Great Books on Islam and the Arab World

For all the “interest” the United States has shown in the Arab world in recent decades, we sure are ignorant about the place. Consider: According to a 2009 poll, 65 percent of Americans identify Iran as an Arab country; only 23 percent know that Iraq and Syria share a border; and only 37 percent can identify 1948 as the year of Israel’s independence.

On the bright side, the same poll found that 59 percent of Americans want to “know more about Arab countries and people.” Great. But how? Enter James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, and author of the recent book Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why It Matters. Zogby draws on a lifetime of experience and the results of a mega poll, conducted by the firm of his brother, John Zogby, to reveal what the world’s 350 million Arabs think about their lives, their countries–and us. Many of the findings will surprise you; for now, suffice it to say that the book sets readers straight on the myths, stereotypes, and flat-out ignorance that dominate our thinking about the region and its people.

For readers who want to go deeper, Zogby recommends a short list of books. “Some are classics from which I have personally benefited,” he writes. “Others are gems written by authors I have hosted on my weekly program.” Read on for his picks.

[Buy Arab VoicesAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

James Zogby Recommends:

A History of the Arab Peoples
By Albert Hourani
“The classic and comprehensive history of the region and its people from the time of Muhammad to the present day.”

The Question of Palestine
By Edward Said
“Said was the preeminent Arab American scholar. This book remains the most authoritative treatment of the Palestinian issue and its importance to the Arab people.”

Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the rest of the World
By Edward Said
“A treatise on how Western media and popular culture have perpetuated stereotypes of Islam.”

Islam: A Short History
By Karen Armstrong
“The best treatment of Islam in one book.”

Engaging the Muslim World
By Juan Cole
“A useful survey of U.S. policies across the Muslim world.”

Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid
By Jimmy Carter
“It shouldn’t have been as controversial as it was, but the overreaction is indicative of the difficulty of having reasoned discourse about this issue.”

My Hope for Peace
By Jehan Sadat
“A short but insightful insider’s look at the life of her husband (Anwar Sadat), Egypt, and Islam today.”

by Friar's Balsam


Madelaine Marines
Denise Napau6 years ago

Muslims are humans. They can be good or bad. It's Islam, their guiding religion that creates the problems.
Too much hate for those who are not muslims.

The book of this religion takes half of the time telling muslims what to do about people who don't accept islam.
Be that as a personal faith or governing over them.

Rose N.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S7 years ago

Read here what exMuslims have to say about their experiences in Islam (many of them are under threat of death): & their expose on Mohammed that Muslim scholars are hysterical about keeping hidden. Even telling the historical truth about Mohammed/Islam brings out the cries of 'Islamaphobia'. What is it with you western liberals who can't say a good thing about European culture/history, yet can't say a bad thing about Islamic conquest of all the world they now inhabit. The liberal appeasement & acceptance of outrageous fairtales of tolerant, peaceful Islam are offensive to all those who died resisting it & now live under its repressive "tolerance" (talk to any nonmuslim living in a Muslim country). The brutal reign & conquest by force of Andalucia (they tried to conquer all Spain & even murdered their way into southern France, burning churches all the way b4 they were driven back. They destroyed the holiest cathedral in Spain (Stgo de Compostela). Try to find a church that dates to the Muslim rule in Andalucia (where we live). There are none. Xtians were killed for questioning Islam, Muslims destroyed many churches, confiscated church property, appointed bishops, forbade building of new ones, forced all men to be circumcised, priests were subject to ridicule in the streets, tens of thousands of Xtians were enslaved (30,000 in Granada alone!), those who refused to convert had to pay the dimmi tax (still existent in Muslim lands today).

Bora S.
Bora Salama7 years ago

Oh poor Mabolsa. The thought of anyone reading a post here or carrying out their own studies and ending up with an impression of Islam that is not as hateful as hers really scares her. She must be a nervous wreck.

heather g.
heather g7 years ago

Oh dear, the level of blogging has taken on a distasteful tone.
Thank you for this information. The more we know about other cultures, the more non-judgemental and level-headed we are...

Mabolsa Ritchie
Mabolsa Ritchie7 years ago

@ James Morley

"Thank you John B. After the rantings of Mabolsa it was nice to read you sane scribble."

My rantings? That was no rant. In fact, I think I can say it was in response to a rant by 'harmony'.


"I could care less what traditional old Christian white guys think about anything, you sheeple are human rubbish and are in the process of tossed onto history's trash heap where you belong."

I call that a rant, and a very uncalled for and out of place one at that.

The one thing you got right though was that John B's comment amounted to no more than a scribble. Pity you described it as sane though. You lost points for that.

Mabolsa Ritchie
Mabolsa Ritchie7 years ago

@ John B

Just so you understand, I get absolutely no information whatsoever from fox news. I know you dhimmi types like to keep banging on about how unreliable fox new is, but like it or not, the koran and hadith are pretty invaluable sources of information on islam, as are the daily reports of violence against the infidels, or if there are no infidels handy at the time, other 'less worthy' muslims.

No other group indulges in violence to the same extent as muslims. It's all very clear when you open your eyes. I've said it before but... I used to jump to the defence of islam when it was criticised, until I learned about it myself. So I'm not just some biggot. My opinion about islam is what it is because I found out about it and that changed my mind.

You may well wish to bury your head in the sand and pretend that islam is a good thing, but that won't change reality. Neither will a few books full of lies.

Maybe if you open your eyes you'll find out that these kind of books about islam are as useful as fox news when it comes to reliable information.

BTW. This fox news thing. You're not one of those who think the jews did the whole 9/11 thing and blamed it on the muzzies so they could invade iraq and take over the world are you? Is that where you're coming from with the fox news bashing? I hope not.

James Morley
James Morley7 years ago

Thank you John B. After the rantings of Mabolsa it was nice to read you sane scribble.

John B.
John B7 years ago

While the discourse between Malabosa and Harmony has been cute although uninformative it would probably be much better if you took your dialogue off a blog about available books on Islam. I'm sure the pair of you cuddle up through a messenger or email line.

Since a good portion of America feels that Islam is the enemy then they should find out something about "the enemy".
Perhaps you can find out "how bad these Muslims really are" and just maybe you can find out that some of the information that you get from Fox news is not exactly accurate.

Mabolsa Ritchie
Mabolsa Ritchie7 years ago

@ Harmony B

I guess a woman must have been involved in setting up the comments section here. It keeps cutting me off. The last bit should just have said. "Well clever!"

Don't be so childish. If you want to rule the world, you'll have to get on with men too. Like it or not, both are needed for the species to survive. Men haters like you are just as low as the religiots who cause so much trouble around the globe. Why do you hate men, particularly white men, so much?