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Best Iran Books: Gain Context for the 2009 Election Revolution

Updated on July 1, 2009

A List of the Best Iran Books

With all that is currently going on in Iran, I thought the web needed some sort of a list detailing some of the best books of recent years detailing this country's complex politics and history. That said, I am sure this list will be incomplete and I invite anyone who wishes to leave comments about what they think are the best Iran books. (You don't have to be Iranian to do so.)

As we watch unintended consequences echoing off of Iran's abysmal decision to fake their election, we are seeing tragic and uplifting things happen. Take Neda, or the Twitter revolution of #iranelection and its communication about the moment by moment state of things in this Mid-East nation.

I suspect that much of the rest of the world is learning that they had misjudged the Iranian people as a whole. Who would've thought that they could be so passionate about their own democratic rights? Willing to die, in fact. I know I'm quite impressed and it's made me wonder if I and my fellow Americans would be willing to do the same.

Where will all this go? Who knows. Is a dispute with Israel and nuclear power struggles still looming in the near-future? I suspect it's still more than likely. But really, now everything has changed.

Anyway, without further ado, here are four very reputable books on Iran.

The Soul of Iran: A Nation's Journey to Freedom (Paperback)
The Soul of Iran: A Nation's Journey to Freedom (Paperback)

The Soul Of Iran by Afshin Molavi Ph.D.

The book is Molavi's first-hand account of traveling through his home country. He refuses to take sides in the America-Iran "conflict", instead choosing to paint a picture of this 3,000 year-old magnificent nation.

The Soul of Iran probes into modern Iranians views on both their own government (typically frustrated) and the US (the people in general are not as anti-America as depicted in the media). I does well to always keep an even view, and may be the single best read for an American looking to get a (much) more comprehensive view of Modern Persia.

There really is no replacement for actual first-hand experience, told from the mouth of someone who understands Iran, but is not trying to grind his ax one way or another. This is generally regarded as the best way to get to know modern Iran through the simple act of reading.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The autobiography of a young Iranian girl who came of age during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Her radical parents eventually have to send her to Europe for her own protection during the war.

This book on Iran was an instant classic as soon as it was published in 2004. And as we have seen in the election protests, the women of Iran have a voice that is utterly amazing.

Is this another Neda, merely lucky to have lived at a different time, and to have dodged the bullets that seem to ricochet through Iran every decade or so? It must be said, of course, that this is a graphic novel so it may not appeal to everyone's reading tastes.

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer

Want to know what the genesis of Iranian hate for Americans is? Read this book. It tells the story of the CIA's overthrow of Iran's democratically elected leader in 1953. A puppet leader was then installed until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

This is a very important book to read in order to have a context in which to put slogans like "Death to America". Britain was of course very involved in this, too. What did it all revolve around? What does it always revolve around in the Middle East? Oil.

In the end, this is one of the great Iran books. I suspect most Americans would have no idea about most of what is written here.

The book now ilcudes a new section entitled "The Folly of Attacking Iran".

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind
A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

You've got to love the subtitle of Axworthy's book: "Empire of the Mind". But what is he referring to? I think it's a reference to how Iranians have always resisted any external effort to impose ways of life and living upon them. Yes, they adopted Islam (they had existed long before it got to them), but they resisted its tentacles from reaching all throughout its culture.

This is a great, great history book, but if you're looking for more current analysis I would suggest one of the books above. If you are more deeply interested in Iran the place, then this is probably the best history written by a Westerner (a Brit).


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    • Will James profile image

      Will James 8 years ago from New York, NY

      There, I added a link to the Persepolis DVD. It looks like it's in French?

    • Will James profile image

      Will James 8 years ago from New York, NY

      Oh wow. I didn't even realize that. I'm gonna check that out.

    • Alex ONeill profile image

      Alex ONeill 8 years ago from Sweden (But I'm from Colorado)

      Persepolis also was made into a movie and won some awards, I think. I thought it was really good.