Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 2013 Middle East Reading Challenge

January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013


Referred by many nowadays as the "Greater Middle East" or "MENA" (Middle East/North Africa), our challenge will focus on the North African nations of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt; the Levantine nations of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories; all the nations within, bordering or relatively close proximity to the Arabian Peninsula including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the Gulf Emirates. 
  • After a great deal of agonizing I've decided to not include Turkey. Nothing personal, it's just a judgment call. However, if you come across a book dealing with that nation's role in the Middle East by all means feel free to include it. Of course, since much of the Middle East was ruled by the Ottoman Empire until the end of WWI, books dealing with period of history are cool too.
  • I've also decided to not include the nations of the Horn of Africa or its neighbors Sudan and South Sudan. Yet another judgment call.



Read as many books as you'd like. Eligible books include those which are written by Middle Eastern writers, or take place in the Greater Middle East, or are concerned with the Greater Middle East and with historical and contemporary Middle Eastern issues. I'd encourage you to read at least three books written by Middle Eastern writers.



Sometimes  it can be fun to strive towards a particular reading level, Therefore, I've come up with a few in hopes of inspiring folks. 
  • Tourist: Read 1 to 5 books
  • Diplomat: Read 5 to 10 books
  • Foreign Policy Specialist: Read 10 to 15 books
  • Scholar: Read 15 books or more



  • Fiction – novels, short stories, poetry, drama and YA.  Note: You can choose to read a number of individual and uncollected short stories.  In this case, 12 such stories would constitute 1 book.  Individual poems do not count but books of poetry do. (By the way, the Middle East has produced a huge body of amazing poetry, some of it hundreds or even thousands of years old. Feel free to explore some of it.)
  • Non-fiction – memoirs, autobiographies, history, current events, religion and political theory.



  • Cover at least two regions, pick from North Africa, the Levant and/or one or more of the nations within or near the Arabian Peninsula. 
  • Include translated fiction from Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Berber, Kurdish or Farsi literature
  • You can mix classic and contemporary fiction.
  • If you are intend to read mostly non-fiction (like me) then please include at least one book of fiction.
  • Since this region is the birthplace of the three major monotheistic faiths, why not include one their sacred writings like the Quran, the Gnostic scriptures, the Talmud or the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • For years this region has been called the "cradle of civilization." If you feel inclined, explore the region's ancient history or maybe its archaeological discoveries. There's a ton of those books out there.
  • The region is also the birthplace of or the inspiration for a number of ideologies including Pan-Arabism, Zionism, Palestinian nationalism and Islamism. Why not consider something by one of their proponents-or critics.

This reading challenge is hosted by 2013 Middle East Reading Challenge. For more information and to sign-up, please see this post.