100 books like Return of a King

By William Dalrymple,

Here are 100 books that Return of a King fans have personally recommended if you like Return of a King. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Kite Runner

Christie Nelson Author Of Beautiful Illusion

From my list on life and love in San Francisco as the world quakes.

Who am I?

I tend to see the events that affect people and countries in the shape of a narrative. Is it any wonder then that I would try my hand at literary fiction, which confers wholeness to stories of turmoil and division? I think not. Finally settling into historical fiction as if I’d found my true home came as a welcome surprise. Without sounding grandiose, it didn’t hurt to be born and raised in a magnificent American city built on seven hills on the edge of the Pacific with deep traditions in literature, music, the arts, and damn good drinking establishments. I wish you happy reading and the thrill of discovery.

Christie's book list on life and love in San Francisco as the world quakes

Christie Nelson Why did Christie love this book?

It seems as if I’m consistently selecting novels set during war. But my former recommendation, and this one, is just too good to pass by plus it’s on the top shelf of my library, keeping other favorites company. This one is a love story between boyhood friends and I’m a hopeless romantic. Match my romantic soul with tragedy and I’m a goner. Now we’re in Afghanistan where a privileged young boy and his friend, the son of his father’s servant, live through their country’s revolution and are invaded by Russian forces that tear the country apart. The writing is so powerful and eloquent, the subject so timely (it was published in 2003), that I was spellbound by Khaled Hosseini’s literary genius.

By Khaled Hosseini,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Kite Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.


Book cover of The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan

Grant Lock Author Of Shoot Me First: A Cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-Four Years in the Hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From my list on Afghanistan and life in the land of the Taliban.

Who am I?

To stop us from reopening a school for girls, a mob of angry and well-armed Pashtun men threatened to shoot my workers. I surprised myself. “If you are going to shoot my workmen, you will have to shoot me first!” My wife, Janna, and I bred cattle in outback Australia. On the weekends we played tennis. Yet, in 1984 we began a twenty-four-year adventure battling corruption, injustice, and disadvantage in the deserts, mountains, and cities of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I dug wells, built schools, and helped restore the eyesight of thousands of Afghans; until I myself became blind.

Grant's book list on Afghanistan and life in the land of the Taliban

Grant Lock Why did Grant love this book?

The three Pashtun virtues are hospitality, honor, and revenge. Pashtun hospitality epitomizes human warmth and generosity but Pashtun honor and revenge make a chilling and toxic cocktail. Christina Lamb gives a human face to the destruction wrought by the then unknown ultraconservative political and religious faction led by the one-eyed cleric, Mohammad Omar. Lamb was there before and after the tragedy. A great read. Will history repeat itself?

By Christina Lamb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sewing Circles of Herat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Lamb’s long experience as a journalist is a solid stage upon which to build the story of her voyage through Afghanistan, told with a deep, loving honesty.” — Montreal Gazette (Canada)

A brilliant British war correspondent who has spent ten years in Afghanistan gives a first hand report on the war and its genesis.

Award-winning journalist Christina Lamb chronicles the human stories behind the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Lamb spent the last phase of the Soviet War in Pakistan, relying on her friendship with exiled Afghans to smuggle her in and out of Jalalabad. Many of these friends…


Book cover of The Bookseller of Kabul

Grant Lock Author Of Shoot Me First: A Cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-Four Years in the Hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From my list on Afghanistan and life in the land of the Taliban.

Who am I?

To stop us from reopening a school for girls, a mob of angry and well-armed Pashtun men threatened to shoot my workers. I surprised myself. “If you are going to shoot my workmen, you will have to shoot me first!” My wife, Janna, and I bred cattle in outback Australia. On the weekends we played tennis. Yet, in 1984 we began a twenty-four-year adventure battling corruption, injustice, and disadvantage in the deserts, mountains, and cities of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I dug wells, built schools, and helped restore the eyesight of thousands of Afghans; until I myself became blind.

Grant's book list on Afghanistan and life in the land of the Taliban

Grant Lock Why did Grant love this book?

The widows of Kabul called my wife “Frishta” (Angel). Janna loved working with them and she loves this book. Åsne Seierstad writes about the experiences of Afghan women and their prospects, marriages, hopes, and fears. Seierstad lived with a family dominated by a patriarch who loved books; for which the Taliban, also had a—literally—burning passion.

By Åsne Seierstad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bookseller of Kabul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.


Book cover of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Hugh Wilford Author Of America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

From my list on history about the CIA.

Who am I?

I'm a British-born American historian, currently residing in Long Beach, California. I’ve published three books on the CIA, lectured about it for the Great Courses, and am now writing The CIA: An Imperial History for Basic Books, due to appear in 2023. Why spies? I’ve always loved spy novels and movies but my historical interest was piqued years ago when I stumbled across the weird story of how the CIA secretly funded various American artists and writers in the so-called Cultural Cold War. Decades on, I’m still fascinated by the subject: there’s so much human drama involved, and it’s a great lens through which to examine recent American and world history.

