Guests of the Ayatollah

  • by Mark Bowden
  • Narrated by Mark Bowden
  • 9 hrs and 55 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

On November 4, 1979, a group of radical Islamist students, inspired by revolutionary Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They took 52 Americans hostage and kept nearly all of them captive 444 days. The Iran hostage crisis was a watershed moment in American history. It was America's first showdown with Islamic fundamentalism, a confrontation at the forefront of American policy to this day. It was also a powerful dramatic story that captivated the American people, launched yellow-ribbon campaigns, made celebrities of the hostage's families, and crippled the reelection campaign of President Jimmy Carter. Mark Bowden tells this sweeping story through the eyes of the hostages, their radical, naive captors, the soldiers sent on the impossible mission to free them, and the diplomats working to end the crisis. Taking listeners from the Oval Office to the hostages' cells, Guests of the Ayatollah is a remarkably detailed, brilliantly re-created, and suspenseful account of a crisis that gripped and ultimately changed the world.

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What the Critics Say

"Bowden keeps tension high." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Worth a listen, with a few reservations

Overall, this was a fascinating listen. The author narrated his own book, and did a good job. The story line is easy to follow and well written.

My reservations about this book are as follows: Bowden is a strong fan of Jimmy Carter and that comes through often throughout the book. If you are also a Carter fan, you will enjoy that. His descriptions of Carter and his handling of thie hostage situation are far and away more favorable than I've seen anywhere else, other than in Carter's own writings. These probably served as an important source in the writing of Bowden's book.

The final chapter, which summarizes and editorializes, was the weak link. It consisted in a fair amount of great praise for Carter and absolute disdain for Reagan. When Bowden mentioned Reagan, you could even hear a disgusted change in his voice. He also got in a jab at George W. Bush, by stating that he had kept the former hostages from suing Iran for damages. I'm not a big Bush fan, but am rather tired of EVERYTHING being "his fault". The former hostages have, since their captivity, lived through the administrations of Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton before reaching the "W" years. There was no mention of their legal pursuits during any of these administrations. That made the "W" jab seem like a pure piece of vindictive political correctness, and was annoying. Enough is enough on that score.

Overall, the book was a good listen, but I would not rely on it as a single source for political background of the day. "Siege of Mecca" is an excellent book from Audible which is about the takeover of Mecca's Grand Mosque by Muslim extremists in the late 70's. It is written by Yaroslav Trofimov, who deals briefly with the Carter administration and its handling of foreign policy, including the Iran hostage situation. I heartily recommend it as a companion to this book, or as a stand-alone work. It is excellent in every respect.
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- Eunice

Fine as an abridged version!

I recently went on an Iran kick, listening to "All the Shah's Men" (from Audible) and then this book. 'Guests of the Ayatollah' was the far more engaging of the two. I usually shun abridged versions, but I must say that at 9+ hours, this edition was just as engaging and satisfying as many of the great full-length books I have listened to.

The author paints a well-researched view of the whole Iran Hostage Crisis, skillfully blending the parallel stories of the Iranian revolution, the American hostages, President Carter, and the (fascinating!) botched rescue attempt by Delta Force.

This was one of those real-life books that has you engaged as if it were fiction. Highly recommended, especially if you were like me, having always heard of the Iran Hostage Crisis but never knowing the actual details.
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- Max "Max"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-19-2006
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio