Take a fundamentalist to the beach

Over at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH), members have offered 19 brief recommendations for summer reading. Diverse tastes indeed (e.g., Walter Laqueur recommends a book on the looming Islamization of Russia—in Russian). Here is my selectionthe only work of fiction in the group:

It being summer, I finally found time to read Mohsin Hamid’s novella, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt, 2007). What leads (or drives) young Muslim men to terrorism, and “why do they hate us”? Hamid has given us a thesis in the guise of a thriller that takes the reader on an odyssey from Princeton’s campus to a high-powered valuation firm in midtown Manhattan to the alleys of Lahore. A young Pakistani comes to America, rises rapidly, finds a semblance of love, ignores contradictions—and then tumbles into the great divide. All of this he narrates to a mysterious American in an unforgettable voice, and anticipation of the climax will keep you hanging to the end. The thesis: America has its own unique way of inspiring self-loathing in others, even those it embraces—and it comes back to haunt us. (Think Sayyid Qutb and Edward Said.) There is a very different way to tell this story, but Hamid tells his version grippingly.