Newsbook: Want to Understand ISIS? Read These 3 Books.

On Wednesday, President Trump ordered that all of the approximately 2,000 American troops in Syria be withdrawn within 30 days, tweeting in explanation, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency.” These books explore how the Islamic State (ISIS) gained power, the damage they have caused and why many were drawn to join them.


The Rise of ISIS
By Joby Warrick
344 pages. Doubleday. (2015)

In this Pulitzer Prize winning book, Warrick, a reporter for The Washington Post, paints a portrait of ISIS and its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Warrick shows that the seed for ISIS was planted long before it became widely known in the early 2010s and also makes clear “the crucial role that American missteps and misjudgments would play in fueling his rise and the advance of the Islamic State,” according to former Times critic Michiko Kakutani. Warrick “has a gift for constructing narratives with a novelistic energy and detail,” she wrote.


My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
By Nadia Murad with Jenna Krajeski
306 pp. Tim Duggan Books. (2018)

This book chronicles Murad’s experience of being kidnapped by ISIS after they besieged her village in Iraq and executed her mother and six brothers. Our reviewer called it “difficult to process,” asking, “How to approach a memoir of a war still being waged?” But she praised it for being “intricate in historical context” and offering “a primer on the ancient Yazidi faith.”


A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey Into the Syrian Jihad
By Asne Seierstad
Translated by Sean Kinsella
419 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (2018)

In her most recent book, the writer of “The Bookseller of Kabul” dives into the radicalization of two girls, Ayan and Leila, who were drawn to join ISIS from their home in Norway in October 2013. Their family had emigrated from Somalia when they were young, but the girls never quite assimilated. After Ayan and Leila left, their father came after them, and he was captured and tortured by ISIS. “These girls had philosophical questions about the state of the world, and about their own souls,” wrote our reviewer. This book tries to understand why they found answers with ISIS.

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