With the disappearance and apparent death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi leading the news this week, Saudi Arabia has been in the hot seat.
Here are five recent books that are essential for understanding the Saudis, one of the wealthiest and most mysterious nations on the globe:
(Where possible, we have also tried to include an interview or shorter piece by the author that introduces the book’s central ideas…)
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[easyazon_link identifier=”168177660X” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Saudi, Inc.: The Arabian Kingdom’s Pursuit of Profit and Power[/easyazon_link]
A history of the most profitable company in the world, Saudi Aramco, and the story behind the family that ruthlessly maneuvered to control this multi-trillion dollar enterprise.
The Saudi royal family and Aramco leadership are, and almost always have been, motivated by ambitions of long-term strength and profit. They use Islamic law, traditional ideology, and harsh justice to maintain stability and their own power, but underneath the thobes and abayas and behind the religious fanaticism and illiberalism lies a most sophisticated and ruthless business enterprise. Today, that corporation is poised to pull off the biggest IPO in history.
Over more than a century, fed by ambition and oil wealth, al Saud, as the royal family is known, has come from next to nothing to rule as absolute monarchs, a contrast with the world around them and modernity itself. The story starts with Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul Aziz, a lowly refugee embarking on a daring gambit to reconquer his family’s ancestral home?the mud-walled city of Riyadh. It takes readers almost to present day, when the multinational family business has made al Saud the wealthiest family in the world and on the cusp of a new transformation.
Now al Saud and its family business, Aramco, are embarking on their most ambitious move: taking the company public and preparing the country for the next generation.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com