Iran (formerly known as Persia) is the second-largest country in the Middle East, and its culture reaches back through the millennia. About 2500 years ago, the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India, and its impact is still felt in the world today.

Persia was the world’s first superpower. Its leader Cyrus the Great allowed kings to continue to rule the areas he conquered, earning him the moniker ‘King of Kings’ and laying the foundation for our next remarkable fact:

Persia was the first multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual empire.

Persian leaders envisioned a world in which religion was not the basis for strife and division. As long as people paid taxes, they were free to believe as they wished. And speaking of being free: the Persian empire didn’t have slavery. A bold notion in 500 BCE!

So how did this society based on equality — and wildly passionate about civic improvements, art, philosophy, food, and poetry — become the theocracy we know today?

That’s a long and interesting story that’s answered by the books we recommend below.

our podcast

In this episode, we discuss the history of Iran, the legend of Scheherazade, Rumi’s poetry, and more. Then we recommend fantastic books to transport you to Iran on the page, including a memoir of an epic trip to Iran, a graphic novel about living through the Iranian Revolution, and three novels that blur the lines between fiction and autobiography to weave irresistible tales of human resilience. (show notes / transcript)

recommended books

Darius the Great Is Not Okay

buy | read review

The Complete Persepolis

buy | read review

Everything Sad Is Untrue

buy | read review

Searching for Hassan

buy | read review


buy | read review

Song of a Captive Bird

buy | read review

featured posts

Iran, formerly known as Persia, has an ancient, turbulent history and a fascinating present. In this episode, we get curious about the culture (food! poetry! storytelling!) and explore the impact of the 1979 Revolution.
These Instagrammers are busting up stereotypes the rest of the world might have about Iran. City spires, colorful deserts, vibrant food, and striking fashion, these Instagram accounts showcase everyday life in Iran.
We can all agree that meat on a stick surpasses every other kind of meat. This recipe for Persian kabobs is easy to make and will transport you into the world of Darius, a teenager who's yet to recognize his greatness.
Take a suspenseful, surprising trip to pre-Revolution Iran with an unforgettable heroine. This gripping story travels from the green mountains of northern Iran to the city streets of Tehran and Paris of the 1980s.
This traditional rice dish is a feast for the eyes, glistening with spice-infused butter and gem-colored fruits. It's a celebration of hope and life and family, a delicious way to bring a taste of Persia to your table.
Burning with an intelligence and a rebelliousness that couldn't be contained, Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad poured her passion into words that have inspired readers for decades. Fierce, feminist, and gone too soon.

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