The most recommended books about Syria

Who picked these books? Meet our 45 experts.

45 authors created a book list connected to Syria, and here are their favorite Syria books.
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Book cover of Without Sanction

T. R. Hendricks Author Of The Instructor

From my list on thrillers that capture and bring awareness to PTSD.

Why am I passionate about this?

My therapeutic journey with PTSD has been a long and bumpy road that I still work through to this day, close to fifteen years now. Given the silent suffering that so many go through, I feel that the more we talk about and advocate for seeking help the more people we can save. The common thread with my picks is resiliency. The characters face their symptoms and don’t give in to them. If a thriller novel can reach someone because they identify with the struggles discussed in the pages, then maybe that book can be the bridge to them finally getting the help they need.

T. R.'s book list on thrillers that capture and bring awareness to PTSD

T. R. Hendricks Why did T. R. love this book?

A former Apache helicopter pilot with multiple deployments under his belt, Don combines his, “been there, done that” with, “write what you know.”

Fans of relentless action and adrenaline should not pass up on Bentley’s Matt Drake series. Or his Jack Ryan Jr. books carrying on the Tom Clancy legacy. Or the next installment of the Mitch Rapp series as he takes over for Vince Flynn’s legacy. Seriously, Don is a busy man. 

In Without Sanction, Bentley’s protagonist experiences both mental and physical manifestations of PTSD, but it’s Don’s description of survivor’s guilt that is truly chilling in its accuracy and moving in its portrayal.

As you read the account of what Drake now has to live with, what he wrestles with on a daily basis, it brings about in the reader a sense of foreboding as close to the real thing as you might imagine.

Only those who…

By Don Bentley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Without Sanction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After surviving a clandestine operation that went tragically wrong, Matt Drake escaped Syria with his life, but little else. Now, to save the life of another, he must return to Syria and confront his biggest failure in a debut thriller Lee Child calls "sensationally good."

Defense Intelligence Agency operative Matt Drake broke a promise. A promise that cost three people their lives and crippled his best friend. Three months later, he's paralyzed by survivor's guilt and haunted by the memories of the fallen. Matt may have left Syria, but Syria hasn't left him.

In the midst of his self-imposed exile,…


Book cover of The Thirty Names of Night

Lamya H Author Of Hijab Butch Blues: A Memoir

From my list on queer and trans Muslim experiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a queer, nonbinary, Muslim, immigrant writer who has been reading their whole life and writing for part of it. I learned to write by reading–by devouring all kinds of books across different genres and paying attention to how words create feelings, worlds, and chronologies. I also learned to live by reading–I didn’t grow up with models of how to live a life that was true to my identities and so I read everything I could find about experiences that were adjacent to my own. The emergence of queer Muslim literature has been exciting to follow, and I try to read everything in the field.  

Lamya's book list on queer and trans Muslim experiences

Lamya H Why did Lamya love this book?

At its core, this book is a mystery: a trans Syrian-American’s journey to find out what happened to his mother and how she was connected to an artist whose journal he finds.

But what I loved most about this book is the meditations on gender, on spirituality, and on birds. This book is an ornithologist’s dream. 

By Zeyn Joukhadar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction
Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award—Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions, Electric Literature, and HuffPost

​​From the award-winning author of The Map of Salt and Stars, a new novel about three generations of Syrian Americans haunted by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts—a “vivid exploration of loss, art, queer and trans communities, and the persistence of history. Often tender, always engrossing, The Thirty Names of Night…


Book cover of Syria: The Desert and the Sown

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

The Desert and the Sown is perhaps the most personal of all Gertrude Bell’s travel books revealing a deeply affectionate engagement with the people and places of Syria. It is the first of her books that I read while researching the subject of Bedouin tribes in early 20th century Syria. I wanted to know what connection the Bedouin tribal elites had to the major trading cities such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. There, in her description of Damascus, she revealed the evidence I had been looking for: “In Damascus the sheikhs of the richer tribes have their townhouses; you may meet Muhammad of the Hasene or Bassan of the Beni Rashid peacocking down the bazaars on a fine Friday; in embroidered cloaks and purple and silver kerchiefs fastened about their brows with camel’s hair ropes bound with gold…” I can just see those tribal leaders now in my mind’s…

By Gertrude Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'You may rely upon one thing - I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain.'

Gertrude Bell - traveller, scholar, archaeologist, spy - was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East in the 20th century. With T.E. Lawrence, she was a significant force behind the Arab Revolt and was responsible for creating the boundaries of the modern state of Iraq, as well as installing the Hashemite dynasty, with Faisal I as king, in Iraq and Transjordan. Her knowledge of the Arab world was forged through decades of travel and the relationships she built…


Book cover of How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Liberal-Islamic Alliance

Sean Yom Author Of From Resilience to Revolution: How Foreign Interventions Destabilize the Middle East

From my list on democracy and dictatorship in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in the politics of democracy and dictatorship. Governing is a funny business: the masses must entrust a very few to lead them, and often with vast power. Where does that trust come from? And why do some rulers act so viciously while others serve with grace? Understanding these very human concerns is a worthy pursuit of knowledge.

