After a slow start, the market for guidebooks about Central Asia and beyond is slowly filling out. Here is a 1-page overview of the best travel guidebooks for the Silk Road. See the links below for more thematic guidebooks and country-specific reviews.
Trip planning: If you are just planning your trip, don’t know much yet and want to get some inspiration, the Insight Guide to the Silk Road is a great source. 100s of pictures and detailed overviews per country that get you dreaming, without the boring practical details (there are other books for that).
Multi-country: Lonely Planet Central Asia is the best here: clear and concise, mentioning both highlights as more off the beaten track destinations. If you are planning your first Central Asia tour, spending a few weeks in each destination, this is the book to get.
Kazakhstan: Bradt Kazakhstan, originally written by the venerable Paul Brummell, is the best guidebook to Kazakhstan. It mentions almost everything there is to see in Kazakhstan with great detail and humor. A must if you are planning a serious discovery of Kazakhstan.
Uzbekistan: The Golden Road to Samarkand is the best guidebook I ever read, and if you are interested in really discovering Uzbekistan, there is no better companion. In-depth, exceptional writing that lays bare the history and present while unearthing the real Uzbekistan.
Kyrgyzstan: No better accomplice to an extended stay in Kyrgyzstan as the Bradt guide to Kyrgyzstan. I find it difficult to improve on.
Tajikistan: Despite the recent Bradt guide, Robert Middleton’s Tajikistan and the High Pamirs remains the gold standard. Heavy, but a must if one wants to start learning about Tajikistan.
Turkmenistan: The most in-depth guide remains Bradt Turkmenistan, poking around in every tiny village for a trace of a Sufi saint or ruined caravanserai. It has not been updated in a decade, though. For a good, more concise, but up to date version, Simon Proudman’s guide to Turkmenistan is recommended.
Iran: Best option we found so far is the Lonely Planet Iran. Well-researched, with clear, well thought-out advice, this will please the first-, second- and third-time visitor. The Bradt guide is a poor substitute focused on an older tour-group readership with an outsized interest in architecture.