Middle Eastern literature comprises various genres that have matured greatly due to internal and external forces. The literature is also primarily about Turkish, Persian, and Arabic influences.

The themes discussed will often tend to mainly include the effects of war, family life, ethnic differences, education, women, and relations with other nations.

Below are our top novel picks to help you familiarize yourself.


A Pacific Love, by Serag Monier

A Pacific Love is a fantasy read telling a tale about true love that triumphs beyond limits. The novel will give you hope, encourage you to be brave, and give you a reason to be grateful every day.

It follows Arwa’s journey as she lives as a Human Resources taskmaster and dreams about finding her husband. When she meets Kamal, he rushes her into a romantic affair and eventual marriage despite her reservations.

Kamal wants the marriage to remain a secret for about a year or more. Meanwhile, Arwa thinks this is suspicious. She will, however cave in when her family and friends grow in favor of their marriage.

The novel also follows Ziad, an assertive young dolphin who learns how to hunt. He thinks that humans are self-serving, greedy, and dangerous. Ziad aspires to become part of elite hunters even after his mother warns that high-level hunting is risky.

Arwa and Ziad will both get frustrated, but they will be focused to stay happy. They will go to a magical island, and the trip will completely transform their lives.


Immodest, by L.S Einat

This is a story about a young woman's courage and how she chooses to respect her heart without giving up. Her journey will, however, come with a considerable price she must pay.

Perele is part of a world governed by strict laws and traditions, but she is ready to risk it all for her freedom. She is Jewish and was brought up in a radical Ultra-orthodox society.

When she is eighteen but with a match for her being impossible to find, that’s when her tribulations will begin. She is thrown into the arms of a ferocious man who makes her life difficult and intolerable.

A forbidden opportunity will lead her to a man, and feelings will develop, making her question all she has ever known. She even considers that she probably doesn’t have to settle for the life thrust upon her.

Perele, however, knows that the moment she makes a drastic decision, she will never be able to go back and be accepted by her Jewish community.


Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal El Saadawi

Woman at Point Zero is a must-read for global feminists. It will help you take a different look at how people stuck in impossible situations can still get to retain their dignity and self-control.

All the men that Firdau got to know gave her one desire; to lift her hand and bring it down for a face smash. That is where her story of rebellion began. She lived in a patriarchal society founded on deceit, hypocrisy, oppression, and brutality.

Firdau was also born and brought up in an Egyptian countryside peasant family. In the novel, you will see her struggle throughout her childhood. She will seek compassion and knowledge in a world that was not ready to give her the slightest of either.

Firdau’s journey will become an eye-opener even as she grows and escapes her childhood restraints.

Every relationship she encounters will only teach her a bitter truth but one that will be liberating for her- that the really free people are the ones who seek nothing, are fearless, and have no hope for anything.


The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali

Roya is a teenager, an idealist, and a dreamer. She lives amid a Tehran political upheaval. However, she finds a literary spot in Mr. Fakhri’s stationery shop.

Mr. Fakhri, who has a keen instinct for a developing romance, will then introduce Roya to Bahman, another of his favorite customers. Bahman has a great passion for justice, and Roya will lose her heart to him at once.

Their love will blossom, and the stationery shop will remain their favorite place.

Months later, during their marriage eve, Roya agrees to meet with Bahman at the town square, but Bahman won't show up. There, violence will erupt following a coup d’état that will completely change the country’s future.

Roya will desperately try to contact Bahman with no success. She will move on with a sorrowful heart to a California college, then to a different man, and a new life in New England. That’s until an accident of fate lets her meet with Bahman for some answers.


The Architect’s Apprentice, by Elif Shafak

The Architect’s Apprentice mirrors power, creativity, artistic freedom, and the conflict between fundamentalism and science. It also paints a picture of a secretive city by bringing to life sixteenth-century Istanbul.

It is 1540, and twelve-year-old Jahan gets to Istanbul, a foreign land. There, he will become a mahout to Chota, a white elephant that ends up in the Ottoman Sultan’s palace. Jahan will also become Mimar Sinan’s apprentice after palace education.

Mimar is an Ottoman architect who built many fine buildings globally and the empire’s chief architect.

At the Sultan’s menagerie, Jahan will befriend Chota, befriend and fall for the Sultan’s daughter, Princess Mihrimah, who is very mischievous. Mimar and Jahan will build magnificent buildings and masterpieces with Chota’s help.

However, all that seems glamorous has a dark counterpart, a lesson Jahan will learn gradually. Dangerous undercurrents will spring up, and jealousy will emerge among Mimar’s apprentices. Jahan will meet with false friends and deceitful courtiers. But through it all, he will rise from nothing to fortune.


Take What You Can Carry, by Gian Sardar

This novel is about a photographer who chooses to face her fears and follow her dreams amid the chaotic Kurdistan war.

The year is 1979, and Olivia Murray, a Los Angeles newspaper journalist, is resolved to become a photojournalist and for her work to make a difference. When the opportunity comes, she grasps it.

She accompanies her boyfriend Delan, and they head to Northern Iraq to attend a family wedding. Olivia hopes she will capture a picture that will land her a job in the photo department. But more importantly, this trip is also an opportunity for her to make out Delan’s younger life and bridge their past differences.

Their return will prove less safe, and Olivia will face an unexpected reality and be awakened to the town’s dangers. The Iraqi military is on patrol due to an imposed curfew and threats.

The world torn by war will test their lives. When Olivia gets a shot of a shattering and tragic film moment, their lives will be upended, proving that an open heart initiates true bravery.


Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi

Frankenstein in Baghdad is an imaginative satire about Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein, and Baghdad is in the early years of American occupation.

In 2005 Bataween district inhabitants struggle to keep their bodies and souls together amid the chaos, terror, and violence that reign supreme. Casualties are also mounting up every hour.

Meanwhile, Hadi, a junk dealer, collects and sews together unclaimed victim body parts. His hope and goal, as he claims, are to give them a proper burial by bringing the bodies to the government’s attention.

But one day, the corpse he is sewing will go missing. Another bombing fatality will reanimate the Frankenstein-like organ patchwork with reports that there is a criminal who can be shot but is impossible to kill.

An old lady will then give the corpse a purpose- avenging various victims that make up the body before it rots. It will dawn on Hadi that he has created a monster, who will only survive on human flesh.


Salt Houses, by Hala Alyan

This novel provides an interesting perspective about the Palestinian diaspora and paints a picture of the emotional toll those who move from country to country have to face.

It will have you look keenly at the home’s concept and ask yourself where home is really after war displacement and constant upheaval.

The story uses three different generations and experiences of a Palestinian family with Alia as the protagonist.

On the eve of Alia’s wedding, her mother Salma sees her unsettled life, travel, and luck. However, she will keep her predictions to herself, and all will later come to pass.

Alia will move to Kuwait and start a new life with her husband. That’s until Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. They then will have to move spreading apart to Boston, Paris, and Beirut.

When Alia’s grandchildren are born, the different family units navigate the blessings and burdens of assimilating into new cities.

Conclusion

Literature of the Middle East is an exciting genre, and it will help you understand the region and its people more. It offers indispensable insights into their culture, ideas, diversity, and history to better understand and tolerate the regions.

If you are not acquainted with this literature, and you are looking for novels favored by women, check out our latest chick lit books.