The best books about Pakistan

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Pakistan and why they recommend each book.

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A Thousand Questions

By Sadiaa Faruqi,

Book cover of A Thousand Questions

Mimi doesn’t want to spend her summer in Pakistan with grandparents she has never met. Instead, she wishes to fill her journal with her letters to her long-absent father. Things brighten when she meets Sakina, who hopes to improve her English so she can get into school. As summer continues, they become united by their many questions. This wonderful novel provides a bridge into how people from different cultures might understand each other.

Who am I?

I grew up on books, every page filling my mind with words. I have since written many novels, but WORDS ON FIRE is my love letter to books and the power of words. From the moment I first discovered the story of the Lithuanian Book Smugglers, I wanted to better understand why these brave people risked their lives to save their books. I came to understand that books were their way to preserve their language, their culture, even the very existence of their country. If it was so important to them, would it not be just as important for us to ensure that children – all children – have access to books.

I wrote...

Words on Fire

By Jennifer A. Nielsen,

Book cover of Words on Fire

What is my book about?

Danger is never far from Audra's family farm in Lithuania. She always avoids the occupying Russian Cossack soldiers, who insist that everyone must become Russian -- they have banned Lithuanian books, religion, culture, and even the language. But Audra knows her parents are involved in something secret and perilous.

In June 1893, when Cossacks arrive abruptly at their door, Audra's parents insist that she flee, taking with her an important package and instructions for where to deliver it. But escape means abandoning her parents to a terrible fate. As Audra embarks on a journey to deliver the mysterious package, she faces unimaginable risks, and soon she becomes caught up in a growing resistance movement. Can joining the underground network of book smugglers give Audra a chance to rescue her parents?

Magnificent Delusions

By Husain Haqqani,

Book cover of Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding

The book takes the reader through seven decades of a tumultuous history of relations between the two countries. I love this book because it is an easy and fun read, the writing style is light, and there are lots of anecdotes. As a student of history and international relations, the book appealed to me at multiple levels. The book will appeal to practitioners, academics, and the average reader.

Who am I?

Foreign policy has been my passion since I was a child. My father was a civil servant and growing up in India, I always wanted to follow in his footsteps but instead of working on domestic issues, I wanted to work on international affairs. History was another passion of mine and I wanted to combine the two of them in such a way that I studied the past in order to explain the present and help the future. This passion led me to enroll in a PhD program in the United States and then work at a think tank. I have written three books, two of which focus exclusively on foreign policy. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have listed and read my book.  

I wrote...

From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

By Aparna Pande,

Book cover of From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

What is my book about?

Foreign policy doesn't exist in a cultural vacuum. It's shaped by national experience and a country’s view of itself. In the case of India, the foreign policy paradigm is as deeply informed by its civilizational heritage as it is by modern ideas about national interest. Even policies that appear to be new contain echoes of themes that recur in history. The two concepts that come and go most frequently in Indian engagement with the world from Chanakya in the third century BCE to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020 are autonomy and independence in decision making. 

Aparna Pande’s From Chanakya to Modi explores the deeper civilizational roots of Indian foreign policy. It identifies the neural roots of India’s engagement with the world outside. An essential addition to every thinking person's library.

Savage Summit

By Jennifer Jordan,

Book cover of Savage Summit: The Life and Death of the First Women of K2

A different mountain, and reputedly more deadly than Everest. The focus is on a handful of professional elite mountaineers, all women, and the different ways they achieve their climbing dreams, according to their personalities - from phenomenal physical grit to unashamed use of every feminine wile. Yes, it seems you can sleep your way to the top. You might think this sounds monstrous, but I found it incredibly human and moving, and afterward I searched YouTube for videos of these women, to see their actual faces, full of unstoppable life.

Who am I?

When I was 10, my father quoted to me the line by Henry David Thoreau, that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." This scared me deeply. It became an enduring question. What makes us feel truly alive? I love stories that take us to these edges. I like to explore what we chase - love, adventure, ambition, art - and where it goes wrong. I’ve long been drawn to stories about people who climb the world’s most dangerous mountains, putting themselves through unthinkable ordeals in places that don’t care if we live or die. And what of their friends, families and partners?

I wrote...

Ever Rest

By Roz Morris,

Book cover of Ever Rest

What is my book about?

Twenty years ago, Hugo and Ash were on top of the world. As the rock band Ashbirds they were superstars. Then Ash went missing on a mountain, and the lives of Hugo and everyone around him were changed forever. Two decades on, Ash’s fiancée Elza is still struggling to move on, her private grief outshone by the glare of publicity. Hugo is now a recluse in Nepal. Robert, an ambitious session player, feels himself both blessed and cursed by his brief time with Ashbirds, unable to achieve recognition in his own right. While the Ashbirds legend burns brighter than ever, Elza, Hugo, and Robert are as stranded as if they were the ones lost in the ice. How far must they go to come back to life?

