NEW YORK TIMES
March 25, 2003Iraq: A Reading List
This list includes books about Iraq, the 1991 war and recent events in the Persian Gulf. The books are linked to their original New York Times reviews. The books are arranged in order of date, beginning with the most recent. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
By ANTHONY SWOFFORD
Out of the 1991 war against Iraq comes Anthony Swofford, a Marine sniper, to say in his book that he had a ball.Saddam: King of Terror
By CON COUGHLIN
The journalist Con Coughlin's account of Saddam Hussein's career is a swift, grisly read, but it's light on analysis, especially about Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda.The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq
By KENNETH M. POLLACK
An experienced analyst sees no realistic alternative to removing Saddam Hussein, and not on the cheap either.The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein
By SANDRA MACKEY
Sandra Mackey has written an accessible history of a country made by Britain, broken by nationalists, taken by a dictator, beaten in war, still rolling along.Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein's War Against America
By LAURIE MYLROIE
Saddam Hussein, argues Laurie Mylroie, driven by a desire for revenge following the gulf war, is the single greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Saddam's Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda
By KHIDHIR HAMZA with JEFF STEIN
A physicist who defected describes Saddam Hussein's quest for the bomb. The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security
By RICHARD BUTLER
The executive director of the Unscom mission describes its failure and the larger implications. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein
By ANDREW COCKBURN and PATRICK COCKBURN
This sober yet intrigue-filled book by Irish-born brothers and veteran Middle East journalists asks how Saddam Hussein has consistently defied predictions of demise. Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem -- Once and for All
By SCOTT RITTER
A former arms inspector in Iraq reports on the mission's failure. A World Transformed
By GEORGE BUSH and BRENT SCOWCROFT
This book by the first President Bush and his national security adviser deals with the four major foreign policy challenges that they confronted. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History
By SUSAN MEISELAS
A profusely illustrated book on the Kurds serves as the family album of a stateless people.
After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness? My Encounters With Kurdistan
By JONATHAN C. RANDAL
A reporter has spent 30 years trying to understand one of the Middle East's most enigmatic minorities. A Modern History of the Kurds
By DAVID McDOWALL
David McDowall tries to account for the extraordinary failure of the Kurds to build a national movement that succeeded in bringing them security.My American Journey
By COLIN L. POWELL with JOSEPH E. PERSICO
Genial and moderate, Colin L. Powell remains, even after more than 600 pages, maddeningly elusive.
The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (1995)
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and BERNARD E. TRAINOR
The chief Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times a retired Marine Corps general have joined forces to provide the "inside story" of the allied side of the first gulf war.
Live From the Battlefield. From Vietnam to Baghdad: 35 Years in the World's War Zones (1994)
By PETER ARNETT
Peter Arnett has constructed an engrossing memoir of reporters and war, lean and clear in its narrative, rich in anecdote, redolent in its description.
Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World (1993)
By KANAN MAKIYA
A prominent Iraqi dissident has written provocative book on the savagery of Saddam Hussein's regime and the wider failings of Arab political culture.
A Woman at War: Storming Kuwait With the U.S. Marines (1993)
By MOLLY MOORE
Anyone who ever wanted a front-row seat in a war theater will find it in Molly Moore's tense first-person chronology of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
It Doesn't Take a Hero (1992)
By Gen. H. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, written with PETER PETRE
A first draft of history, a serviceable but incomplete story of a complex coalition war by a professional soldier, a Patton with a conscience.
Live From Baghdad: Gathering News at Ground Zero (1992)
By ROBERT WIENER
CNN's former executive producer in Baghdad gives us a candid memoir, hammered out in picaresque detail, of the organized hysteria of television news coverage in Baghdad.
In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf (1991)
By ROGER COHEN and CLAUDIO GATTI
This book by two journalists aims to chronicle the life story of the world's most popular general and much else besides.
The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (1991)
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
A reporter for The Times has written a popular history of the Iraqi state, the rise to power and methods of control of Saddam Hussein and the relations between the United States and Iraq.
The Commanders (1991)
By BOB WOODWARD
Bob Woodward provides some of the first tantalizing glimpses of the first President Bush's war councils.
Baghdad Without a Map: And Other Misadventures in Arabia (1991)
By TONY HORWITZ
Out of his wacky, often hair-raising, experiences as a Middle Eastern correspondent, Tony Horwitz has fashioned a very funny and frequently insightful look at the world's most combustible region.
Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf (1990)
By JUDITH MILLER and LAURIE MYLROIE
The authors document how Saddam Hussein used the state's instruments of repression to destroy utterly his internal rivals while imposing a reign of terror on the entire country.
Republic of Fear: The Inside Story of Saddam's Iraq (1990)
By SAMIR AL-KHALIL
Samir al-Khalil's study of Iraqi politics is definitely required reading for anyone with a serious interest in Iraq or in the political dynamics of dictatorship.
