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I’m certainly no expert on the current state of affairs within Egypt, and don’t want to engage in political discussions of the crisis here, but since that country is undergoing tremendous turmoil right now, I thought it appropriate to link to a piece that recommends a number of books on Egypt and how it got to where it is today. I can’t personally vouch for these works, not being particularly up on the subject myself, but this list looks like an interesting starting point.

The key to greater understanding, as with any similar issue, is to read synthetically. One book just isn’t enough, even if it’s a “classic.” Even if everyone says that’s the “one book to read” on Topic X. Especially if everyone says that’s the “one book to read” on Topic X. One book is a starting point. Read deeply. Read broadly. Read books that argue against each other. Read books that agree with your own views and analyses. Read books that argue against your own views and analyses. Read books that talk about other books. Read reviews and other discussions of books. Get book recommendations from your friends and acquaintances on additional books you should read.

We tend not to do enough of this (and I’m certainly guilty myself). We often tend to read a single volume on a topic, then latch on to that initial author’s ideas as our own, disregarding counter-arguments, and kid ourselves about knowing a particular topic. That’s a bad, lazy habit to fall into, but it’s frighteningly common, even among well-intentioned, thoughtful people. If you want to “master” a topic — or at least begin developing an informed view and some expertise on that topic since “mastery” is such an elusive and perhaps even unattainable concept — read a bunch of books. You won’t be sorry.

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