8 Novels About Terrorism

8 Novels About Terrorism

These 8 novels about terrorism go beyond attention-grabbing headlines and sound bites.

1. Terrorist by John Updike

“The terrorist of John Updike’s title is eighteen-year-old Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy, the son of an Irish American mother and an Egyptian father who disappeared when he was three. Devoted to Allah and to the Qur’an as expounded by the imam of his neighborhood mosque, Ahmad feels his faith threatened by the materialistic, hedonistic society he sees around him in the slumping New Jersey factory town of New Prospect. Neither Jack Levy, his life-weary guidance counselor at Central High, nor Joryleen Grant, his seductive black classmate, succeeds in diverting Ahmad from what the Qur’an calls the Straight Path. Now driving a truck for a local Lebanese furniture store—a job arranged through his imam—Ahmad thinks he has discovered God’s purpose for him. But to quote the Qur’an: Of those who plot, God is the best.”

2. The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing

“In a London squat a band of bourgeois revolutionaries are united by a loathing of the waste and cruelty they see around them. These maladjusted malcontents try desperately to become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. Only Alice seems capable of organising anything. Motherly, practical and determined, she is also easily exploited by the group and ideal fodder for a more dangerous and potent cause. Eventually their naïve radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, but the aftermath is not as exciting as they had hoped. Nonetheless, while they may not have changed the world, their lives will never be the same again …”

3. Beneath the Same Heaven by Anne Marie Ruff

“Beneath the Same Heaven is a love story of an American woman and a Pakistani-born Muslim man, who seem to have bridged the divide between Western and Islamic world views. But when the husband’s father is killed by a US drone attack near the Afghan border, their cross-cultural family descends into conflicting ideas of loyalty, justice, identity, revenge, and terrorism. With candor, beauty, and unusual insight, their story reveals both how decent people can justify horrific acts, and the emotional power required to heal.”

4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto balances themes of love and crisis as disparate characters learn that music is their only common language. As in Patchett’s other novels, including Truth & Beauty and The Magician’s Assistant, the author’s lyrical prose and lucid imagination make Bel Canto a captivating story of strength and frailty, love and imprisonment, and an inspiring tale of transcendent romance.”

5. Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

“Shalimar the Clown was once a figure full of love and laughter. His skill as a tightrope walker was legendary in his native home of Kashmir. But fate has played him cruelly, torn him away from his beloved home and brought him to Los Angeles, where he works as a chauffeur. One morning he gets up, goes to work, and brutally slays his employer, America’s former counter-terrorist chief Maximilian Ophuls, in full view of the victim’s illegitimate daughter, India. Despite the political overtones, it soon emerges that this is a murder with a much darker heart to it. The killing has its roots halfway across the globe, back in Kashmir, a ruined paradise not so much lost as shattered. And gradually it emerges that beyond this unholy trinity of Max, India and Shalimar, lurks a fourth, shadowy figure, one who binds them all together.”

6. The Mirage by Matt Ruff

“A mind-bending novel in which an alternate history of 9/11 and its aftermath uncovers startling truths about America and the Middle East.”

7. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

“In Persian folklore, Syngue Sabour is the name of a magical black stone, a patience stone, which absorbs the plight of those who confide in it. It is believed that the day it explodes, after having received too much hardship and pain, will be the day of the Apocalypse. But here, the Syngue Sabour is not a stone but rather a man lying brain-dead with a bullet lodged in his neck. His wife is with him, sitting by his side. But she resents him for having sacrificed her to the war, for never being able to resist the call to arms, for wanting to be a hero, and in the end, after all was said and done, for being incapacitated in a small skirmish. Yet she cares, and she speaks to him. She even talks to him more and more, opening up her deepest desires, pains, and secrets. While in the streets rival factions clash and soldiers are looting and killing around her, she speaks of her life, never knowing if her husband really hears. And it is an extraordinary confession, without restraint, about sex and love and her anger against a man who never understood her, who mistreated her, who never showed her any respect or kindness. Her admission releases the weight of oppression of marital, social, and religious norms, and she leads her story up to the great secret that is unthinkable in a country such as Afghanistan. Winner of the Prix Goncourt, The Patience Stone captures with great courage and spare, poetic, prose the reality of everyday life for an intelligent woman under the oppressive weight of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

8. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

“Challenging, mysterious and thrillingly tense, Mohsin Hamid’s masterly The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a vital read teeming with questions and ideas about some of the most pressing issues of today’s globalised, fractured world.”


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