Bernard Lewis took some time to answer a few of our questions:
What was the book that most influenced your life -- and why?
A lot of books have influenced my life, but I suppose that the two that have had a consistent influence are the plays of Shakespeare and the Bible. I devoted a great deal of time to these books -- under constraint when I was a student, and by choice ever since. I am certainly more familiar with them than with any other.
What are your favorite books -- and why?
I must give a high place to Jane Austen's novels, and I would select two of them -- Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion -- two books that I like to refer to and dip into at random and always find both enjoyable and instructive.
Three books from the 18th century: One is Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. Another is Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The third is a book I read many times when I was young and still go back to occasionally: Gulliver's Travels -- a rattling good yarn, and also a superb example of satirical self-criticism in Western civilization.
Two works of fiction dealing with the East: Rudyard Kipling's Kim is a superb and very sympathetic evocation of the sights and sounds and people of India, and J. J. Morier's Hajji Baba of Isfahan, a characterization of early-19th-century Iran so accurate that Persians long refused to believe that it was not translated from a Persian original.
Finally, some travel books about the East which I found particularly penetrating and accurate: A. W. Kinglake's Eothen and various books by Adolphus Slade.
What are you working on now?
A history of the Holy Land and a book on Islam and democracy.
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