Five Books has a wide range of interviews dedicated to books about Afghanistan or that touch on it. Unsurprisingly, many of our Afghanistan interviews focus on the country’s protracted political crisis.
A good starting point is the recommendations from leading academic Thomas Barfield. An anthropologist at Boston University, he chooses books to explain the culture and politics of Afghanistan. Andrew Exum, who served as a US infantry officer in Afghanistan before pursuing an academic career as a Middle East specialist, discusses the best books on understanding the war in Afghanistan. Sandy Gall, a veteran journalist who has been reporting from Afghanistan since the early 1980s, chooses his five best books on foreigners in Afghanistan.
A number of our interviews touch on the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The journalist Gretchen Peters selects her best books on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, while the historian Paddy Docherty offers his best books on the Khyber Pass. Anatol Lieven’s best books on understanding Pakistan and Fatima Bhutto’s best books on the politics of Pakistan also touch on this relationship, as do Peter Bergen’s best books on Osama bin Laden.
Many of our interviews on global politics and on security and related issues necessarily involve Afghanistan. Mary Habeck’s book recommendations on terrorism and Mary Kaldor’s books on war both discuss books that relate to the country. Professor John David Lewis on war and foreign policy, Chris Abbott on global security and Clare Lockhart on the best books on failed states all touch on the politics, security and geopolitical role of Afghanistan. David Miliband, the former UK foreign secretary, also mentions Afghanistan in his interview about books on refugees.
Other books chosen offer more individual experiences of the country. Andy McNab, the former SAS trooper, chooses A Million Bullets, about soldiers’ experiences serving in Afghanistan in his books on the politics of war. Gayle Lemmon chooses Burqas, Foulards et Minijupes by Anne Lancelot, looking at the experience of women in Afghanistan in her books on women and war.
In 2021, the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year was awarded to a book set in Kabul: Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul by Taran Khan (we also have a short Q&A with the author).
Andrew Exum recommends the best books for Understanding the War in Afghanistan
The US has repeatedly misdiagnosed the war in Afghanistan. Former soldier, Andrew Exum, tells us about flawed policy, unhappy outcomes and what could and should have been different.
The best books on Afghanistan, recommended by Thomas Barfield
Anthropologist and Afghanistan expert Thomas Barfield gives a panoramic view of Afghanistan, from founding dynasties to the failed central Asian states of today. He picks the best books on Afghanistan.
The best books on The Afghanistan-Pakistan border, recommended by Gretchen Peters
The award-winning journalist and author says she laughed out loud when she read Greg Mortenson’s line that if he was killed in Pakistan, he knew it would be in a car accident and not by a terrorist
The Best Books by Foreigners on Afghanistan, recommended by Sandy Gall
The veteran reporter and frequent visitor to Afghanistan tells us about the country he loves, and the Westerners (and Central Asian conqueror) who wrote engagingly about it.