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Extended Audio Sample Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, by Joby Warrick Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Joby Warrick Narrator: Sunil Malhotra Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In a thrilling dramatic narrative, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Joby Warrick traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents.

When the government of Jordan granted amnesty to a group of political prisoners in 1999, it little realized that among them was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist mastermind and soon the architect of an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East. In Black Flags, an unprecedented character-driven account of the rise of ISIS, Joby Warrick shows how the zeal of this one man and the strategic mistakes of Presidents Bush and Obama led to the banner of ISIS being raised over huge swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Zarqawi began by directing terror attacks from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By falsely identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, US officials inadvertently spurred like-minded radicals to rally to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings persisted until American and Jordanian intelligence discovered clues that led to a lethal airstrike on Zarqawi’s hideout in 2006.

His movement, however, endured. First calling themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq, then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, his followers sought refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and as the US largely stood by, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi’s dream of an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate.

Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today’s most dangerous extremist threat

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Warrick charts Zarqawi’s rise from booze-swilling Jordanian street tough to one of the most brutal jihadists in the world.”

    New Yorker

  • “Gripping…Warrick has a gift for constructing narratives with a novelistic energy and detail…For readers interested in the roots of the Islamic State…there is no better book to begin with than Black Flags.”

    New York Times

  • “Learning about the origins of ISIS is key to understanding the organization today.”


  • “Might be the most thorough and nuanced account of the birth and growth of ISIS published so far. Black Flags is full of personalities, but it keeps its gaze carefully focused on the wider arc of history.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Invaluable…[a] seminal book.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “A revealing, riveting, and exquisitely detailed account of the life and death of Zarqawi, the improbable terrorist mastermind, and the rise of the movement now known as the Islamic State.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A valuable, readable introduction to a pressing international security threat.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Narrator Sunil Malhotra reads this dramatic audiobook, a Pulitzer Prize winner, with a reportorial style, deftly handling the tongue-twisting Middle Eastern names…His measured delivery lets the story tell itself, with all its horrific facts.”


  • A People Magazine Best Book of 2015
  • An Amazon.com Bestseller in Iraq History
  • Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2015
  • A Kansas City Star Top 100 Book of 2015
  • A 2015 Top 10 Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
  • A Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Best Book of 2015
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