By Jeff Labrecque
Updated September 12, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

At one point in President Jimmy Carter’s quest to coax peace out of Israel and Egypt at the 1978 Camp David summit, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat rebutted Carter’s claim that one of his demands was not logical: ”Some things in the Middle East are not logical,” he replied matter-of-factly. That might be the most apt description of the historic meetings, which surprised everyone — including the participants — by yielding the first-ever peace treaty between the two nations. Sadat was the charming military dictator who idolized Hitler, and Menachem Begin was the incisive but petulant Israeli who so complicated the negotiations with his bellicosity that Carter privately labeled him a ”psycho.” Both arrived expecting a charade, but Carter, the Bible teacher and naval engineer who thought every problem had a reasonable solution, risked his own political livelihood to force concessions on both sides. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wright expertly captures every move of the three-way realpolitik chess match. By using each man’s biography to illuminate the history of his respective nation, he not only chronicles Camp David but elucidates the issues that continue to plague the Middle East. It’s brilliant, penetrating scholarship. A