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Publisher's Summary

Despite the turmoil of Arab nationalism and fundamentalism, Middle Eastern wars, and oil crises, the history of the Arab world has been little known and poorly understood in the West. One reason may be that, for more than half a century, there has been no up-to-date single volume work that chronicles the story of Arab civilization - until now. Albert Hourani, distinguished historian and interpreter, has written a masterwork, a panoramic view encompassing twelve centuries of Arab history and culture. He looks at all sides of this rich and venerable civilization: the beauty of the Alhambra and the great mosques, the importance attached to education, the achievements of Arab science - but also internal conflicts, wide-spread poverty, the role of women, and the contemporary Palestinian question.
(P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Tim
  • Fremont, NE, United States
  • 07-09-05

Daunting quantity of information!

You will definitely get your money's worth with this one! There is a tremendous amount of information here - a complete history of a people and a world religion.

One reason this is a good buy it that it merits more than one listen. After getting through the book once, one cannot help but gain the ability to absorb more detail on a second read.

Some of the highlights: (1) The description of the life of Muhammad, (2) The explanation of the divergence of Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, (3) The discussion of the Sufi branch of Islam (4) The rise and fall of the influence of the Islamic world over history, (5) The Ottoman empire, and (6) How the current nations of the Middle East came to be.

Although much longer, this book was light years better than "Islam: A Short Introduction".

The only downside to the book was trying to juggle all of the Middle Eastern names, which can be difficult. Although not a "downside" in the traditional sense, I did feel that the author may have shown some bias in describing some of the Arab/Israeli conflicts of the past century.

All in all - very highly recommended. Definitely something worthy of multiple listens.

59 of 61 people found this review helpful

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  • Greg
  • United States
  • 07-15-09

A People's History, not a State's

First off let me say that going into this book I did not have a really good understanding of Arab or Muslim culture. Now that I'm done I feel like I got a really good basis with which to understand these cultures.

This book doesn't explain in-depth the rise and fall of specific governments and nations, but rather details and profiles the peoples that populated them. It dives into the religious and social development in the Muslim countries. At this point I feel like I need to read a lot more books on more specific histories.

My only real critique of this book is that it's hard to keep all of the terminology straight in my head (Thank goodness for Wikipedia). It was really easy to zone out to this audiobook. The way it was written made it hard to pick back up and figure out what had been going on.

Probably the biggest plus of this book is that it doesn't feel like it's written from a western perspective. I would highly recommend this book as a good dive-in immersion experience.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Yousuf
  • Mississauga, ON, Canada
  • 06-12-07

Admirable breadth

The book offers an admirable sweep of the Arab world's history. Slightly academic in style, and thus a little dense, but, nevertheless, well worth the listen. The text offers an overall positive outlook of the Arab peoples' accomplishments through the centuries - critics may argue: "respectable, but a little too positive." Judge for yourself.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • Sonoma, Ca, United States
  • 11-24-13

Great Content, Balance, but Terrible organization

Its hard not to approach Middle East studies without one bias or another, but after finishing A Concisce History of the Middle East and other titles that appeared to (forgive my bluntness) give an Islamic fundamentalist version of events in the Arab world, I was overjoyed to hear the more balanced treatment of the subject by Mr. Hourani. For example, Mr. Hourani gives us differing versions of stories surrounding the prophet's early angelic visitation, explains why many Hadiths may not be reliable accounts of Muhammads life and explores the probable links between Sufism and Eastern monasticism. All aspects that many Middle East hitories simply ignore. More importantly, the Author's ability to tie individual life stories from all over the Muslim world into the larger historical narrative made the sory so much more personable.

While the incredible amount of information and fair perspective provided in this historical account put it far above many other availiable titles, the general organization of this book leaves much to be desired. In many chapters, the narrative without warning jumps between historical events, geographical elements, sociological analysis and philosophical discourse. I often found it almost impossible to stay involved as within 10 minutes the narrative switched from Algerian architecture to politics in Tunisia Lybia, and then morroco. This is something that A Concise history of the Middle East does much better.
Nadia May gives a generally good narration, but it seems she caught a cold sometime during the production.

