The most recommended books about the Taliban

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to the Taliban, and here are their favorite Taliban books.
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Book cover of Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror

K. Patrick Fazioli Author Of The Mirror of the Medieval: An Anthropology of the Western Historical Imagination

From my list on the use and abuse of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not ashamed to admit that my childhood fascination with the distant past was sparked by hours of leafing through The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World and countless viewings of the “Indiana Jones” movies. Today, I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities at Mercy College and an archaeologist specializing in the eastern Alpine region during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. The author of three books and numerous scholarly articles, my research interests include ceramic technology, social identity, and the appropriation of the medieval past by modern ideologies.    

K.'s book list on the use and abuse of the medieval past

K. Patrick Fazioli Why did K. love this book?

This book is very much a product of the George W. Bush years, when American adventurism in the Middle East, domestic surveillance programs, and the rise of Islamophobia seemed like the biggest problems facing America. While this makes the book feel a little dated in places, it remains one of the most fascinating case studies of the distortion of the Middle Ages for political purposes. Holsinger meticulously details how neoconservative thinkers repeatedly described Al Qaeda and the Taliban as “medieval” and “feudal” (even though their extremist ideology was a distinctly modern phenomenon) as well as how the neomedieval school of political theory was used to intellectually justify torture, extradition, and the War on Terror more broadly.  

By Bruce Holsinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

President Bush was roundly criticized for likening America's antiterrorism measures to a "crusade" in 2001. Far from just a gaffe, however, such medievalism has become a dominant paradigm for comprehending the identity and motivations of America's perceived enemy in the war on terror. Yet as Bruce Holsinger argues here, this cloying post-9/11 rhetoric has served to obscure the more intricate ideological machinations of neomedievalism, the global idiom of the non-state actor: non-governmental organizations, transnational corporate militias, and terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda. "Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror" addresses the role of neomedievalism in contemporary politics. While international-relations…


Book cover of The Library Bus

Angela Burke Kunkel Author Of Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

From my list on children’s books celebrating libraries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Angela Burke Kunkel is an author, school librarian, and former English Language Arts teacher. She has experience working with all types of young readers, from the reluctant to the voracious, and has taught in both alternative and public schools, including a New Mexico middle school with a nationally-recognized dual education program. She is passionate about ensuring equitable book access for all children, and has published articles and participated as a panelist on these issues.

Angela's book list on children’s books celebrating libraries

Angela Burke Kunkel Why did Angela love this book?

The Library Bus offers a glimpse into the importance of mobile libraries, showing how one bus run by a mother and daughter delivers books, school supplies, and lessons to other young girls in Afghanistan. Told of the course of one day, with the bus leaving Kabul in the very early morning and ending at bedtime, the story explains the restrictions women and girls faced under Taliban rule in a clear and age-appropriate way.

By Bahram Rahman, Gabrielle Grimard (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Library Bus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Author Bahram Rahman grew up in Afghanistan during years of civil war and the restrictive Taliban regime of 1996-2001. He wrote The Library Bus to tell new generations about the struggles of women who, like his own sister, were forbidden to learn.

It is still dark in Kabul, Afghanistan when the library bus rumbles out of the city. There are no bus seats-instead there are chairs and tables and shelves of books. And there are no passengers-instead there is Pari, who is nervously starting her first day as Mama's library helper. Pari stands tall to hand out notebooks and pencils…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Earth Angel

David Hollander Author Of Anthropica

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Teacher Father Musician Experimenter

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David Hollander Why did David love this book?

This collection of inventive, hilarious, and weirdly heartbreaking stories is both totally accessible and unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Cash is plugged into our current moment and makes satirical fodder of the means and mores of our high-speed, low attention-span digital world. There isn’t a page here that didn’t make me laugh, but underneath it all I registered the pervasive pain of living in a world that doesn’t make sense, where nothing lasts long enough to truly register.

A brilliant, bellwether book by an author that we’ll be hearing from a lot more in the coming years.

