The most recommended books on the sahara desert

Who picked these books? Meet our 46 experts.

46 authors created a book list connected to the sahara desert, and here are their favorite sahara desert books.
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Book cover of Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols

Melissa Addey Author Of A String of Silver Beads

From my list on exploring Morocco’s culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

On a trip to Morocco, immersed in new sounds, smells, sights, and tastes, I was hit with the idea for a novel about a woman in the 11th century, a time when a Berber ruler took over the whole of North Africa and Spain. It led to many years of research and correspondence with historians, and became not one novel, but four, telling the story of four women’s lives that interweave as a newborn empire rises. The books I have listed here were some of the ones that brought the place, the culture, and the era alive for me. I hope they can do the same for you!

Melissa's book list on exploring Morocco’s culture

Melissa Addey Why did Melissa love this book?

A beautiful record of jewelry from Morocco, exploring symbolism, craftsmanship, and culture. The very first novel I wrote was based on the idea of every chapter being a Moroccan woman receiving a piece of jewelry symbolizing a certain moment in her life and this book was my guide, I pored over the lovely photos, marveled at the intricate designs and really enjoyed learning what each piece meant and its history. 

By Helene E Hagan, Lucile Myers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"For you, it may look like a small unimportant detail, like your thumbnail. But for me, it is the whole vast world. Look at this jewel... here is the ant, here is the hyena, the jackal, the hoof of a horse, that of a gazelle, the sun, the moon, the stars, the good eye... this triangle, this is woman, and here are the eyebrows of the Malignant One, there, laughter... it is all of our lives in one piece of silver." (Translated from the French by Helene E. Hagan, from original Tuareg words of an artisan cited by J. Gabus,…


Book cover of Running Man: A Memoir of Ultra-Endurance

Dean Karnazes Author Of A Runner's High: My Life in Motion

From my list on running from an ultrarunner.

Why am I passionate about this?

An internationally recognized endurance athlete and New York Times bestselling author, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. Among his many accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He's run across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures, and run a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. On ten different occasions, he's run a 200-mile relay race solo, racing alongside teams of twelve. His long list of competitive achievements include winning the world's toughest footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon, running 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley during the middle of summer. His most recent endeavor was running 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he ran in three hours flat.

Dean's book list on running from an ultrarunner

Dean Karnazes Why did Dean love this book?

To say Charlie Engle has led a colorful life would be putting things mildly. An addict and alcoholic, after nearly losing his life to a hail of bullets, Charlie turned to running as his savior.

By Charlie Engle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After a decade-long addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol, Charlie Engle hit rock bottom after a near-fatal six-day binge ended in a hail of bullets. Then he found running, and it has helped keep him sober, focused and alive. He began to take on the most extreme endurance races, such as the 155-mile Gobi March, and developed a reputation as an inspirational speaker. However, after he made the documentary Running the Sahara, narrated by Matt Damon, which followed him on a 4500-mile crossing of the desert and helped raise $6 million, he was sent to prison after failing to complete…


Book cover of Cairo: City of Sand

Ronnie Close Author Of Cairo's Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

From my list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer and filmmaker based in Cairo for over a decade. I was inspired to move to Egypt when I visited during the 2011 Revolution and fell in love with the vibrance of the city. Since then Cairo has changed and I have lived through an extraordinary history with some difficult times but always with a sense of curiosity for stories. My book, Cairo’s Ultras, began as a documentary film project in 2012 and I have found many other interesting topics during my time in this enigmatic and fascinating place. I will publish a second book next year, called Decolonising Images, that looks at the photographic heritage and visual culture of Egypt.

Ronnie's book list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution

Ronnie Close Why did Ronnie love this book?

The book gives the reader a deep layered understanding of Egypt before the 2011 uprising to look at the state of the nation and into the heart of Cairo, an ancient city but now a metropolis of over 20 million. Written with a novelist's flare this is an intimate portrait of the lives of Cairenes that explores hidden aspects of this mysterious city. The author builds an intriguing story on the religious beliefs, family values, negotiating tactics, driving habits, and attitudes towards foreigners. This is a reflection on a wonderous city, a place of sadness and of hope, which uses the metaphor of Saharan desert sand blowing in to shape the sand castle politics of the Mubarak era that would come crashing down in the 2011 Revolution.

