10 Best Lebanese Authors to Immerse Yourself in Lebanese History

Discover our guide of the ten best Lebanese authors to introduce you to Lebanese literature.

The history of Lebanese literature extends back to ancient times. The Phoenicians, who occupied what is now Lebanon, created a written language including poetry and prose. Some of these early works have been preserved in stone and clay tablets with inscriptions.

In the 20th century, Lebanese literature started to acquire its voice. The emergence of a new generation of writers, many of whom were influenced by Western literature and ideals, began. In addition to Arabic, they began writing in French and English, and their works dealt with topics such as identity, nationalism, and the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War. Charles Corm, Amin Maalouf, and Hoda Barakat are among the most significant authors of this time period, as you will find in this list of the best Lebanese authors. You might also enjoy reading some of the works from authors who self-published.

1. Hanan al-Shaykh, 1945 –

Hanan al-Shaykh
Hanan al-Shaykh via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Hanan al-Shaykh is the author of The Locust and the Bird, The Story of Zahra, and One Thousand and One Nights, among other novels. The Locust and the Bird is about a young girl married by arrangement at a young age and her experiences. The book is based on the life of Hanan al-Shaykh’s mother. Her books are written in Arabic but have been translated into 21 languages for people all over to enjoy.

Hanan al-Shaykh was born in Beirut, Lebanon into a strict Shi’a family. Throughout her youth and adolescence, her father and brother imposed strong social control on her. She acquired a typical education for Muslim girls at the Almillah elementary school for Muslim girls before continuing her studies at the Ahliah school. She completed her gender-segregated education in 1966 at the American College for Girls in Cairo, Egypt. She returned to Lebanon and worked until 1975 for the Lebanese daily An-Nahar. In 1975, with the onset of the Lebanese Civil War, she left Beirut and relocated to Saudi Arabia to work and write. 

“I longed to escape. When finally my father’s prayer beads told him that I could go away to study, I left for school in Sidon.”

Hanan al-Shaykh, The Locust and the Bird
The Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • al-Shaykh, Hanan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 322 Pages - 08/19/2009 (Publication Date) - Anchor (Publisher)

2. Rabih Alameddine, 1959 –

Rabih Alameddine
Rabih Alameddine via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Rabih Alameddine is a Lebanese-American author and painter. He was born in Amman, Jordan, but later moved to Lebanon, where he spent most of his childhood. He then moved to the United States and attended college at California State University, Sacramento, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. He later earned a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Alameddine is known for his novels and short stories, which often explore themes of identity, sexuality, and politics. His first novel, Koolaids: The Art of War, was published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. His book, An Unnecessary Woman, was a National Book Award Finalist. In addition to his writing, Alameddine is a painter and has had several solo exhibitions of his work. You might also be interested in our guide on the best Lithuanian authors.

“I wonder if being sane means disregarding the chaos that is life, pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.”

Rabih Alameddine, GoodReads
An Unnecessary Woman: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Alameddine, Rabih (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 306 Pages - 02/04/2014 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

3. Kahlil Gibran, 1883 – 1931

Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese-American poet, philosopher, and artist. He was born in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon in 1883. He emigrated to the United States in 1895 and later moved to Paris, where he studied art. He wrote most of his literary works in English, although he was also fluent in Arabic.

Gibran is famously known for his 1923 book The Prophet, a collection of 26 poetic essays that explore themes such as love, marriage, children, work, and death. The book became one of the best-selling books of the 20th century and has been translated into over 40 languages. His other notable works include The Madman, Sand and Foam, and Jesus, the Son of Man. Gibran’s work is often characterized by its spiritual and mystical themes, and his writing has been compared to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
The Prophet
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gibran, Kahlil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 87 Pages - 02/09/2024 (Publication Date) - KTHTK (Publisher)

4. Amin Maalouf, 1949 –

Amin Maalouf
Amin Maalouf via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Amin Maalouf is a French-Lebanese writer and translator. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1948, he was raised in a Christian Orthodox household. He studied philosophy and history at Beirut’s Saint Joseph University. Later, he worked as a journalist for a Lebanese daily until relocating to France in 1976, at the onset of the Lebanese civil war. Maalouf is a prolific author who has written a number of novels, plays, and nonfiction works.

