Adam Valen Levinson is too young to have written a book this good: eloquent, analytical, funny, sad. I have spent time in the Middle East. It is a wondrous and strange and supernatural place hard to articulate in all the different shades and shadows. But Levinson absolutely nailed it in a brilliant first book.
— Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights

"Eat, Pray, Laugh"  


          The New York Times

Written on four continents over seven years, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah (W.W. Norton, 2017) is the hard-won first book by journalist, sociologist, comedian and sometime trumpeter Adam Valen Levinson.  For Adam, "Nine Eleven" was enough to shroud the Middle East in fear, and to imbue it with the sort of curiosity where a kind of love comes from. 

Love and fear are powerful drivers, the thirteen-country travelogue says: and often exactly away from where we think they're taking us.  Adam was a belated bar-mitzvah, an elementary school grade-skipper and a late-to-grow short-kid-turned-kind-of-tall — The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah is the product of a long time spent growing up, thinking about growing up, and thinking about thinking about what it means to be childish at the scale of just one guy, and at the scale of an entire country.  

Drawing on the travel writing traditions of Pico Iyer and Jonathan Raban, and all the can't tell me nothings of Kanye West, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah is new American travel writing.

Sneak peak:

read the preamble

Adam and Aurangzeb in Karachi, c. 2011.

A fabulously written primer on the darkest countries in the world—or not so dark, as Valen Levinson shows with his toolkit of sharp sociology and brilliant humor. I never thought I would laugh so hard or with such affection about what an intrepid young American Jew might see in Iran or Somalia. This brave, humane, hilarious, and introspective account of his adventures is a must-read.
— Peter Theroux, author of Sandstorm: Days and Nights in Arabia
Overturning cliché to find a deeper humanity, the funny Adam Valen Levinson is always fearless, and occasionally pantsless.
— Henry Alford, author of Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?

Written out of sheer obsession.

- Adam Valen Levinson

A thrilling, riotous, sympathetic read that reminds us that little in the world is truly ‘foreign,’ bringing the peoples and cultures of the Middle East nearer to us, and pushing hatred and fear farther away.
— Reza Aslan, author of god: The Human Quest to Make Sense of the Divine
The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah is the rare work of art that mixes cultural immersion with personal reflection—and actually gets it right. This book would be entertaining as a novel, but the fact that it’s a true story should make it required reading for anyone who wants to learn about the world.
— Chris Guillebeau, Author of Side Hustle and The Happiness of Pursuit