The best books about Palestine

9 authors have picked their favorite books about Palestine and why they recommend each book.

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In Search of Fatima

By Ghada Karmi,

Book cover of In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story

There is no better way of understanding what it means to be a Palestinian than reading a personal account. When this account is written by one of the veteran activists on behalf of Palestine in the West and a scholar by her own right, the reward is even greater for the reader of this autobiographical tale.  

Who am I?

Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of PalestineThe Modern Middle EastA History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.


I wrote...

Ten Myths About Israel

By Ilan Pappé,

Book cover of Ten Myths About Israel

What is my book about?

In this groundbreaking book, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation, the outspoken and radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel. The “ten myths” that Pappe explores—repeated endlessly in the media, enforced by the military, accepted without question by the world’s governments—reinforce the regional status quo. He explores the claim that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation-building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice.” Turning to the myths surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, Pappe explains why the two-state solution is no longer viable.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

By Ilan Pappé,

Book cover of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe revisits the formation of the State of Israel. Between 1947 and 1949, over 400 Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed, civilians were massacred and around a million men, women, and children were expelled from their homes at gunpoint. If this had happened today it would have been called "ethnic cleansing". Totally debunking the myth that the Palestinian population left of their own accord in the course of this war, Ilan Pappe offers stunning archival evidence to show that, from its very inception, a central plank in Israel’s founding ideology was the forcible removal of the indigenous population.


Who am I?

From a young age, I have been obsessed with the Arabic language and culture. In 1959, I studied this language at Durham University, graduating Summa Cum Laude – including living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem for a number of months. Then moving on to further studies in Arabic at Cambridge University, graduating with a First Class Honors degree. Over the next decades, I have made many trips to the Middle East, working on a number of projects, including stints in North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jerusalem, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf. Most recently, I served as the Arabic consultant on the Netflix TV series House of Cards.


I wrote...

The Making of a Suicide Bomber

By David Stansfield,

Book cover of The Making of a Suicide Bomber

What is my book about?

A couple of months ago, my wife stumbled on a notebook I’d kept while living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in the summer of 1961 to brush up my colloquial Arabic as part of my studies in that language at Cambridge University. I’d completely forgotten about this notebook and was amazed when I read it 60 years later and realized that it was a book waiting to be written.

Hence The Making of a Suicide Bomber, my attempt to put you, the reader, into the shoes of one particular people, some of whose members have been driven to such an extreme of pain and desperation they are prepared to do the unthinkable. This personal Odyssey proceeds through half a lifetime of experience with the Arab world that ends – well, but for the grace of God, it could well have ended very much as described in my book.

Palestine

By Nur Masalha,

Book cover of Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History

The Palestinian writer, Nur Masalha, traces Palestine's thousands of years old heritage, uncovering cultures and societies of extraordinary depth and complexity that stretch back to the very beginnings of recorded history. Starting with the earliest references in Egyptian and Assyrian texts, Nur Masalha explores how Palestine and its Palestinian identity have evolved over thousands of years, from the Bronze Age to the present day. Drawing on a rich body of sources and the latest archaeological evidence, Masalha shows how Palestine’s multicultural past has been distorted and mythologised by Biblical lore and the Israel–Palestinian conflict. 


Who am I?

From a young age, I have been obsessed with the Arabic language and culture. In 1959, I studied this language at Durham University, graduating Summa Cum Laude – including living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem for a number of months. Then moving on to further studies in Arabic at Cambridge University, graduating with a First Class Honors degree. Over the next decades, I have made many trips to the Middle East, working on a number of projects, including stints in North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jerusalem, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf. Most recently, I served as the Arabic consultant on the Netflix TV series House of Cards.


I wrote...

The Making of a Suicide Bomber

By David Stansfield,

Book cover of The Making of a Suicide Bomber

What is my book about?

A couple of months ago, my wife stumbled on a notebook I’d kept while living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in the summer of 1961 to brush up my colloquial Arabic as part of my studies in that language at Cambridge University. I’d completely forgotten about this notebook and was amazed when I read it 60 years later and realized that it was a book waiting to be written.

Hence The Making of a Suicide Bomber, my attempt to put you, the reader, into the shoes of one particular people, some of whose members have been driven to such an extreme of pain and desperation they are prepared to do the unthinkable. This personal Odyssey proceeds through half a lifetime of experience with the Arab world that ends – well, but for the grace of God, it could well have ended very much as described in my book.

Jesus the Magician

By Morton Smith,

Book cover of Jesus the Magician

Finally, I offer Morton Smith’s earlier study of the real-life Jesus. Everything Smith wrote was worth the time to read.  His prose bristles with occasional invective, but always at the expense of figures from long ago. He takes no prisoners, shall we say, in his scholarship, and Jesus the Magician is exhibit A.


