• Coming soon- Your Top 50 Books about Afghanistan

Coming soon- Your Top 50 Books about Afghanistan

04 May 2012

Our hunt for your favourite books about Afghanistan has proved amazingly popular.   

A lot of people got involved in our Twitter event on World Book day and more votes have come in since then, with people voting by email, or in person.  Some people voted for just one book - others sent in whole lists.

Last week we compiled and published a list of the top eight books, plus two authors nominated for entire bodies of work ( see below). 

We want you to know that we're now completing a compilation of your 50 top choices which we will publish on this site - and on Twitter - on Tuesday 8 May.

Nominations crossed genres - fact, fiction, political, cultural, memoirs, travel.  They spanned centuries ranging from classical works such as Babur’s Diaries and the works of Rumi to modern blockbusters.  Books written in Pashto or Dari, Dutch, French and Swedish were all represented, along with many English-language publications.

The Winners: The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini’s blockbuster novel ‘The Kite Runner’ was a clear overall winner, with his sequel ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ a close second.  Rafi Fazil tweets that these two novels, together with ‘Earth and Ashes’ (see below) reflect “the pain inflicted on the body and soul in Afghanistan”.

Three books tied for third place:

Ghost Wars - Steve CollSteve Coll’s ‘Ghost Wars’ appealed to readers in both Western countries and in Afghanistan.  Bethan Williams' tweet described it as “a revelation” in terms of history and context, while Kafil Niazai (via BBC Pashto) felt it told the real truth about decades of war in Afghanistan.

‘An Unexpected Light’ by Jason Elliot:  Elizabeth Winter of BAAG described it as “resonant of people and places” while Joel Hafvenstein of Tearfund says Eliot writes “colourfully, lyrically and fearlessly, with obvious love, respect and fascination for Afghanistan”.An Unexpected Light - Jason Elliot

A late rush of email votes helped Afghan-Canadian Hamida Ghafour’s memoir ‘The Sleeping Buddha’ up the list.  Karen Palmer emailed “Afghanistan's problems are complex, but this book does a great job of explaining both how it was, how it became what it is, and what hope there is for the future”.

Next came:

‘The Sewing Circles of Herat’, journalist Christina Lamb’s book about secret literature lessons for women during the Taliban’s rule, received multiple nominations.  Phil Grabsky, Director of the film ‘The Boy Mir’, tweeted that it “mixes great writing, great history and great stories throughout”.

'Images of Afghanistan: Exploring Afghan Culture through Art and Literature' by Arley Loewen:  Khalid Ahmadzai emails that it as A must-have book for those who want to learn about Afghanistan, its people, culture and customs”.  [Arley himself voted by email for ‘West of Kabul, East of New York’ by Afghan-American author Tamim Ansary.]

Last in this leading group came Atiq Rahimi’s ‘Earth and Ashes’ (see above) about loss and endurance during the Soviet occupation. 

Nominations for bodies of work:

Some prolific authors - notably Ahmed Rashid and Nancy Hatch Dupree - didn’t make the top list with individual books, but did in terms of overall nominations for their extensive body of work.  

Taliban - Ahmed RahimiJournalist and author Ahmed Rashid’s huge fan base is clear from the number of people who voted either for all of his books, a variety of them, or individual titles.  Olof Björnsson described his 2000 book ‘Taliban’ as “a classic”.  [Ahmed himself voted for ‘The Light Garden of the Angel King’ by Peter Levi.]


We realise that this list represents only a fraction of the books nominated by Twitter, email and in person, and that some of you will be disappointed that your nominations are not included.  Our longer list will be available next week....watch this space!

In the meantime, many thanks to all who participated.  And special thanks to those who canvassed their followers - on Twitter and elsewhere - on our behalf.  They include the BBC Pashto Service, the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network and Lyse Doucet, as well as BAAG member agencies.