Amazing Books to Read:

1) In An Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale
Amitav Ghosh
1992
The excavation and study of thousand-year-old records from a Jewish synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, reveals aspects of a relatively enlightened civilization which stretched from Spain to India from 800 a.d. to 1250 a.d.


2) What's Right with Islam
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
2004
Written to answer popular demand after 9/11, a New York-based Islamic Imam compares cultures and religions: Indo-Europeans are "nouns" and Arabs are "verbs."

3) The Scimitar and the Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam
Jennifer Heath
2004
The sometimes warlike but more often loving and wise contributions of Islamic women from the time of Mohammad until the present are revealed.

4) Lawrence of Arabia: Seven Pillars of Wisdom
T.E. Lawrence
1926
A powerful glimpse into the amazing codes of honor and magically anti-materialistic realm of the Bedouin Arabs set in the stage of World War I. The scenes in the Hollywood movie which depict Bedouins as murderous savages are nowhere to be found in the actual book.

5) Desert Queen: the Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell
Janet Wallach
1996
This biography of a British woman gives a peek into the incredibly disjointed manner in which British and French victors in World War I drew crazy boundaries in the Middle East and thereby sowed the seeds of conflict which are still sprouting into wars.

6) Adventures in Arabia: Among the Bedoins, Druses, Whirling Dervishes and Yezidee Devil Worshipers
William Seabrook
1927
Archetypes of the desert and hill peoples of the Arabic world are revealed in surprising ways.

7) Faith and Sword: A Short History of Christian-Muslim Conflict
Alan Jamieson
2006
Reading this book one would think that world history contains nothing but wars. It provides a coherent timeline on which to hang other more interesting historical events.

8) Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice
Michael Bonner
2006
No wonder the Middle Eastern Islamic people were not so bloody and cruel as the Crusaders: they had a complex code of honor.

9) One Nation Under Israel
Andrew Hurley
1990
A history of the growth of Israeli influence in the USA.

10) Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
Jimmy Carter
2006
An objective history of Western-world-driven attempts to reconcile Israeli-Arab differences which reveals several suprisingly one-sided trends.

11) Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
2006
An absolute gem of a book which finally gives a framework for understanding world history: who spoke what language when and where, not only on the streets but in the palaces and in the military. Once these tribal and cultural migrations are laid out clearly, all of history begins to make sense.

12) The Unfolding of Language: an evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention
Guy Deutscher
2005
The mysterious ways in which languages change and evolve while its native speakers in only one or two generations haven't a clue is explained. Many popular misconceptions about language are debunked.

13) Baghdad Sketches
Freya Stark
1938
A very different world from what we see today.

14) The Music of the Arabs
Habib Hassan Touma
1996
Another good introduction for musicians.

15) World Music: The Rough Guide
1994
Many concisely organized historical facts about how musical styles have evolved and influenced each other all over the world.

16) Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray
Helen Fisher
1992
Absolutely fascinating and illusion-shattering anthropological survey of love and marriage.

17) Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini
2003
A strange tale set in recent Afghani, Pakistani and American cultures which reveals the author's tortured path through them all.

18) The Secret Teachings of Plants: the intelligence of the heart in the direct perception of nature
Stephen Harrod Buhner
2004
An amazing mixture of recent scientific findings and ancient wisdom which makes it clear that our hearts are indeed telepathic organs capable of supernatural spiritual feats in cross-cultural and cross-species arenas.

19) The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
Maria Rosa Menocal
2003
A glimpse into an “empire” in which diversity and education were apparently valued in ways possibly unknown on earth since 1492. This version of history can help us stop and pause and re-evaluate everything we have been calling “progress.”

20) Burton: A Biography of Sir Richard Burton
Byron Farwell
1964
The incredible biography of a brilliant British career soldier and diplomat whose abilities to learn and to be adopted into native cultures are an inspiration to both the incredible enlightenment and loneliness which can result. Growing up in India, he apparently learned no less than 25 languages ultimately translating the Tales of the Arabian Nights. After his death his wife burned the remainder of his manuscripts which contained, like the Kama Sutra, which he also translated, fascinating first-hand tales of sexual exploits in many cultures. A skilled swordsman, his books on the art of swordsmanship remain the classics in the field to this day. Ultimately unable to fit in British society in spite of recognition of many of his achievements such as the discovery of the source of the Nile, he passed away in a remote African island outpost. His love affair with Arab culture was similar to that of Lawrence of Arabia 60 years later.

21) Unknown Oman
Wendell Phillips
1966
A fine mix of history and ethnography of Southern and Eastern Arabia.

22) 1421: The Year China Discovered America
Gavin Menzies
2002
Amazing new discoveries about previously unkown trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific ocean navigation. Supposedly controversial but the evidence looks good to me.

23) Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists
Michael Hamilton Morgan
2007
Marvelous compilation of extraordinary scientific achievments long mistakenly assumed by Europeans to have been made in Europe during the Renaissance.

24) Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time
Greg Mortenson
2006
From mountaineering to cross-cultural love affairs. Well-written. Many parallels with Cameron Powers' path and work.

25) Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands
Aidan Hartley
2004
Clear delineation of the changes in consciousness of three generations of Brits living in East Africa: from colonialism to journalism. Amazing stories from Kenya, Somalia, Bosnia.