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The Best of Books 2017

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The Way of the Strangers: Encounters With the Islamic State

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The Way of the Strangers: Encounters With the Islamic State
By Graeme Wood
Random House, 2016
352 pp.
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Wood's book affords readers a look into the soul of violent jihadism. Wood, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is a gifted storyteller who tracks down jihadist interlocutors around the world. He shows that the Islamic State (or ISIS) and its sympathizers are not heretical zealots; their devotion is not a form of false consciousness. Their practice and understanding of Islam, although extreme and rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, nonetheless qualify as a form of Islamic orthodoxy. Wood plunges into the thickets of extremist theology, giving it voice through an eclectic sampling of its most committed practitioners. They expound on the caliphate, slavery, corporal punishment, the end of days, and the coming of the Messiah. Wood’s account is unrivaled in the breadth and depth of its exposition. Read the full review.