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Nonfiction Reading List

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Non-Fiction Book Discussion Group

Join us to read about and discuss Syria and the Middle East on August 17th at 6 pm.

Our first monthly non-fiction book discussion group is inspired by this summer’s “Syria to St. Johnsbury/ St. Johnsbury to Syria” program series.

We will meet Wednesday, August 17th at 6pm for a lively and wide-ranging discussion of Syria and the Middle East from a variety of angles and viewpoints. Participants are encouraged to choose a book (or books) from the following resources in our collection, read them, and come to discuss and share what you’ve read.

All are welcome. You don’t need to have read to take part. We will also be discussing choices of topics for upcoming months. Refreshments will be provided.


  • Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz - Islam and the Future of Tolerance

A dialogue between a noted atheist thinker and a former radical salafi Muslim that takes an unflinching look at the controversies and flash-points all while aiming to find common ground.

Call number: 297.2 HARRIS

  • Carla Power - If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

An investigation of the Qur’an and its significance to Muslims in the form of an “intimate portrait” by an American woman who converted to Islam. A 2015 National Book Award shortlist book.

Call number: 297.092 POWER

Middle East- History & Background

  • Scott Anderson - Lawrence in Arabia : War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East 

A chronicle of World War I's Arab Revolt that explores the pivotal roles of a small group of adventurers and low-level officers who orchestrated a secret effort to control the Middle East.

Call number: BIO LAWRENCE

  • David Fromkin - A Peace to End all Peace : the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

Fromkin’s title says it all. A comprehensive look at the politics and powerful interests that were at play in divvying up the Middle East after World War I.

Call number: 956 Fromkin

  • Dawn Anahid MacKeen - The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey

The inspiring story of a young Armenian's harrowing escape from genocide in the Ottoman Empire and of his American granddaughter's quest to retrace his steps through modern-day Turkey and Syria.

Call number: 956.6 MACKEEN

  • Ray Takeyh & Steven Simon - The pragmatic superpower : Winning the Cold War in the Middle East

Foreign policy experts Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon reframe the legacy of U.S. involvement in the Arab world from 1945 to 1991 and bring new light to the making of the contemporary Middle East.

Call number: 327.730 TAKEYH

  • Janet Wallach - Desert Queen : the Extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia

A biography of the British traveller spy, and contemporary of Lawrence of Arabia, and a fascinating look into the lost world of British orientalism and great power politics.

Call number: 956.020 WALLACH

Middle East- Contemporary (Journalism & Analysis)

  • Janine Di Giovanni - The Morning They Came for Us

A first-hand, devastating account of the situation in Syria in the last years, based on Di Giovanni’s on-the-ground reporting as Newsweek’s Middle East editor.

Call number: 956.910 DI GIOVANNI

  • Joby Warrick - Black Flags: The Rise of Isis

2016 Pulitzer Prize winner. Warrick looks at the rise of ISIS through the lens of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, radicalization of prisoners in the jails of Middle Eastern autocracies, and the serial incompetencies of the Bush and Obama administrations in Iraq.

Call number: 956.910 WARRICK

  • Michael Weis & Hassan Hassan - ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

An in-depth look at ISIS, who the key players are, where they come from, how they have attracted both local and global support, and how they operatefrom their social media strategy to their illicit oil revenues.

Call number: 363.325 WEISS

  • Robert Worth - A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS

A synthesis of years of on-the-ground reporting for the New York Times and in-depth political and historical analysis. “The first work of literary journalism to track the tormented legacy of what was once called the Arab Spring.”

Call number: 909 WORTH

Voices from Syria

  • Malu Halasa, (ed.) -  Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline

What is the role of artists and writers during a crisis like the one in Syria? This book provides an answer by showcasing the work of over fifty contemporary Syrian artists and writers who “are challenging the culture of violence in Syria” and using their art to express their people’s struggle for a democratic, pluralistic nation.

Call number: 892.7 HALASA

  • Khaled Khalifa. In Praise of Hatred

A novel by one of Syria’s foremost contemporary novelists. A story of a girl growing up in the 1980s against the backdrop of the government’s savage campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, an event which laid much of the groundwork for the Syrian revolution 30 years later.

Call number: FIC KHALIFA

  • Robin Yassin-Kassab - Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

An exploration of the complicated reality of life in present-day Syria drawing on new first-hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists. The authors interweave these stories with an incisive analysis of the militarization of the uprising, the rise of the Islamists and sectarian warfare, and the role of Syria’s government in exacerbating the brutalization of the conflict.

Call number: 956.910 YASSIN-KASSAB

  • Samar Yazbik - A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution & The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria

Two works by Syrian dissident journalist and eye-witness to the revolution, the first written in the earlier hopeful days of the Syrian revolution, the second grappling with the descent into chaos and sectarian violence. 

Call number: 965.91042 YAZBIK