Posted by: Christian | March 15, 2008

The Taliban in 5 Books

If I was asked to recommend a reading list on the “Taliban” I would take my time to produce a reading list of books, academic articles, reports, theses, news stories, etc… But if I could only recommend books and I was constrained to listing only five, I would have to offer these as my suggestions (from oldest to newest):

1. Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan and the Taliban, edited by William Maley, a long-time Afghanistan expert. Published at the beginning of 1998 by New York University Press at a time when those who insisted on the importance of Afghanistan were generally brushed aside. The individual chapters are written by a very impressive list of academics and experts.

2. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist. Originally published in 2000 by Yale University Press. Who hasn’t read this book? It’s not perfect but it gives a sound narrative of the Taliban’s rise and their conquests.

3. The Afghanistan Wars by William Maley. Published in early 2002 by Palgrave Macmillan. Unlike the other books here, this title starts much earlier, with the Soviet invasion, and goes until the fall of the Taliban. It provides a very valuable back story.

4. Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan by Antonio Giustozzi. Published in late 2007 by Columbia University Press. Giustozzi, who did not just start writing about Afghanistan yesterday, covers the resurgence of the Taliban and others who get thrown in that category.

5. The Taliban and The Crisis of Afghanistan, edited by Amin Tarzi and Robert Crews. Published by Harvard University Press in 2008. Features chapters by numerous academics who have long experience with Afghanistan. This will read much differently from the Giustozzi book.

And finally, a bonus selection:

6. Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival by Amin Saikal. The Taliban phenomenon will be better understood if you acquire some knowledge of the broader context. This book will provide that. Published by IB Tauris at the end of 2006.

Other valuable contributions to consider are books by Larry Goodson, Peters Marsden, and Kamal Matinuddin. But my recommendation is to not spend to much time reading about the 1990s. Accounts of the Taliban’s rise to power can become repetitive.


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