Hugh's book list on history about the CIA

Hugh Wilford Why did Hugh love this book?

Taking the story from the endgame of the Cold War to the dawn of the War on Terror is this extraordinary book on the rise of Islamist terrorism and the CIA’s efforts to defeat it prior to 9/11. Coll’s research, based on interviews with a vast range of senior officials, is dazzling, yet it never overwhelms a narrative that combines human interest and geopolitical sweep seamlessly. No less impressive is his accomplishment in documenting not just the U.S. and Afghan perspectives but the Saudi and Pakistani as well, all in the same painstaking detail. If this whets the appetite for more of the same, Coll’s Directorate S resumes his account of the intelligence wars in Afghanistan, providing necessary background to understanding the failure of the U.S. occupation there.

By Steve Coll,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ghost Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize

The explosive, New York Times bestselling first-hand account of America's secret history in Afghanistan

Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll has spent years reporting from the Middle East, accessed previously classified government files and interviewed senior US officials and foreign spymasters. Here he gives the full inside story of the CIA's covert funding of an Islamic jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, explores how this sowed the seeds of bn Laden's rise, traces how he built his global network and brings to life the dramatic battles within the US government over national security. Above all, he…


Book cover of The Jewel in the Crown

Annie Murray Author Of Letter from a Tea Garden

From my list on India under the Raj that are not about princesses.

Who am I?

Abi Oliver is a pen name as my real name is Annie Murray—I write under both names. My first book, A New Map of Love, set in the 1960s, featured an older woman who had been born in India. She developed into such a character—a bit of an old trout to be truthful—that I wanted to tell her story. It also tapped into my family’s many connections with India and the fact that I have travelled a lot there. I finally got to travel, with my oldest daughter, and stay in one of the tea gardens in Assam—a wonderful experience.

Annie's book list on India under the Raj that are not about princesses

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

This first volume—with the other threeis, I think, the best book ever written about the British in India and their leaving of it. The whole story is rooted in a rape that happens to a young Englishwoman, whose lover is accused of the crime. I first read this when it came out in 1980, before the amazingly good TV series. There are so many unforgettable characters in itthe women, trying to survive with husbands and fathers away in the army, the missionaries and nuns, as well as the men. Scott does not in any way idealize the Britishrather the oppositeand it is a feast of detail of the time and moving human stories. I have re-read it and will no doubt do so again. 

By Paul Scott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Jewel in the Crown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This first volume opens in 1942 as the British fear both Japanese invasion and Indian demands for self-rule. Daphne Manners, daughter of the province governor, is running at night through the Mayapore gardens, away from her Indian lover, who will soon be arrested for her alleged rape.


Book cover of A Passage to India

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Author Of Independence

From my list on the many mysteries of India.

Who am I?

As a writer and a professor, I love sharing knowledge of my birth country (India) and the experiences of Indian immigrants in America. My first book, Arranged Marriage, is about the transformed lives of immigrant women and won an American Book Award. Mistress of Spices is about a spice-shop owner who knows magic, was a national bestseller, and became a film. One Amazing Thing is a multicultural novel about nine people trapped by an earthquake, was a Citywide Read in over 25 US cities. Recently, fascinated by the richness of Indian history, I have delved into it in novels like The Last Queen, set in the 1800s, and Independence, set in the 1940s. 

Chitra's book list on the many mysteries of India

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Why did Chitra love this book?

Forster’s novel showed me the majesty and mystery of India at the height of British occupation. In delineating a complex friendship between an Englishman (Fielding) and an Indian (Aziz), it illustrated for me the difficulties of interracial relations at that time, even with the best of intentions. I love that the novel centers around a dramatic event in the Malabar Hills, a mystery that kept me guessing as to what really happened.

By E.M. Forster,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Passage to India as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in British India in the 1920s, this book looks at racial conflict. The characters struggle to overcome their own differences and prejudices, but when the Indian Dr Aziz is tried for the alleged assault of Adela Quested even the strongest inter-racial friendships come under pressure.


Book cover of The Classics and Colonial India

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Author Of The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives

From my list on why the past matters for the future.

Who am I?

I love stories, and as a child I found that some of the best and most powerful stories I ever heard were those that people told about the past. When I grew up, I pursued a career as an academic archaeologist and historian, and I am now Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna. But while I am of course interested in the past, in recent years I have been increasingly thinking about the politics of the past as well. Why do we choose to celebrate some stories about the past and not others? I have found these books all useful in helping me to think through this.

Naoíse's book list on why the past matters for the future

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Why did Naoíse love this book?

This book really brought it home to me how classics (that is, the study of ancient Greece and Rome) was implicated in the politics of the past, and specifically in the ideology of the British Empire. It has been quite influential within the discipline of classics, and there is now a whole subfield that considers the political uses of classics. 

By Phiroze Vasunia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Classics and Colonial India as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This extraordinary book provides a detailed account of the relationship between classical antiquity and the British colonial presence in India. It examines some of the great figures of the colonial period such as Gandhi, Nehru, Macaulay, Jowett, and William Jones, and covers a range of different disciplines as it sweeps from the eighteenth century to the end of the British Raj in the twentieth.

