Revolutionary Reads: Arab Spring Books

The Jokers by Albert Cossery

Before a revolution can happen, it must first be imagined, and over the course of some eight vivid, witty novels, Cossery revealed the outrages, idiocies, and humiliations of the Egyptian regime. In The Jokers, revolutionaries plot against the absurdity of an unnamed dictator by using the absurd—such as posters that lavishly praise the regime—to subvert his authority. Cossery died before the revolution, in 2008, but in his deeply human novels he was one of many who helped the country take baby steps toward imagining the freedom that finally came.

The Invisible Arab by Marwan Bishara

From a leading Al Jazeera English analyst comes one of the first regionwide assessments of the Arab Spring. Avoiding the pitfall of seeing the revolution in isolation, Bishara elegantly charts how the potent forces of national-ism, Islamism, and Western intervention all mixed to create last year’s revolutions. As for the future, Bishara is optimistic that as Arab youth and women assert themselves, a genuine, organic version of democracy will emerge without the taint of the West.

Revolution 2.0 by Wael Ghonim

If the leaderless Egyptian revolution can be said to have one celebrity, then it is Ghonim. As he relates in his new memoir, the then-unknown young Google exec created a Facebook page that helped galvanize the first protests on Jan. 25, spent 11 days interrogated by the secret police, and was released thanks to a public outcry led by his employer. Now he’s a global star, proving that the revolution will be tweeted.