1984 by George Orwell (Signet, $16).
This is the "duh" choice. It's everyone's favorite book. But for me it is even more special. What I have seen in Egypt and how the media manipulated people on a daily basis might be a chapter out of Orwell's book — a chapter that is not even well written.
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn (Harper Perennial, $20).
It always fascinates me how some people choose to stand for truth in the face of organized, deeply rooted propaganda. I come from a region where questioning the "official history" of our region, our religion, and our countries is frowned upon. Propaganda serves many purposes, one of which is making people falsely feel good about themselves. That's why a book like this is not welcomed by many.
Forcing God's Hand by Grace Halsell (Amana, $15).
This 1999 book opened my eyes to how religion and Rapture theory ran deep in the rhetoric and ideology of right-wing America. In a country that has a constitution separating church and state, religion had a much deeper impact than I'd thought. Using scripture to steer national policy? Sounds very familiar to me.
America by Jon Stewart (Grand Central, $20).
Watching Stewart's show was something, but reading this textbook-spoofing history of the United States reveals just how hilarious and twisted were the minds behind the show.
God and the Fascists by Karlheinz Deschner (Prometheus, $22).
A must-read book about the religious support given by the Vatican to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Croatia's Ante Pavelic prior to and during World War II. The rhetoric that was used then is no different from what we are hearing now.
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II (BenBella, $18).
This is the only nonpolitical book on my list, but it changed my life. The book, based on a two-decades-long study, busts common myths about food, making the case that humans do not need meat or other animal products. The argument is all built on sound research and medical testing, not fake science.
— Bassem Youssef is a former heart surgeon and the onetime host of a satirical news show that was, before it shut down under pressure, the most popular TV program in Egypt. His new book is Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring.