With the amount of attention Saudi Arabia gets in the western press, you’d think that there would be a metric ton of decent books out there on the modern history of Saudi Arabia. You’d be wrong.
This one by journalist John Bradley was recommended as a good one, since he was one of the few western journalists inside Saudi at the time of the 9/11 attacks he did have unique access. Too bad he can’t write to save his life. How’s this for a crap chronology:
From 1964, Saudi Arabia was ruled by King Faisal, a son of Ibn Saud, but he was assassinated by a nephew in 1975. Back in 1926, Faisal had been appointed the first governor of the Hijaz, immediately after the region was conquered by his father in battles Faisal himself had played a crucial role in leading. As king, Faisal continued to be based a great deal in Jeddah, as did much of the working government – although the capital was officially moved to Riyadh in 1961.
I mean, what? This guy has written for the Economist? Seriously? Another example that success is 90% luck.
In Bradley’s defense, this book is at least somewhat balanced, and he clearly has a real affection for the culture and some of the people he met there. This isn’t jingositic western propaganda (like much of what is written about Saudi) but it also isn’t a very good book.