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Jason Burke's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jason Burke recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jason Burke's favorite book recommendations of all time.

A Finalist for the George Orwell Book Prize

“It would be absurd to think that a book can cause riots,” Salman Rushdie asserted just months before the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. But that’s exactly what happened. In England, protests started just months after the book’ s publication, with Muslim protestors, mainly from immigrant backgrounds, coming by the thousands from the outer suburbs of London and from England’s old industrial centers—places like Bradford, Bolton, and Macclesfield—to denounce Rushdie’s novel...
Recommended by Jason Burke, and 1 others.

Jason BurkeI liked the book for a variety of reasons. It is well written and well researched and makes a series of good points. The most interesting point to me was about identity. Kenan Malik’s own background is as a left-wing activist and campaigner. This book is all about the fatwa which came out against Salman Rushdie after he wrote his book The Satanic Verses in 1988. (Source)

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The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent is the unsurpassed ancestor of a long series of twentieth-century novels and films which explore the confused motives that lie at the heart of political terrorism. In its use of powerful psychological insight to intensify narrative suspense, it set the terms by which subsequent works in its genre were created. Conrad was the first novelist to discover the strange in-between territory of the political exile, and his genius was such that we still have no truer map of that region's moral terrain than his story of a terrorist plot and its tragic consequences for the guilty... more

Jason BurkeBasically, anything you want to know about how terrorism works you can find in this book. It is not necessarily about who is behind terrorism because in this book it is a shadowy foreign state that wants an agent provocateur in London to explode Greenwich Observatory to make a point. (Source)

Iain SinclairThere are lots of reasons I’m very fond of Conrad as a writer. I like visions of London that come translated or diffused or refracted through other cultures. In that way, I suppose, I like this book in the same way I like my first choice, the Céline. Coming here out of his Polish background, Conrad picked up on the elements you were talking about in terms of Dickens — the city as a labyrinth of... (Source)

Jessica SternYes, I thought I was being clever and unique and didn’t realise so many other people had made the connection. The book is based on an incident that actually did occur when an anarchist tried to blow up the Royal Observatory. In the novel, a group of hapless anarchists are trying to incite a rebellion. Their main concern is that British society is too liberal and they want to demonstrate that this... (Source)

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هذا الكتاب عبارة عن أطروحة دكتوراه مترجمة للباحث النرويجي توماس هيغهامر، الذي قضى أعواماً يطارد تفاصيل الحالة الجهادية بالسعودية، منذ نشأتها، وتكوّنها، وروافدها الفكرية، ثم تصاعد المواجهات، وانتقالها للسعودية.

الكتاب يدور حول موضوع في غاية الحساسية والتشعّب، ولا يمكن لعمل بحثي بسيط الإلمام بتفاصيله، إلا أن هذا الكتاب جمع أطرافه بشكل مُبهر، حيث حوى كل التفاصيل التي نعرفها والتي لا نعرفها عن كل ما فعله تنظيم القاعدة في جزيرة العرب منذ ما قبل 11 سبتمبر وحتى نهاية 2009م.

بدأ الباحث بالحديث عن أفغانستان التي مثلت مهد تشكل الحالة الجهادية، كيف سافر السعوديون إلى أفغانستان،...
Recommended by Jason Burke, and 1 others.

Jason BurkeYes, I have chosen it because it is a very, very good example of the sort of books you need if you are working in this field. It is meticulous, it is neutral, it is detailed and it is written with one sole aim in mind, which is to tell people what is happening, what has happened and why it has happened, in terms of radical Muslims and Islamic militants in a key country. (Source)

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The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were carried out by men steeped in a certain Islamic ideology, which has come to be called Islamism. In A Fury for God, Malise Ruthven first reconstructs the events of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan. He traces the role of the idea of "jihad" and examines the permissibility of suicide in Islam, and reconstructs the world view of Islamist intellectuals like Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian thinker who has influenced an entire generation of radicals in the Arab world, notably Osama bin Laden. He also shows that it would be a mistake to... more
Recommended by Jason Burke, and 1 others.

Jason BurkeMalise Ruthven is one of the grand writers on the Islamic world and on Islam. He also wrote The Islamic World, which is a classic, and I was thinking about choosing that. But A Fury for God is a book that I learnt an awful lot from. Often with books it is what they bring to you. What Ruthven was saying in 2002 immediately after 9/11 has been said and re-said many times since. I read this book in... (Source)

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The Trail of Political Islam

The late twentieth century has witnessed the emergence of an unexpected and extraordinary phenomenon: Islamist political movements. Beginning in the early 1970s, militants revolted against the regimes in power throughout the Muslim world and exacerbated political conflicts everywhere. Their jihad, or "Holy Struggle," aimed to establish a global Islamic state based solely on a strict interpretation of the Koran. Religious ideology proved a cohesive force, gathering followers ranging from students and the young urban poor to middle-class professionals.After an initial triumph with the Islamic... more
Recommended by Jason Burke, Turi Munthe, and 2 others.

Jason BurkeKepel is one of the best-known French experts on Islamic militancy. And the French, for a variety of reasons, have produced much of the best analysis of Islamic militancy over the years, pre- and post-9/11. It is partly due to their own history and partly due to their interest in social sciences. It is also partly due to government investment very early on. (Source)

Turi MuntheGilles Kepel is another brilliant French academic who again demonstrates the excellent sociological work of the French in this area. The idea behind this book was to explain where and how the ideas of Jihad originated. Kepel deals with a shorter sweep of history than Roy but gives an excellent overview of the movements that created political Islam. He is particularly interesting from late 1970s... (Source)

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