I first started to become interested in Islam whilst at theological college, when I did a term's course on it. That was then seasoned and enhanced whilst working in the East End, in a Muslim-majority area, particularly from taking sixth-form general studies lessons for the local youth. These are books that I have either read (linked through to a review where applicable) or that are on my bookshelf awaiting the right moment to be read. If I could only recommend one title for this area it would be the Habeck book, from whence comes my title. My longest discussion of these issues can be found here.
The Koran, Penguin Classics (not an easy read)
I also have a translation and commentary on the Koran by A. Yusuf Ali brought back to me from Saudi Arabia by a friend.
Muhammad, by Maxine Rodinson Standard, 'vintage' biography of Muhammad.
The Truth about Muhammad, Robert Spencer - up to date and very critical biography.
Islam, a short history, Karen Armstrong Basic, standard work.
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer. Robert Spencer giving his take (hostile).
Islam and the West, Norman Daniel Haven't read this one yet, but it seems mainstream.
The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, Bat Ye'or - another one still to be read, but highly regarded.
The legacy of Jihad, ed. Andrew Bostom - another still to be read, academic, thorough.
Some philosophical ones:
Al Qaeda and what it means to be Modern, John Gray - short, readable and very stimulating contrarian view.
The West and the Rest, Roger Scruton - argues that the West is distinctive and worth defending.
The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis - one of the foremost commentators of Islam from a Western perspective. I need to read more of Lewis' work.
The Rage and the Pride, and, The Force of Reason, Oriana Fallaci. Fallaci is a bit bonkers, but she makes many telling points and deserves to be read more widely. I haven't read the second one yet.
On Jihad and our present war
Knowing the Enemy, Mary Habeck - I have just finished this one, and I would highly recommend it as the first one to read on this area. Measured and clear-eyed.
Celsius 7/7, Michael Gove - quite good for a politician.
Londonistan, Melanie Phillips - haven't read beyond chapter one yet, but I can guess what to expect!
Militant Islam reaches America, Daniel Pipes - one of the best books I've read; Pipes' blog is worth following.
While Europe Slept, Bruce Bawer - stimulating and outlines what is at stake.
Some terms that I think are worth understanding:
The House of War (dar al-Harb) and the House of Peace (dar al-Islam)
and of course
Jihad, but see here
I'll try and keep this post up to date.