By Maria Golia,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cairo is a 1,400-year-old metropolis whose streets are inscribed with sagas, a place where the pressures of life test people's equanimity to the very limit. Virtually surrounded by desert, sixteen million Cairenes cling to the Nile and each other, proximities that colour and shape lives. Packed with incident and anecdote "Cairo: City of Sand" describes the city's given circumstances and people's attitudes of response. Apart from a brisk historical overview, this book focuses on the present moment of one of the world's most illustrious and irreducible cities. Cairo steps inside the interactions between Cairenes, examining the roles of family, tradition…


Book cover of The Nomad: Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Louisa Waugh Author Of Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia

From my list on the intimate lives of landscapes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Louisa Waugh is a writer, blogger, and the prize-winning author of three non-fiction books: Hearing Birds Fly, Selling Olga, and Meet Me in Gaza. She has lived and worked in the Middle East, Central and West Africa, and is a conflict adviser for an international peace-building organisation. She blogs at The Waugh Zone and currently lives in Brighton, on the southern English coast, where she kayaks and drinks red wine on the beach, usually not at the same time.

Louisa's book list on the intimate lives of landscapes

Louisa Waugh Why did Louisa love this book?

Isabelle Eberhardt was born in 1877. She was “a crossdresser and sensualist, an experienced drug taker and a transgressor of boundaries”. Born in Switzerland, she crossed the Sahara Desert on horseback dressed as a male marabout, driven by a hunger for nomadic adventures, and for love. Isabelle’s evocative diaries are intense, beautifully written, self-centred and dramatic, occasionally very funny. She fell madly in love with the Sahara, was accused of being a spy, married a young Algerian soldier, and drowned in a desert flash flood at the age of 27. This book is about a short life that burned radiantly and the desiccated landscape that mirrored her intensity.

By Isabelle Eberhardt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eberhardt's journal chronicles the daring adventures of a late 19th-century European woman who traveled the Sahara desert disguised as an Arab man and adopted Islam. Includes a glossary. Previously published in English by Virago Press in 1987, and as The Passionate Nomad by Virago/Beacon Press in 19


Book cover of Libyan Sands: Travel in a Dead World

Stephen Haddelsey Author Of Shackleton's Dream: Fuchs, Hillary and the Crossing of Antarctica

From my list on forgotten expeditions and extraordinary journeys.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I’m fascinated by the history of exploration, I’m most attracted to the stories that have been lost, neglected, or forgotten. Why, for instance, is Sir Vivian Fuchs – arguably the most successful British Antarctic explorer of the twentieth century – not as well-known as Scott or Shackleton? Why do we know so little of Operation Tabarin – the only wartime Antarctic expedition to be launched by a combatant nation? These are the kind of questions that I want to answer, and these are the expeditions that I have wanted to examine. I’ve been fortunate to meet and interview some truly extraordinary men – and telling their stories has been a joy and a privilege.  

Stephen's book list on forgotten expeditions and extraordinary journeys

Stephen Haddelsey Why did Stephen love this book?

Libyan Sands tells the story of Ralph Bagnold’s extraordinary expeditions into the North African deserts between the two world wars. Remarkably for the time, Bagnold chose to use not camels, as his predecessors had done, but specially-adapted Ford Model-A motorcars, in which he covered tens of thousands of miles in extraordinarily inhospitable, waterless conditions, travelling where no motor vehicle and hardly any people had ever been before. The knowledge he accrued would lead him, ultimately, to found and lead the Long Range Desert Group in the Second World War. 

Having written about extraordinary journeys into the polar wastes, and having come to understand, through meeting many of the explorers involved, what it is that has driven them into those wildernesses, what most caught my imagination in Bagnold’s book was his incredibly vivid descriptions of the desert, a barren wilderness that he grew not only to respect, but to love deeply:…

By Ralph A. Bagnold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Libyan Sands" is unmistakably the work of an Englishman, a modest, machine- and desert-loving young officer whose passionate amateur enthusiasm led to the exploration of the Egyptian western desert and the Libyan Sahara on the eve of the second world war.


