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Iran- a reading list (with websites)

Written on: June 16th, 2009 by: in NewsReviews

Much of the world is transfixed at this moment by the upheavals following the recent Iranian election, by the apparent paradox of a popular demand for democracy, with women as some of the strongest voices heard, within a fundamentalist, autocratic system.

The Iranian regime is justifiably demonized by most Western governments, but the history of Persia/Iran is long and not especially receptive to simplistic analysis. Here are a few well-reviewed titles available from the Delaware Library Catalog about Iranian history, politics, and culture with an emphasis on the late 20th Century and the emergence of the fundamentalist revolutionary regime:

  • Iran Awakening, by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi- “a captivating account…of the political world of Iranian women”
  • A History of Modern Iran, Ervad Abrahamian “scholarly, readable and engaging… an excellent choice”
  • Hidden Iran, Ray Takyeh “an intimate portrait of a dynamic society… a call for engagement”
  • History of Iran, by Michael Axworthy
  • the Devil we Know, Robert Baer
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, by Hooman Majd
  • All the Shah’s Men, by Stephen Kinzer, is about the C.I.A.-backed overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossadeq government- an incident that overshadows U.S.-Iranian relations to this day and still influences how the U.S. engages with reformists and dissidents in Iran

And here are some more general listings of books available on various related topics:

Much of current American analysis and understanding is informed by our experiences with the hostage crisis. These are a couple of good books on that subject:
Guests of the Ayatollah, Mark Bowden
Taken Hostage, by David Farber
And a complete listing of books available on the hostage crisis.

UPDATE: Web Resources of Interest

  • Iranian Blogs (Mostly in Farsi, although many in English- with the current situation, which includes an ongoing cyberwar between reformists and the regime, many or most of these may not be available).
  • Library of Congress Country Profile for Iran, May 2008, summarizes geography, history, and political/cultural facts and issues.
  • View the constantly evolving Twitter #iranelection stream.
  • The U.K. Guardian newspaper has a news blog about Iran with continuously updated news, photographs and videos.
  • Iran Negah is a video news archive, based in America.
  • The English-language version of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei’s official website.
  • Pars Times is a clearing house for all manner of resources on the Iranian news, history and culture- it’s U.S. based and claims to be non-partisan.
  • Columbia University Library’s collection of online resources about Iran.
    ADDED 6/22: U.S. Department of State Foreign Relations Archive, Iran 1964-68
    U.S. Department of State Foreign Relations Archive, Iran 1969-1972