Who am I?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.


I wrote...

Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

By Joshua A. Fogel,

Book cover of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

What is my book about?

After centuries of virtual isolation, during which time international sea travel was forbidden outside of Japan’s immediate fishing shores, Japanese shogunal authorities in 1862 made the unprecedented decision to launch an official delegation to China by sea. Concerned by the fast-changing global environment, they had witnessed the ever-increasing number of incursions into Asia by European powers―not the least of which was Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853–54 and the forced opening of a handful of Japanese ports at the end of the decade. 

This was the first official meeting of Chinese and Japanese in several centuries. Although the Chinese authorities agreed to few of the Japanese requests for trade relations and a consulate, nine years later China and Japan would sign the first bilateral treaty of amity in their history, a completely equal treaty. East Asia―and the diplomatic and trade relations between the region’s two major players in the modern era―would never be the same.

Ottoman Brothers

By Michelle U. Campos,

Book cover of Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine

Students of Middle East studies learn a lot about Ottoman history, specifically about the Ottoman Empire's last decades, before WWI. But historians gave very little attention to the Arab provinces of the empire in comparison to Istanbul and the imperial center. In this book, Campos presented the fascinating case of Ottoman Palestine. Campos shows the most convincing rebuttal for the theories that attributed no Ottoman identity in the peripheries. The fantastic picture of Jerusalem during the last years of the empire can teach us a lot about the relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Palestine, the understanding of national and imperial frameworks at the turn of the century, and the optimistic reader may find ideas to deadlock conflicts in the 21st century.


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.

Palestinian Walks

By Raja Shehadeh,

Book cover of Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape

Palestinian Walks is a hiking memoir by Raja Shehadeh, who invites you to wander with him and mourn for the loss of an irreplaceable wilderness and the rights of the people who’ve lived there for millennia. Over six hikes, spanning a quarter-century, Shehadeh chronicles how his beloved hills outside Ramallah have been violently transformed by Israeli colonization. Fortress-like settlements have replaced rolling hilltops; highways have fractured ecosystems and human communities alike; streams have filled with garbage as development outpaces infrastructure; and the simple act of walking has been transformed, as it becomes both illegal and life-threatening for the author to explore the hills of his ancestors.

Shehadeh’s prose is searingly beautiful and inspired in me a profound love for this biome, which I have never visited. The climate movement must center indigenous voices, and Palestinian Walks is particularly deft at shedding light on the connections between indigenous land rights, colonization,…


Who am I?

I’ve been panicking about environmental destruction ever since a fateful day in eighth grade, when I stayed home with the flu binge-watching Animal Planet, realizing that every ecosystem on earth was in decline. In college, unable to hack it as an environmental scientist, I switched majors to writing, and now I tell stories to try and help the planet. I’m an environmental journalist for One Breath Houston, covering the racist, illegal polluting of the petrochemical industry in Houston, Texas. I’m also a climate fiction author, and my debut novella, Depart, Depart! was an Otherwise Award Honor List book. The first installment in my YA cli-fi trilogy Seeds for the Swarm is forthcoming from Stelliform Press in Fall 2022.


I wrote...

Depart, Depart!

By Sim Kern,

Book cover of Depart, Depart!

What is my book about?

When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful, and Noah must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to survive.

“Kern shows the necessity of compassion, empathy, and community in the face of crisis.” — Publishers Weekly starred review

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine

By Catherine Hezser (editor),

Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine

When I pulled this book off my library shelves, I discovered it was still bookmarked with about 40 Post-it flags. This was one of my go-to books for research about life and times in first-century Palestine. The book is divided into sections with labels such as "Family Life," "Religion and Magic," and "Labour and Trade." Each section contains detailed discussions on subtopics related to the main section. For example, under "Family Life," you will find information on clothing, marriage, and divorce, jewelry, food, housing, etc. There are wonderful illustrations and drawings. At the end of each chapter, there is a list of suggested reading and a full bibliography. I spent hours pouring through the resources here when researching my own novel.


Who am I?

I have been an avid reader of historical fiction since I was very young, and I love learning about the life and times of different periods of history. One might describe me as a "research junkie." My desire to know more about the everyday lives of my historical characters has taken me on many wonderful adventures, and my personal library is full of books I use for research. I write fiction, creative nonfiction, and novels. I am currently completing a new novel about a family of downwinders, people who contracted cancer from government-sanctioned radioactive fallout from the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s.


I wrote...

Blood of a Stone

By Jeanne Lyet Gassman,

Book cover of Blood of a Stone

What is my book about?

Set in first-century Palestine on the fringes of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption. Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios murders his abusive Roman master and flees to Galilee to create a new life and a new identity.

However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. When Demetrios is betrayed by a close friend, he risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices, and Demetrios must answer the question we all face: Can we ever be free of our past?

