Read a book, help a child
This reading list is by no means exhaustive, but you should find it a good starting point for getting to know more about Afghanistan. If you buy any of these books via the Amazon.com widget on the right, a portion of the price will go directly to the AFCECO orphanages in Afghanistan.
Biographies and autobiographies
Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan, by Melody Ermachild Chavis. Meena was the founder of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. RAWA has been fighting for social justice and human rights since 1977. Meena was a truly extraordinary young woman, who dedicated her life to fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan and who was assassinated in 1987. This biography details not only Meena’s commitment but also her genius for political organisation. Visit the RAWA site to learn more about the organisation.
My Forbidden Face: Growing up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman’s Story, by Latifa.
Women of Courage: Intimate Stories from Afghanistan, by Katherine Kiviat & Scott Heidler. This book is a work of love. It contains one-page interviews with 40 Afghan women representing a fascinating cross-section: nurse, beekeeper, abused wife, journalist, actress, helicopter pilot, fortune teller, housewife. Katherine Kiviat’s beautiful photographs are both inspiring and heart-stopping.
Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Woman’s Struggle for Freedom, by John Follian & Rita Cristofari. Zoya is the assumed name of a young member of RAWA. This is her story as told to Follian and Cristofari.
Non-fiction (mostly by non-Afghans)
Descent Into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid. Pakistani author, Rashid, provides solid insights into the geopolitics of the Central Asian region.
Land of the High Flags: Afghanistan When the Going Was Good, by Rosanne Klass. A memoir of life in Kabul for an American teacher in the 1950s. Klass writes in detail and at times with great beauty about her time in Afghanistan well before the last 30 years of upheavals. She has a deep respect and love for the Afghan people. Her description of the national sport of buzkashi is graphic and wonderful.
The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart. Rory Stewart’s account of his walk across Afghanistan is fascinating in its descriptions, but is particularly useful for his insights into cultural differences.
The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, by Sarah Chayes.
The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan, by Christina Lamb. An on-the-ground perspective by a journalist who has spent many years in Afghanistan. This personal tale is sometimes frustrating but mostly fascinating. Lamb is one of the few journalists to spend her time in the heart of things, rather than holed up at a hotel in Kabul.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin. Note: There’s also a young reader’s version of this, if you’d like to share it with your children. Mortenson’s inspiring story of how the people in a village in Pakistan came to his rescue, how he repaid them by building them a school, and from there blossomed the Central Asia Institute and its program of building schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan.
With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, by Anne Brodsky. Although this account of the history and work of RAWA reads like an academic treatise at times, it’s full of fascinating details and interview snippets from RAWA members and supporters.
Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future, edited by Sunita Mehta. A collection of essays, poems, photos and stories by Afghan women and their supporters around the world.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by
Language & travel
Afghanistan: A Companion and Guide, by Bijan Omrani & Matthew Leeming. Beautifully illustrated and rich with detail about the different regions of Afghanistan and Afghan life, this traveller’s guide makes a fascinating read for the armchair traveler, too.
Dari: Dari-English and English-Dari Dictionary & Phrasebook, by Nicholas Awde, Asmatullah Sarwan, Saeid Davatolhagh & Sami Aziz.
Pashto Dictionary & Phrasebook, by Nicholas Awde & Asmatullah Sarwan.
Your First 100 Words in Pashto, by Jane Wightwick. Useful for learning and committing to memory the Pashto script. Wightwick uses simple, repetitive games to help you get your first 100 words in Pashto under your belt.
Accent on Afghanistan – Pashto; and Accent on Afghanistan – Dari. These two books are published by Accent on Languages. Each ring-bound package contains a set of flash cards, an audio CD, a booklet containing cultural notes and basic etiquette, and a laminated, fold-out quick reference guide with 350 words and phrases. Both the Pashto and Dari versions are designed for soldiers, so there’s a rather disconcerting emphasis on military dialogue, including phrases such as “Put your hands up” and “Show me your identity papers.” Despite that, the inclusion of a CD as well as the other materials makes this series a really great way to pick up some basic Pashto or Dari.
(Reviews to come…)
Afghanistan: A Short History of its People and Politics, by Martin Ewans.
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, by Steve Coll.
Good Morning Afghanistan, by Waseem Mahmood.
Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War, by Jean Bricmont.
Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, by Ann Jones.
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid.
The Attack, by Yasmina Khadra & John Cullen.
The Swallows of Kabul, by John Cullen.
Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, by Sally Armstrong.