In conclusion this is a book that requires several listens and probably a few other supplemental audiobooks on Middle East history to really understand. I think its worth the effort, but I wish the information was better organized.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Informative but dry and dryly read

The reader unfortunately matches the somber, dry and somewhat tedious and encyclopedic approach to the subject developed by the author. Nevertheless, the interesting and important subject and the scholarship of the author make the book worth listening to, at least until a better introduction to the subject comes along.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason
  • Sherwood, OR, United States
  • 03-22-06

Thorough but not riveting

Albert Hourani was recommended by my Arabic instructor as being reputable in both the Arab and Western Worlds. This exhaustive work is not for the casual student. You must have a keen interest in Arabic history and be willing to listen to a text book style read. I will most likely purchase the printed version to add it to my personal library. I would recommend listening to the works of Bernard Lewis first. They are much easier to digest. For a more biased, but not necessarily untrue perspective, check out the works of Robert Spencer.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Partial and limited

Mr. Hourani, does the arab peoples a disservice by placing their origen at the 7th century. A rich and distant heritage should not be ignored. This book would be more aptly titled A History of the Islamic Faith. It is shallow and without the slightest color attributed to its cover. Mostly a long disertation on lineage of leadership. Difficult to get excited about.

11 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Simple and truly informative

A grate book to give an overview view of one of the most conflicted areas of the world

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  • Mattias
  • Linkoping, Sweden
  • 12-21-17

A classic

The contents of the book is first rate. It deals with a really important subject even today, in a balanced fashion. The reader is not familiar with Arabic, which leads to a few miss pronunciations.
I really recommend this book to anyone interested in the Middle East or its culture.

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Great Book Great Narrator

Nadia May is Amazing! Hourani's book gave me a new perspective on a vital and confusing region.

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  • Samuel
  • 11-23-06

A History that should have been abridged!

This is one of the dullest most turgid works of history that I have yet come across. How many times the reader, Nadia May, must have fallen asleep I don?t know!

The author has taken out too large a canvass for his work; he lacks the judgement to distinguish the detail that may be of interest a lay audience or perhaps the nature of this work did not lend itself to any audience but an academic one?

Not for the general reader.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Asma
  • 03-25-07

Language, please!

Nadia May was a bad choice. The book which a popular one (and the topic most interesting) was made boring and even somewhat confusing. The narrator should have had a better grasp of Arabic, at the least, as there is no shortage of Arab speakers with native English language proficiency!!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick
  • 02-17-11

hourani's masterpiece

Great book, sympathetically read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • kevinsuperstar
  • 02-04-17

A good thought provoking history

The one thing I dislike about this excellent history is that it equates Arab with Muslim. This is a great read for a history of Islam and the Islamic peoples and powers. But, while it makes regular mention of non-muslims, and overviews how the groups related, the history begins with the birth of Islam. Nessisarily, a huge part of the political and cultural makeup of the region is excluded to allow a detailed discussion of Islamic history. I missed this information at several points though.

I began this book because I felt I lacked a great deal of knowledge regarding the cultural history that makes this area so important in political life today. As a lay person, it was at some points overly detailed for my needs, but it remained interesting and thought provoking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ibrahim955
  • 01-18-16

Excellent accurate Arabs history for non Muslims

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is a non Muslim. It is accurate and the facts are correct. However, the interpretation of these events and the sayings is obviously not correct as the author does not believe in the divinity of the message of Islam. So, my advice to Muslims who are interested in history, is to read original Islamic history books first and revert to this book as an additional reference. As for the non Muslims, I strongly advise them to read this book first before reading any other book on the history of Arabs and Muslims, because this book does not fake incidents or neglect others.

What did you like best about this story?

The excellent presentation of facts and the accurate narration. Also, the description of the social life, laws, and cultural differences between Muslims and Arabs was enjoyable.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Unfortunately, despite the clear voice and exact narration by the narrator, she was sort of monotonous, and sometimes she stops talking for no apparent reason!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, I did. It made me live all the history of Arabs and Islam, with changing emotions of happiness, sadness, etc. with the different events. I also enjoyed the description of our homes, food and other aspects of our life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • paul
  • 08-31-14


a bit stiff for me - little colour or added value analysis - juts a linear history read in a dour tone with author careful not to challenge any sensitivities

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Edmund
  • 11-09-12

Comprehensive, easy-to understand

This text really did cover all possible bases. I was particularly impressed with how it managed to convey a picture of life for ALL kinds of Arab peoples. In terms of the recording, the text probably doesn't translate that well to audio, which is why some negative reviews seem to have emerged. I thought, however, that the reader did a perfect job of animating complex language in a very listenable way.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful