favourite books from 2014

"City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran" by Ramita Navai
Ramita Navai’s “City of Lies” was a great read. She takes readers to corners of Iranian society that are very difficult to penetrate. And she does that with great personal risk. Listen to an interview with the author here. - Shirin Jaafari

See the full list of PRI's favourite books from 2014 by clicking here




From magisterial biographies to captivating memoirs and fiction — our reviewers and writers choose their favourites from the past 12 months

Heart of the country: an illustration from David Gentleman’s In the Country (Picture: David Gentleman) 

Heart of the country: an illustration from David Gentleman’s In the Country (Picture: David Gentleman) 


Ramita Navai’s City of Lies (Weidenfeld, £18.99) is gripping, a dark delicious unveiling of the secret decadent life of Islamic Tehran, deeply researched yet exciting as a novel, while Charles King’s Midnight at the Pera Palace (Norton, £11.99) — brilliant, entertaining authoritative — recounts the twilight of late Ottoman Istanbul. Ali Allawi’s Faisal I of Iraq (Yale, £30) is excellent and indispensable, effectively a history of the making of today’s Middle East.

Click here for the full list


BOOKS FEATURE The Spectator 15 November 2014


Jonathan Rugman

In City of Lies (Weidenfeld, £18.99) Ramita Navai tells us that ‘in order to live in Tehran you have to lie’. Survival there depends on dodging the fatwas of Iran’s medieval theocratic regime. Drink, drugs and paid-for sex proliferate; the divorce rate soars while religious attendance tumbles. Navai paints brilliantly insightful portraits of eight Tehranis suffering under an Iranian revolution which has gone terribly wrong — but with no stomach for another in the light of the failed ‘Arab Spring’.

Click here for the full list


Discussing Iran and my book City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran. 

Frontline Club
Insight with Ramita Navai - interviewed by Jeremy Bowen

The politics of Iran are frequently analysed and debated on the international stage but rarely do we glimpse what everyday life is like in Tehran. In her new book City of Lies, Ramita Navai returns to the city where she was born to explore the lives of its residents.

Publication: Action on Armed Violence

Named in list of Top 100 most influential journalists covering armed violence

Top 100: The most influential journalists covering armed violence
By AOAV, 8 Oct 2013

From besieged cities in Syria to American street-corners, and countless other places in between, armed violence continues to take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people a year. It fundamentally reshapes the world we live in. Yet for a vast number of people, violence and conflict are abstractions far removed from their daily realities.

Journalists are the bridge between those peaceful and violent worlds. Without their bravery and determination to bring the realities of armed violence to the rest of the world, we would neither understand nor be able to address the issues that cause and propagate violence.

Here, AOAV celebrates 100 men and women who we consider to number the most influential writers and broadcasters covering armed violence and conflict around the world, as chosen by our staff.

Gallery: 100 of the most influential journalists covering armed violence and conflict


Publication: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism  

Ramita Navai

Syria Undercover, 14 December, 2012 

Laura King writes:

When journalist and filmmaker Ramita Navai speaks of courage, she isn’t taking about her own, considerable though it is. In discussing her award-winning documentary film “Syria Undercover,” she alludes again and again to the bravery of activists and dissidents who helped her and producer Wael Dabbous piece together an often harrowing portrait of the early days of the Syrian opposition movement.

Unable to report openly on the uprising, the pair spent weeks in clandestine constant contact with activists who had left behind lives as teachers and businessmen to devote themselves the struggle against the Assad regime _ a ragtag band that was just beginning to coalesce into the Free Syrian Army. The filmmakers endured danger and hardship along with their subjects, including a heart-poundingly close call when Syrian government forces and militiamen raided homes adjacent to the safe house where they and a trio of fugitives were sheltering in the town of Madaya.

Click here for the rest of this article

Publication: Wild Magazine 

by: Blaine Skrainka, October 26, 2012 

Journalists – the good ones at least – are essentially two things: truth-seekers and story tellers. Ramita Navai travels to far and dangerous corners of the globe to do just that, uncovering the ugly truths that are all too often brushed under the rug while bringing a human connection to those that are ignored.

Copyright: Wild Magazine

The fight for democracy throughout the Arab world, while at times fascinating and inspiring to witness, has been an arduous and bloody affair. No place is this truer than in Syria where literally tens of thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters have been systematically targeted and intimidated, tortured and murdered.
Foreign press coverage had been outright banned in the country, and journalists have been said to be targeted by government security forces. Ramita Navai and her director Wael Dabbous were some of the first reporters to make their way in. After hooking up with a dissident network in London, the two snuck into Syria posing as tourists and then embedded themselves in with the activists. Upon her return from the turbulent situation, Ms. Navai spoke to The WILD about her perilous mission, and the life journey that shaped her motivations for telling this story.

Click here for the rest of the interview

Anderson Cooper 360 


Frontline Club
Crisis in Syria

Birmingham University 
Keynote Speaker


Frontline Club
Murder for Honour's Sake