The social distancing restrictions enacted to mitigate the COVID-19 contagion have resulted in a resurgence of reading around the world. Many people have either dusted off old books or reviewed bookmarking apps such as Pocket, Feedly, and Evernote. In some cases, readers have made specific resolutions; for example, completing all seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. For those of you who may have considered getting a better understanding and worldview about the Middle East, here is a list of recommended authors providing keen and clear insight in 2020.
Amir Handjani of the Atlantic Council
Just like in the rest of the world, money makes things happen in the Middle East. We often think that conflict is brought about by religious and political differences, but once you start getting deeper into the intricacies of geopolitical conflict, you will invariably discover a money trail leading to uncomfortable truths. When energy attorney Amir Handjani, member of the Board of Directors at the Atlantic Council, writes about the Middle East, you gain a better understanding about the financial motivations that underwrite diplomatic relations and internal divisions.
This Syrian author and journalist Samar Yazbek is a relative of President Bashar al-Assad, but she is also an outspoken critic of the despotic regime and a supporter of democratic change in her troubled country. If you are interested about the status of women’s rights in the Middle East and the troubled status of human rights in Syria, be sure to pick up a copy of In the Crossfire: Syrian Revolution Diaries, an astonishing book published in 2012.
Richard Falk, International Law Professor at Princeton University
From 2008 to 2014, Professor Falk served the United Nations as Special Rapporteur on the thorny issue of Palestinian and Israeli relations. As can be imagined, Professor Falk has seen a fair share of human rights violations, and many of his observations on the Israel/Palestine conflict are focused on how decades of conflict have a deleterious effect on society at large.
Jonathan Spyer of the Middle East Forum
Born in the United Kingdom but raised in Israel, Jonathan Spyer graduated from the prestigious London School of Economics but later joined the Israeli Defense Forces and saw action during the 2006 Lebanon War. Spyer was an infantryman, and his combat experience comes across in his books and articles about the various Middle East conflicts he has covered. If you enjoy unbiased, on-the-ground reporting with the individuals who are doing the actual fighting, Spyer’s writings will not disappoint you.
Andrew Bacevich, International Relations Professor at Boston University
This retired United States Army Colonel is a veteran of the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Persian Gulf War; moreover, one of his sons was killed in action during the Iraq War. Although Colonel Bacevich is a Roman Catholic writer who espouses conservative views, he has been a strong critic of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, particularly in the Middle East.