Saturday, July 05, 2008

Five best: books about Afghanistan

Ann Marlowe, author of The Book of Trouble, was embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan twice in 2007. She has visited the country 10 times since 2002.

For the Wall Street Journal, she came up with a five best list of books that "afford a deeper understanding of Afghanistan."

One title on her list:
By James Michener
Random House, 1963

This novel from early in James Michener's career is the fruit of wide-ranging trips to Afghanistan in the mid-1950s. Despite its contrived plot, "Caravans" has more to teach about the country and its people than almost any later work of fiction or travel writing. Michener gets everything right, from the pronunciation of Kabul -- "cobble" -- to the archaeology. The protagonist, an American diplomat, travels across large areas of the country in 1946, some of the time with nomads, observing the beginnings of modernization, but also a public execution and mullahs spitting on those they disapprove of -- a portent of the violent extremism in Afghanistan's future.
Read about the book that topped Marlowe's list, and check out her 2006 literary guide to Afghanistan.

--Marshal Zeringue