Ignited (Titanium Security)

By Kaylea Cross,

Book cover of Ignited (Titanium Security)

Cross writes some of the best romantic military suspense out there and after reading Ignited, I was immediately inspired to write my book that's mentioned above. While I love all of Cross’ sexy, fast-paced collections, her six-book Titanium Security series will always be my favourite. Full of nuanced characters with rich back-stories, gritty, well-researched real-life war zones, and sex scenes that smash the Heat o’ Meter, the books leave me breathless for all the best reasons. The Titanium crew is comprised of bad-ass, ex-military security experts (both male and female) but it’s Khalia, the heroine of Ignited, who remains my number one girl-crush. Smart, independent and passionate, she wins over the glowering hero Hunter with her determination to fulfill her father’s legacy in Pakistan.

Who am I?

I’m the best-selling romance author of 29 books which span six series. I love creating whole worlds for readers to enter and spend time with smoking-hot bodyguards, motorcycle club members, ex-military bad boys, sexy cowboys, and MMA fighters. Although I love pretty much everything about writing for a living, I do get special joy from having characters from one series wander into a different series and interact with a totally different group of people – keeping track of all the relationships definitely keeps me on my toes! I have three new books coming out this year, so I’m really looking forward to sharing some new stories with my wonderful readers.

I wrote...

Enemy Within (Unseen Enemy Book 1)

By Marysol James,

Book cover of Enemy Within (Unseen Enemy Book 1)

What is my book about?

When Emma gets some very (very) bad health news, she heads to a bar, intent on having her first-ever one-night stand. There she meets Dean, whose life is all about ‘just one night’ and zero commitment. The next day, Emma sneaks away and they both assume that’s it: neither expects to see the other again. 

A month later, a chance encounter brings them back into each other’s lives, along with their private secrets and fears. It also brings together their groups of friends: Dean’s ex-military buddies and Emma’s girlfriends supporting her through her medical crisis. As they all grow closer, the realization comes to every one of them that truth, forgiveness, and love can arise from even the most horrible, life-altering events.

House of the Sun

By Meira Chand,

Book cover of House of the Sun

The main character in this novel is really a community – Hindu refugees who fled Pakistan for India at the time of Partition and ended up in a Bombay apartment block called Sadhbela. Many South Asian novels mix tragedy and comedy beautifully, and what I love about this one is how Chand mixes this cocktail within her female characters; as usual, there is more to laugh about in the older women than in the young. Like Gardam, Chand sneaks moving moments of self-awareness into her colourfully flawed protagonists. I’m particularly enamoured of illiterate, superstitious (but nonetheless married to a retired journalist) Mrs. Hathiramani. 

Who am I?

Literary agents often say they are looking for books about ‘quirky’ female protagonists. I’m more entertained by female characters who feel real to me. When I write, I make myself uncomfortable a lot of the time, trying to express the many ways people both disguise and reveal the truth. I blame my devotion to my parents for this because when I left home in Massachusetts for college in the foreign land of Indiana, studied for a year in China, then studied in Italy, then worked in Taiwan, then moved to Japan, and later to Singapore, I wrote them copious descriptive, emotional letters. My parents are gone now, but in a way, I’m still doing that.

I wrote...

Lillian on Life

By Alison Jean Lester,

Book cover of Lillian on Life

What is my book about?

Missouri-born Lillian has lived through the post-WWII decades of change in Munich, Paris, London, and, finally, New York. She has grappled with parental disappointment, society’s expectations, and the vagaries of love and sex. Now in her late fifties, she’s waking up next to her married lover and taking stock.

Lillian on Life paints an honest portrait of a hot-blooded woman whose reflections reverberate originally and unpredictably. Charming, sometimes heartbreaking, and never a stereotype, Lillian offers her own brand of wisdom. You won’t soon forget her.

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.

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...

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

By Charlie Walker,

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.

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.

Malala's Magic Pencil

By Malala Yousafzai, Kerascoët (illustrator),

Book cover of Malala's Magic Pencil

In Malala’s own kid’s eye view of the world, she tells how she yearned for a magic pencil, like the boy in a TV show she watched, so she could magically make the world a better place. One of the fortunate girls in Afghanistan who was sent to school because her parents believed strongly in education for women, she eventually realized she had that magic pencil already. Her words, her voice, could bring change. This is an empowering book for kids to see that they can make a difference in their world from one of the heroes of their time.

Who am I?