By Madeline Cash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In her electric debut, Madeline Cash synthesizes the godlessness of a digital age into a glimmering, sublime, life-affirming collage of stories.

Earth Angel is a book like no other, the paperback that swallowed the smartphone. An Isis recruit, an adolescent beauty queen, and a childless millennial walk into a bar. A Biblical plague rains down head lice, aerial drone strikes, gender non-conforming frogs. An app throws a slumber party for a friendless office worker. Texans in the winter, the Taliban in Springtime, Teslas with bumper stickers, Frozen 5 in Arabic, architectural consistency laws in Laurel Canyon, the longest recorded nosebleed…


Book cover of The Wolves of Helmand: A View from Inside the Den of Modern War

Robert Stewart Author Of No Greater Duty

From my list on duty and courage in peace and war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fortunate to write and publish three books on America’s service academies: two on the U.S. Naval Academy, and one on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two nonfiction books were appealing photographic and narrative presentations of academy life at Navy and West Point. The third, my debut novel happening at the Naval Academy, is an inspiring tale of moral courage and dedication to duty with war and peacetime conflicts. Each book was a rewarding creative project.

Robert's book list on duty and courage in peace and war

Robert Stewart Why did Robert love this book?

In his first-person account of US Marines fighting the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan, Frank Biggio writes a stimulating story of American service members improving the conditions and hopes of the Afghan people. There are skirmishes with Taliban forces, and some brave Marines make the ultimate sacrifice. Yet readers also follow Major Biggio and his brother Marines breaking bread with tribal leaders so each respects the other’s needs and dreams. The author’s personal journey as a retired Marine officer turned civilian lawyer who returns to active duty is a powerful tale. His book influenced my military novel on moral courage and dedication to duty.

By Frank "Gus" Biggio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At turns poignant, funny, philosophical, and raw—but always real—The Wolves of Helmand is both a heartfelt homage to the Marine brotherhood with whom Biggio served and an expression of respect and love for the people of Afghanistan who ultimately trusted, shared, and appreciated their purpose.

Ten years after serving his country as a U.S. Marine, Captain Frank “Gus” Biggio signed up once again because he missed the brotherhood of the military. Leaving behind his budding law career, his young wife, and newborn son, he was deployed to Helmand Province—the most violent region in war-torn Afghanistan—for reasons few would likely understand…


Book cover of Trinity

Anne Perreault Author Of The Gift

From my list on Christian fiction with memorable characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a world traveler, who has been blessed to live in many different countries, studying human interactions and culture. People matter. I’m fascinated to see how people react and relate to each other. As a proficient people watcher, it makes sense that when I read or write a book, characters are most important to me. They make or break the story with their quirks and hurts and hang-ups. It always gives me great pleasure to see my own characters grow as the story develops. I enjoy putting them into situations that may not be comfortable for them and then seeing what God does to bring them through. 

Anne's book list on Christian fiction with memorable characters

Anne Perreault Why did Anne love this book?

This first book in the Breed Apart series by Ronie Kendig gripped me from the first page on. As an avid animal lover, I really enjoy books with working dogs. The action is immediate and the romance is perfect. What stands out to me is that even heroes are broken and need to be rescued. The author does an amazing job of portraying a warrior at heart, whose wings have been clipped by TBI. 

By Ronie Kendig,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel’s career was destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity, train other dogs and their handlers. Though his passion is to be back in action, the medical discharge has forced Heath—and Trinity—to the sidelines. Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured while secretly tracking the Taliban. Only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. Time is running out on the greatest—and most dangerous—mission of their lives.


Book cover of The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland

Steven Nightingale Author Of The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace: 64 Stories

From my list on by or about world-changing women.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first person I ever trusted in the world was a high-school English teacher, a woman named Margaret Muth. She plucked me out of a trash-can, literally and figuratively. When I was seventeen years old, she told me: “Books will teach you. They will help you. Choose books the way you choose the risks you take in life: do it patiently, thoughtfully. Then give yourself to them with a whole heart. This is how you learn.” This is one sentence, from one teacher, given to a teenager of decidedly crude and primitive material—one sentence that changed his whole life for the better. Bless her. 

