I would start with The Dawn of Conscience by James Henry Breaste. It’s old – published in 1933 – but then what it deals with is even older! It’s a brilliant introduction to Ancient Egyptian life and thought – and its continued relevance today.
The Crusades through Arab Eyes (Saqi Books, £14.95) by eminent Lebanese author, Amin Malouf is a great read – take care though: it’s not the angle that western readers are used to.
Miramar Everyone should read one Naguib Mahfouz novel. In English this is the one I’d go for. Even though it’s my mother’s translation, I am unashamed in promoting it; it’s the best translation of Mahfouz available.
Nasser: The Last Arab (Duckworth, £18.00) by Saïd K. Aburish – well-paced, sympathetic and lively, this is the read for a vivid image of Egypt in the mid-century.
Egypt: The Moment of Change (Zed Books, £16.99) Editors Rabab El Mahdi and Philip Marfleet – This came out two years ago and provides an excellent background and interpretation of today’s Egyptian revolution.
Tweets from Tahrir (OR Books, £8.00) by Alex Nunns and Nadia Idle will take you right up to the present and give you a sense of the Egyptian Revolution as it unfolded.