As the Syrian civil war enters its seventh year the flow of books about that tragic nation is similarly unending. But Ghayth Armanazi’s The Story of Syria (Gilgamesh, £19.95) stands out, not only for its readability but also because of its author’s privileged perspective. The scion of a prominent Syrian political and diplomatic family, Mr Armanazi has had a distinguished career across several fields including banking, academe and the media. Latterly he has spent many years based in London, holding a variety of posts, including General Manager of the Arab Bankers Association, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Arab Affairs and, for nearly a decade, Head of the London Mission of the League of Arab States. He thus kept one foot firmly in Syria and the MENA region while gaining a good understanding of the mindset of British readers who will be the most obvious market for his book. While making no claim for academic originality, The Story of Syria draws on a wide range of English and Arabic language sources, supplemented by personal observation and reflection. It is written in a flowing narrative style, recounting Syria’s history right up to the start of the Arab Spring, sharply critical where necessary not only of some of the main Syrian actors but also of external forces. It will thus be particularly useful for anyone who wishes to understand how Syria got to the tragic point it has now reached, but area specialists should also enjoy the book’s fluency and insights.