The most recommended books about Iran

Who picked these books? Meet our 115 experts.

115 authors created a book list connected to Iran, and here are their favorite Iran books.
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Book cover of Funny in Farsi

Danny Ramadan Author Of Crooked Teeth: A Queer Syrian Refugee Memoir

From my list on memoirs written refugees and immigrants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have gone through the refugee experience, and it has shaped me. I grew up queer in Syria, became a man in Egypt, a refugee in Lebanon, then an author in Canada. At the expense of romanticizing something so deeply painful, I do believe that the experience has made me a better man. It matured me, offered me a deep connection with others within my community, and built an unmatched appreciation of my culture of home back in Syria and my culture of diaspora here in Canada. As a fiction writer, I am obsessed with writing queer stories about immigration. 

Danny's book list on memoirs written refugees and immigrants

Danny Ramadan Why did Danny love this book?

I laughed out loud way too many times at this book. The thing that attracted me the most about it was that it allowed a complex narrative to be brought forward on its pages.

The writer is not only able to bring truths to the page but also make it accessible, light, and humorous. I was enhanced by this book, and I keep recommending it to friends and family. 

By Firoozeh Dumas,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Funny in Farsi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMESBESTSELLER • Finalist for the PEN/USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and the Audie Award in Biography/Memoir

This Random House Reader’s Circle edition includes a reading group guide and a conversation between Firoozeh Dumas and Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner!

“Remarkable . . . told with wry humor shorn of sentimentality . . . In the end, what sticks with the reader is an exuberant immigrant embrace of America.”—San Francisco Chronicle

In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no…

Book cover of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

The dark place Dai depicts in this book during the Chines Cultural Revolution is very similar to the 1980s when I grew up in Iran after the revolution. Through banned novels, the characters in the book, just like me, found a way to escape the grim realities of their lives and found the strength they needed to dream and grow. Their identities, like mine, were shaped by the oppressive environments they lived in and their efforts to reinvent themselves under those conditions.

By Dai Sijie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1971: Mao's cultural Revolution is at its peak. Two sons of doctors, sent to 're-education' camps, forced to carry buckets of excrement up and down mountain paths, have only their sense of humour to keep them going. Although the attractive daughter of the local tailor also helps to distract them from the task at hand.

The boys' true re-education starts, however, when they discover a hidden suitcase packed with the great Western novels of the nineteenth century. Their lives are transformed. And not only their lives: after listening to the stories of Balzac, the little seamstress will never be the…

Book cover of A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection

Shauna Singh Baldwin Author Of The Tiger Claw

From my list on writers breaking cross cross-cultural boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Canadian-American writer of Indian heritage, an award-winning novelist and short fiction writer, playwright, and poet. I grew up in Delhi, hearing stories from my maternal grandparents who were refugees during the 1947 Partition of India. So, as my work reflects, I’m drawn to stories of resilience in the face of cultural conflict, religious upheaval, migration, immigration, and displacement. My MBA is from Marquette University, and my MFA from the University of British Columbia. I am working on another novel.

Shauna's book list on writers breaking cross cross-cultural boundaries

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did Shauna love this book?

The cross-cultural stories in this anthology are painful, funny, and heartbreaking. You’ll find famous and little-known writers exploring migration, immigration, othering, and otherness. We know these problems, but sometimes stories help us imagine alternate ways of solving them, making connections we can build from our common humanity.

By Josip Novakovich, Ana Menendez, Viet Thanh Nguyen , Laila Lalami , Rashad Majid , Carolyn Alessio , Diane Lefer

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thirty acclaimed writers of international fiction explore the stranger in tales of cultural clashes and bonds. These stories of disparate experience travel beyond politics and multicultural manners to become an essential discussion of otherness. Contributors include Nathan Englander, Laila Lalami, Ana Menendez, Josip Novakovich, Wanda Coleman, Tony d'Souza, Samrat Upadhyay, Mary Yukari Waters, Luis Alfaro, and Amanda Eyre Ward, as well as other accomplished writers from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, some published for the first time in the United States.

Book cover of Travels with Herodotus

Gary Geddes Author Of Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas

From my list on for would-be travellers.

Why am I passionate about this?

