What does ISIS really want? This is the definitive account of the strategy, psychology, and fundamentalism driving the Islamic State.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY FOREIGN AFFAIRS • “Worthy of Joseph Conrad . . . gripping, sobering and revelatory.”—Tom Holland, New Statesman
The Islamic State inspired a wave of true believers to travel to Syria from Europe, America, and the Middle East, in numbers not seen since the Crusades. What compelled tens of thousands of men and women to leave comfortable, privileged lives to join a death cult in the desert? Steven Pinker called Graeme Wood’s analysis of this phenomenon in The Atlantic “fascinating, terrifying, occasionally blackly humorous.” In The Way of the Strangers, Wood uses character study, analysis, and original reporting to take us further into the Islamic State’s apocalyptic vision.
Though the Islamic State has lost territory, it threatens to rise again, and its followers are plotting on every continent. From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London, Wood meets with supporters, recruiters, and scholars and asks them why they believe that killing and dying for this cause is the only path to Paradise. With a new afterword, The Way of the Strangers uncovers the theology and emotional appeal of this resilient group and explores its idiosyncratic, coherent approach to Islam. Just as Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower explained the rise of Al Qaida, this book will shape our understanding of a new and deadlier generation of terrorists.
Praise for The Way of the Strangers
“The Way of the Strangers represents journalism at its best: vivid writing, indefatigable legwork, and fearless analysis.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Return of Marco Polo’s World
“Wood is a brilliant analyst and storyteller, and his firsthand reporting and language abilities make him the most reliable commentator on the Islamic State that I have read. His wit matches his intelligence (’Well-behaved Salafis seldom make history’)—you don't get through any two pages in his book without a good laugh.”—Peter Theroux, author of Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia
“Excruciatingly well observed and devastatingly honest . . . This is the first and only book about the Islamic State to expose, explain, and ultimately undermine its ideology with the relentless irony that comes from blending deep knowledge with hands-on experience. Wood makes it impossible not to laugh, despite the horrors.”—Elisabeth Kendall, senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic studies, University of Oxford