top of page
How ISIS ReturnsRadio Atlantic
00:00 / 01:04

"An open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself."―We Are The Mighty


"Beautifully of the most important reflections on the war to date."—The Intercept 


"An important read on the rise of the Islamic State and the West's fight to defeat the militant group, reported from the ground through beautifully captured human portraits."―The New York Times At War


"An engaging and valuable account of the battle against the Islamic State and its regional and international effects. Giglio captures, better than most any other author, the gritty, confusing and often cynical nature of this war fought by local actors on behalf of the United States. Readers who embark with him on his harrowing adventures will gain much from his eye for the details that humanize his tale."―The Washington Post


"He is tenacious and persistent as he moves through dangerous territory; his network would leave an intelligence officer envious (and probably did), and his information is chilling." —Airmail


"This is not an armchair account. His description of direct exposure to mortars, IEDs, and rocket attacks—as well as their effects on bystanders and families—adds realism, humanity, and texture." — U.S. Naval Institute 


"The book is like a magnet."―The Jerusalem Post


"Gripping."—The Independent


"Giglio's writing thrums with the blood pulse of battle...What powers this book more than the chilling accounts of bullets zipping through the air and bombs roaring near and far, however, are the people Giglio encounters and the stories they share. They are the beating heart of this story, and they are truly unforgettable."―Open Letters Review


"[A] searing debut...[Giglio's] insights into the 'strange ecosystem' of journalists, hustlers, and fixers that operate on the edges of war zones will be of interest even to readers who've had their fill of battle stories. His warning, meanwhile, that many jihadists and their families escaped ISIS territory before coalition forces moved in takes on frightening new relevance as U.S. troops withdraw from the region. Giglio's probing, prescient narrative illuminates the global repercussions of a murky conflict."―Publishers Weekly


"Wrenching...a forthright account by an invested journalist unafraid to ask key questions about the many ramifications of the conflict."―Kirkus Reviews


"An excellent and invaluable summation of the complex conflict in the Middle East from 2011-2017, shedding light on the murky circumstances behind so many political soundbites that inadequately cover terrorism and plight of refugees."―Booklist


"Part memoir, part commentary, and part war story, Shatter the Nations is an accessible, engaging primer on the Islamic State and the challenges facing the region that hopefully serves as an antidote to the war weariness and lack of interest Giglio observes in the American public."―The Strategy Bridge



Staff Writer for the New Yorker

"With a reporter's unflinching eye and in a fine writer's clear prose, Mike Giglio has written a hypnotically compelling account of the rise and fall of the blood-drenched ISIS 'caliphate' in the Middle East. Unforgettable."



Author of Drawing Blood and Illustrator of Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War

"Giglio's Shatter the Nations is more than a brave on-the-ground chronicle of the battle against ISIS-it is a lyrical, thrilling work that stands amongst the best of war literature."



Author of the New York Times-bestselling ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

"A compelling and deeply reported narrative that explains how ISIS will have a lasting effect not just on the region but on the wider world. This is a distinguished, firsthand account that covers all sides of the conflict with the terror group--which is rare."



National Book Award-winning Author of Legacy of Ashes

"An epic war story: bravely reported, brilliantly written, shot through with humanity."



Author of When the War Was Over

"Shatter the Nations is a reporter's account of today's Middle East wars that reads like a screenplay. Somehow Mike Giglio avoids clichés while bringing to life the suicide bombers, resistance heroes, militants, and civilians and making sense out of those murky and hideous wars."

Advance praise
About the book

The unflinching dispatches of an embedded war reporter covering ISIS – the most radical antagonist that has yet emerged in the Middle East – and the unlikely alliance of Iraqi special forces, Kurdish militia, and shadowy U.S. soldiers who came together to defeat it.


The war against ISIS and the so-called caliphate it declared across Syria and Iraq was a battle to define not just the Middle East but the wider world. Growing from the aftermath of the U.S. war in Iraq and a brutal civil war in Syria, ISIS sought to usher in a new era of conflict as it launched terrorist attacks across Europe, while inflicting a savage extremism on the population in controlled. And the U.S. developed a new kind of war to stop it – one that that relied heavily on the sacrifices of local soldiers who fought on behalf of the American cause. This struggle came to a climax in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the crown jewel of the caliphate, in the deadliest urban combat the world had seen in a generation.


Few journalists got as close to the war, and to protagonists on both sides of it, as Mike Giglio, who spent six years reporting on the rise and fall of the ISIS proto-state. He traveled along the Turkey-Syria border with the smugglers and operatives who worked in ISIS’s criminal and financial networks, accompanied antiquities traders to visit stolen artifacts that helped to fund the ISIS war effort, sat with human traffickers at the heart of the migrant crisis, met with ISIS defectors as they tried to free their minds from its grip, and embedded with local soldiers on the front lines.


Behind the drama on the battlefield, the suspense was in how much ISIS might change the world before its cities fell and how many of America’s allies it could kill along the way. This is a chilling portrait of the destructive power of extremism, and of the tenacity and astonishing courage required to defeat it.

bottom of page