Bibliography - I have read a lot of books about Afghanistan.  Here are a few I think are exceptional:

  • An Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot - he was able to describe my emotions as if he had been on the trip with me.  One of the best books I've ever read.
  • Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid - the most concise and readable book about the historical context of modern Afghanistan
  • My Forbidden Face, Latifa - journal of a young girl living under the Taliban
  • The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini - the story of 2 boys growing up in Kabul during the last peaceful years and coming of age 2 continents apart. In the years since it came out it has become a classic piece of popular literature. And Khaled has become a wonderful friend.
  • Charlie Wilson's War, George Crile - an exhaustive (and exhausting) narrative about the role of Congressman Charlie Wilson and the CIA in funding the mujahidin during the Soviet occupation.
  • The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad - You feel like you are living with an Afghan family. The choices women (don't) get to make had me in tears.
  • Ghost Wars - Steve Coll - Riveting narrative of the CIA involvement with the mujahidin before, during and after the Soviet occupation. New stories about familiar characters.
  • Kabul in Winter, Ann Jones - I'm not saying this because she's a dear friend. And I'm not saying this because I make a guest appearance on page 126. This is one awesome book. The book is by turns heartbreaking and hilarious - hilarious in that wicked sardonic sense that those of us who live here adopt to keep our sanity. Want to know what life is really like for both Afghan and foreign women here? This is the book.
  • Fragments of Grace, Pamela Constable - The Washington Post correspondent who founded animal shelter Tigger House in Kabul has written an insightful book about the challenges of ferreting out the truth in a culture where truth is nothing but relative.
  • Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story, Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton - Originally a radio documentary on This American Life, Akbar recounts his 3 summers in Afghanistan with his father who served as Hamid Karzai's spokesperson and then as governor of Khost.
  • Zinky Boys, Svetlana Aleksievich - Not particularly well written, but a perspective seldom heard. Short individual memoirs by Russian soldiers, mothers and widows about the war in Afghanistan. The title comes from the fact that soldiers killed in Afghanistan were sent home in zinc coffins and the families were not allowed to open them.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini - A masterpiece of literature about Afghan women. The description of the women's prison is perfectly vivid, exactly as it was. One of the biggest thrills of my life to be mentioned in the acknowledgements.
  • The Hidden War, Artyom Borovik - Written in the year 2000, you need to keep reminding yourself that he didn't know the Americans would be doing it all exactly wrong in exactly the same way just a few years later.

Also Worth Reading:

  • Punishment of Virtue, Sarah Chayes
  • The Places In Between, Rory Stewart
  • The Sewing Circles of Herat, Christina Lamb
  • Caravans, James Michener
  • Descent Into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid

Reading List - The fabulous staff of the Mountain View Public Library Teen Zone has put together a reading list for teens interested in life in Afghanistan.  The reading list includes books for adults, teens and children about the Taliban, arranged marriage, women in the Middle East, Muslim women, women’s and girls’ rights, and the exploitation of children.



  • The Economist - News weekly with the best coverage of Afghanistan among the major media


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