The best books about Afghanistan

10 authors have picked their favorite books about Afghanistan and why they recommend each book.

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Craig & Fred

By Craig Grossi,

Book cover of Craig & Fred: A Marine, a Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other

This may be the ultimate stray dog rescue story. Craig (the human) rescues Fred (the dog) from a war zone in a remote part of Afghanistan. What Craig goes through to bring this dog home to the US is astounding. And Fred is one of those instantly lovable, charming dogs whose personality shines through in Craig’s writing. In many ways, this book crosses genres—dog book, memoir, adventure, military, and thriller (I held my breath while reading several times!).

Craig & Fred

By Craig Grossi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Craig & Fred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartwarming story of a stray dog and a U.S. Marine who met under the unlikeliest circumstances in Afghanistan—and who changed each other’s lives forever.

As part of an elite team of Marines, Craig Grossi was sent on his most dangerous assignment to the Sangin District of Afghanistan. He expected to face harsh conditions and violence from Taliban fighters.

What he didn’t expect was to meet a stray dog, with a big goofy head and little legs—a dog all on his own, filthy and covered in bugs, in a bomb-ridden district, but who carried himself with confidence. And even though…


Who am I?

I’ve been passionate about dogs and rescue dogs in particular since I got my first little rescue pup for Christmas when I was six years old. Tippy, a perfect blend of poodle and cocker spaniel, lived until my second year of law school. I’ve volunteered with several rescue organizations, transported dogs, fostered dogs, adopted dogs, and, oh, I also wrote three books about rescue dogs. Dogs are my passion, and books are a very close second, so naturally, dog books are kind of my thing. I hope you love these books as much as I do.


I wrote...

Book cover of Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home

What is my book about?

Teresa Rhyne fosters dogs in need, including Poppy, a small, frightened beagle rescued from the China dog meat trade. The elation of rescue quickly turns to hysteria when Poppy breaks free from a potential adopter during a torrential thunderstorm and disappears into a rugged wilderness park, bordered by a busy road.

In the quest to find Poppy, Teresa works with rescue specialists, volunteers, psychics, a Native American who communes with owls, helpful neighbors, decidedly unhelpful strangers, a howling woman, police, crushing dead ends, glimmers of hope, and her own emotional and physical limits.  Meanwhile, Poppy encounters heavy rains, a homeless encampment, the Sheriff, a series of strangers, hawks, and, ultimately, a community willing to do anything to protect rather than harm her. Through their journey, Poppy and Teresa both discover just what home means.

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

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?

The Sewing Circles of Herat

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…


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.


I wrote...

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

By Grant Lock,

Book cover of Shoot Me First: A Cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-Four Years in the Hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What is my book about?

Shoot Me First is a gripping personal account of life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The author offers intriguing insights into the culture of the tribal territories that straddle the two countries. This is home to the Taliban, an untamed land that continues to absorb so much of the world’s attention and military endeavour. Lock is shrewd and laconic but above all compassionate.

Book cover of The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan

Troll told me that he read this book in preparation for his own deployment to Afghanistan. Winston Churchill said about campaigns in Afghanistan, “Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder.”

It doesn’t feel like much has changed. 

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

By Lester W. Grau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bear Went Over the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This rare 10th anniversary edition (published in 2007) contains a new introduction by expert Soviet historian David M. Glantz. In addition all maps and graphics have been enhanced from the 1996 edition. "When the Soviet Union decided to invade Afghanistan, they evaluated their chances for success upon their experiences in East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately for their soldiers, as well as the people of Afghanistan, they ignored not only the experiences of the British in the same region, but also their own experience with the Basmachi resistance fighters in Central Asia from 1918-1933. Consequently, in Afghanistan the Soviet army…

Who am I?

I have no expertise in the military – I wish I did. But I have incredible respect for their work. I remember reading about the death of Oz Schmid, a bomb disposal officer who was killed in Afghanistan. It was the bravery of his widow, Christina, discussing the appalling lack of equipment and her quiet dignity that touched me profoundly. I asked myself, what can I do to help? Being a writer, I decided to write about it. I quickly realised that I needed an insider’s insight, and found Troll through Felix Fund, the bomb disposal charity. Troll and I wrote the play Later, After, seeing it performed was the proudest moment of my career. 


