Recommended Novels on the Middle East and North Africa
Sitt Marie Rose
by Etel Adnan
A gorgeous, sad story, written by a poet, about a teacher caught up in the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s.
I, The Divine
by Rabih Alameddine
The subtitle of this novel about a Lebanese woman is “a novel in first chapters.” I’m not kidding: This is a series of first chapters that tell a compelling story. How does he get away with it?
Fantasia, An Algerian Calvacade
by Assia Djebar
Intellectual and thought-provoking, this challenging book uncovers the ravages of colonialism in Algeria and highlights the bravery of ordinary women engaged in the struggle against the French.
The Day the Leader Was Killed
by Naguib Mahfouz
The Egyptian Nobel laureate paints a vivid picture of the challenging lives of a family in Cairo in 1981, the year that Anwar Sadat was assassinated.
Censoring an Iranian Love Story
by Shahriar Mandanipour
An ordinary young man and woman, Dara and Sara, try to find love in Iran despite everything standing in their way in this brilliant postmodern story of censorship and repression.
Cities of Salt
by Abdelrahman Munif
In the 1930s, Americans come to the gulf in search of oil, and life is never the same for the Bedouins who live there.
Wolves of the Crescent Moon
by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed
A man disenchanted with city life goes to a bus station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and tries to figure out where to go next. The stories of several down-and-out characters, including a eunuch and an orphan, emerge with life-changing results.
by Orhan Pamuk
Gorgeous descriptions of snow fill this elegiac novel about a Turkish poet researching the conflicts between religious and secular groups in modern Turkey, as well as searching for a long-lost love.
Arab in America
by Toufic el-Rassi
A graphic novel, or perhaps more accurately, memoir, about a young Arab-American’s experiences of discrimination in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.
Season of Migration to the North
by Tayeb Salih
A coming-of-age story about a brilliant Sudanese man who travels to Britain to complete his education, only to encounter the darkest side of his own nature and everyone else’s. A searing masterpiece.
The Bastard of Istanbul
by Elif Shafak
The fates of a Turkish family and an Armenian family are intertwined in this story of a young Armenian-American woman who travels back to Turkey to discover her roots. The book offers a refreshing view on the lives of modern Turkish women.
The Map of Love
by Ahdaf Soueif
At the turn of the 20th century, an English woman falls in love with an Egyptian man during Egypt’s struggle for independence from the British. Lush language, passion, and politics make this book a winner.