Inside the Kingdom by Robert Lacey

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Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox: it sits atop some of the richest oil deposits in the world, and yet the country’s roiling disaffection produced sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. It is a modern state, driven by contemporary technology, and yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs and practices rolled back to match those of the Prophet Muhammed over a thousand years ago. In a world where events in the Middle East continue to have geopolitical consequences far beyond the region’s boundaries, an understanding of this complex nation is essential.
With Inside the Kingdom, British journalist and bestselling author Robert Lacey has given us one of the most penetrating and insightful looks at Saudi Arabia ever produced. More than twenty years after he first moved to the country to write about the Saudis at the end of the oil boom, Lacey has returned to find out how the consequences of the boom produced a society at war with itself.
Filled with stories told by a broad range of Saudis, from high princes and ambassadors to men and women on the street, Inside the Kingdom is in many ways the story of the Saudis in their own words.

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It’s Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong

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A gripping account of both an individual caught on the horns of an excruciating moral dilemma and a continent at a turning point. When Michela Wrong’s Kenyan friend John Githongo appeared one cold February morning on the doorstep of her London flat, carrying a small mountain of luggage, it was clear something had gone very wrong in a country regarded until then as one of Africa’s few budding success stories. Two years earlier, in the wave of euphoria that followed the election defeat of long-serving President Daniel arap Moi, John had been appointed Kenya’s new anti-corruption czar. In choosing this giant of a man, respected as a longstanding anti-corruption crusader, the new government was signalling that it was set on ending the practices that had made Kenya an international by-word for sleaze. Now John was on the run, having realised that the new administration, far from breaking with the past, was using near-identical techniques to pilfer public funds. John’s tale, which has all the elements of a political thriller, is the story of how a brave man came to make a lonely decision with huge ramifications. But his story transcends the personal, touching as it does on the cultural, historical and social themes that lie at the heart of the continent’s continuing crisis. Tracking this story of an African whistleblower, Michela Wrong seeks answers to the questions that have puzzled outsiders for decades. What is it about African society that makes corruption so hard to eradicate, so sweeping in its scope, so destructive in its impact? Why have so many African presidents found it so easy to reduce all political discussion to the self-serving calculation of which tribe gets to ‘eat’? And at what stage will Africans start placing the wider interests of their nation ahead of the narrow interests of their tribe?

Getting To Know The General: The Story Of An Involvement by Graham Greene

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In August 1981 my bag was packed for my fifth visit to Panama when the news came to me over the telephone of the death of General Omar Torrijos Herrera, my friend and host. . . At that moment the idea came to me to write a short personal memoir. . . of a man I had grown to love over those five years’ GETTING TO KNOW THE GENERAL is Graham Greene’s account of a five-year personal involvement with Omar Torrijos, ruler of Panama from 1968-81 and Sergeant Chuchu, one of the few men in the National Guard whom the General trusted completely. It is a fascinating tribute to an inspirational politician in the vital period of his country’s history, and to an unusual and enduring friendship.

Fast Times In Palestine by Pamela J. Olson

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Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.
With dizzying speed she finds herself attending Yasser Arafat’s funeral, sharing a holiday dinner with a suicide bomber’s family, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative Muslim village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip.
The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and social and political upheavals but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in a Hamas village, from rooftop parties in Ramallah to militant rallies in Nablus, the book is packed with suspense, humor, and unforgettable characters. Its seamless blend of travelogue, memoir, and narrative journalism ramps the average American up to a sophisticated, multi-faceted understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but albout human nature and our place in the world.
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An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind Hotel Rwanda by Paul Rusesabagina

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‘I still don’t understand why those men in the militias didn’t just put a bullet in my head and execute every last person in the rooms upstairs but they didn’t. I survived to tell the story, along with those I sheltered. There was nothing particularly heroic about it…’ Paul Rusesabagina was an ordinary man – a quiet manager of a luxury hotel in Rwanda. But on 6 April 1994 mobs with machetes turned into cold-blooded murderers, and commenced a slaughter of 800,000 civilians in just 100 days. Rusesabagina, with incredible courage, saved the lives of 1,200 people. In this powerfully moving autobiography Rusesabagina tells his story and explores the complexity of Rwanda’s history and the insanity that turned neighbours and friends into killers.
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The Dark Heart Of Italy by Tobias Jones

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Tobias Jones’ remarkable book essential reading for Italy enthusiasts: The Dark Heart of Italy (subtitled Travels Through Time and Space across Italy) is unlike any book on the country you may have read before. It is not a guide to Italy’s art, or her geographical splendours. Nor is it a guide to her amazing cuisine. And it is not an examination of the Italian character. It does, however, contain elements of all of these and much more. When the author emigrated to Italy in 1999, he expected the customary ravishing of the senses that Italy usually provides. But, looking beneath the surface, Jones was astonished to encounter surprising undercurrents, among them national paranoia and the crippling fear inspired by terrorists (the Italian parliament, it seems, has a ‘Slaughter Commission’).
This is, of course, the country of Silvio Berlusconi, the tycoon whose controversial election via his stranglehold on the media was (to British eyes at least) something that should not be countenanced in a non-totalitarian country. While always taking on board the glories of Italy, Jones’ picture of the country is both fascinating and disturbing: this is a land torn apart by civil wars and endemic corruption, the still influential Cosa Nostra and unbending Catholicism exert considerable sway.
Italy remains utterly unlike any of its European neighbours. Jones sees links between the powerful creativity of the Italian soul and the ‘dark heart’ that he refers to in his title. What is most remarkable about the book is the fact that no one who loves Italy will be at all disenchanted to encounter the truths that Jones presents to us.
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Open Veins Of Latin America: Five Centuries Of The Pillage Of A Continent by Eduardo Galeano

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Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx. Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe. Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.
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