I first heard about this book on Fresh Air shortly after it came out. (I am annoyed that I can't listen to Fresh Air here. The local public radio station doesn't air most of the NPR programs.) The interview with Nafisi was delightful to listen to, but the book wasn't at my library yet even though we had a good library system in that town. I heard about it a few times after, but I basically forgot about it.
But a few weeks ago, I was reading Melissa's blog and was reminded about the book. I was able to get it through ILL from a nearby library and finished it last night. It was different from what I thought it would be. It is portrayed as a book about a small group of women reading "banned" books, but that is really a small part of the book. As usual, I read the reviews on Amazon this morning to see what other people thought about it, and it seemed to me that the main complaint was that it wasn't what it was portrayed to be. I can agree with that, but it isn't a complaint for me, just an interesting side note on how the book was marketed.
The other big complaint was about the literary analysis of several fiction books. This didn't bother me at all. I think there is a lot more to fiction that a good story. Pride and Prejudice is almost always thought of as a great romance now instead of a social commentary. Jane Eyre suffers from this too. Nafisi and her class take Elizabeth Bennett, Daisy Miller, and Daisy Buchanan and relate them and their reactions to their own lives. That is an important part of fiction.
I personally found this book very interesting because I have only spent time in liberal (relatively) Muslim countries. When I think of Islam, I think of Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Most people think of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under the Taliban. Because of this, I have a much more liberal view of Islam than many people I meet. It is good for me to read about the more restrictive interpretations of Islam (if you can even call them Islam) so I can better understand where people are coming from.
I highly recommend this book. It has persuasive arguments for the importance of reading, especially fiction, and I need to hear that sometimes.