I recently read "The West's last chance" by Tony Blankley (avoid, unless desperately in need of a good laugh). What a pleasure it was to turn to a genuinely even-handed approach, instead of a polemic trying to score points and promote a cause! This is a scholarly, yet completely approachable, history of the Middle East by a noted authority, starting `way back with the Sumerian Empire and coming forward to the present day (it's a recent as the election of Ehud Olmert as Israeli Prime Minister). Dr. Catherwood makes his own positions clear, but doesn't hesitate to point out alternative views and why he differs from them, the way a good historian should. It is full of insights as to why the Middle East is the way that it is, notably how the Western countries have so completely messed it up (and who, of course, are continuing this tradition). His final chapter on the alleged "clash of civilisations" is especially thought-provoking, making the point that the USA is under attack by Islamic militants mainly because it is a supporter of the corrupt, and in their eyes unIslamic, regimes of the Middle East, which are their real targets. Anyone who wants to understand the Middle East could do a lot worse than starting with this excellent slim volume.