The best books about Morocco

11 authors have picked their favorite books about Morocco and why they recommend each book.

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The Sultan's Wife

By Jane Johnson,

Book cover of The Sultan's Wife

Good writers of historical fiction blend layers of fact and fantasy together into an irresistible kaleidoscope. The very best of them are time travellers. And, that’s what Jane Johnson certain is… for her magical novel, set in the days of Sultan Moulay Ismail, sucks the reader back through centuries to a time when the Barbary Coast was a wild rumpus of a place – peppered with palaces and pirates, treasure, secrets, intrigue, and danger. I love this book because it’s not a dry historical read, so much as an intricate observation on the relationship between people, both elegant and deeply touching.


Who am I?

Tahir Shah has spent his professional life searching for the hidden underbelly of lands through which he travels. In doing so he often uncovers layers of life that most other writers hardly even realise exist. With a world-wide following, Tahir’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages, in hundreds of editions. His documentaries have been screened on National Geographic TV, The History Channel, Channel 4, and in cinemas the world over. The son of the writer and thinker Idries Shah, Tahir was born into a prominent Anglo-Afghan family, and seeks to bridge East with West through his work.


I wrote...

Travels with Nasrudin

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of Travels with Nasrudin

What is my book about?

The wise fool of Oriental folklore, Nasrudin is known across a vast swathe of the globe – from Morocco in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Appearing under different names and in all manner of guises, he’s universally admired for his back-to-front brand of genius – so much so that at least a dozen countries insist he was one of them. Tahir Shah explores this figure while examining his life, his travel, and his thoughts.

The Last Storytellers

By Richard Hamilton,

Book cover of The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco

Far too many foreigners, myself included, have rocked up in Morocco and set to work recording versions of traditional tales for an outside audience. Almost all of them have realized that, what they imagined would be a straightforward exercise, was a near-impossible feat. One of the few European writers who have succeeded, and succeeded exceptionally well, is BBC reporter Richard Hamilton. As I read The Last Storytellers, I marvelled at how well he succeeded where so many others failed. The reason is that Hamilton has two qualities in abundance: patience and sensitivity. Reading the stories he presents takes me to the central square in Marrakech, Jma al Fna. I can see it, feel it, smell it, and, most importantly, I can hear the storytellers there recounting tales that pre-date A Thousand and One Nights.


Who am I?

Tahir Shah has spent his professional life searching for the hidden underbelly of lands through which he travels. In doing so he often uncovers layers of life that most other writers hardly even realise exist. With a world-wide following, Tahir’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages, in hundreds of editions. His documentaries have been screened on National Geographic TV, The History Channel, Channel 4, and in cinemas the world over. The son of the writer and thinker Idries Shah, Tahir was born into a prominent Anglo-Afghan family, and seeks to bridge East with West through his work.


I wrote...

Travels with Nasrudin

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of Travels with Nasrudin

What is my book about?

The wise fool of Oriental folklore, Nasrudin is known across a vast swathe of the globe – from Morocco in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Appearing under different names and in all manner of guises, he’s universally admired for his back-to-front brand of genius – so much so that at least a dozen countries insist he was one of them. Tahir Shah explores this figure while examining his life, his travel, and his thoughts.

The Assembly of the Dead

By Saeida Rouass,

Book cover of The Assembly of the Dead

The books I like about certain places tend to be written by people who have not been born and raised there. It’s because the author has detachment, which makes their sense of observation all the keener. But, best books about places seem to be by authors who have some ancestral connection to that place. It’s as though they’re attached to it through their genes. Saeida Rouass, was born in London to Moroccan parents. From the very first line on the very first page of her book Assembly of the Dead, you can feel she’s not English, but rather that she’s connected by some magical alchemy to Morocco, the land of her ancestors. Rouass is a dazzling writer, one who bridges East and West in the most exceptional and unusual way.


Who am I?