After writing and editing fifty books and being the recipient of a dozen national and international literary awards, it’s obvious that I’m not so much a travel writer as a writer who travels a lot and is sometimes compelled to share what he discovers, or fails to discover, along the way. I’m not one of those “lonely tourists with their empty eyes / Longing to be filled with monuments,” that poet P.K. Page describes. I constantly ask myself: “What compels you to abandon the safety and comforts of home for the three Ds of travel: Danger, Discomfort, and Disease?” Itchy feet, insatiable curiosity, or the desire to step outside the ego and the routines of daily life? All of the above. I avoid the Cook’s Tour, travel light, and live on the cheap. 

Gary's book list on for would-be travellers

Gary Geddes Why did Gary love this book?

I admire the way this brilliant Polish journalist has been able to get inside the head of an ancient traveller and show us not only the incredible insights of this peripatetic predecessor, but also what travel really means. “A journey neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill.” Even more important, he offers one great truth about all writing, but especially history, that there is no truth with a capital T. “The subjective factor, its deforming presence will remain impossible to strain out . . . however evolved our methods, we are never in the presence of unmediated history, but history recounted, history as it appeared to someone, as he or she believes…

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Travels with Herodotus records how Kapuscinski set out on his first forays - to India, China and Africa - with the great Greek historian constantly in his pocket. He sees Louis Armstrong in Khartoum, visits Dar-es-Salaam, arrives in Algiers in time for a coup when nothing seems to happen (but he sees the Mediterranean for the first time). At every encounter with a new culture, Kapuscinski plunges in, curious and observant, thirsting to understand its history, its thought, its people. And he reads Herodotus so much that he often feels he is embarking on two journeys - the first his…

Book cover of The Blind Owl

Em Strang Author Of Quinn

From my list on short reads that dare to offer something deep.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a poet and creative mentor, and it’s the intensity of poetic language – its expansiveness and limitations – that shows up in my fiction and in the novels I love. Quinn is an exploration of male violence, incarceration, and radical forgiveness. I’ve spent a decade working with long-term prisoners in Scotland, trying to understand and come to terms with notions of justice and responsibility: does guilt begin and end with the perpetrator of a violent act or are we all in some way culpable? How can literary form dig into this question aslant? Can the unsettled mind be a space for innovative thinking?

Em's book list on short reads that dare to offer something deep

Em Strang Why did Em love this book?

Hedayat (1903-1951) was an Iranian writer who knew that death and the mythic experience of Kairos time exists a hair’s breadth away from what we commonly experience as human life.

The Blind Owl was the book that gave me permission to write fiction: instead of writing a novel in standard form, I wanted to create a liminal space, a threshold world between real and unreal; to invite readers into an unfamiliar (and hopefully transformative) vision of humanity.

This is exactly what Hedayat does in The Blind Owl: we are immersed in a fable of otherworldly, repetitive, poetic, dark, and mesmerising power. The story (of jealousy, despair, the cyclical nature of life and death) has a rare depth and a sense of universal reach precisely because it has one foot in the liminal.

By Sadegh Hedayat, Naveed Noori (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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.…

Book cover of The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World

Jasmin O'Hara Author Of Asylum Speakers: Stories of Migration From the Humans Behind the Headlines

From my list on migration and displacement from first-hand perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been working to amplify voices of refugees and asylum seekers since 2015, when a 12-year-old boy named Mez joined my family as the first of four foster brothers I now have from Eritrea, Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan. Their stories led me to the Calais Jungle in an attempt to challenge the negative media portrayal of those experiencing displacement. I’ve since worked in refugee camps across the world from France to Bangladesh, sharing food, stories, laughter, and tears, asking questions and learning from those I meet. My book is a compilation of the stories that have impacted me most (Mez being the first), and a testament to those who shared them with me. 

Jasmin's book list on migration and displacement from first-hand perspectives

Jasmin O'Hara Why did Jasmin love this book?

I read this book when my own family was in the process of welcoming a new foster brother from Afghanistan.

Reading Gulwali’s very personal journey from Afghanistan to the UK as an unaccompanied child helped us to understand what my own brother had been through and the journey he had taken. It gave us context as to the Afghanistan he experienced and left behind, and we passed the book around the whole family and devoured it eagerly.

Gulwali’s story is raw and real and is the most powerful account of a child refugee I have ever read. 

By Gulwali Passarlay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping, inspiring, and eye-opening memoir of fortitude and survival—of a twelve-year-old boy’s traumatic flight from Afghanistan to the West—that puts a face to one of the most shocking and devastating humanitarian crises of our time.

“To risk my life had to mean something. Otherwise what was it all for?”