Steven's book list on by or about world-changing women

Steven Nightingale Why did Steven love this book?

An extraordinary book by an extraordinary woman. Saira Shah recounts her journeys in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the context of her upbringing in a family with deep roots in the region. She is on the ground during the rise of the Taliban and the fight against the Russian occupation, and the story is hair-raising, enlightening, revelatory, informed, and insightfully detailed. Ms. Shah went on to make the celebrated documentary Beneath the Veil, risking her life daily to shoot video during the first phase of Taliban control. Unforgettable, and indispensable for understanding Afghanistan.

By Saira Shah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Storyteller's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagine that a jewel-like garden overlooking Kabul is your ancestral home. Imagine a kitchen made fragrant with saffron strands and cardamom pods simmering in an authentic pilau. Now remember that you were born in London, your family in exile, and that you have never seen Afghanistan in peacetime.

These are but the starting points of Saira Shah’s memoir, by turns inevitably exotic and unavoidably heartbreaking, in which she explores her family’s history in and out of Afghanistan. As an accomplished journalist and documentarian–her film Beneath the Veil unflinchingly depicted for CNN viewers the humiliations forced on women under Taliban rule–Shah…


Book cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns

David R. George III Author Of Crucible: McCoy - Provenance of Shadows

From my list on opening readers to new worlds without leaving Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a frequent writer of science fiction, I focus not on real or imagined science, on aliens or other worlds, but on the impacts those things have on individuals, groups, and societies. Similarly, as a reader, I enjoy visiting places, cultures, and ideas with which I am unfamiliar, particularly when unveiled with elevated artistic expression. In my writing, often in the Star Trek universe, I attempt to avoid feeding the perception that media-tie-in writing is less-than, instead working to weave complex tales exploring the human condition. I don’t know if my reading tastes follow from my writing, or if the converse is true, but the two go hand in hand.

David's book list on opening readers to new worlds without leaving Earth

David R. George III Why did David love this book?

Khaled Hosseini won acclaim for his debut novel, The Kite Runner, and with good reason. Opening up a place and culture I knew virtually nothing about, Mr. Hosseini’s story takes place almost entirely in Afghanistan. The same is true of this follow-up novel, which adds to the complexity by featuring a female protagonist, a significant complication in that part of the world. I was drawn in by the eloquence of his language and held fast by the compelling story.

By Khaled Hosseini,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Thousand Splendid Suns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE RICHARD & JUDY NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

'A suspenseful epic' Daily Telegraph

'A triumph' Financial Times

'Heartbreaking' Mail on Sunday

'Deeply moving' Sunday Times

Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.


Book cover of My Life with the Taliban

Phil Halton Author Of Blood Washing Blood: Afghanistan's Hundred-Year War

From my list on the War in Afghanistan.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Phil's book list on the War in Afghanistan

Phil Halton Why did Phil love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Did the British learn anything from Napoleon’s fatal retreat from Moscow in 1812? Exactly three decades later the greatest debacle in British military history occurred in Afghanistan, the graveyard of conquerors. William Dalrymple serves up a satisfying slice of history, complete with spies, counter-espionage, intrigue, hubris, and folly, and provides context for the emergence of the Taliban. The wise will heed the timeless saying, “The only time Pashtuns stop fighting, is when they go to war.”

By William Dalrymple,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2013

'Dazzling' Sunday Times
'Magnificent' Guardian
'Sparkling' Daily Telegraph

In the spring of 1839, Britain invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Nearly 20,000 British and East India Company troops poured through the high mountain passes and re-established on the throne Shah Shuja ul-Mulk.

On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into violent rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain's greatest military humiliation of the nineteenth century: an entire army of…