Tahir Shah has spent his professional life searching for the hidden underbelly of lands through which he travels. In doing so he often uncovers layers of life that most other writers hardly even realise exist. With a world-wide following, Tahir’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages, in hundreds of editions. His documentaries have been screened on National Geographic TV, The History Channel, Channel 4, and in cinemas the world over. The son of the writer and thinker Idries Shah, Tahir was born into a prominent Anglo-Afghan family, and seeks to bridge East with West through his work.


I wrote...

Travels with Nasrudin

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of Travels with Nasrudin

What is my book about?

The wise fool of Oriental folklore, Nasrudin is known across a vast swathe of the globe – from Morocco in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Appearing under different names and in all manner of guises, he’s universally admired for his back-to-front brand of genius – so much so that at least a dozen countries insist he was one of them. Tahir Shah explores this figure while examining his life, his travel, and his thoughts.

Hideous Kinky

By Esther Freud,

Book cover of Hideous Kinky

There have been droves of books written by beatniks, hippies, non-conformists and bohemians, but far fewer by their children. Their offspring experienced the trials and tribulations of having parents on quests for flower power enlightenment. I have an inside-out interest in this, because my father (the Sufi writer Idries Shah) was one of the people everyone seemed to be making a beeline for in the swinging ’sixties just as I was being born. Of all the books by the children born or raised in the Age of Aquarius, Hideous Kinky stands out by far as the most beguiling. I absolutely adore the way Esther Freud reveals the tale, gently and evenly, and with a voice that’s as sweet as the Winter oranges on Morocco’s trees.


Who am I?

Tahir Shah has spent his professional life searching for the hidden underbelly of lands through which he travels. In doing so he often uncovers layers of life that most other writers hardly even realise exist. With a world-wide following, Tahir’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages, in hundreds of editions. His documentaries have been screened on National Geographic TV, The History Channel, Channel 4, and in cinemas the world over. The son of the writer and thinker Idries Shah, Tahir was born into a prominent Anglo-Afghan family, and seeks to bridge East with West through his work.


I wrote...

Travels with Nasrudin

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of Travels with Nasrudin

What is my book about?

The wise fool of Oriental folklore, Nasrudin is known across a vast swathe of the globe – from Morocco in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Appearing under different names and in all manner of guises, he’s universally admired for his back-to-front brand of genius – so much so that at least a dozen countries insist he was one of them. Tahir Shah explores this figure while examining his life, his travel, and his thoughts.

Stolen Lives

By Michele Fitoussi, Malika Oufkir,

Book cover of Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail

This book haunts me in a way that almost no other published work does. It’s like one of those movies we all have on a secret list – that we adore but can’t bear to ever watch again (like the Killing Fields or Fight Club). A memoir of almost unparalleled beauty and horror, it tells the true-life tale of the daughter of General Oufkir, who was put to death for attempted regicide. Malika and her five siblings were imprisoned for fifteen years in a penal colony, from where they mounted a daring escape.


Who am I?

Tahir Shah has spent his professional life searching for the hidden underbelly of lands through which he travels. In doing so he often uncovers layers of life that most other writers hardly even realise exist. With a world-wide following, Tahir’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages, in hundreds of editions. His documentaries have been screened on National Geographic TV, The History Channel, Channel 4, and in cinemas the world over. The son of the writer and thinker Idries Shah, Tahir was born into a prominent Anglo-Afghan family, and seeks to bridge East with West through his work.


I wrote...

Travels with Nasrudin

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of Travels with Nasrudin

What is my book about?

The wise fool of Oriental folklore, Nasrudin is known across a vast swathe of the globe – from Morocco in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Appearing under different names and in all manner of guises, he’s universally admired for his back-to-front brand of genius – so much so that at least a dozen countries insist he was one of them. Tahir Shah explores this figure while examining his life, his travel, and his thoughts.