Sean's book list on democracy and dictatorship in the Middle East

Sean Yom Why did Sean love this book?

In this historical narrative, Thompson gives a stunning take on the early rise of democratic aspirations in the Arab world. Post-war Syria in 1920 was a hotbed of liberal activism, where Arab leaders sought to establish the first Arab democracy. In response, the French and British invaded Syria and destroyed its embryonic political life. That Western powers disregarded local democratization so early set into motion a catastrophic chain of imperialism and wars, which left behind the dictatorships standing today.

By Elizabeth F. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Europe's Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs' military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria.

Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a 'civil representative monarchy.' Sheikh Rashid Rida, the…


Book cover of The Home That Was Our Country

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 read this book back in 2018. As a Syrian writer, I was feeling quite lonely at the time, singular in the publishing community. Someone told me they heard about this book on NPR, and I jumped on it.

The book is a reversal of my own story. The author, a Syrian born in the US, travels back to Syria to search for her grandmother’s home. The observations feel authentic, and the storytelling feels meaningful. I was quite engrossed by the narrative; I could barely put the book down. 

By Alia Malek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Home That Was Our Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the Arab Spring's hopeful start, Alia Malek returned to Damascus to reclaim her grandmother's apartment, which had been lost to her family since Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970. Its loss was central to her parent's decision to make their lives in America. In chronicling the people who lived in the Tahaan building, past and present, Alia portrays the Syrians-the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Armenians, and Kurds-who worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters, mirroring the political shifts in their country. Restoring her family's home as the country comes apart, she learns how to speak the coded language of…


Book cover of Imad's Syrian Kitchen: A Love Letter from Damascus to London

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 love to cook, and I love to eat. I love using food as a vehicle to tell stories.

This is a bustling, vibrant tour of 90 Syrian dishes celebrating the flavours of Syria that can easily be made in the comfort of your own home–the first cookbook from my friend Imad–a renowned chef from Damascus.

By Imad Alarnab, Evi-O Studios (illustrator), Andy Sewell (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imad's Syrian Kitchen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Complete with heartfelt stories, stunning photography, and beautiful illustrations, Imad's Syrian Kitchen features 90 sensational recipes celebrating the flavors of Syria.

This is the first cookbook by Imad Alarnab, a renowned chef from Damascus. Imad now runs an acclaimed restaurant in London, which was named GQ’s “Best Breakthrough Restaurant 2022.” Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is a bustling tour through 90 traditional and adapted Syrian dishes that can be made in the comfort of your own home. Imad introduces us to the delicious flavors and techniques of the Syrian kitchen. And alongside delicious recipes, mouthwatering photography, and beautiful illustrations, Imad shares the…


Book cover of The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Cathy Tsang-Feign Author Of Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad: What Every Expat Needs to Know

From my list on to equip yourself for living abroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a psychologist, I've worked with countless emigrants and international expatriates. People relocate to various parts of the world for different reasons. However, each person’s life struggles, cultural background, experiences, and knowledge help make the world more colorful and richer in so many ways. I encourage people to open themselves to see the world and be receptive and tolerant to those who are different from them. It teaches us to be humbler and more respectful, and to enrich our life in general. My choices are about preparing your mind and your heart for life in another culture. Sometimes a well-crafted novel can offer insights that other media can’t express.

Cathy's book list on to equip yourself for living abroad

Cathy Tsang-Feign Why did Cathy love this book?

This book, the story of a Syrian refugee beekeeper, speaks volumes about what I believe in: the resiliency of human beings and the power of the mind.

The beekeeper’s journey reminds me of why I love working with people as a psychologist after 30+ years. I witnessed many times that hopes and dreams can carry people through the most difficult, dire situations. The title of the book also attracted me.

Being an amateur beekeeper, I have some understanding of beekeeper mentality. One has to be observant, patient, and persistent in order to befriend bees. This includes a willingness to learn, follow instinct, and trust what life can bring. These characteristics are reflected in the protagonist of this book.

His emotional journey is about surrendering to the unknown, working with what is in front of him, and trusting what the universe will bring him in the end. Warmth, kindness, and torments…

By Christy Lefteri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for Audiobook of the Year - The British Book Awards 2020

A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB CHOICE 2019

Narrated by Art Malik, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life,…


Book cover of Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse

Nicholas Coghlan Author Of The Saddest Country: On Assignment in Colombia

From Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Diplomat-in-recovery Long-distance sailor

Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Nicholas Coghlan Why did Nicholas love this book?

Up-and-coming fashion journalist Brigid Keenan threw in a promising career to marry – then follow – a European Union diplomat around the world on a series of diplomatic postings in exotic locales.

This is as funny a book as I’ve read in years. When I passed it on to my own spouse (who gamely accompanied me on six postings as a “dependent” from Mexico to South Sudan), I watched her nodding silently in amusement and recognition at one episode after another.

But it’s a serious account, too. The author constantly has to re-invent herself so as to make her life meaningful and rewarding. And when it’s all over, and the couple comes home to a tame retirement with their friends scattered all over the world, they find this is the most challenging assignment of all.  

By Brigid Keenan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Sunday Times fashion journalist Brigid Keenan married the love of her life in the late Sixties, little idea did she have of the rollercoaster journey they would make around the world together - with most things going horribly awry while being obliged to keep the straightest face and put their best feet forward. For he was a diplomat - and Brigid found herself the smiling face of the European Union in locales ranging from Kazakhstan to Trinidad. Finding herself miserable for the first time in a career into which many would have long ago thrown the towel, she found…


Book cover of The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East

Janet Biehl Author Of Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin

From my list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria).

Why am I passionate about this?

I was the partner and late-life collaborator of the late social ecology theorist Murray Bookchin. Shortly before his death his 2006, the Kurdish freedom movement took up his ideas, as Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s thought leader, had recommended them. Öcalan created a new ideology based in part on social ecology, promoting face-to-face democracy through citizen assemblies and councils; the liberation of women; a cooperative economy; and an ecological orientation. In several northern provinces of Syria, activist Kurds started building liberatory institutions based on these ideas, at first illicitly, under the Assad regime’s brutal persecution. Then a few years later, after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, the northern provinces declined to take sides in the conflict but instead created a revolution, turning the democratic, gender-equal institutions they had been building into the polity of self-governing provinces, known as Rojava (now known as the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria). As a result of my connection with Bookchin, I was privileged to visit three times and witnessed the revolution.

Janet's book list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria)

Janet Biehl Why did Janet love this book?

After World War I, the great powers who carved up the Middle East should have by all rights given the huge population of Kurds there a state of their own. But the new Turkish republic made sure they didn’t, and as a result of this historic betrayal, Kurdish people have lived as a minority in several Middle Eastern countries, whose dictatorial governments persecuted them brutally and often still do. Phillips, a longtime champion of Kurdish human rights, surveys their condition and traces their current evolution into a vibrant political community, arguing for international recognition of their right to self-determination.

By David L. Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world. An estimated thirty-two million Kurds live in "Kurdistan," which includes parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran-today's "hot spots" in the Middle East. The Kurdish Spring explores the subjugation of Kurds by Arab, Ottoman, and Persian powers for almost a century, and explains why Kurds are now evolving from a victimized people to a coherent political community.

David L. Phillips describes Kurdish rebellions and arbitrary divisions in the last century, chronicling the nadir of Kurdish experience in the 1980s. He discusses draconian measures implemented by Iraq, including use of chemical weapons,…


Book cover of Daughter of Damascus: A Memoir

Andrea Rugh Author Of Within the Circle: Parents and Children in an Arab Village

From my list on Middle Eastern culture written by insiders.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work as an anthropologist has focused on understanding the worldviews of people of different backgrounds and nationalities in the Middle East. This is despite the tendency now for anthropologists to pursue more theoretical and academic research. Although there are many ways to acquire an understanding of culture, the best is of course to live and work with local people. The next best way is to listen to them explaining themselves. These books by cultural insiders do just that. The authors come from several sub-cultures of the Arab world and religions. They all describe their own versions of culture, that although overlapping in many ways, also show the distinctiveness of each group.

Andrea's book list on Middle Eastern culture written by insiders

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

Offended by the government’s destruction of ancient parts of the Damascus bazaar, Tergeman decides to record the Syrian traditions she experienced growing up in the city before they are lost. In somewhat idyllic form, she describes the celebrations and feast days, traditional foods, colorful characters announcing Ramadan hours, café storytellers, and the proverbs and sayings that were part of everyday life. Best of all, she conveys the warmth of family and community life. With a wealth of detail that only a Syrian can describe, the book gives us a glimpse into the values and beliefs that until recently were an integral part of the culture. Although many traditions are lost now, they still serve as a model for the way life should be in normal times. 

By Siham Tergeman, Andrea Rugh (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daughter of Damascus presents a personal account of a Syrian woman's youth in the Suq Saruja ("old city") quarter of Damascus in the 1940s. Siham Tergeman wrote this book to preserve the details of a "genuine Arab past" for Syrian young people. In it, she relates the customs pertaining to marriage, birth, circumcision, and death. She writes of Ramadan festivities, family picnics to the orchards of the Ghuta, weekly trips to the public bath, her school experiences, Damascene cooking, peddlers' calls, and proverbs. She includes the well-known dramatic skits, songs, and tales of the Syrian Hakawati storytellers. And, through the…