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Recommended Reading

The Kurdistan Adventures team is just as passionate about reading as we are about travel and the Kurdistan region.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain 

We believe that the following books highlight the fascinating history of the Kurds and Kurdistan. A must for any serious visitor looking to get the most out of a visit to this hidden part of the world. 

Middle East - Iraq (Chapter) - Lonely Planet 

This is the Iraq chapter from Lonely Planet's Middle East guidebook. 

Road Through Kurdistan: Travels in Northern Iraq - A. M. Hamilton

In 1928, A.M. Hamilton travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan, having been commissioned to build a road that would stretch from Northern Iraq, through the mountains and gorges of Kurdistan and on to the Iranian border. Now called the Hamilton Road, this was, even by today's standards, a considerable feat of engineering and remains one of the most strategically important roads in the region. In this colourful and engaging account, Hamilton describes the four years he spent overcoming immense obstacles - disease, ferocious brigands, warring tribes and bureaucratic officials - to carve a path through some of the most beautiful but inhospitable landscape in the world. Road Through Kurdistan is an enthralling story, packed with adventure, of one man's determination in the face of adversity: a classic of travel writing. It is also an invaluable portrayal of the Iraqi Kurds themselves, and of the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq.

A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan - Christiane Bird

Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in the United States’ recent war with Iraq, most of us know little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people. Now acclaimed journalist Christiane Bird, who riveted readers with her tour of Islamic Iran in Neither East Nor West, travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the Kurds’ story, using personal observations and in-depth research to illuminate an astonishing history and vibrant culture. 

For the twenty-five to thirty million Kurds, Kurdistan is both an actual and a mythical place: an isolated, largely mountainous homeland that has historically offered sanctuary from the treacherous outside world and yet does not exist on modern maps. Parceled out among the four nation-states of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran after World War I, Kurdistan is a divided land with a tragic history, where the indomitable Kurds both celebrate their ancient culture and fight to control their own destiny. Occupying some of the Middle East’s most strategic and richest terrain, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the region and the largest ethnic group in the world without a state to call their own.

Whether dancing at a Kurdish wedding in Iran, bearing witness to the destroyed Kurdish countryside in southeast Turkey, having lunch with a powerful exiled agha in Syria, or visiting the sites of Saddam Hussein’s horrific chemical attacks in Iraq, the intrepid, insightful Bird sheds light on a violently stunning world seen by few Westerners. Part mesmerizing travelogue, part action-packed history, part reportage, and part cultural study, this critical book offers timely insight into an unknown but increasingly influential part of the world. Bird paints a moving and unforgettable portrait of a people uneasily poised between a stubborn past and an impatient future.

Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History - Susan Meiselas

Kurdistan was erased from world maps after World War I, when the victorious powers carved up the Middle East, leaving the Kurds without a homeland. Today the Kurds, who live on land that straddles the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, are by far the largest ethnic group in the world without a state.Renowned photographer Susan Meiselas entered northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to record the effects of Saddam Hussein's campaigns against Iraq's Kurdish population. She joined Human Rights Watch in documenting the destruction of Kurdish villages (some of which Hussein had attacked with chemical weapons in 1988) and the uncovering of mass graves. Moved by her experiences there, Meiselas began work on a visual history of the Kurds. The result, Kurdistan, gives form to the collective memory of the Kurds and creates from scattered fragments a vital national archive.In addition to Meiselas' own photographs, Kurdistan presents images and accounts by colonial administrators, anthropologists, missionaries, soldiers, journalists, and others who have traveled to Kurdistan over the last century, and, not to forget, by Kurds themselves. In its layering of narratives - both textual and photographic - Kurdistan breaks new ground, expanding our understanding of how images can be used as a medium for historical and cultural representation.A crucial repository of memory for the Kurdish community both in exile and at home, this new edition appears at a time when the world's attention has once again been drawn to the lands of this little-understood but historically consequential people.

Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East - Quil Lawrence

Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and betrayal, surviving only through stubborn compromise with greater powers. Yet, like the Basques in Spain and the Chechens in Chechnya, they have yearned for official statehood—and in the denouement of the conflict in Iraq, they could take a giant step toward that goal. But will they?

As Quil Lawrence relates in his fascinating and timely study of the Kurds, while their ambition and determination grow apace, their future will be largely dependent on whether America values a budding democracy in the region, or decides to yet again sacrifice the Kurds in the name of political expediency. In any event, the Kurdish north may well prove to be the defining battleground in Iraq. At this extraordinary moment in the saga of Kurdistan, informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Lawrence’s intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest—their deep history mingling with the controversy and complex realities of the present—offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.

The Kurds: A People in Search of Their Homeland

Kevin McKiernan has reported on the Kurds of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria since 1991, but he began his career as a journalist in the 1970s covering armed confrontations by Native Americans. In The Kurds: A People in Search of Their Homeland he draws parallels---using examples of culture, language, and genocide---between Native American history and the experience of the Kurds. With a population of more than twenty-five million, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without their own state, but until recently their long struggle for autonomy has received relatively little attention. Following World War I, the Kurds were promised a homeland, but the dream collapsed amid pressures of Turkish nationalism and the Allied realignment of the Middle East. For the remainder of the century, the story of the Kurds was one of almost constant conflict, as Middle East governments repressed Kurdish culture, language, and politics, destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages, "disappeared" and even gassed the Kurds---often as the West provided military assistance or simply looked away.

The Kurds are politically and ideologically diverse and were never a "nation" in the modern sense, but their struggles for self-determination have been repeatedly betrayed by outside powers. Yet in 1996, a Syrian Kurd would boldly inform the author that the Kurds "were a key to the stability of the Middle East"---prophetic words today, McKiernan writes, as the fallout from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and other developments join to make Kurdish independence a likely, if not imminent, prospect.

McKiernan mixes Middle East history with personal narrative, as he comes face-to-face with Kurdish refugees in the mountains of Iraq and Iran, a hidden war in Turkey, guerrilla safe houses in Syria and Lebanon, backpacking trips behind army lines, scrapes with hostile soldiers, and, finally, the discovery that his personal translator during the Iraq war was also a spy for Saddam Hussein. His complex portrait of the Kurds includes interviews with Jalal Talabani, the first Kurdish president of Iraq, members of the legendary Barzani family, and Abdullah Ocalan, the now-imprisoned leader of the lengthy Kurdish uprising in Turkey. Interwoven throughout is the story of the author's charming and resilient driver who survived a terrorist attack in Iraq, and the American doctors who nursed him back to health.

McKiernan's coverage of the war in Iraq includes a visit to the camp of militants linked to al-Qaeda who were responsible for a series of suicide bombings in the Kurdish region, and he examines how U.S. preoccupation with toppling Saddam Hussein allowed many of these insurgents to escape to Iran, regroup, and later turn their jihad against the American occupation. McKiernan also examines the role of journalists in the run-up to the war as he tells how his Kurd-provided "scoop" about Iraqi scientists came to be used in U.S. claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq: Then & Now: A Guide to the Country and Its People (Bradt Travel Guide)

Unlike other publications since the downfall of Saddam's regime, Iraq: Then & Now traces the history of the country from ancient times until the present. Supplementary boxes, many written by Iraqis themselves, reflect on life today as compared with life in Saddam's Iraq and even earlier, describing their experiences, hopes, fears, ambitions and visions for the future. The book self-consciously avoids making any judgement on the political debate surrounding the 2003 war and subsequent occupation; instead it presents the varying views, and offers a rounded, balanced picture. Published to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the change, this guide to the country and its people, provides information on Iraq's culture and archaeology, the south, Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. The northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan stands apart as a success story and the travel appendix provides essential information for the increasing numbers of visitors to this region.