Book cover of Disappeared

Victoria Weisfeld Author Of Architect of Courage

From my list on ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I say I enjoy stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, I’m talking about characters who don’t have law enforcement or Special Forces training, who aren’t martial arts experts, KGB agents, or CIA officers. I like those characters too, but they typically engage my head, not my heart. Thrown into dangerous situations, “ordinary” individuals can show tremendous courage and quick-wittedness. I can easily put myself in their shoes and empathize with their plight, which gives me a real stake in the story’s outcome. If a story is well-written, the creative ways characters respond and the strengths they discover within themselves make them true heroes to me.

Victoria's book list on ordinary people in extraordinary situations

Victoria Weisfeld Why did Victoria love this book?

Two American housewives—sisters—are on vacation in Morocco (a place I’ve really enjoyed visiting) and one of them disappears. Her sister is determined to find her, but neither has any preparation for the dangers they face. A foreign setting is mysterious, exotic, and always holds unknown possibilities. Finding themselves in a rural area, the women don’t know whom to trust, and they cannot rely on the usual social safeguards. The police and military are actually a threat. For me, a standalone thriller like this packs extra tension because you can’t be certain the characters will survive!

By Bonnar Spring,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These two sisters are about to be permanently "disappeared"

Julie Welch's sister, Fay Lariviere, disappears from their hotel in Morocco. Although she leaves a note that she'll be back in two days, Fay doesn't return.

Julie's anger shifts to worry—and to fear when she discovers a stalker. Then, an attack meant for Julie kills another woman. Searching Fay's luggage and quizzing the hotel staff, Julie discovers Fay's destination—a remote village in the Saharan desert. Convinced her sister is in danger and propelled by her own jeopardy, Julie rushes to warn Fay.

By the time she reaches the village, Julie finds…


Book cover of The English Patient

Paul Tomkins Author Of London Skies

From my list on heroism and flaws of the English during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

A lover of fiction since my teens, I only really took an interest in history in my 20s. I’m fascinated with WWII and the 1950s due to family histories and having visited key sites, like Bletchley Park and the Command Bunker in Uxbridge, near where I grew up. I’m not especially patriotic, but I am proud of what Britain had to do in 1940, as well as the toll the war took and the years of recovery. But it’s also the time, albeit decreasingly so, when people still alive today can look back at their youth, and we can all have a nostalgia for that time in our lives.

Paul's book list on heroism and flaws of the English during WWII

Paul Tomkins Why did Paul love this book?

Although it is not set in England, it is clearly about England, the English, and the war.

As with the other books mentioned so far, I read them upon release before later seeing the subsequent films—and sadly, much of the imagery from my mind has been overwritten with often brilliant cinematography, which is never as affecting as what you imagine. I just recall that, at the time, I saw ultra-vivid scenes from the page that transported me, and that became a prime aim of mine to replicate. 

I found the prose sparse but poetic, albeit by then, I’d already fallen in love with slightly more complex sentence structures. Still, I marvel at how Ondaatje wrote such a dense and affecting novel in only 320 pages. 

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The English Patient as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hana, a Canadian nurse, exhausted by death, and grieving for her own dead father; the maimed thief-turned-Allied-agent, Caravaggio; Kip, the emotionally detached Indian sapper - each is haunted in different ways by the man they know only as the English patient, a nameless burn victim who lies in an upstairs room. His extraordinary knowledge and morphine-induced memories - of the North African desert, of explorers and tribes, of history and cartography; and also of forbidden love, suffering and betrayal - illuminate the story, and leave all the characters for ever changed.


Book cover of The Book of Strangers

Alexander Knysh Author Of Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism

From my list on teaching you how to be a Sufi.

Why am I passionate about this?

My exploration of Sufism began in the unlikely environment of the Soviet Union where Sufism was considered a relic of the past to be replaced by the atheist, world-asserting ideology. The fact that my Muslim academic advisor assigned this topic to me, an active customs officer, was nothing short of a miracle. It was the beginning of a chain of miracles that punctuated my teaching and research career in the USSR, UK, US, EU, and the post-Soviet republics of Eurasia, especially Tatarstan and Kazakhstan. Having observed Sufism in various shapes and forms for over thirty years, my knowledge of its precepts and rituals is of great help to me in everyday life.  