GUEST REVIEWTHE BLACK BOOK by Ian Rankin:
Labeled the "king of tartan noir" by James Ellroy, Rankin is the hottest British crime writer on the scene. He pounds out a slick plot and compelling and intense characters, and his dark and moody series with Inspector John Rebus has gained him solid reviews from the critics and a host of satisfied readers. Rankin's BLACK BOOK, published in 1993, continues the successful Rebus series. Rebus's girlfriend has kicked him out of her house and he can't go back to his place because he has rented it to a group of college students. He hates his job, his drug dealing brother is looking for a place to stay, and the tax people are hinting that he has undeclared income from renting his flat. Amidst the ruins of his personal life, he learns that his friend has been beaten into a coma. An investigation leads back to a mysterious fire that brought down a seedy Edinburgh hotel five years earlier and an unidentified body found in the ashes. And now, thrown from the force for using desperate measures, Rebus doggedly pursues a truth that nobody wants revealed.
James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler are two of Rankin's favorite authors, and their influence is reflected in his writing. THE BLACK BOOK parallels much of Ellroy's work with an oppressive darkness cast by an all-consuming blanket of corruption, crime, and graft. There is a sense of the world gone terribly wrong. But whereas in Ellroy's work the degeneracy generally touches everyone and everything, Rebus is the unflinching and noble knight in tarnished armor, a modern day protégé to Chandler's Marlowe. Rankin has done a fine job of breathing new life into the old cliché of the lone crusader struggling against the world in order to expose the truth and invoke justice.
Chandler was noted for his superb ability to use descriptive scenes from the city to complement the mood of the story, and Rankin's ability to evoke Edinburgh is strongly reminiscent of Chandler's portrayal of Los Angeles. A quote from the Sunday Telegraph notes this: "Rankin captures like no one else, that strangeness that is Scotland at the end of the twentieth century." Rankin spoke on the appropriateness of Edinburgh:
"Edinburgh is the perfect setting for crime writing. It has a split personality - on the one hand it is the city of history and museums and royalty, but at the same time there is this feeling that behind the thick walls of those Georgian townhouses there are all sorts of terrible things happening."
It is a testament to Rankin's writing skills that he can pull off the grim and dark atmosphere while avoiding graphic and gory descriptions. Rankin's comment on this is: "I don't think you need to be graphic. In fact, I feel graphic violence is both lazy and salacious. You can allude to horror without sticking people's noses in it." Although an aversion to graphic scenes is a common attitude with many authors, it is not universal. Other authors, such as Derek Raymond and Joe Gores, have no qualms about using explicit violence, blood, and gore. Some, seeing the dark and brooding world that Rebus inhabits, would perhaps sense irony in Rankin's hesitance to depict the ugly scenes that must necessarily be a part of the detective's daily life.
Ian Rankin, born in the Scottish town of Cardenden in 1960, has been a dedicated writer since he was 12 years old and wrote his own comic books and lyrics for an imaginary rock band. The lyrics were later morphed into prize winning poetry. At the University of Edinburgh he turned to short stories and continued to win awards. After obtaining an MA in English Literature, specializing in U.S. Literature, and while supposedly working towards a doctorate on the modern Scottish Novel from 1983 to 1986, he churned out three novels. The first one remains unpublished, but the second one was published in 1986 as THE FLOOD.
The third one, published in 1987, is KNOTS AND CROSSES, and is the first in the popular Inspector John Rebus series. It's interesting to note that he did not consider KNOTS AND CROSSES a crime novel until he found the book in the mystery section of a bookstore and the Crime Writers' Association asked him if he wanted to join. At the time he wrote the book he was heavily into the literary theory of semiotics and deconstruction and he saw literature as being a puzzle or game between the reader and the author, but not a mystery. The book was not well-received and Rankin abandoned Rebus to write THE WATCHMAN (1990), a spy novel.
He married in 1986 and moved to London, where his wife worked as a civil servant and Ian worked his way up in the well-known magazine Hi-Fi Review. Ian continued to write in his spare time, shuffling through the various genres like a deck of cards. He moved to France for a while but has since moved back to Edinburgh. He eventually worked his way back to the Rebus character, and has now produced over ten in the series.
In 1992 Rankin won the Chandler-Fulbright Award, a prestigious prize for detective fiction funded by Raymond Chandler's estate. He came to the United States to accept the award and travelled over 14,000 in an old Volkswagon bus, visiting Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and New York City. In 1997 he won the Gold Dagger for his highly-praised novel BLACK AND BLUE, and in 1999 eight of the top ten Scottish bestsellers were his.
This review contributed by Michael Robison, AKA miker zspider, who is a contributing member of the 4MA group on Yahoo.