I edited...

Troll: My Life in Bomb Disposal

By Justin JJ Bell,

Book cover of Troll: My Life in Bomb Disposal

What is this book about?

Justin ‘Troll’ Bell QGM joined the British Army in the late 1980s and quickly qualified as an Ammunition Technician within the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He completed over 20 years’ service as an Army Counter Terrorism Bomb Disposal Operator seeing service in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. For a decade, he was part of front-line UK counter-terrorism activity including responding to the 2005 London bombings. He constituted part of the National Contingency Capability for dealing with weapons of mass destruction.

Troll died from brain cancer in 2019, caused, he joked, “because of all the nasty shit I’ve handled” during his time as an EOD operator. His memoirs are edited by his widow, and his friend Jane Harvey-Berrick.

Shielding Sierra

By Susan Stoker,

Book cover of Shielding Sierra

Stoker is the queen of military/former-military “families.” You pick up a book and instantly fall in love with that team of men. Shielding Sierra is her latest (as of January 2022) and it happens to be at the end of a series. Stoker writes in a single universe, so while we know this team, we also see previous teams she’s written, and the family unit that they all build with one another really shines in Sierra, when one of their own purposely becomes a POW in order to save the heroine.

Shielding Sierra

By Susan Stoker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a civilian contractor, Sierra Clarkson thought she’d found the perfect way to serve her country, short of joining the military…until she was kidnapped from a base in Afghanistan. Turns out terrorists don’t care if you’re a soldier or not; everyone bleeds the same. Even worse, no one knows she’s been taken. Her missing belongings point to desertion—which means no one is looking for her, either

But someone is.

Fred “Grover” Groves never forgot the redheaded spitfire working the chow line on a base in the Afghani desert. He’d felt an instant attraction to the petite woman, a connection deep…

Who am I?

I hate saying goodbye. Picking up a book and being introduced to an entire group of people—family, friends, teammates—and knowing you get to continue to watch these relationships bloom over a course of books is part of the reason I pick up a book in the first place. I want to see these characters pop in twenty books down the road. I absolutely love cameos of old characters! Because of this, I write in a singular world as well. My Prescotts may be the base of the world at the moment, but it’s also their friends at O’Gallaghers and their teammates with the Enforcers hockey team that keep the world growing—and it’s not ending anytime soon.


I wrote...

Butterfly Save (Prescott Brothers)

By Mignon Mykel,

Book cover of Butterfly Save (Prescott Brothers)

What is my book about?

The first to get married, the only to get divorced… Jonny Prescott is the “broken” brother. 

After his surprise retirement announcement, hockey goaltender Jonny Prescott decides to hide away in the Northern Wisconsin woods—away from everything and everyone. No limelight. Little recognition. The last thing he expects is to be drawn to his equally isolated neighbor. Summer is far too young to be so jaded, but Jonny can’t help but want to break this butterfly free.

Night with a SEAL

By Cat Johnson,

Book cover of Night with a SEAL

Another SEAL. Are you detecting a pattern here? What can I say? They’re strong in mind and body. True alpha men. This is an action novel when Jon Rudnick comes home to the woman he had a one-night stand with just before shipping off for Afghanistan. She’s in danger and who’s better to ride into the rescue. This book portrays the Navy a little more realistically by showing the government red tape to screw things up. As a Navy brat, I can vouch for the fact that the military is not always the easiest to deal with. Still, who doesn’t love it, and the steamy romances inspired by it?

Night with a SEAL

By Cat Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night with a SEAL as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Navy SEAL. A one-night stand. The woman he can't get off his mind...
Ten years of dedication to the Navy taught SEAL Jon Rudnick one thing—he’s not afraid to risk life and limb for his country. But when navigating military red tape begins to present more challenges than the enemy it makes Jon question his future. So does Alison Cressly, the woman who doesn’t do one-night stands or SEALs but who broke both rules with Jon the eve of his deployment to Afghanistan. He can’t get her out of his head—not while away and not now that he’s back.…

Who am I?