He’s received several accolades for his writing, including the renowned Goncourt Prize in 1993 for his novel The Rock of Tanios. Other famous works by the author include Samarkand, Balthazar’s Odyssey, and Leon the African.  Maalouf is well-known for his involvement in politics and human rights problems and is a member of the French Academy and Academia Europaea.

“I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road… all prayers belong to me. But I belong to none of them.”

Amin Maalouf, BrainyQuote
Samarkand
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Maalouf, Amin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 309 Pages - 04/19/2012 (Publication Date) - Abacus (Publisher)

5. Elias Khoury, 1948 –

Elias Khoury
Elias Khoury via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Image description: A photograph of Elias Khoury giving a speech. He is standing at a podium that reads “Boston University”. He is wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt, and blue tie. He has short, wavy, white hair and round thin-rimmed glasses.

Elias Khoury is a novelist and public intellectual from Lebanon, and their works of fiction and literary analysis have been translated into numerous languages. In 2000, he received the Prize of Palestine for his novel Gate of the Sun, and in 2007, he received the Al Owais Award for fiction writing. Additionally, Khoury has composed three plays and two screenplays.

At the beginning of the Lebanese civil war, Khoury joined the Lebanese National Movement, an alliance of largely Muslim-supporting leftist, pan-Arab organizations. He was maimed and briefly blinded during the fight. Khoury was appointed editor of Al-Mulhaq, the cultural section of the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, in 1993. Under his direction, the journal highlighted contentious parts of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri’s post-Civil War rebuilding of Lebanon.

“You should have eaten the oranges because the homeland is something we have to eat, not let it eat us. We have to eat the oranges of Palestine, and we have to eat Palestine and Galilee.”

Elias Khoury, Gate of the Sun
Gate of the Sun
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Khoury, Elias (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 553 Pages - 03/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Archipelago (Publisher)

6. Hoda Barakat, 1952 –

Hoda Barakat is a Lebanese author and translator. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1952. Barakat began her career as a teacher. Later on, she became a journalist, and then she began writing novels. She is considered one of the most important contemporary Arab writers, and her works have been translated into several languages.

Barakat’s novels often deal with the human condition, particularly in the context of the Lebanese civil war and its aftermath. She also explores themes such as identity, exile, and memory. Some of her notable works include The Tiller of Waters, Voices of the Lost, and The Displaced. The Tiller of Waters won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2009.

“The surprising thing, Khalil thought, is that they’ve changed the vessels that they speak through but they haven’t turned up their noses at speaking completely, they long for it, they feel nostalgia for their past, which, by necessity, is an innocent past.”

Hoda Barakat, The Stone of Laughter
Voices of the Lost: A Novel (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Barakat, Hoda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 03/02/2021 (Publication Date) - Yale University Press (Publisher)

7. Mikhail Naimy, 1889 – 1988

Mikhail Naimy
Mikhail Naimy via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mikhail Naimy, a novelist, poet and philosopher, was born in Lebanon. As a youngster, he resided in Palestine and attended the Theological Seminary in Poltava, Ukraine, between 1906 and 1911. He immigrated to the United States in 1911 and attended the University of Washington-Seattle before relocating to New York City. In 1932, he returned to Lebanon. In New York, he befriended writer Khalil Gibran, a fellow New York Pen League member, an organization that promotes Arab writers and writing.

Naimy published a biography of Khalil Gibran in addition to the spiritual work, Book of Mirdad: The Strange Story of a Monastery That Was Once Called the Ark. Book of Mirdad is an allegory describing the teachings of Mirdad, the abbot of a monastery where Noah’s Ark came to rest following the Flood.  In a series of dialogues with his followers, Mirdad provides instruction on topics like love, obedience, borrowing and lending, repentance, old age, and the cycle of life and death.

