If you want a concise, thoughtful background briefing on the ISIS crisis, this is it – written by a journalist with three decades of experience in the region. This is a compelling account of how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has managed to conquer an area the size of Britain. Patrick Cockburn knew something was coming: he nominated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, as the Independent’s ‘man of the year’ for the Middle East on 1 January, days before ISIS took over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and six months before ISIS electrified the world by taking over Iraq’s second city, Mosul.

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