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Friday, August 11, 2017

Middle East Reading List for Catholic Students

The Middle East is not only an interesting study, it's an important study. We've put together a reading list for you that includes fiction and nonfiction for students of multiple ages.

Who is this list for?
Books are listed in order of difficulty, from upper-grade school to middle school to high school to adult. One idea for preschool and early grade school is to look for picture books at the library with fun facts or books that focus on the geography of the region. At the end of this reading list are some additional ideas for supplemental lessons.

As with any book list, parent discretion is advised. Not all books are appropriate for all ages or all students.

Click on the book title for reviews or purchasing information (May contain affiliate links). Another resource to read book reviews is Goodreads. And to find used books for the best price, try Book Finder ... 

The White Horse 
by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1942) [Bethlehem Books]
Part of the Sally Series, the story takes Sally to the Mediterranean Sea where she encounters Barbary Coast pirates, is taken captive, ends up in the Sultan's palace, and so much more. Sally is exposed to Islam and a way of life unknown to her before this adventure. Charming series that could be read aloud with younger children. 

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia)
Not about the Middle East, however, "it is reminiscent of classic stories set in the Middle East (such as the Arabian Nights)." Terrific read aloud for the family. You can never go wrong with Narnia.

Takes place in 13th-century Baghdad. A well-written novel introducing the reader to complex math puzzles in an interesting and fun way. Presents an opportunity to discuss Islam. Read this disclaimer first. (Can be downloaded free HERE.)

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights 
The mythical back story to this wide collection of stories (from Aladin to Ali Baba) begins with Shahryār, a Sasanian king. He discovers his brother's wife and also his own wife are both unfaithful. In his grief, he concludes all women are the same. Shahryār begins to marry a succession of women only to execute each one the next morning before she has a chance to dishonor her vows. That is until Scheherazade offers herself as a bride. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale but does not end it. The king, enthralled in the story, postpones her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins) a new one, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion of this tale, postpones her execution again. So it goes on for 1,001 nights. 

Suleiman the Magnificent: Sultan of the East by Harold Lamb (1951) [OOP]
Harold Lamb's fictionalized histories are usually very gripping and enjoyable stories. We are including three of his titles here. Suleiman the Magnificent is the story of the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. 

Tamerlane: Conqueror of the Earth by Harold Lamb (1955) [OOP]
Temur the Lame, who referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam" is a fascinating individual in 14th-century history. He was a blood thirsty world conqueror, perhaps second only to Genghis Kahn.
In addition to an intriguing story, the back of the book contains a wealth of material to help you continue your study into the subject. (Also available as an audio book.)

Swords from the Desert by Harold Lamb
Made up of four novellas originally published in Adventure magazine in the late 1920s, and three short stories published in Collier's magazine in the early 1930's. All immerse you into the culture of the Middle East. 

Angels in Iron
 by Nicholas Prata [Arx Publishing]
A favorite book, this is an engaging historical fiction that deals with numerous figures from the early Ottoman times, including Suleiman the Magnificent, Piali Pasha, and Dragut the Corsair. It's a well-researched story that also demonstrates all the character traits we'd like to see in ourselves and our children: courage, honor, selflessness, and more. (Rumor has it there may be a movie based on this novel in the distant future. I'm at least hoping for an audio book.)

Defenders of Christendom by James Fitzhenry 
A good book from the same perspective as Angels in Iron. It deals with the Christian heroes who resisted the Turks in an attempt to check their advances, including John Hunyadi the White Knight of Wallachia, Skanderbeg of Albania, Jean La Valette of the Knights of St. John, and others. 

The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis 
These three fictional books take place in Afghanistan during the rule of Taliban in the 1990's and told through the eyes of a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to survive the refugee camps. Hits on serious realities: War, starvation, refugee camps, maimed children (from land mines), and despair.

111 Questions on Islam by Samir Khalil Samir S.J. [Ignatius Press]
It is important in today's world for Americans to understand the history and culture of Islam. This book is in an easy-to-read, question and answer format.

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer
A detailed factual account of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the elected prime minister and the aftermath. A study into what brought about Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

This is the story of seven Trappist monks in Algeria who were kidnapped, imprisoned for two months, and beheaded by Islamic radicals in the 1990's. The book is a history of the Algerian monks and chronicles the relationship of the monks with their Muslim neighbors. The movie Of Gods and Men is based loosely on this story. Monks of Tibhirine is upper high school or adult level reading.

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson (2014)
A look at the Middle East arena during World War I. A fairly readable popular account of T. E. Lawrence, of his role in shaping the Middle East, and of missed opportunities that we are still paying for today. Parental discretion advised as it contains information about Turkish captors who sexually assaulted Lawrence. 

The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross (1979)
Excellent resource on the history of the Ottoman Empire, especially the circumstances surrounding its decline and disappearance after World War I. For the parent or advanced student who wants to go really deep. The author painstakingly researched this book, looking at all of the big issues: Economic, political, and social. 

British General Edwin Allenby was the first Christian general to capture Jerusalem since the Crusades. This book, written by an eyewitness of Allenby's exploits, gives a detailed account of the British Palestine campaign in World War I. Advanced readers only.

To watch ...

Lawrence of Arabia with Peter O'Toole (1962)
Epic historical drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, a British archaeologist who lived an extraordinary life. He was best known for his legendary war activities in the Middle East during World War I and for his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926).

Other resources:
Middle East: Map & Geography Information

Al Jazeera: Online English language version of the popular Middle Eastern TV station.

Visit a Mediterranean restaurant or create Middle East recipes at home.

Thank you Tony Schiavo of Arx Publishing, Phillip Campbell, Danielle Goodnight, and Susan Donovan for your suggestions for this list. This was not an easy book list to compile. There are so few non-Western works available. Please share any suggestions you have in the comments below.


Mama Bear said...

1001 Muslim Inventions, Shadow Spinner, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, Habibi, Oranges in No Man's Land, Shooting Kabul.

Homeschool Connections said...

Thank you for the suggestions!