Muslim Journeys

Updated: February 8, 2016

This list of fiction and nonfiction titles was selected by the American Library Association in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities to reflect the diversity of the Muslim experience past and present in the United States and around the world.

In spring of 2013 Los Angeles Public Library hosted a tie-in celebration, Poetic Voices of the Muslim World, featuring an 18-panel exhibit and a series of talks and musical performances focusing on the richness and variety of poetry, ancient and modern, by Muslim authors in Asia, Africa and America. 

Book cover for Acts of faith : the story of an American Muslim, the struggle for the soul of a generation
Acts of faith : the story of an American Muslim, the struggle for the soul of a generation
Patel, Eboo, 1975-
Call Number: 301.450954 P295

The autobiography of an American Muslim (born in the Chicago area to parents from India).  Patel attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar  and founded the Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit organization devoted to making interfaith cooperation a social norm, particularly among young people.

Book cover for The Arabian Nights = Alf laylah wa-laylah
The Arabian Nights = Alf laylah wa-laylah
Call Number: 892.7 A658-24

A one-volume selection from the famed set of tales told for 1,001 nights by Princess Shahrazad to save herself from execution.  This translation is based on the Mahdi edition,  the definitive Arabic rendering of a 14th-century Syrian manuscript which is considered the oldest and most authentic of the surviving versions.

Book cover for The art of Hajj
The art of Hajj
Porter, Venetia.
Call Number: 709.56 P848

The ritual of an annual pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca was established by the prophet Muhammad in 632.  This book is a companion catalog to a British Museum exhibit depicting the Hajj over the centuries in a wide variety of art forms.

Book cover for Broken verses
Broken verses
Shamsie, Kamila, 1973-

A novel set in Karachi, Pakistan.  When Aasmaani was a teenager, she idolized her feminist activist mother and her mother’s lover, Pakistan’s greatest poet.  Then the poet was beaten to death and her mother vanished soon after.  Fourteen year’s later her mother’s best friend starts giving her coded letters which seem to imply that the poet is still alive and her mother is communicating with him—or is someone trying to trick her?

Book cover for The butterfly mosque
The butterfly mosque
Wilson, G. Willow, 1982-
Call Number: 297.0973 W748

The daughter of an American atheist couple, Wilson found herself increasingly attracted to the Islamic faith during her college years, which coincided with the 9/11 attacks.  Taking a job in an English-speaking high school in Cairo, she found love with a teacher at the school and embraced the ways Islam is woven into the daily fabric of existence in Egypt.

Book cover for The children of Abraham : Judaism, Christianity, Islam
The children of Abraham : Judaism, Christianity, Islam
Peters, F. E. (Francis E.).
Call Number: 296.9 P481 2004

A detailed and objective look at the similarities and differences of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  The author traces their history from the Jews’ return to Palestine in the sixth century B. C., up to the Middle Ages, when all three religions took on much of their present form.

Book cover for The Columbia sourcebook of Muslims in the United States
The Columbia sourcebook of Muslims in the United States
Call Number: 297.0973 C7265

A selection of excerpts from essays, interviews, speeches, editorials, blogs, song lyrics, and other writings by Americans who call themselves Muslims.  Through these documents, the history of American Muslims is traced from colonial times to the present.

Book cover for The Complete Persepolis
The Complete Persepolis
Satrapi, Marjane
Call Number: 740.9954 S253-3

This volume contains parts 1 and 2 of Satrapi's best-selling memoir, which relates in graphic novel form the story of the author’s childhood and young adult years in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. A film version of this book came out in 2007.


Book cover for The conference of the birds
The conference of the birds
ʻAṭṭār, Farīd al-Dīn, d. ca. 1230.
Call Number: 891.5 A883 2011

A Persian epic poem written over 800 years ago.  The birds of the world go on a quest for a leader.  The seven valleys they cross represent the stations a Sufi must pass through in search of enlightenment, and when they reach their destination they find only a lake in which they can see their own reflections.

Dreams of trespass : tales of a harem girlhood
Mernissi, Fatima.
Call Number: 964 M566

The author, a sociologist, recounts her girlhood in the 1940s in a harem in Fez, Morocco.  These mid-twentieth-century harems were not the stereotypical opulent dwelling places for sultans’ concubines; instead they were sprawling domestic encampments designed to keep women and children in their own separate world. 

Book cover for House of stone : a memoir of home, family, and a lost Middle East
House of stone : a memoir of home, family, and a lost Middle East
Shadid, Anthony.
Call Number: 309.56 S524

In 2006, reporter Shadid, an Arab-American from Oklahoma, was covering his fourth Middle Eastern conflict when he heard that an Israeli rocket had crashed into his ancestral home in Lebanon.   Weary of war and with his personal life in tatters, he decided to rebuild his great-grandfather’s house and in the process rebuilt his own life as well.

Book cover for The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance
The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance
Al-Khalili, Jim
Call Number: 509.56 A316

During the period we sometimes call “the dark ages” in Europe, many of the innovations associated with Western science had their roots in the Arab world. The author, a British/Iraqi scientist, shows how the Arabic Enlightenment led to a European cultural awakening but also ponders why the Islamic world subsequently entered its own dark age.

In an antique land
Ghosh, Amitav, 1956-
Call Number: 962 G427 1993

Bengali novelist Ghosh recounts his research into the lives of a medieval Jewish merchant and his Indian servant or slave whose story he discovered while working on his doctorate in the Nile Delta.  He describes his own experiences in 1980s Egypt and connects them to the details he discovers about  the lives of these two men in the 12th century.