Technically, I’m a lawyer and pharmacy technician but I spend my time writing, mostly for kids. I'm inspired by a childhood in different countries as well as what’s currently occurring in our world. I delight in stories for all ages, believing that even adults can enjoy and learn from picture book biographies. At the very least, they provide jumping-off points for further research, and at best they inspire us to achieve the seemingly impossible.

I wrote...

Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song

By Kathryn Erskine, Charly Palmer (illustrator),

Book cover of Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song

What is my book about?

Miriam Makeba, a Grammy Award–winning South African singer, rose to fame in the hearts of her people at the pinnacle of apartheid―a brutal system of segregation similar to American Jim Crow laws. Mama Africa, as they called her, raised her voice to help combat these injustices at jazz clubs in Johannesburg; in exile, at a rally beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and before the United Nations.

Set defiantly in the present tense, this biography offers readers an intimate view of Makeba’s fight for equality. Kathryn Erskine’s call-and-response style text and Charly Palmer’s bold illustrations come together in a raw, riveting duet of protest song and praise poem. A testament to how a single voice helped to shake up the world―and can continue to do so.

Forgotten Queens of Islam

By Fatima Mernissi,

Book cover of Forgotten Queens of Islam

This book has rightly become a classic in the field and is a book I keep returning to for Mernissi’s fantastic insights into the particularities of queenship in the Islamic world and her fascinating examples of the agency of royal women. Mernissi’s passion for the subject, and for the wider history of women’s political agency in the Islamic world springs from the page, making this an absorbing read. A more recent work that builds on Mernissi’s book and is also highly recommended is Shahla Haeri’s The Unforgettable Queens of Islam - both Mernissi and Haeri make clear connections between royal women of the premodern era and modern female politicians today.

Who am I?

Queens and queenship is a topic that has fascinated me since childhood when I first read about women like Cleopatra and Eleanor of Aquitaine. They ignited a passion to learn about the lives of royal women which led me from the ancient Mediterranean to medieval Europe, on into the early modern era, and has now gone truly global. I am particularly passionate to draw out the hidden histories of all the women who aren’t as well-known as their more famous counterparts and push for a fully global outlook in both queenship and royal studies in the works I write and the journal and two book series that I edit.

I wrote...

Queens and Queenship

By Elena Woodacre,

Book cover of Queens and Queenship

What is my book about?

This book looks at queenship in a global, timeless sense—examining the role of queens, empresses, and other royal women from the ancient and classical period through to nearly the present day on every continent. By taking a ‘long view’ of queenship, we can start to see connecting threads over time and place and comparisons of how the queen’s role differed in various cultural contexts. A wide variety of examples, including both more familiar figures and lesser-known but equally fascinating royal women, are given to explain key themes in queenship: family and dynasty, rulership, and image crafting.

Fundamentally, this book offers a fresh perspective on queenship which enables new insights into the queen’s role as the most eminent woman in the realm.


By Samuel G. Tooma,

Book cover of The SOOF

This is the kind of book I love, based on deep knowledge of and research into the subject, with the construction of a highly, engaging, gripping plot. You get both learning and titillation. In this book, the lovely environmental scientist, Dr. Samantha Stone is tasked by the US president to lead a submarine mission with Captain Ira Coen to seek out and destroy “The SOOF”, a secret command and control facility in the Sea of Okhotsk built by renegade parties in the Russian military. The mission is fraught with danger, but its success is critical for both sides and the survival of the world.

Who am I?

I have always been interested in the environment, ever since I studied Human Ecology under Professor Roger Revelle at Harvard. Several summer jobs in the Arctic with the Geological Survey of Canada gave me an early appreciation of what climate change meant for the polar region, and a more recent visit to Greenland brought the environmental devastation there more into focus. Also, having escaped from Communist Hungary in 1956, I have keenly followed Russia and its superpower ambitions, so it was natural for me to combine these two areas of interest into an environmental thriller. I am now writing a sequel, Arctic Inferno.

I wrote...

Arctic Meltdown

By Geza Tatrallyay,

Book cover of Arctic Meltdown

What is my book about?

Arctic Meltdown, a gripping environmental thriller, is set against the backdrop of the melting polar icecap and the ensuing jostling for jurisdiction over additional seabed resources. Hanne Kristensen, a beautiful Danish geologist, has to contend with a corrupted UN process, China's growing interest in Arctic resources and maritime routes, Russian military aggression, and the resulting international tension to try to save the world from war and the Arctic from environmental catastrophe. A potential complication in this real-life situation is that resource-rich but population-poor Greenland is egged on toward independence from Denmark by Chinese money and Russian military domination—toward the eventual possible outcome of annexation. This is a book that presages what is actually happening in the Arctic today.

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