“Whoever cannot find a temple in his heart, the same can never find his heart in any temple.”

Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad
The Book of Mirdad: The Strange Story of a Monastery which was Once Called The Ark
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Naimy, Mikhail (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 245 Pages - 01/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Watkins Publishing (Publisher)

8. Charles Corm, 1894 – 1963

Charles Corm
Charles Corm via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Charles Corm is a writer, translator, and philosopher from Lebanon. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1894, he passed away in 1980. He was an Orthodox Christian who spoke Arabic, French, and English well. He attended the French Jesuit College at Saint Joseph University and then the Sorbonne in Paris for his education. One of his writings of particular interest to modern-day readers is 6000 Years of Peaceful Contributions to Mankind.

Corm is regarded as one of the most influential contemporary Lebanese philosophers and a founding member of the Lebanese National Movement. In the first part of the 20th century, he was a key player in Lebanon’s cultural and political life. He produced several books and essays on literature, culture, and politics, primarily in French. Additionally, he translated a number of works from Arabic to French and French to Arabic.

“The heart spoke: A crippled man has come to free my maimed homeland! The arm spoke”

Charles Corm, The Tale of Enthusiasm
6000 Years of Peaceful Contributions to Mankind
  • Charles Corm (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 201 Pages - 01/01/1656 (Publication Date) - La Revue Phenicienne (2013-01-01) (Publisher)

9. Mai Ghoussoub, 1952 – 2007

Mai Ghoussoub, born in Lebanon, obtained her Bachelor of Arts in French literature from the American University of Beirut. 1979, she went to London, where she studied art at Morley College and co-founded Saqi Books. She maintained her career as an artist, writer, and publisher until her passing. Her work has been featured in various international and British exhibits. She has authored numerous essays on culture, aesthetics, and Middle Eastern topics for international publications and numerous English, Arabic, and French books.

Among other works, Ghoussoub is the author of Leaving Beirut, an autobiographical intertwined with a fictional narrative about a young girl who contemplates the vengeful nature of her native country. Ghoussoub made a name for herself in London through her writings and the publishing company she founded, Saqi Books. When she passed away suddenly, the literary world reeled, honoring her with obituaries in numerous publications both in the U.K. and in her native Lebanon.

“Words don’t kill; humans do.”

Mai Ghoussoub, Goodreads
Leaving Beirut
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ghoussoub, Mai (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 190 Pages - 02/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Saqi Books (Publisher)

10. Ameen Rihani, 1876 – 1940

Ameen Rihani
Ameen Rihani via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Ameen Rihani was a novelist, philosopher, and political activist of Lebanese and American descent. Born in the town of Freike, Lebanon, he later moved to the United States. After completing his studies in New York City, he returned to Lebanon to work as a teacher. Later, he returned to the United States, where he achieved prominence as a writer and philosopher.

Rihani was one of the earliest Arab-American authors and is regarded as a literary pioneer. Among his many works are The Book of Khalid, The Descent of Bolshevism, and The Broken Wings. He was also a journalist, translator, and political activist. He fought for the autonomy of Arab nations and the rights of the Arab-American population.

Additionally, he wrote about the significance of knowing and valuing many cultures and religions. In addition to being a member of the Lebanese National Movement, he was Charles Corm’s close buddy. Looking for more? Check out our guide to the best authors to follow on Twitter!

“There is no such thing as disappointment for those who continue to cherish the selflessness of which is born the noblest inner self. There is no such thing as failure for those who invest in the potentialities of the ideal of the soul.”

Ameen Rihani, BrainyQuote
The Descent of Bolshevism
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Rihani, Ameen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 44 Pages - 12/08/2020 (Publication Date) - Good Press (Publisher)

Author

  • Kate has been writing since she was 10 years old, tapping away on an old typewriter in her childhood bedroom. Today, Kate is a seasoned freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing for print and online media. She’s an avid reader and believes in the power of words to transport readers to new worlds, and inspire and nurture creativity. Kate is also a published author and is currently working on her next project.