Passionate military members are my jam, and I feel pretty confident writing about them. First, I write erotic romance myself, giving me something of an inside view of what makes a good erotic romance with a military vibe. Second, I read a lot of them. Even if the story is a mite slow, you’ve got that alpha military guy who’s going to pull the story out. Or at least, that’s the way it’s worked in every military erotic romance I’ve read. Last, as I mentioned earlier, I was raised in the Navy. I’ve seen lots of men in uniform and the sight never fails to give me a thrill. I think I recognize that passion when I see it.


I wrote...

Naval Maneuvers

By Dee S. Knight,

Book cover of Naval Maneuvers

What is my book about?

Love and romance involving men and women of the armed forces are pretty much like they are for everyone else. Except, well, there is that uniform. And the hard-to-resist attraction of "duty, honor, and service" as they might be applied to a woman. All things considered, romance among the military is a pretty sexy, compelling force for which (maybe) you'd better be armed.

Road Trip

By David Keener,

Book cover of Road Trip

I love how Road Trip hooks you right away with its concept: a road for sale? What kind of road? How much? And what could be on that road? You might not be ready for it. I can assure you there is ample action on this highway, however, that could give new meaning to "road rage." Like all of Keener’s work, this book is original and well-written. You could even say it’s ass-kicking.

Road Trip

By David Keener,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

He Bought a Magic Road

Rocco Fitch had a grand plan for his life…but it went up in smoke the day he was disabled in Afghanistan. Now he’s unemployed, his wife has left him, and the bank is about to take his house. But he can still spare some change when he encounters a fellow vet begging in the street. Except the strange man won’t accept the money unless Rocco agrees he’s buying a road.

The next morning, the beggar is AWOL, there’s a magic highway crossing Rocco’s backyard that nobody else can see, and demonic-looking riders are traveling his…


Who am I?

I am an author who believes stories must first entertain and thrill if they are ever to instill something powerful and unforgettable. While I would love to sit here and compile books that laud the values I believe in, that’s just not how it works. Action is the best way to convey theme – and these examples celebrate the storytelling techniques I stand by. I love ass-kickers, in literature and in life. And I hope one day to be remembered as one of them. 


I wrote...

This Is Not a Love Scene: A Novel

By S.C. Megale,

Book cover of This Is Not a Love Scene: A Novel

What is my book about?

Lights, camera―all Maeve needs is action. But at eighteen, a rare form of muscular dystrophy usually stands in the way of romance. She's got her friends, her humor, and a passion for filmmaking to keep her focus off consistent rejection...and the hot older guy starring in her senior film project.

Tall, bearded, and always swaying, Cole Stone is everything Maeve can't be. And she likes it. Between takes, their chemistry is shockingly electric. Suddenly, Maeve gets a taste of typical teenage dating life, but girls in wheelchairs don’t get the hot guy―right? Cole’s attention challenges everything she once believed about her self-image and hopes for love. But figuring this out, both emotionally and physically, won't be easy for either of them. 

How to Catch a Prince

By Rachel Hauck,

Book cover of How to Catch a Prince

I feel like Rachel Hauck is the queen of royal fiction in the Christian romance genre. She was the first author I read in the genre to have royals which made me a huge fan. There’s such elegance in her writing but also humor, a swoony hero, and a heroine to cheer for. Not to mention her covers are all awesome for her Royal Wedding series. I couldn’t make a royal recommendation list without her on it.

How to Catch a Prince

By Rachel Hauck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Catch a Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An American heiress and a crown prince thought their secret marriage was annulled years ago-but now they must come face to face with their past. The third volume in the captivating Royal Wedding series from New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hauck.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder, partly to distract herself from her dissolving family.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom came to America to escape responsibility, but what he found complicates his life…


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by fictional royal stories ever since I was a little kid watching them unfold in children’s movies. Once I became a reader, I quickly became a fan of the genre. There’s such an escapism that comes with reading books about royals. And since America has no monarch, the books offer a fantasy and fairy-tale aspect to the reading. I read these books to relax, to fall in love with love, and to cheer for the ordinary person finding something extraordinary in their world—real or fictional.


