We spent 26 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. It’s one of the most volatile areas on the planet, with a myriad of conflicts and disputes that affect our everyday lives. If you’re curious as to how we reached this point, these Middle East history books will shine light on the events that led us here, as well as reveal the forces that continue to impact the region — and the world at large — to this day. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.

10. The Crusades

Despite taking place centuries ago, The Crusades still shape the modern world, and this book helps put them into the proper context. It strives to be as objective as possible, so anyone looking for simplistic finger-pointing should find something else to read.

  • Includes helpful maps
  • Focuses on personal relationships
  • Can overwhelm with info at times

Brand Ecco Press
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

9. Six Days of War

It’s incredible to think that a conflict lasting less than a week could have such an impact on world history, but Six Days of War documents how the 1967 Arab-Israeli war redrew territorial lines and set the stage for the decades of tension that were yet to come.

  • Offers both sides dispassionately
  • Extremely in-depth and detailed
  • Difficult to keep track of everyone

Brand Presidio Press
Model pending
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. After the Prophet

After the Prophet deals with one of the most polarizing disagreements in modern history: the Sunni-Shia split that dominates the region even to this day. The narrative takes pains to juxtapose ancient events with contemporary issues and their impact on the world.

  • Focuses on early days of islam
  • Reveals humanity behind religion
  • Tends to sympathize with shiites

Brand Lesley Hazleton
Model pending
Weight 9.9 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

7. All the Shah’s Men

All the Shah’s Men brings to life the U.S.’s 1953 plot to overthrow the Iranian prime minister in exacting detail while simultaneously laying out the far-reaching impact of this disastrous decision, revealing the extent to which a single act can affect an entire territory.

  • Also sheds light on ancient persia
  • Full of vivid imagery
  • Glosses over some important events

Brand Kinzer, Stephen
Model pending
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Destiny Disrupted

If you’re worried that a pro-Western bias might creep into your reading, Destiny Disrupted walks you through the area’s past while viewing events through an Islamic lens. Starting with the rise of Mohammed and continuing to present day, it’s a fresh take on an old subject.

  • Breaks down difficult concepts
  • Helps reveal unconscious prejudices
  • Relies heavily on anecdotes

Brand Tamim Ansary
Model pending
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. The Great War for Civilisation

Penned by a journalist who’s spent the bulk of his career reporting on the area — including interviewing Osama bin Laden on multiple occasions — The Great War for Civilisation covers virtually every important event in the territory that’s happened in the past half-century.

  • Puts a personal spin on events
  • Provides references for its claims
  • Extremely long and dense

Brand Vintage
Model pending
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. America’s War for the Greater Middle East

In America’s War for the Greater Middle East, a retired Army colonel takes a long look at U.S. policy in the region, starting in the 1980s and continuing into present day. The narrative focuses on the shift toward never-ending conflict that has become increasingly common.

  • Covers ground quickly
  • Places lots of bipartisan blame
  • Criticizes interventionist policy

Brand imusti
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

3. Inside the Middle East

Written by an Israeli intelligence analyst, Inside the Middle East takes you behind the scenes of the issues and players that are controlling the area in contemporary times. Everything from the birth of ISIS to the Arab Spring is covered in depth.

  • Good primer on shifting alliances
  • Focuses on non-state actors as well
  • Deep dive into syrian conflict

Brand Melamed AVI
Model pending
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Lawrence in Arabia

A captivating biography of the archaeologist T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence in Arabia also covers the birth of the latter-day Middle East. Based mainly on primary sources, this book is a fresh look at a subject that movie buffs might already know very well.

  • Excellent option for beginners
  • Deals with importance of oil to area
  • Reads like an action thriller

Brand Anderson Scott
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. A Peace to End All Peace

For a look at the modern state of the region, A Peace to End All Peace traces the fallout from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the conditions that had the Allies carving up previously-established political lines in the days following World War I.

  • Gives insight into colonial mindsets
  • Extremely well-researched
  • Adds context to current events

Brand David Fromkin
Model pending
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0