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Extended Audio Sample Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,647 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Bowden Narrator: Mark Bowden Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 fifty-two 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, naïve 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Bleakly compelling…[Bowden] writes about events in a way that gives a clear picture of both high-level decision making and the price paid by people on the ground…And 26 years after the [hostage crisis] the passions of the moment still reverberate. In Bowden’s book, you can feel them on every page.” 


  • “Suspenseful, inspiring, mordant, and, perhaps most of all, affectionate toward those who had to endure such trying circumstances. [Bowden] shows unfailing respect for the hostages, many of whom gave him extensive, intimate, and at times embarrassing access to their memories.” 

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Bowden’s mammoth feat or reportage on the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979–81 is essential reading…Bowden shows unparalleled skill in constructing an omniscient and engrossing narrative based on an almost daily account of the plight of the hostages, behind-the-scenes political machinations, and the planning of a rescue mission.” 

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “More than 26 years later, the siege of the embassy might seem like irrelevant history to those who know little or nothing about it. As talented journalist Mark Bowden shows, the standoff involving 52 American hostages is anything but irrelevant.” 

    San Francisco Chronicle

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Marti Garlett | 2/18/2014

    " Fabulous. Couldn't put it down. Part of my history (I actually shook Jimmy Carter's hand during his 1976 presidential run), but summaries of this grueling time do not do it justice. It's way more complicated than it's been characterized as being, and I admire Carter even more. And the rescue fiasco in the desert was also completely different from how it's been characterized in truncated history. So was the release of the hostages on Reagan's inauguration day. This author also wrote "Black Hawk Down," which I was similarly mesmerized by. Both very compelling reads, even though nonfiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Cathy Ruprecht | 2/15/2014

    " This is a really interesting look at the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-80. It gave me a much clearer understanding on why it was so difficult to end this crisis and though Jimmy Carter might not have been our strongest president, this account does a great job of explaining his actions while trying to solve a crisis with few viable options. The story is told through the accounts of many of the hostages. It can be a bit confusing to keep them all straight, but really puts a personal face on this situation that seemed so puzzling to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kanishka Sirdesai | 2/7/2014

    " An indepth explanation of a shocking and shameful incident "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Bryn Dunham | 2/1/2014

    " Mark Bowden is a great writer and this was a very detailed and interesting account of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Though long winded in spots I thoroughly enjoyed this book. "

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