodletting of today displace the region's cultural promise and diversity?

In Black Wave, award-winning journalist…


Book cover of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Persepolis is the book that made me fall in love with graphic memoirs.

I’ve typically been more of a word person than a picture person, but Satrapi’s stark black-and-white images make such creative use of the space on the page that I was converted. I learned so much about the history of Iranian conflict from this book—through the young girl eyes of its narrator—but my favorite part is the way Satrapi visually depicts her conversations with God.

After I read this book, I started drawing images of my conversations with God into my own prayer journal.  

By Marjane Satrapi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wise, often funny, sometimes heart-breaking, Persepolis tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, growing up during the Iranian Revolution.

The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran's last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life.

Amidst the tragedy, Marjane's child's eye view adds immediacy and humour, and her story of a childhood at once outrageous and ordinary,…


Book cover of The Complete Persepolis

Sara Saedi Author Of I Miss You, I Hate This

From my list on life inside and outside of Iran.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Iranian-American who left the country with my family after the Islamic Revolution. I'm watching the events unfold in Iran since the murder of Mahsa Amini with equal parts sadness and awe. Sadness for the loss of life and awe for the bravery of the young protestors in the country. My books will always have a nod to my culture of origin—whether about growing up in an immigrant household in my memoir, Americanized, or writing an Iranian-American character like Parisa in I Miss You, I Hate This. It's been fascinating to see people in America pay attention to what's happening in Iran and I wanted to share some books that'll help inform their perspective. 

Sara's book list on life inside and outside of Iran

Sara Saedi Why did Sara love this book?

My family fled Iran a couple years after the Islamic Revolution, but growing up, my parents didn’t talk about that period in their life all that much. It was sort of like my friend whose dad never talked about Vietnam. So, even though I was born in Iran post-revolution, I didn’t learn much about the history of the Shah’s downfall until I read Marjane Satrapi’s incredible graphic novels – Persepolis, Books One and Two. Satrapi manages to create a funny and heartbreaking memoir about her adolescence during the revolution and her life as a young ex-pat living in Paris. 

Follow it up with her graphic novella, Embroiderieswhich delves into the sex lives of Iranian women. Another topic that was generally off-limits in our household.

By Marjane Satrapi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed graphic memoir of growing up as a girl in revolutionary Iran. • "That Satrapi chose to tell her remarkable story as a gorgeous comic book makes it totally unique and indispensable" —TIME

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming—both…


Book cover of Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution

Lois Pryce Author Of Revolutionary Ride: On the Road to Shiraz, the Heart of Iran

From my list on understanding modern Iran.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lois Pryce is a British author who has travelled extensively in Iran. Her book, Revolutionary Ride tells the story of her 2013 solo motorcycle tour of the country and was shortlisted for the Edward Stanford ‘Adventure Book of the Year’ Award. Her travels have taken her to over fifty countries and her writing has featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, The Telegraph and The Independent.

Lois' book list on understanding modern Iran

Lois Pryce Why did Lois love this book?

An astounding 20th century life-story told with honesty and warmth by one of Iran’s most impressive and pioneering women. From growing up as part of her father’s harem before setting sail for the USA during WWII to attend university, then returning to Iran to create a national social care system and finally, the unbearable tragedy of her life’s work being destroyed by the Islamic regime, this is an inspiring but heartbreaking story of bravery and humanity at its best.

By Dona Munker, Sattareh Farman Farmaian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sattareh Farman Farmaian, the daughter of a once-powerful and wealthy Iranian prince, was raised and educated in the 1920s and 1930s in a Persian harem compound, along with numerous mothers and more than 30 brothers and sisters. As a young woman, she broke with Muslim tradition and travelled to America, where she became the first Persian to study at the University of Southern California. Her new life in the West fired a vision to lift her own people out of backwardness and poverty, and she returned to Iran to found the Tehran School of Social Work. For more than 20…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iran, the Iranian Revolution, and the history of Iran?

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