Books of the Year

From Piketty’s trumpet-blast to the great deeds of medieval saints, ten leading historians tell us about their best reads from 2014.

‘An Outdoor  Literary Salon’, French 19th- century illustration.

Michael Burleigh

Justin Marozzi is both a courageous traveller and a fine historian, with an in-depth knowledge of Arabic culture. His Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood (Allen Lane) reflects these qualities in an estimable fashion. Starting with Caliph Mansur in the eighth century and ending with the recently ousted Nouri al-Maliki government, Marozzi describes 13 centuries of the history of this remarkable city without succumbing to the tyranny of a present in which the Iraqi capital is besieged by the genocidal nihilists of ISIS and subjected to daily sectarian suicide bombings. The various books by Toby Dodge on Iraqi politics also deserve an honourable mention in this context, though he lacks Marozzi’s gifts as a storyteller.

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