Destination Casablanca

By Meredith Hindley,

Book cover of Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II

This is an exciting new book by Meredith Hindley. Instead of Humphrey Bogart and Rick’s Café, this book features interesting real people, such as the famous singer Josephine Baker, who, although not members of armed forces, still did their part to help the Allied cause. After conducting extensive research in archives and secondary sources, Hindley crafted an engaging narrative in which she connects exiles who gathered information about the Germans with the fight for control of North Africa and the Mediterranean. I recommend this book because it provides a human dimension to the story of the Battle for North Africa.


Who am I?

I am a professor at Mississippi State University and a historian of World War II in general and, more specifically, of WWII intelligence history. My interest stems from a research topic that my Ph.D. advisor recommended and that became the subject of my dissertation – Operation Fortitude, which was the deception plan that provided cover for the Normandy Invasion. While my own research interests are focused on the intelligence history of the Normandy invasion, I am increasingly drawn to intelligence history or novels that showcase the people, technologies, and other theaters of war.


I wrote...

Spies, Lies, and Citizenship: The Hunt for Nazi Criminals

By Mary Kathryn Barbier,

Book cover of Spies, Lies, and Citizenship: The Hunt for Nazi Criminals

What is my book about?

In the 1970s news broke that former Nazis had escaped prosecution and were living the good life in the United States. Outrage swept the nation, and the public outcry put extreme pressure on the U.S. government to investigate these claims and to deport offenders. The subsequent creation of the Office of Special Investigations marked the official beginning of Nazi-hunting in the United States, but it was far from the end.

Drawing from this report as well as other sources, Spies, Lies, and Citizenship exposes scandalous new information about infamous Nazi perpetrators, including Andrija Artukovic, Klaus Barbie, and Arthur Rudolph, who were sheltered and protected in the United States and beyond, and the ongoing attempts to bring the remaining Nazis, such as Josef Mengele, to justice.

The Sheltering Sky

By Paul Bowles,

Book cover of The Sheltering Sky

It is a notion that Paul Bowles realizes intuitively in his deeply philosophical novel The Sheltering Sky. For Bowles, it is our memories, not simply our flesh, that render life so precious, so fleeting. “How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood,” Bowles writes, “some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”


Who am I?

If you’re anything like me, you are driven by your passions. And the key to stoking our passions is finding inspiration—sometimes in the most unlikely of literary places. The study of literature is intrinsically about the act of knowing. It is about knowing the world—a vast, uncharted universe of people and places, ideas, and emotions. But in helping us to know the world, literature is mostly about coming to know yourself. It is about exploring the recesses of your mind, the vicissitudes of your memories, the weight and pleasure of your deepest, most personal experiences. It is about getting closer and ever closer to understanding your own essential truths—and yet never quite arriving there. It is, in short, the most intimate and transformative journey that you can possibly take through the lens of your mind’s eye. It is about you.


I wrote...

John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life

By Kenneth Womack,

Book cover of John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life

What is my book about?

John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life traces the powerful, life-affirming story of the former Beatle’s remarkable comeback after five years of self-imposed retirement.

As renowned music historian Kenneth Womack reveals in vivid detail, Lennon’s final pivotal year would climax in unforgettable moments of creative triumph as he rediscovered his artistic self in dramatic fashion. With the bravura release of the Double Fantasy album with his wife Yoko Ono, he was poised and ready for an even brighter future, only to be wrenched from the world by an assassin’s bullets. John Lennon 1980 isn’t about how the gifted songwriter and musician died, but rather, about how he lived.

Memories of Absence

By Aomar Boum,

Book cover of Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco

When we talk about the need to read Jewish history in the Middle East within its original context, and within the understanding that Jews lived among non-Jews, interacted with non-Jews, and had a tremendous influence on their respective societies, from time to time, we need to change the perspective and see how their non-Jewish compatriots viewed them and remember them. In this book, Aomar Boum recorded the ways in which the Muslims of Morocco remember the large Jewish communities that lived in that country for millennia and shrunk to a fraction of their former self after 1956-1967. This book allows us to examine multiple perspectives simultaneously. The national and colonial identities, the essence of Middle Eastern Zionism, and the place of the memory of Jews after they had left in the modern societies.


Who am I?

I always felt that Middle Eastern studies is different from other fields of history. Its ever-presence in our life, the news cycle, religious life, political life, yet, because of language barriers and other filters, there’s a gap in knowledge that is highly conspicuous when forming one’s opinion. When I started my academic training, I felt like I was swimming in this ocean of histories that were completely unknown to me. I studied the Jewish histories of the region only later in my training and found that this gap is even more visible when talking about the history of Jews in the Middle East, because of misconceptions of antisemitism, the Israel-Palestine conflict, political tilt of media outlet, and more. For me, entering this field was a way to understand long-term processes in my own society, and expand the body of scholarship to enrich the public conversation on top of the academic one.


I wrote...

Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran

By Lior B. Sternfeld,

Book cover of Between Iran and Zion: Jewish Histories of Twentieth-Century Iran

What is my book about?

Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, outside of Israel. At its peak in the twentieth century, the population numbered around 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews live in Iran. Between Iran and Zion offers the first history of this vibrant community over the course of the last century, from the 1905 Constitutional Revolution through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over this period, Iranian Jews grew from a peripheral community into a prominent one that has made clear impacts on daily life in Iran.

The Moor's Account

By Laila Lalami,

Book cover of The Moor's Account

Estebenico is believed to be the first Black man to be brought to the Americas. In Lalami’s telling, the small party he is with becomes separated and lost, resulting in a years-long journey through unknown lands. Against a vividly detailed backdrop of the early Americas Lalami patiently lays out how Estebanico's willingness to acquire new skills in language and medicine begins to shift the dynamic of his relationship with the master who he had been brought to serve. 


Who am I?

I love the challenge of taking a headline, a photo, or a curious little footnote in someone else's history, and fleshing out all the details to make it a full-blown story. Here are five books where I think this task has been taken to entirely other levels.


I wrote...

One Night in Mississippi

By Craig Shreve,

Book cover of One Night in Mississippi

What is my book about?

After his brother is brutally murdered in civil rights era Mississippi, Warren Williams drifts across the country, estranged from his family. Decades later, when the US Dept of Justice begins re-opening similar cases, Warren finds purpose again. His search for closure leads him to a small northern Ontario town where he confronts the last remaining perpetrator who is still at large, as well as his own long-carried guilt.

The Modern Tagine Cookbook

By Ghillie Basan,

Book cover of The Modern Tagine Cookbook: Delicious Recipes for Moroccan One-Pot Meals

These are one-pot meals that have extremely clean ingredients. Many of the recipes will call for couscous, which is a high-gluten marriage of wheat and semolina wheat, so you may want to put that rice cooker to work. Other than that, this is tasty, spicy, soul-warming food not always available in a big town like Missoula, Montana.


Who am I?

I love to cook and it’s difficult to find something beyond chicken and salad when you’re trying to lose weight.  Over the years I’ve assembled a cookbook library that covers many topics (interested in how the Georgians ate green beans? I can help you out!), many of them as off-topic from weight-loss as my cookie cookbook collection. But I still return to what I call “abstinent” favorites, simply because they are so tasty.


I wrote...

Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self

By Frances Kuffel,

Book cover of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding My Self

What is my book about?

An intimate and darkly comic memoir of a woman who does a 180 with her body.

When she was in her early forties, Frances Kuffel lost half her body weight. In Passing for Thin, Frances describes with unflinching honesty and a wickedly dark sense of humor her first fumbling introductions to her newly slender body, shining a light on the shared human experience of feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin. She gradually moves from observer to player—enjoying for the first time flirting, exercising, and shopping–as she explores the terrain on the “Planet of Thin.” As Frances gradually comes to know—and love—the stranger in the mirror, she learns that her body does not define her, but enables her to become the woman she’s always wanted to be.

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