I wrote...

In Search of a Prince

By Toni Shiloh,

Book cover of In Search of a Prince

What is my book about?

Brielle Adebayo is fully content teaching at a New York City public school and taking annual summer vacations with her mother to Martha’s Vineyard. But everything changes when her mom drops a bombshell – Brielle is really a princess in the island kingdom of Ọlọrọ Ilé, off the coast of Africa, and she must immediately assume her royal position, since the health of her grandfather, the king, is failing.

But… Brielle is uncertain if she even wants the throne, and with her world totally shaken, where will she find the courage to take a chance on love and brave the perils a wrong decision may bring?

Zinky Boys

By Svetlana Alexievich,

Book cover of Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Alexievich is equal parts therapist, poet, and historian. She elicits deeply personal memories through oral histories that she artfully weaves into a portrait of vast events. The accounts gathered in this history of the Soviet Union’s ten-year war against Afghanistan give voice to soldiers’ memories of the country they were asked to defeat, which defeated them instead, and parents’ memories of sons killed or otherwise destroyed in battle. I read this book after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which initiated an equally brutal, mindless, and losing war, and I find sad new relevance in this book as I learn of Russian soldiers being shipped home from Ukraine in the same kinds of zinc coffins that gives this book its title.

Zinky Boys

By Svetlana Alexievich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From 1979 to 1989 a million Soviet troops engaged in a devastating war in Afghanistan that claimed 50,000 casualties-and the youth and humanity of many tens of thousands more. Creating controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR-it was called by reviewers there a "slanderous piece of fantasy" and part of a "hysterical chorus of malign attacks"-Zinky Boys presents the candid and affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory…

Who am I?

I’m a historian whose love of the subject was first nourished by my mother. She treated historical events as a source of good stories, discussed historical figures as if talking about people we knew personally, and introduced me to historical fictions that immersed me in vanished worlds. I still read historical fiction, to which I’ve added mountains of history proper. The nonfiction histories I most love insist that the past matters, and they make visible how seemingly abstract events touched the lives of ordinary people.


I wrote...

The Last Revolutionaries: The Conspiracy Trial of Gracchus Babeuf and the Equals

By Laura Mason,

Book cover of The Last Revolutionaries: The Conspiracy Trial of Gracchus Babeuf and the Equals

What is my book about?

This is a history of a poor but determined man whose world was changed by the French Revolution of 1789. Gracchus Babeuf took on the roles of activist, bureaucrat, journalist, and conspirator as his ideas about justice, poverty, and democratic liberty radicalized. When he became convinced that the door was closing on revolutionary promises of civil rights and material well-being, he initiated a conspiracy against the government to restore popular democracy and abolish private property. The conspiracy was exposed but, during the trial that followed, Babeuf and his allies cast a searching light on the government’s retreat from social and political equality. Babeuf’s novel aspirations would be remembered for generations, prompting Karl Marx to name him the first modern communist.

Full Tilt

By Dervla Murphy,

Book cover of Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Utterly mad yet totally mesmerising, Murphy’s journey was an early inspiration to me in my bicycle-bound adventures. Packing a pistol and little else, she set off in 1963 and pedalled through a brutal European winter, over the Iron Curtain and across the Middle East and Afghanistan where she often disguised herself as a man to get by. In the mountains of northern Pakistan and India she traverses incredibly remote regions on broken trails and occasionally finds herself the guest of regal relics from bygone eras. Murphy’s no-nonsence prose and unembellished style should be a benchmark to all travel writers.

Full Tilt

By Dervla Murphy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Braving hunger, heat exhaustion, unbearable terrain and cultures largely untouched by civilization, Dervla Murphy chronicles her determined trip through nine countries, through snow and ice in the mountains and miles of barren land in the scorching desert. Full Tilt is a highly individual account by a celebrated travel writer based on the daily diary Murphy kept while riding through Yugoslavia, Persia, Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India. Murphy's charm and gracious sensitivity as a writer and a traveler reveals not only civilizations of exotic people and places but the wonder of a woman alone on an extraordinary…


Who am I?