Book cover for In the country of men
In the country of men
Matar, Hisham, 1970-

This Booker Prize finalist depicts the increasingly troubled life of a nine-year-old boy in Tripoli, Libya ten years after the Khadafy revolution.   Suleiman’s idyllic summer with his friend Kareem turns increasingly ominous as it becomes clear that both boys’ fathers are involved in anti-government activities.


Islamic art [videorecording] : mirror of the invisible world
Call Number: DVD 709.56 I825

This 90-minute documentary transports viewers across nine countries and 1,400 years of cultural history to survey the rich heritage of Muslim arts, crafts, and architecture.

Book cover for Islamic arts
Islamic arts
Bloom, Jonathan (Jonathan M.).
Call Number: 709.56 B655

A comprehensive, lavishly illustrated survey of all types of Islamic art, ranging from buildings to calligraphy to textiles, and covering a wide swath of Asia, Africa and Europe between 600 and 1800.


Koran by heart [videorecording] : one chance to remember
Call Number: DVD 297.11 K845

A documentary film about three 10-year-olds who travel from their native countries to Cairo to participate in a memorization and recitation contest called the International Holy Koran Competition.

Leo Africanus
Maalouf, Amin.

A biographical novel about the 16th-century Moorish diplomat and author al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, also known as Leo Africanus.  The story recounts his travels throughout the Islamic Mediterranean region and his interactions with many historical figures, including three Popes, two Ottoman Emperors, and the artist Raphael.


Book cover for Minaret
Aboulela, Leila, 1964-

A young Sudanese woman adjusts to life in London on her own in this acclaimed novel.  Najwa spent a pampered childhood as a government official’s daughter in Khartoum.  When a coup leads to her father’s execution, her family flees to England, where her mother soon dies and her brother is imprisoned.  Taking a job as a nanny to a wealthy Arab family, she finds herself as invisible as the Ethiopians who worked for her parents.

Book cover for Muhammad : a very short introduction
Muhammad : a very short introduction
Brown, Jonathan (Jonathan A. C.).
Call Number: 297 B878

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a religion that now has over a billion followers, must be considered one of the most influential figures in history.  This book takes a look at his life, both as seen in traditional sources and by modern scholars, and also examines his followers’ views of him over the centuries.

Book cover for The ornament of the world : how Muslims, Jews, and Christians created a culture of tolerance in medieval Spain
The ornament of the world : how Muslims, Jews, and Christians created a culture of tolerance in medieval Spain
Menocal, Maria Rosa.
Call Number: 946.02 M547

Menocal’s book is a look at Andalusia, Spain, during the seven hundred years between 786 and 1492.  She contends that the religious tolerance shown by ruler Abd al-Rahman and his successors led to a cooperation among Judaic, Islamic, and Christian cultures and nurtured scientific, artistic, and philosophical advances that foreshadowed the Renaissance.

Book cover for Prince among slaves
Prince among slaves
Alford, Terry.
Call Number: 326.092 I14Alf 2007

A look at the remarkable life of Abd al Rahman Ibrahima, the son of an African king, who was captured in war in 1788 at age 26 and shipped to Natchez, Mississippi, as a slave.  Despite his education and abilities Ibrahima spent forty years in servitude before the U. S. government intervened to free him.

Book cover for Prince among slaves [videorecording]
Prince among slaves [videorecording]
Call Number: DVD 326.092 I14Pr

An hourlong documentary based on the book by Terry Alford documents the amazing story of Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima Ibn Sori, a West African prince who was sold into slavery in 1788 and spent 40 years in servitude in the United States.

Book cover for A quiet revolution : the veil's resurgence, from the Middle East to America
A quiet revolution : the veil's resurgence, from the Middle East to America
Ahmed, Leila.
Call Number: 301.412956 A286-1

The author was raised in 1940s Cairo where many women rejected the veils and headscarves of earlier generations, yet today these traditional garments have made a return.  Her examination of women in today’s Egypt and neighboring countries concludes that this change represents much more than a return to customs of the past.

Rūmī, poet and mystic (1207-1273)
Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, Maulana, 1207-1273.
Call Number: 891.5 J26-4 1995

A selection from the writings of thirteenth-century poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic Rumi, who is often considered to be one of the most popular poets in 21st-century America.

Book cover for Snow
Pamuk, Orhan, 1952-
Call Number: Ed.a

An exiled poet returns to Turkey and travels to the isolated town of Kars to connect with an old friend and also investigate a rash of suicides by young religious women. Translated from Turkish.

Book cover for The story of the Qurʼan : its history and place in Muslim life
The story of the Qurʼan : its history and place in Muslim life
Mattson, Ingrid.
Call Number: 297.11 M444

Islamic scholar Mattson examines the doctrines and surveys the key themes of the Qur’an, while also considering its influence on all aspects of Muslim society, including law, art and architecture, politics, science, and religion.

Book cover for When Asia was the world
When Asia was the world
Gordon, Stewart, 1945-
Call Number: 950 G665

Each chapter in Gordon’s book is based on the actual memoir of someone who lived and traveled in Asia during the millennium from 500 to 1500.   These stories are not directly connected, but taken together they portray the richness of life in a variety of locales from Arabia to China.