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5 Books By Middle Eastern Authors You Need To Read (2018 Edition)

Last year, we created our first book series blogs, stating that ‘we consider reading to be a wellness strategy’ and an act of self-care. We are sticking to this statement. When you read, you dedicate time for yourself, expand your imaginative and intellectual horizons, gain a sense of new perspective and self-reflective capacity, and immerse yourself in beautiful unexpected worlds. And, as we’re coming up to the season of giving, we’ve emphasized in recent weeks that there is no greater gift than a book, because it offers the receiver everything we’ve mentioned and more! It’s a non-consumerist gift that gives someone an entire experience, not just an object. So follow in the Icelandic footsteps, and start your very own book flood this Christmas. All of these titles are released in 2018, and written by Middle Eastern authors or authors of Middle Eastern descent. So it will be a Middle Eastern book flood, for added pizzazz.

1. The Arab of the Future Volume 3 by Riad Sattouf

Picture Source: Excerpt from The Arab of the Future, Volume 3, p.1, by Riad Sattouf

The Arab of the Future is an internationally bestselling graphic memoir series (Volume 3 was released earlier this year) from “one of the most prominent cartoonists in the world” (Smithsonian), that recounts Sattouf’s own childhood spent between France, Libya and Syria. Darkly humorous, emotionally honest, and compellingly written from a child’s perspective, the latest instalment in this series shows the pressures of existence under the Assad regime in the Sattouf’s rural Syrian village, and the complications of navigating shifting traditions, culture, and family dynamics. Whatever your political leanings (or those of the intended gift recipient) may or may not be, this series will be a profoundly interesting read. Check out Sattouf talking about his work in this interview:

2. A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Photo Source: http://www.penguinteen.com/cover-reveal-the-land-of-permanent-goodbyes-by-atia-abawi/

From award-winning foreign correspondent and author Atia Abawi, The Land of Permanent Goodbyes is described by Penguin Random House as ‘A powerful novel of refugees escaping from war-torn Syria, masterfully told by a journalist who witnessed the crisis firsthand’. Writing from a perspective with which she is intimately familiar, Abawi’s gripping novel is narrated from the perspective of ‘Destiny itself’, and tells the story of a young Syrian called Tareq who escapes with his family from Raqqa, and travels through Turkey and Greece. To read more about the fascinating author herself, check out her biography here.

3. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

Photo Source: https://www.dailysabah.com/arts-culture/2018/07/25/frankenstein-roams-the-streets-of-baghdad-in-ahmed-saadawis-novel

Described by The Guardian as an “absurdist morality fable meets horror fantasy,’ where a “victim of sectarian violence is brought back to life in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq,” Frankenstein in Baghdad has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018, won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and received Guardian Book of the Year. This ‘re-imagining’ of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is called”extraordinary, a devastating but essential read, and ‘gripping, darkly humorous…profound”. With satirical humor and depth, Saadawi captures the reality of war in a fantastical and unexpected way. You’ll want to read it. So will your friends.

4. The Lost Kids by Sara Saedi

Photo Source: https://twitter.com/foundrymedia/status/984885687911616512

A Young Adult fiction novel written as the sequel to Never Ever, Tehran-born Sara Saedi’s The Lost Kids is described by Penguin Random House as “packed with more of everything you loved in Book 1: twists, action, revenge, and romance!”. Here is Random House’s summary to wet your palate:

“Just a few weeks ago, Wylie Dalton was living on magical Minor Island where nobody ages past seventeen, and in love with Phinn, the island’s leader. Now, her home is a creaky old boat where she’s joined a ragtag group of cast-offs from the island, all dead-set on getting revenge on Phinn for betraying them. But when the Lost Kids invade their former paradise, they’re stunned to find that their once-secret island is no longer so secret, and that a much bigger enemy is gunning for Phinn . . . and all the Minor Island kids. Told from both Wylie’s and Phinn’s perspectives, this dramatic sequel reveals that when you Never Ever grow up, the past has a way of catching up to you.” 

Haven’t read Book 1? Even better. Now you have two books you can sink your teeth into or purchase for your friends or younger family members!

5. Down + Across

Another writer of Iranian origin, Ahmadi’s debut novel is another YA fiction described by Bustle as the ‘book to read if you’re just trying to figure out WTF you’re doing with your life’. Bustle author Kerri Jarema (2018) continues on to say:

“The new young adult novel follows Scott, who only really excels at one thing — quitting. His friends all know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott just can’t seem to figure it out. With college applications on the horizon, his parents are putting more pressure on him than ever to settle on a prestigious, practical career path. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, D.C., to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in “grit,” the psychology of success. Instead, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.”

I think this premise transcends age for many of us, so it’s something to consider reading when we’re edging towards another new year!. It’s also the perfect gift for a teenager on the precipice of making grand life decisions. Because we know how terrifying that can be.

And that’s all for now, folks. Want more books to immerse yourself in over the holiday season, or to shower your loved ones with? Check out our 2017 5 Books By Middle Eastern Authors You Need To Read, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Hope you enjoy! And as always, we love hearing from you, so let us know if you’ve read any of these and what you think!











  • Alice Eddé January 1, 2019 9:57 am

    Hello Tala! Happy New Year!

    I love your approach towards the importance of food from farm to plate! I live in Byblos, Lebanon where we have recently started a farmers market. We are precisely seeking to encourage environmental, communal/cultural and personal health through this venture. Our market is called the Via Appia Byblos market. If you ever come to Lebanon, please get in touch!

    • admin January 3, 2019 9:01 am

      Thank you, Alice, for sharing your information with us. Hopefully Tala or The Wellness Project team will get a chance to visit the market! Many blessings with your adventure!

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