I started solo travelling as soon as I left school, and since then I’ve spent many years doing so. I came of age while cycling, kayaking, hiking and skiing across distant lands. The bittersweetness of being alone on the road has become a source of constant fascination for me. The on-again-off-again loneliness creates a state of mind where you’re that much more willing to throw yourself in at the deep end, to meet strangers, and to look, listen and learn. At its very best, solo travel writing seamlessly encompasses two journeys: the physical journey in a foreign land, and the psychological journey within the author.


I wrote...

Book cover of Through Sand & Snow: a man, a bicycle, and a 43,000-mile journey to adulthood via the ends of the Earth

What is my book about?

This was an intensely personal book for me. A coming-of-age tale played out against an ever-shifting backdrop of wild landscapes and intriguing cultures. Aged twenty-two, I left home in search of adventure. Fleeing the boredom that comes with comfort, I set off on a secondhand bicycle with the aim of pedalling to the furthest point in each of Europe, Asia, and Africa. I didn’t train or plan. I just started. 

The 43,000-mile solo journey was an escape from an unremarkable existence, a pursuit of hardship, and a chance to shed the complacency of Middle England. From the brutality of winter on the Tibetan plateau to the claustrophobia of the Southeast Asian jungle, the quest provided me with ample opportunity to test my mettle. Ultimately, though, the toughest challenge was entirely unforeseen.

My Life with the Taliban

By Abdul Salam Zaeef,

Book cover of My Life with the Taliban

There are few books available in English that describe the Taliban’s point of view, not just of the war, but of the many years leading up to it. Mullah Zaeef was a senior member of the Taliban government before the US invasion, and he explains a lot of the thinking behind the Taliban’s decisions and policies. Perhaps more importantly, he tells his own life story, which makes those decisions relatable on a human level. A very readable autobiography.

My Life with the Taliban

By Abdul Salam Zaeef,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Life with the Taliban as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Abdul Zaeef describes growing up in poverty in rural Kandahar province, which he fled for Pakistan after the Russian invasion of 1979. Zaeef joined the jihad in 1983, was seriously wounded in several encounters and met many leading figures of the resistance, including the current Taliban head, Mullah Mohammad Omar. Disgusted by the lawlessness that ensued after the Soviet withdrawal, Zaeef was one among the former mujahidin who were closely involved in the emergence of the Taliban, in 1994. He then details his Taliban career, including negotiations with Ahmed Shah Massoud and role as ambassador to Pakistan during 9/11. In…

Who am I?

Phil Halton has worked in conflict zones around the world as an officer in the Canadian Army and as a security consultant and has extensive experience in Afghanistan. He is the author of two novels and a history. He holds a Master's Degree in Defence Studies from Royal Military College of Canada, and a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College. 


I wrote...

Blood Washing Blood: Afghanistan's Hundred-Year War

By Phil Halton,

Book cover of Blood Washing Blood: Afghanistan's Hundred-Year War

What is my book about?

The war in Afghanistan has consumed vast amounts of blood and treasure, causing the Western powers to seek an exit without achieving victory. Seemingly never-ending, the conflict has become synonymous with a number of issues ― global jihad, rampant tribalism, and the narcotics trade ― but even though they are cited as the causes of the conflict, they are in fact symptoms.

Rather than beginning after 9/11 or with the Soviet “invasion” in 1979, the current conflict in Afghanistan began with the social reforms imposed by Amanullah Amir in 1919. Western powers have failed to recognize that legitimate grievances are driving the local population to turn to insurgency in Afghanistan. The issues they are willing to fight for have deep roots, forming a hundred-year-long social conflict over questions of secularism, modernity, and centralized power. The first step toward achieving a “solution” to the Afghanistan “problem” is to have a clear-eyed view of what is really driving it.

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