Home > NYT's “Caliphate” Podcast Reading List – Part 1

NYT's “Caliphate” Podcast Reading List – Part 1

The New York Times dropped a 10 episode podcast in March by Rukmini Calimachi, a respected journalist who reports on ISIS. “Caliphate” has skyrocketed in popularity and now boasts millions of listeners each week. “Caliphate” is an immersive experience - against the backdrop of an eerie soundtrack, Calimachi explores the history, ideology, and tactics of ISIS through interviews, live reporting, and commentary by fellow journalists.  She sifts through mountains of ISIS trash and ruble of abandoned or destroyed buildings to understand the ISIS regime and its inner workings. And the listener is right there with her, trying to assemble the clues and make connections. Vulture described Caliphate as a “serialized audio documentary,” similar to Serial or S-Town. In addition to being a documentary, it acts as a window into investigative reporting. Calimachi is just as fascinating a subject as her work. She has received death threats and is the regular target of fat-shaming by ISIS supporters on Twitter.  Her resolve is astonishing, and her cleverness parallels the stuff of superheroes. This multi-faceted and complex dive into the world of ISIS, while being incredibly comprehensive, has left me wanting more information. Thankfully, I work for the ideal institution to meet this need! I’ve scoured the catalog to find materials that supplement the topic of each episode.  Below is my reading list for the Prologue through 5, and once the podcast concludes, I’ll be back to boost your TBR pile with a reading list for episodes 6 through 10.


Prologue: The Mission

“The war on terror has cost the U.S. billions and has been fought for nearly 20 years. Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi asks the question “Who are we really fighting?”

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Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction. Washington Post journalist Joby Warrick investigates the rise of ISIS and its political and religious motives. 

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The terror years: from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State by Lawrence Wright

In a collection of ten essays, New York Times journalist Lawrence Wright traces the history of terrorism in the Middle East from Al Quaeda to ISIS. 

Episode 1: The Reporter

“Rukmini describes the reality of being on the terrorism beat and why she brings trash bags with her to the frontlines of the war against ISIS”

Episode 2: Recruitment

Who is it that ISIS appeals to, and how? Rukmini speaks with a former ISIS member about how and why he joined the fold.

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Islamic State: the digital caliphate by Abdel Bari Atwan

An in-depth look into ISIS’ online presence and recruitment tools by Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan

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A good country: a novel by Laleh Khadivi

A compelling novel about a young boy in California who becomes radicalized. This is only available in e-book format, so if you would like a hard copy, contact your library to place an Interlibrary Loan order!

Episode 3: The Arrival

“ISIS turns fantasy into reality for a new recruit.”

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Meeting Isis (Kanopy Documentary)

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Faces of Terror (Kanopy Documentary)

This documentary dives into the pasts of ISIS fighters and how they came to be involved in one of ISIS’ most shocking attacks in Paris. 

Episode 4: Us vs. Them

“A new recruit proves his worth and gets invited to a secret meeting."

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The mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the ideology of the caliphate by Robert Manne

Robert Manne dissects the mechanisms used by ISIS to twist Muslim belief and interpretations of the Koran to serve a violent and dictatorial end.

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The mind of terror: a former Muslim sniper explores what motivates ISIS and other extremist groups (and how best to respond) by Tass Saada

An exploration of the ISIS ideology and how it is used to manipulate and coerce its recruits.

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The ISIS apocalypse: the history, strategy, and doomsday vision of the Islamic State by William Faizi McCants

William McCants examines the complexities and contradictions in ISIS ideology, and how its doomsday vision pushes ISIS recruits to do the unthinkable.

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