BECAUSE OF the events taking place in the Persian Gulf, Book World asked Thomas W. Lippman, author of "Understanding Islam," a former Middle East correspondent for The Post and currently its energy correspondent, to recommend a list of books for background reading on the crisis. The books he selected are available in libraries and, in some cases, bookstores.

There is a rich and fascinating history behind Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and its threat to Saudi Arabia. Here are nine good books that can guide you through it.

Forty Years in Kuwait, by Violet Dickson (Allen & Unwin, 1971). A classic memoir by a British expatriate who arrived in Kuwait when it was still an unknown pearl-fishing village and stayed to see it develop into an oil-rich nation-state.

Arabia, the Gulf and the West, by J.B. Kelly (Basic Books, 1980). An authoritative and brilliantly written -- but foul-tempered -- look at the history, economy and lifestyles of the Gulf nations. Kelly regards all the sheikhs and emirs as fools or knaves, and would favor a restoration of British rule.

Arabia Without Sultans, by Fred Halliday (Vintage Books, 1975). Another dim view of the sheikhdoms, by a British scholar with a left-wing perspective. Halliday's viewpoint is the opposite of Kelly's: Colonial rule was the problem, not the solution. To Halliday, Kuwait is "a vicious reactionary state with an untarnished record as a supporter of imperialist interests," which is pretty much what Iraq's Saddam Hussein thinks.

The Arabs, by Peter Mansfield (Penguin; revised edition, 1985). Probably the best overall survey of the politics, regional rivalries and economics of the contemporary Arab world.

Power Play: Oil in the Middle East, by Leonard Moseley (Random House, 1973). A wonderful, rich history of the early days of the petro-powers and the men who created the oil boom. If you don't know about Calouste Gulbenkian, "Mr. Five Percent," or the Red Line Agreement, start with this.

The Seven Sisters, by Anthony Sampson (Viking, 1975). In Iraq, the power belonged to British Petroleum. In Kuwait, it was Gulf Oil Corp. In Saudi Arabia, it was the American oil giants of the Aramco consortium. Sampson's book is a well-written account of Big Oil.

Making Democracy Safe for Oil, by Christopher T. Rand (Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1975). A useful analysis of the relationship between the oil-consuming nations of the West and the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Extensive reporting on internal OPEC rivalries.

OPEC: The Inside Story, by Pierre Terzian (Zed Books, 1985). The definitive history of OPEC, of which Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are leading members. The author is a Paris-based Lebanese journalist.

The Kingdom, by Robert Lacey (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). A very long but very readable and authoritative account of the creation of Saudi Arabia and a history of its people and, above all, its rulers, the princes of the house of Saud. -- Thomas W. Lippman