Arab Digest 2024 Summer Reads part 2

Summary: part 2 of this summer’s good read recommendations include a powerful book of poetry with its roots in the Arab Spring and a memoir by one of the ‘New Historians’ of Israel.

Arab Digest is pleased to bring you part 2 of our summer 2024 good reads, with several of the books, we are proud to say, written by our newsletter and podcast contributors. From deep dive geopolitical analyses to poems of compelling political consequence, we present a MENA festival of great summer reads. Enjoy!

Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew by Avi Shlaim (Oneworld) This remarkable memoir by a leading Israeli-British historian is both personal and political beginning with the author’s departure from his birthplace in Baghdad to the new state of Israel. There as a Sephardic Jew he encountered early the inherent racism of Zionism. Though his book was written before the current Gaza war he is clear about the structures on which Israel is built. As he told us in our podcast “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, there is one regime. It’s an apartheid regime. It’s a Jewish supremacist regime with second class citizens. That’s the Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel, and third class citizens, if you can call them that, who are the Palestinians in the occupied territories, who have no political rights at all.” You can find the podcast here.

 

Fugitive Atlas: poems by Khaled Mattawa (Greywolf Press) A stark, powerful and at times terrifying book from the pen of the Libyan poet, Fugitive Atlas grips the reader almost by the throat as it explores themes of hope, resistance, liberation and violence. “Now That We Have Tasted Hope” reflects on the overthrow of the dictator Gaddafi: “Now that we have tasted hope,/now that we have lived on this hard-earned crust,/we would sooner die than seek any other taste to life.” Truly, as Naomi Shihab Nye says, “Khaled Mattawa voyages in the realms of the unspeakable and speaks for us all.”

 

 

The Gulf Monarchies After the Arab Spring by Cinzia Bianco (Manchester University Press) A well-researched and thoughtful analysis that explores both the continuing challenges to and the fractures within the GCC states caused by the Arab Spring. The Gulf Monarchies After the Arab Spring is an invaluable contribution to the literature on the GCC states and the critical role they play in shaping the geo-political dynamics of the region and indeed the world. As she writes in her conclusion “the GCC monarchies have transited from hyper-securitisation to a hedging strategy, built on diplomatic manoeuvre and consolidation of influence.” Cinzia Bianco is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a regular contributor to the Arab Digest podcast. You can find her latest podcast here.

 

 

What Iranians Want: Women. Life, Freedom by Arash Azizi (Oneworld) Given the enormous and malign influence that Iran plays in the Middle East this is a book that is critical to understanding the country and its role in the region. Arash Azizi is an historian who writes with the eye of a journalist exploring the protest movements that challenge the theocratic dictatorship of Ali Khamenei. As he told us in our podcast “Iran is often discussed in terms of its foreign policy, its nuclear programme, its leaders, its alleged threats but what is much less discussed is the quest of the Iranian people to better their lives by rising up and challenging this draconian government that has ruled over them for more than four decades.” You can find his podcast here.

 

 

Egypt under El-Sisi by Maged Mandour (I.B. Taurus) Maged Mandour’s first book is an eye-opening assessment of the Sisi regime. He brings to the table his acute economic assessment and a well-honed political acumen to capture life under the dictatorship of the man who overthrew Egypt’s only democratically elected president in 2013. A writer committed to rigorous, objective and robust journalism, Maged Mandour has produced a book that is a must read for anyone even mildly interested in the country and its trajectory. A regular contributor to the AD newsletter and podcasts, his most recent podcast is here.

 

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