Top five Non-Fiction Books on Libya

28th Jan 2013


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After Colonel Gaddafi’s death in October 2011, Libya had to set about building a state effectively from scratch: the previous regime never set up the government institutions usually used to rule fairly as part of the ideology of the “rule of the masses” set out in Colonel Gaddafi’s Green Book.

The process continues today, and not without hiccups. Violence in the eastern city of Benghazi and, the government’s decision in December to shut its southern borders to tackle smuggling and illegal immigration and wrangling over a law to purge Gaddafi-era officials all show that the transition will not be a smooth process.

So to help you get to grips with what’s going on in the country today, Sugar Street Review has put together a handy list of the top five non-fiction books on Libya available today.

Naturally, much of what has been written covers the Gaddafi-era, given the length of his rule, but we still think these books should give you a good overview of what’s happening at the moment.

As ever, we’d love to hear what you think and do let us know if you think we’ve left anything out!


Libya, from Colony to Revolution by Ronald Bruce St. John

One of the foremost scholars on Libya, Ronald Bruce St John quickly revised this highly compact and readable account of the country’s modern history to include the 2011 revolution.  He shows the profound effect the Ottoman and Libyan occupations had on modern Libyan society and, most impressively, succeeds in making Gaddafi’s convoluted political ideology vaguely understandable


Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution by Ethan Chorin

Chorin first travelled to Libya as part of the US diplomatic outreach to Libya in the early 2000s, and his account of the final years of the Gaddafi regime and the revolution is essential reading. Chorin had plenty of first-hand insights into the workings of the previous regime, and gives a highly readable and accurate account of what lead Libyans to rise up in February 2011. Crucially, Chorin is also an aficionado of Libyan literature, and he illustrates his account with excerpts from the country’s finest writers.


South of Barbary by Justin Marozzi

This travelogue follows the old slave-trading routes that ran through southern Libya until the 19th Century, taking Marozzi through parts of the country usually left untouched by other writers. Although written some years ago, this is one of the only books that touches on the Tebu, an ethnic minority in Libya’s south, in any detail.


Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi by Alison Pargeter

This recent account of Libyan history shows the catastrophic effects of Colonel Gaddafi’s rule on modern Libya. Written by another top analyst of Libyan affairs, The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi gives a clear view of how the previous regime tried and failed in its attempts to build a revolutionary state based on the Green Book, eventually leading to its downfall.


Sandstorm by Lindsay Hilsum

Lindsay Hilsum’s Sandstorm combines history with her own experiences as a reporter covering the Libyan uprising in 2011. Although she does not go into the same detail in analyzing the country, Lindsay Hilsum gives an exciting, clear and accurate account of the revolution that toppled Gaddafi and her book is far superior to the rash of other reporter memoirs that appeared in the wake of Libya’s uprising.

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