Alexander's book list on teaching you how to be a Sufi

Alexander Knysh Why did Alexander love this book?

This book offers a poignant personal view of Sufism by a Scottish-born actor and writer who became disillusioned with a world “where people teach but know nothing, where the sentences flow on endlessly but lead nowhere.” He seeks and finds wisdom and solace in the deserts of Sahara under the guidance of a Sufi master to whom he dedicates his short but powerful book. When I picked it up as a reading for my class on Sufism, I thought I would find a usual mushy account of Sufism by a starry-eyed neophyte. The book was anything but: it was eloquent, deeply personal, and felicitously free from platitudes. I was pleasantly surprised and so were my students. I recommend it to everyone interested in spiritual quests regardless of his or her background.    

By Ian Dallas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hardcover, 151 pages.


Book cover of Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary, Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook

Victoria Moran Author Of Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World

From my list on yoga and Ayurveda.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an American author of thirteen books (so far). Some are on vegan living (Main Street Vegan, The Love-Powered Diet); others (Creating a Charmed Life, Shelter for the Spirit, Younger by the Day) are about wellbeing and crafting an inner life. My passions are spirituality -- yoga primarily, but all the ways people find meaning; compassionate living: extending loving-kindness to ourselves and all beings; and creating vibrant health through yoga, Ayurveda, plant-based eating, and a grateful outlook. (Here's a little preview: I'm in the early stages of a book about aging like a yogi.)

Victoria's book list on yoga and Ayurveda

Victoria Moran Why did Victoria love this book?

To me, a cookbook is supposed to be a book, too -- one that you can read as well as cook with. This is one of those. For me as a vegan, I like that there's no dairy here (in a lot of Ayurvedic cookbooks, I have to work around milk and clarified butter), but well beyond that, I appreciate this young author and her fresh outlook. The recipes are accessible and her Ayurvedic suggestions are real-world applicable and easy to incorporate into a busy life.

By Sahara Rose Ketabi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Introducing Eat Feel Fresh, an all-encompassing vegan Ayurvedic cookbook with over 100 healing recipes.

Venture on a journey of wellness and serenity with the ancient science of Ayurveda.

New to Ayurveda? No worries! It teaches that food is a divine medicine with the power to heal, and is packed with holistic healing recipes suited for your individual needs. This beautifully illustrated cookbook gives a detailed look at how to eat according to your body's specific needs, and will help you connect with your inner self.

Dive straight in to discover:

-Over 100 deliciously vegan and gluten-free recipes
-A clear easy-to…


Book cover of Connect the Stars

Joni Sensel Author Of The Farwalker's Quest

From my list on girls on epic outdoor adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing in the woods near my home and as an adult I enjoy backpacking, scuba diving, biking, snow-shoeing, and solo travel. When I was young, most books with exciting adventure stories in nature were about boys, but I know from experience that girls can do all the same things. And whether it’s set in a fantasy world or our own, I think adventures in nature help us learn who we are and how we connect to all that’s around us. That’s why my Farwalker trilogy features a strong, resourceful girl on a walking adventure, and it’s why I love to find and share other outdoorsy heroines with young readers. 

Joni's book list on girls on epic outdoor adventures

Joni Sensel Why did Joni love this book?

This fun book includes plenty of humor and kooky characters as well as desert disasters to be overcome. I love deserts, have traveled as far as the Namib and the Sahara to enjoy them, and included a desert in my own book, so the atmosphere of this story resonated with me. And I’ve been a camp counselor, too—though not in any camp as extreme as the one in this book! The dual narratives, one by 13-year-old Audrey and one by Aaron, coordinate well together and help the reader better feel their shared experience—as well as what they learn from each other. Readers who, like me, enjoyed Holes by Louis Sachar would probably also enjoy this one.

By Marisa De Los Santos, David Teague,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Connect the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes a heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits discovering the importance of just being themselves. When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole. Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars takes on some hefty topics of the day-bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to…