We haven’t read that much about Afghanistan yet. But we thought we’d make a page anyway with our honest reviews of what we have read.
2 wonderful books that are mostly a mix of Afghanistan and Iran are in the Silk Roads books section: The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron, and The Way of the World by Nicolas Bouvier.
Rory Stewart does more or less the same thing as Jason Elliot (reviewed just below) at around the same time (turn of the millennium). But while Elliot takes cars, hangs out with foreigners and mostly stays in Kabul, Stewart actually travels. He walks across the country in the footsteps of Babur, and stays with locals. He lets them speak. He makes a significant archaeological discovery. His opinions are honest, straightforward and well-formed.
It is a gripping adventure story, edifying at every step. Highly recommended.
Elliot is a good writer but not that much of a thinker. His views of Afghanistan are very romantic and black-and-white, and the book is a lot about him. His travels are exciting, but compared to The Places in Between, they fall flat. It is definitely not a book without merit, but The Places in Between is just so much more.
Levi, a professor of poetry/archaeologist/Jesuit priest, travels with a young Bruce Chatwin to uncover Afghanistan’s cultural treasures in the late 60’s. Sounds interesting enough, right? Sadly, Levi does not have the storytelling talent of Chatwin, and it turns out be a very dry account of places and archaeological finds. Some nice quotes, but otherwise, really had to push through it. Too bad: it could have been so much more.
A travel writing classic from the 50’s, this is not a very good book. Newby accomplishes nothing, and writes about Afghanistan with typical colonial disdain. His humor might have been a bombshell in 1958, but it is not anymore. To avoid.
Aslam writes about every possible horror a person could encounter in Afghanistan’s recent past, and still you keep on reading. It’s very good writing. Written with a powerful voice, he manages to convincingly portray the psychology of extremely different characters. A book to make you think, and make you care.