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Best books set in Afghanistan

If you ever studied The Kite Runner in school, then chances are you wanted to read more books about Afghanistan war; the history, politics, and regimes behind the unrest.

With war playing a key part, these diverse reads blend brutal yet real history with a captivating story that bring every element of Afghanistan to life.

Spotlight recommendation

Our spotlight recommendation for books set in Afghanistan is:

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Blend of historical and contemporary fiction set in Afghanistan and America

The Kite Runner is an unforgettable tale of friendship, deception, and redemption. Best friends, Amir and Hassan, live in the same household, fly kites together, and love to read. But Amir is wealthy, Hassan a servant and childhood innocence doesn’t last forever. After a triumphant kite tournament, a traumatic event occurs and Amir’s inactions destroy what was once an unbreakable bond.

You’ll notice Hosseini crop up a few times in this post but this spotlight had to feature one of our all-time favourite books to read/recommend. Expect unforgettable characters, writing that transports you, and hard-hitting themes.

Other must-read books set in Afghanistan

Born Under A Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield

Genre: Coming of age fiction

Born Under A Million Shadows follows Fawad, a boy who is energetic and charming, despite the grief he has lived through in his short eleven years on earth.

When his mother finds work as a housekeeper, Fawad strikes up a friendship with the British female resident, though he is jealous to find out she is in love with a powerful Afghan warlord. But tragedy is never far away and Fawad is left to question his undying love for his country.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Genre: Mix of historical and contemporary fiction

In a duel timeline spanning generations, The Pearl That Broke its Shell explores the ancient custom of bacha posh where young girls pose as boys in order to obtain the privileges that come with being male (such as getting an education) in order to support their families.

Both Rahima and her great-great-grandmother assume these identities with the story following their struggles, hopes, and destinies.

In a country where women are constrained, restricted and often disrespected, this book does a great job at celebrating them, as they live life on their own terms. The stories are compelling, engaging, and raw, leaving plenty of food for thought.

Also recommended by @stefaniputria and @suethebookie.

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Mix of historical and contemporary fiction

And The Mountains Echoed is a beautifully written novel that spans decades and generations, portraying characters that are utterly human – flaws, weaknesses, and tragedy intersperse with selflessness, compassion and unbreakable bonds.

It begins in Afghanistan 1952, where Abdullah and his sister Pari live in poverty but make the most of what little they have. Seeking a better life, they journey across the desert with their father, oblivious to the fate that awaits to tear their lives apart.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Mix of contemporary and historical fiction

If you’re looking for a book that explores the history of Afghanistan and is unputdownable, then A Thousand Splendid Suns is your pick.

Spanning three decades, this harrowing novel tells the story of two women, born 20 years apart, who, trapped in violent and fearful marriages, seek solace in one another. It depicts strength among women, the devastating effects of a brutal war, and an epic journey of survival.

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo

Genre: Middle-grade war fiction

In Shadow, a brave and loyal dog forms an instant friendship with Aman, leading him and his mother to safety when Afghanistan becomes too dangerous. After six years in England, they are suddenly ripped from their lives and taken to a detention centre for deportation. Aman’s best friend and his grandpa hear Aman’s story and fight to help him and his mother remain in their home.

This is a great book to start with for those who want an introduction to Afghanistan’s history and war, and the distressing, often impossible journey that many refugees must make in order to seek asylum in a safe country.

It’s a simple read, easy to get through in a few hours, yet is by no means de-sensitised. It makes you think hard about those that don’t have the comforts and safety often taken for granted in first-world countries.

Also recommended by @minaal.reads.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad

The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad

Genre: Non-fiction memoir

The author’s account of living with a bookseller for four months in Kabul gives a good insight into traditional Afghan customs and traditions for those looking for a non-fiction read.

After the Taliban reign ended in 2002, Åsne lived with Sultan Khan, a bookseller and anti-authoritarian, and his family in Afghanistan’s capital. The Bookseller of Kabul relates her experience from the eyes of the Khans; how Sultan defiantly supplied books to his community despite persecution, his strict views on the role of women, and the daily lives of a typical Afghan family.

Also recommended by @read.write.janis.

Have you read any books set in Afghanistan? Which was your favourite or are there any on this list that catch your eye?


3 responses to “Best books set in Afghanistan”

  1. I also read The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell for February’s reading challenge – my review can be found –


    1. Really glad you enjoyed it! I just read your review 😊 It was a great novel, glad I picked it as one of my February reads!


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