Jordan and Petra have not been popular settings for fiction. But that does not mean that there are no good books about Jordan to read before your visit to the Kingdom. One of my favorite things to do is to get a sense of the place I am planning to visit before I actually step foot into the country. If you are like me and getting started on planning a visit to Jordan, you are in the right place for some inspiration.
Below is a list of the 10 best books about Jordan and books about Petra that you should read before you visit or to re-ignite the memories from your visit to the country.
20 Best Books about Jordan
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Written between 1919 and 1926, Seven Pillars of Wisdom tells the story of the First World War against the Turks in the Middle East. T E Lawrence fought alongside the Arabs during the war and was named "Lawrence of Arabia." While it occurs before the Hashemite Kingdom was created, it tells the story of the Arab war against the Turks and how the Arabs pushed them out of what is now Jordan. Those who have visited Wadi Rum will see the familiar backdrop of the desert. You can also get a sense of the desert in the 1960s movie based on T E Lawrence's book.
Married to a Bedouin tells the story of a New Zealand nurse who fell in love with a local souvenir-seller in Jordan's ancient Nabataean capital, Petra in the late 1970s. It is probably the most authentic book about Jordan that you will find. It recounts their simple cave life and what life was like for the Bedul tribe when they were moved out of Petra to the newly built village. Marguerite still lives in the local village outside of Petra and has her own bookshop in the site. For anyone who has visited Petra, van Gelndermalsen's book paint vivid pictures of the now-abandoned caves and allows readers to bring to light what it was like when locals lived in what is now Jordan's most popular tourist site.
Appointment with Death is the 19th book in the Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie and is set in Petra. It tells the story of a much-despised tourist who is found dead outside one of Petra's caves on an overnight visit to the site from Jerusalem. A typical mystery by Christie, this book brings out the characters quickly and is a favorite among fans of Christie's character, Hercule Poirot. Whether you read it before you visit Petra or after, it will quickly take you on a Middle Eastern vacation full of mystery
Whether you decide to read Lonely Planet Jordan before you visit or while you are in the country, it provides plenty of detail about the country and the local culture. If its a top 10 things to do, you will find it inside as well as city guides and top places to eat. I am a bit of a guidebook junkie and love to read about places while I am in them so I often travel with a guidebook to have everything in one place! While I hope my website gives you everything you need to know about Jordan, this book is also a great resource.
Queen Noor was born Lisa Halaby and would become the Queen of Jordan, married to the late King Hussein (current King Abdullah II's father). Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life tells the story of her life in America and how she would eventually marry the King of Jordan. It tells of her struggle with daily security from the palace and how she struggled to keep her interests in working with non-profits and to not just be a wife to the King. In her storytelling, Queen Noor paints a picture of her husband's moderate policies and his quest for peace during a tumultuous time in the Middle East.
The Land Beyond is McCarron's experience walking from Jerusalem, through much of the Middle East including the West Bank, Israel, all of Jordan and finally to Mount Sinai in Egypt. His stories are funny, caring and show that people are just people, and if we treat them as such, there is no limits to what they can achieve. For anyone interested in reading this book about Jordan and Arabs in the Middle East, it paints the people in a light that mainstream media often misses.
Our Last Best Chance, written by Jordan's reigning monarch, King Abdullah II came out shortly after the 2011 Arab Spring. While King Abdullah is widely seen as a popular ruler and well-liked, his call for peace and a solution to the continuing Arab-Israeli struggle is eminent in the pages of this memoir.
Lawrence in Arabia is Scott Anderson's biography of T E Lawrence and is a national bestseller (and also has plenty of sales and reviews on Amazon). He documents with extensive research, the making of the modern Middle East in this book, telling the story of Lawrence, a Brit and who would become the leader of the Arab Army.
Further Reading Books based on the Middle East:
Burned Alive by Souad
The Source by James A Michener
The Haj by Leon Uris
Last of the Bedu
The Language of Baklava
More Jordan Travel Resources
In order to help make your visit to Jordan as memorable as possible, I have created a number of resources from planning guides to local eats.
If you are thinking of booking a tour, or wondering how much hassle a self drive itinerary can be, check out this post I have on the best Jordan tours to book. If you want to meet a local and get a taste of food culture in Amman, consider a tour with Amman Food Tours!
Lindsay fell in love with Jordan when she first visited in 2016. She now goes back every year to explore more of this special place. Lindsay is also the owner of Amman Food Tours, a social enterprise that is women-owned and hires local female guides. This project provides meaningful employment for women in Amman.