In 2006, after his father was killed, Gulwali Passarlay was caught between the Taliban who wanted to recruit him, and the Americans who wanted to use him. To protect her son, Gulwali’s mother sent him away. The search for safety would lead the twelve-year-old across eight countries, from the mountains…

Book cover of Children of the Jinn: The Story of My Search for the Kurds and Their Country

Christiane Bird Author Of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan

From my list on classics about the world of the Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in the Kurds during a 1998 journey I took to Iran to work on my first book about the Middle East, Neither East nor West. While there, I traveled to Sanandaj, Iran’s unofficial Kurdish capital, where I was immediately struck by how different the area seemed from the rest of the Islamic Republic—heartbreaking in its lonesome beauty, and defiant. Despite a large number of Revolutionary Guards on the streets, the men swaggered and women strode. These people are not cowed, I thought—no wonder they make the Islamic government nervous. I had to find out more.

Christiane's book list on classics about the world of the Kurds

Christiane Bird Why did Christiane love this book?

Five years before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Kahn traveled to northwest Iran to study the Kurdish language and teach English. Because Kurdish was outlawed at that time, she endured much suspicion and endless stonewalling before finally being welcomed into Kurdish homes. The result is this moving and groundbreaking work that in a sense paved the way for other travelogues about Kurdistan, including my own. Kahn writes beautifully about the Kurdish women she meets, the difficulties of understanding another culture, and the constant threats of living under SAVAK (then Iran’s secret police).

By Margaret Kahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Forty years after the publication of Margaret Kahn's book, Children of the Jinn, Kurds, the fourth largest linguistic and ethnic group of the Middle East, are still being denied basic human rights. The book is an historical and ethnographic account of the lives and struggles of the individuals she met during the year Iraqi Kurds rose up, with American backing, to wrest their rights from the Ba'athist regime. In the Iranian border town where she lived, she witnessed the arrival of a hundred thousand refugees. She volunteered in the refugee school and saw first-hand what happened when the U.S. government…

Book cover of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan

Alesa Lightbourne Author Of The Kurdish Bike

From my list on the Kurds and their world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like the main character in my book, I went to Kurdish Iraq as a well-meaning (but admittedly naive) teacher, and fell in love with the Kurdish people and their culture. To be more specific, it was village women I really bonded with. Listening to their stories, and watching them try to cope with so many practical restrictions, tore at my heart. Part of me wanted to “liberate” them from the seemingly outdated traditions that held them back. Simultaneously, I couldn’t help but envy them for the solaces their tight community offered them -- and which Western society denied me. Rather than claiming to be an expert on Kurds, I am now someone who studies them with the greatest respect. The humble Kurdish villagers gave me moral examples that I wish every Westerner could be fortunate enough to have.

Alesa's book list on the Kurds and their world

Alesa Lightbourne Why did Alesa love this book?

History, culture, politics, plus the zing of real personalities. This book has it all, presented by a gutsy but sensitive journalist. Bird traveled through the four nations that are home to Kurds -- Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey -- in 2003. Although a lot has changed since then, her book remains the gold standard for nonfiction about these fascinating and little-understood people. You’ll wish you could have stowed away in her backpack.

By Christiane Bird,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in the United States’ recent war with Iraq, most of us know little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people. Now acclaimed journalist Christiane Bird, who riveted readers with her tour of Islamic Iran in Neither East Nor West, travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the Kurds’ story, using personal observations and in-depth research to illuminate an astonishing history and vibrant culture.

For the twenty-five to thirty million Kurds, Kurdistan is both an actual and a mythical place: an isolated, largely mountainous homeland that has historically offered…

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 House of Sand and Fog

Meredith Marple Author Of The Year Mrs. Cooper Got Out More: A Great Wharf Novel

From Meredith's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Career in publishing Loyal friend Lover of laughter Pet lover

Meredith's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Meredith Marple Why did Meredith love this book?

The character development in this book is phenomenal. When my siblings and I were growing up, one of the (many) key concepts emphasized by our dad was to avoid judging others but to put ourselves in their shoes.

Author Dubus has developed characters in this book in a way that allows readers to form judgments over one set of pages only to revise those judgments in subsequent pages as more information comes to the fore. By its end, this tragic tale has enlightened and humbled the reader at every turn.

By Andre Dubus III,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A recent immigrant from the Middle East-a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force-yearns to restore his family's dignity in California. A recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck struggles to hold onto the one thing she has left?her home. And her lover, a married cop, is driven to extremes to win her love.

Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters-people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on-careen toward inevitable conflict. Their tragedy paints a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.