You can’t understand Lebanon without understanding the wider neighbourhood. Hourani was a 20th century British-Lebanese historian and this is his highly readable, bestselling account of the Arab world. It takes the story from the period before the birth of Islam and the Arab conquests up to the mid-20th century. He finds a unity in Arab culture that transcends confessional lines. The Egyptian journalist, Tarek Osman, told us that this focus on Arabism as a coherent identity that includes Christians and other confessions as well as Muslims—rather than, as with many histories of the Arab world, a story about the flow of the different Islamic empires—was Hourani’s uniquely important historical perspective.