Today's Handbook of Bible Times and Customs

By William L. Coleman,

Book cover of Today's Handbook of Bible Times and Customs

This was another book that I marked with dozens of Post-it flags for my research for my novel. The subtitle pretty much describes what it offers: A cultural, social, and political background on the land and people of the Bible, based on all the recent archaeological discoveries. This book is broken down into categories: "Family Life," "Food and Drink," "The Practice of Medicine," "Childbirth," etc. One of my favorite sections was the food and drink section. Not only does this book have photographs of the food and drink, but it also includes some simple recipes on how to prepare and serve them. I now know the proper way to serve locusts!


Who am I?

I have been an avid reader of historical fiction since I was very young, and I love learning about the life and times of different periods of history. One might describe me as a "research junkie." My desire to know more about the everyday lives of my historical characters has taken me on many wonderful adventures, and my personal library is full of books I use for research. I write fiction, creative nonfiction, and novels. I am currently completing a new novel about a family of downwinders, people who contracted cancer from government-sanctioned radioactive fallout from the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s.


I wrote...

Blood of a Stone

By Jeanne Lyet Gassman,

Book cover of Blood of a Stone

What is my book about?

Set in first-century Palestine on the fringes of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption. Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios murders his abusive Roman master and flees to Galilee to create a new life and a new identity.

However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. When Demetrios is betrayed by a close friend, he risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices, and Demetrios must answer the question we all face: Can we ever be free of our past?

The General's Son

By Miko Peled,

Book cover of The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

My first encounter with Israeli soldiers was in Ramallah during the second intifada. I was alone on the road late one night after curfew when a dozen Israeli soldiers, sons of Russian immigrants, dragged me from my vehicle and put a pistol to my head in a mock execution for their entertainment. My impression of Israeli soldiers was never great after that. Years later I met Miko Peled after reading his book about his time in the Israeli defence force and his relationship with his father, a highly decorated Israeli general who turned from hawk to dove in search of peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians. Miko took up the same struggle after his father's death. We have so far, without success, tried to make a movie of that family struggle.


Who am I?

I must be something of a specialist on the impact of conventional and guerrilla warfare on the civilian population. Truth is, leaving school, I never intended to have anything to do with war beyond the books I enjoyed reading. On leaving the military in my 30s I employed the only skills I had and managed organisations and mostly news teams operating in conflict zones all over the world. I matured into a crisis manager, responding and consulting to crisis situations such as kidnap & ransoms, and evacuations from conflict zones. Most of the characters in my books are real, good and bad, taken from the vast theatre of my own experiences. 


I wrote...

First into Action

By Duncan Falconer,

Book cover of First into Action

What is my book about?

A dramatic personal account of life inside the UK's Special Boat Service. The memoir describes how Duncan Falconer joined the Royal Marines and, due to a series of unusual events, on completion of his Commando course, was sent to the SBS HQ in Poole to take part in the gruelling selection process along with 150 other Marines. Falconer was not expected to last a week. Three months later, on completion of the course, and along with just 8 other men, he was accepted into the ranks of the SBS, the youngest ever to join the unit in the modern era. First Into Action is packed with, often sad, sometimes hilarious, anecdotes of his life and times in the service.  

Minor Detail

By Adania Shibli, Elisabeth Jaquette (translator),

Book cover of Minor Detail

A fascinating novel that depicts, in unsettlingly flat style, a historic gang-rape of a Palestinian woman by Israeli soldiers. Cut to the present day and a nameless, obsessive narrator becomes an amateur sleuth, preoccupied with understanding what took place. A brilliant meditation on memory, agency, and our relationship with history.


Who am I?

Before I became a writer, I worked for a time in the violence against women sector, and I started to see how violence against women was normalised or sanctioned by a complex matrix of laws, norms, and ideas that stick to our society like a spider’s web. I wanted to do my part in unpicking the web—and for me, as a writer, that comes in the form of beginning to break down simplistic stories and archetypes about what women should be, and what they historically might have been, in favour of a liberated future where the true potential of half the human race can be dreamed of, and realised. 


I wrote...

Young Women

By Jessica Moor,

Book cover of Young Women

What is my book about?

When Emily meets enigmatic and dazzling actress Tamsin, her life changes. Drawn into Tamsin's world of Soho living, boozy dinners, and cocktails at impossibly expensive bars, Emily's life shifts from black and white to technicolour and the two women become inseparable.

Tamsin is the friend Emily has always longed for; beautiful, fun, intelligent, and mysterious and soon Emily is neglecting her previous life—her work assisting vulnerable women, her old friend Lucy—to bask in her glow. But when a bombshell news article about a decades-old sexual assault case breaks, Emily realises that Tamsin has been hiding a secret about her own past. A secret that threatens to unravel everything...

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