Ahram Online's top 10 books of 2017

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 31 Dec 2017

As the year comes to a close, Ahram Online takes a look back at the 10 best Egypt-related reads of all genres.

Top 10 books of 2017

The past year was a good one for books on Egyptian and Middle Eastern themes. From the cuisine of the Coptic community to a graphic history of the region over the past three decades, there has been plenty to keep the avid reader amused.

There's also been some gripping fiction, reliving the 25 January revolution through the eyes of two young Egyptians on the barricades.

So, for those who missed all the literary excitement, here's your chance to catch up on some reading.

1.) Biography in Exile (Al-Sira Fil Manfa), Bahaa Taher (Cairo: Dar Bardeya), 2017.

This year has also seen the publication of the autobiography of Egypt's award-wining novelist Bahaa Taher. He takes the reader into his daily routine, shares his memories and details his personal journey as a writer.

The book gives new insight on Taher's life, even inviting readers to his living room to reveal what he reads – and moreover, how he reads.

2.) The Rise of the Rich (Sooud Ahl Alnefouz), by Peter Gran, translated by Sahar Tewfik (Cairo: NCT), 2017.

The National Center for Translation published the Arabic translation of America historian Peter Gran's book The Rise of the Rich. The book attempts to form a new and inclusive paradigm for understanding history, moving away from Eurocentric narratives that focus on the history of the West.

Gran believes that reading the history of other nations through a primarily Western paradigm marginalized the people of non-Western nations, even deeming them "people without history in some cases".

3.) The Impossible Revolution (Al-Thawra Al-Mostahila), by Yassin Al-Haj Saleh (Hurst: London), 2017. 256pp.

Yassin Al-Haj Saleh's book The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy is definitely one of the best books of 2017. The Syrian thinker recounts the devastating impact of the tyrannical rule of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his family.

The book comprises an introduction and other materials written between 2011 and 2016, with a foreword by Robin Yassin-Kassab. The author describes with detail and fervor the events that led to the uprising of 2011, the metamorphosis of the popular revolution into a regional war, and the “three monsters” Saleh sees as “treading on Syria’s corpse”: the Assad regime and its allies; ISIS and other jihadists; and the West.

The Arabic-language edition was published by the Arab Institution for Research and Publishing, with this English translation released by Hurst.

4.) My Journey to the Opening of the Suez Canal (Khayalat El-Sharq: Rehlaty Ela Eftettah Kanat El-Sewiss), by Eça de Queirós, translated by El-Sayed Mohamed Wassel (Cairo: Al-Arabi Publishing House), 2017. 294pp.

This book by Portuguese traveller and writer Eça de Queirós, published posthumously under the title O Egipto (Egypt), is a very important historical document on life in Egypt between 1869 and 1870.

Eça de Queirós (1845–1900) visited Egypt as a journalist to cover the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal, which he documents in his book alongside notes on life in Egypt at that time.

5.) The City Always Wins, by Omar Robert Hamilton (London: Faber), 2017. 336pp.

This novel by British-Egyptian writer and filmmaker Omar Robert Hamilton is set during the 25 January revolution. It gives an account of the revolution from the triumphant ouster of President Hosni Mubarak to the events at Maspero in October 2011.

This gripping period of recent history is seen through the eyes of Khalil and Mariam, two people whose ideals and relationship are tested by events.

6.) My Testimony (Ketabiyah), Part One, by Amr Moussa (Cairo: Dar Al-Shorouk), 2017. 700pp

The memoirs of Egypt's former Minister of Foreign Affairs Amr Moussa have stirred controversy since their publication last September.

The story of one of Egypt's most prestigious foreign ministers starts with his birth and childhood and ends with him leaving his office at the lotus-shaped building on the banks on the Nile that housed his ministry for 10 years.

7.) Interpreting Art and Religion (Tawil Al-Fan Wal Deen), by Said Tewfik (Cairo: Al-Dar Al-Masriah Al-Lubnaniah), 2017.

This book challenges the common perception that art and religion occupy separate worlds in the human consciousness. Said Tewfik, a philosophy professor at Cairo University, reveals the links between the two, diving deep into a philosophical, hermeneutical and historical understanding of that relationship.

8.) Food for the Copts (Ghiza' Lil Qibti), by Charles Akl (Cairo: Kotob Khan), 2017, 300pp.

Writer Charles Akl gives his readers an account of Coptic fasting, including some cultural and religious context and lots of recipes.

The book covers the 200-plus days during which Copts traditionally follow vegetarian and vegan diets, including over Christmas and Easter.

Akl gives an insight into the typical Coptic kitchen, building his chapters around the various times of the year.

9.) A'da' Hamimoun (Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations), Part Two, by Jean-Pierre Filiu, translated by Ahmad Gharbieh and Reem Naguib (Cairo: Dar AlTanweer) 2017.

Part two of Middle East expert Jean-Pierre Filiu's three-part graphic history of the region was published in Arabic this year.

This second part begins in the 1950s with the Eisenhower Doctrine and ends with the fallout from the suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut. Illustrations are provided by David B.

10.) Dissecting the Defeat (Tashrih Al-Hazima), by multiple authors (Cairo: Dar Al-Maraya), 2017. 199pp.

This important book was published in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war. The authors examine the various reasons for Egypt's defeat in the war, arguing that the impact of the defeat is still being felt.

The authors – Belal Alaa, Sameh Naguib, Mohamed El-Aagati, Mostafa Abdel-Zaher and historian Khaled Fahm – deal with the defeat as a formative event of the current era, and not just a long-past historical fact.

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