Using a variety of materials, including archival documents and familiar texts, Vasunia shows how classical culture pervaded the thoughts and minds of the British colonizers. His book highlights the many Indian receptions of Greco-Roman antiquity and…


Book cover of Heat and Dust

Peggy Payne Author Of Sister India

From my list on sensuous literature of India.

Who am I?

About thirty years ago, I spent three months on an Indo-American Fellowship in Varanasi taking notes on daily life in this holy city where my novel Sister India is set. That winter felt like a separate life within my life, a bonus. Because all there was so new to me, and it was unmediated by cars, television, or computers, I felt while I was there so much more in touch with the physical world, what in any given moment I could see, hear, smell…. It was the way I had felt as a child, knowing close-up particular trees and shrubs, the pattern of cracks in a sidewalk.

Peggy's book list on sensuous literature of India

Peggy Payne Why did Peggy love this book?

Another dual view of India, but this one is fiction and written by one author, novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It’s the story of two women at widely different times: Olivia of the British colonial period in the 1920s who, feeling suppressed by conventions of the time, becomes involved with an Indian prince, causing a great scandal, and her step-granddaughter who fifty years later tries to dig up Olivia’s story. Keyline in the novel; “India always changes people and I have been no exception.”

By Ruth Prawer Jhabvala,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heat and Dust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny, suffocating town of Satipur by eloping with an Indian prince. Fifty years later, her step-granddaughter goes back to the heat, the dust and the squalor of the bazaars to solve the enigma of Olivia's scandal. 'A superb book. A complex story line, handled with dazzling assurance ...moving and profound. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has not only written a love story, she has also exposed the soul and nerve ends of a fascinating and compelling country. This is a book of cool, controlled brilliance. It is…


Book cover of Magic Seeds

Jonathan Spyer Author Of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict

From my list on the human impact of war.

Who am I?

I'm a writer and journalist. I grew up in London’s Jewish community, and lived in Israel and Jerusalem for most of my life. I'm fascinated by the Mid-East region, its history, religions, music, cultures, and colors, and by Jewish history. As a result of my experiences as a soldier in the Second Lebanon War of 2006, and the Second Intifada of 2000-4, my focus on conflict became central to my work. After the 2006 war, I became a conflict reporter, and I've covered war and insurgency in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Ukraine, Lebanon, and Israel/West Bank/Gaza for a variety of publications. I also like to focus on the ways war and conflict impact human lives.   

Jonathan's book list on the human impact of war

Jonathan Spyer Why did Jonathan love this book?

Naipaul was one of the greatest English language writers of the last century, in my view. In this novel he traces the fortunes of one Willie Chandran, an Indian resident in the UK, who makes his way to India to join a rural Maoist insurgency against the Indian authorities. The book is a fascinatingly original description of and take on insurgent warfare, fascinating precisely because Naipaul is not a writer especially interested in war, or the usual themes that govern literary treatments of it. As a result, the parts of the book dealing with the insurgency succeed in a masterful and haunting description of the people involved and the conditions they are facing, while entirely avoiding the pitfalls of both sentimentality and cliché.  

By V.S. Naipaul,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Magic Seeds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s magnificent Magic Seeds continues the story of Willie Chandran, the perennially dissatisfied and self-destructively naive protagonist of his bestselling Half a Life.
Having left a wife and a livelihood in Africa, Willie is persuaded to return to his native India to join an underground movement on behalf of its oppressed lower castes. Instead he finds himself in the company of dilettantes and psychopaths, relentlessly hunted by police and spurned by the people he means to liberate. But this is only one stop in a quest for authenticity that takes in all the fanaticism and folly…


Book cover of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Todd Alexander Author Of Over the Hill and Up the Wall

From my list on the lighter side to aging.

Who am I?

As one of Australia’s bestselling observational comedy authors, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to write about the fact that I’ve recently become my parents’ go-to expert on just about everything. From solving technological dilemmas to coaching through society’s ever-changing correctness and reminding them to eat their greens, the elders in my life have inspired me to look at the funny side to aging, and to explore how a middle aged child sometimes crosses over from being helpful to just plain interfering.

Todd's book list on the lighter side to aging

Todd Alexander Why did Todd love this book?

Quirky, original, and featuring very engaging characters, this very funny read has the added bonus of being set in a fascinating location – India. 

Exploring the quirks of falling in love later in life, this book is part holiday from hell, part love story, and full of heartwarming anecdotes that will sound very familiar to a lot of readers. 

By Deborah Moggach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Jude Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith.
 
When Ravi Kapoor, an overworked London doctor, reaches the breaking point with his difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer is seemingly answered when Ravi’s entrepreneurial cousin sets up a retirement home in India, hoping to re-create in Bangalore an elegant lost corner of England. Several retirees are enticed by the promise of indulgent living at a bargain price, but upon arriving, they are dismayed to find that restoration of the…


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Interested in Afghanistan, the Taliban, and India?

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