Home > NYT's “Caliphate” Podcast Reading List – Part 2

NYT's “Caliphate” Podcast Reading List – Part 2

“Caliphate” is officially over and I hope that Rukmini will take up new projects so that others may benefit from her incredible reporting.  As mentioned in the last episode, the fate of Huzayfah is still uncertain and causing quite a stir in Canada.  Just like “Serial”, it looks like “Caliphate” will continue to reverberate across popular imagination as a story both familiar and terrifying. I was thankful to finally hear from ISIS victims towards the end of the series, and we have some great titles in the collection that enhance those voices. Enjoy!


Episode 5: The Heart

“The recruit carried out the killing. Then he questioned everything.”

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United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists by Peter L. Bergen

CNN security analyst Bergen, the author of several New York Times best-selling books on al-Qaeda, looks at the 300 Americans who have been indicted for or convicted of terrorism since 9/11 to clarify their motivation.

Episode 6: Papertrail

“Something was off.” Rukmini’s doubt fuels a quest to uncover the truth.”

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Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab

Today, much of Syria has become a war zone where foreign journalists find it almost impossible to report on life in this devastated land. Burning Country explores the horrific and complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists among many others.

Episode 7: Mosul

“What did ISIS leave behind as their hold on Mosul crumbled?”

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Obama at War A PBS Documentary

A PBS documentary on how the Obama administration responded to ISIS.

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Battle for Iraq A PBS Documentary

Another PBS documentary offering a gripping, first-hand look at the fight for Mosul and its implications. Reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad makes a dangerous trip inside Mosul to examine the fight and its toll - surviving an ISIS truck bombing along the way.

Episode 8: The Briefcase

“We found a trove of secret documents after Mosul fell. It led us to the mother of an ISIS official.”

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Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad by Asne Seierstad

The riveting true story of two sisters’ journey to the Islamic State and the father who tries to bring them home.

Episode 9 (Part 1): Prisoners

“Slavery was enmeshed in the theology of ISIS. Rukmini speaks to an ISIS detainee who challenges her to find the girl he enslaved. She does.”

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The Girl Who Escaped ISIS: This is My Story by Farida Khalaf

A young Yezidi woman was living a normal, sheltered life in northern Iraq during the summer of 2014 when her entire world was upended: her village was attacked by ISIS. All of the men in her town were killed and the women were taken into slavery.

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The Yezidis:the History of a Community, Culture and Religion by Birgul Acikyildiz

A comprehensive introduction to Yezidi history and culture, and exploration of why they have been targeted by ISIS.

Episode 9 (Part 2): Prisoners

“After three years in ISIS captivity, a young Yazidi girl returns to her family. Rukmini is there to witness it.”

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The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad

On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade.

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The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria by Samar Yazbek

Samar Yazbek was well-known in her native Syria as a writer and a journalist but, in 2011, she fell foul of the Assad regime and was forced to flee. Since then, determined to bear witness to the suffering of her people, she revisited her homeland by squeezing through a hole in the fence on the Turkish border.

Episode 10: One Year Later

“What does the future hold for the ISIS returnee who confessed to murder? And what does he believe now?”

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The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington

The author shows not only how clashes between civilizations are the greatest threat to world peace but also how an international order based on civilizations is the best safeguard against war.

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The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East by Marc Lynch

The New Arab Wars details the costs of the poor choices made by regional actors, delivers a scathing analysis of Western misreadings of the conflict, and condemns international interference that has stoked the violence.

Stories of Survivors

“Caliphate” focuses on the perpetrators of violence, and their motivations. While it is fascinating to hear Rukmini untangle the complications of ISIS ideology and recruitment, I found myself asking more questions about their victims. Only three out of the ten episodes thoroughly addressed the impact of violence on families and individuals. Here are a few titles about the resilience demonstrated by survivors and how they escaped ISIS captivity.

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No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria by Rania Abouzeid

This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country.

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Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, my Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph by Yusra Mardini

The inspiring story of how one woman saved fellow refugees from drowning--and how she went on to become an Olympic swimmer.

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We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

A collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

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The Shattered Lens: A War Photographer's True Story of Captivity and Survival in Syria by Jonathan Alpeyrie

Discover a gripping and harrowing tale of war and torture from the man who lived it in this powerful memoir by the celebrated war journalist who not only documented over a dozen conflict zones worldwide but was also captured and held hostage by Syrian rebels in 2013.

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Rescued from ISIS: The Gripping True Story of How a Father Saved His Son by Dimitri Bontinck

Rescued from ISIS is the inspiring and terrifying tale of one man's journey to the Middle East to save his child from radical Islam, and its surprising worldwide repercussions.

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