Reading List

Travel guide books on Iran

  • Lonley Planet
  • Bradt guide author
  • Odyssey guides: Iran

Religion, history and literature:

  • Mary Boyce Zoroastrians, Their Religious Beliefs & Practices
  • Malise Ruthven Islam in the World – Discusses Islam in the modern world
  • N Keddie Iran: Religion, Politics & Society
  • John Simpson Behind Iranian Lines – An account of life after the Islamic Revolution
  • John Simpson & Tira Shubart Lifting the veil – Explores post-revolutionary Iran
  • Peter Frankopan The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Travellers’ Accounts:

  • Isabella L. Bird Journeys in Persia & Kurdistan
  • Sir John (Jean) Chardin Travels in Persia
  • Robert Byron The Road to Oxiana – A diary of a slow passage from England to Afghanistan including lengthy jaunts through Iran
  • Danziger’s Travels Beyond Foreign Frontiers – Nick Danziger’s account of his travels from Turkey to Hong Kong (including Iran)
  • Freya Stark Beyond Euphrates and Valleys of the Assasins
  • Colin Thrubon Shadow of the Silk Road


  • John Curtis Ancient Iran – An introduction to pre-Islamic archaeology in Iran
  • D T Potts The Archaeology of Elam – Examines Elamite region & civilisation up to 4th century CE
  • Time-Life’s Publication The Persians: Masters of Empire

Islamic Art and Architecture:

  • Barbara Brend Islamic Art
  • R W Ferrier Arts of Persia
  • Robert Hillenbrand Islamic Architecture: Form and function
  • Wilfred Blunt Isfahan: Pearl of Persia (Elek)
  • Penelope Hobhouse Gardens of Persia (Cassell)
  • Porter & Thevenart Palaces & Gardens of Persia (Flammarion)


  • Hans E Wulff Traditional Crafts of Persia – Traces the history and technology of the major crafts including agricultural implements and building skills, as well as ceramics and bread making.
  • A C Edwards The Persian Carpet
  • Patricia L. Baker Islamic Textiles
  • A Hull and N Barnard Persian Kilims


  • Sattareh F Farmaran Daughter of Persia
  • Terence O’Donnell Garden of the Brave in War

Travel writing & Memoirs:

  • Hooman Majd The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran An invaluable guide to contemporary Iranian life and culture.
  • Jason Elliot Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran, Jason Elliot Following in the footsteps of Robert Byron, Jason Elliot paints a vivid picture of Iran & its people: “A work of profound thought, imagination, passion and ambition”, Sara Wheeler, Guardian.
  • Shusha Guppy TheBlindfold Horse: Memories of a Persian Childhood, Shusha Guppy An enchanting account of growing up in Persia before the revolution: “It conveys a sense of the country and its customs, which reveal better than most documents, the nature of the crisis which Iran is still enduring”, William Shawcross, Sunday Times.
  • Gertrude Bell Persian Pictures: From the Mountains to the Sea, Gertrude Bell Explorer Gertrude Bell travelled through Persia in 1892 & this was her 1st published work, providing a fascinating insight into her impressions of Persian history and culture.
  • Kamin Mohammadi Cypress Tree tells the story of modern Iran through the eyes of three generations of Iranian women.
  • Marjan Satrapi Persepolis, the Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2, the Story of a Return, uses the form of the graphic novel to describe life in Iran pre & post revolution through her child’s eyes. Magnificent, moving & highly original.
  • Ramita Navai City of Lies Rich, absorbing, and exotic—City of Lies travels up and down Vali Asr Street, Tehran’s pulsing thoroughfare, from the lavish shopping malls of Tajrish through the smog that lingers over the alleyways and bazaars of the city’s southern districts.


  • Nikki R Keddie Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, Reviews recent developments in Iran since 2003.
  • Shirin Ibadi Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope This book is a “powerful condemnation of the dictatorship of the Ayatollahs, recounting the suffering of those whom Ebadi represented”.
  • James Buchan Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and its consequences He is a Persian scholar & a former foreign correspondent: “the best book on Iran I have ever read”, Sunday Times.
  • Michael Axworthy Iran Empire of the Mind An excellent history of Iran and the challenges it faces.
  • Christopher de Bellaigue In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs A superb insider’s account of Iran and its people.
  • Ryszard Kapuscinski Shah of Shahs Travel writer and war correspondent Kapuscinski describes the final years of the Shah.
  • Roy Mottahedeh TheMantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran Kamin Mohammadi describes this book as “a must-read for anyone interested not just in Ayatollah Khomeini, the roots of the revolution and the origins of the Islamic Republic, but for fans of a good novel too – it’s written as compellingly as a good thriller”.
  • Stephen Kinzer All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup & the Roots of Middle East Terror Kinzer’s account of the CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953 makes vital reading for anyone interested in the roots of the revolution.

Further Reading

• Roloff Beny – Persia: Bridge of Turquoise
• Tom Holland – Persian Fire
• Brent Landau – Revelation of the Magi
• Bernard Lewis – The Middle East
• Azar Nafisi – Reading Lolita in Iran
• David Rohl – Civilisation
• Paul William Robert – Journey of the Magi
• Shaykh Fadhalla Haeri – The elements of Islam
• Michael Wood – In the path of Alexander the Great
• Maria O’Shea Culture Shock – Iran: a Guide to Customs & Etiquette
• J Boyle Persia: History and Heritage – An overview of Iranian history, carpets,
• David Blow Persia through writers’ eyes, 2007
• Azadeh Moaveni Lipstick Jihad
• William Beeman The Great Satan and the Mad Mullahs

External links