The South Asia Channel

The Shelf

The Shelf is a collection of the reviews of books relevant to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the region that have been commissioned by the South Asia channel. A Man and A Motorcycle, Nov. 19, 2014 – Candice Rondeaux dives into Bette Dam’s account of Hamid Karzai’s ascent to power in Afghanistan. The Underground Girls of ...

Amanda Gaines / New America Foundation
Amanda Gaines / New America Foundation

The Shelf is a collection of the reviews of books relevant to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the region that have been commissioned by the South Asia channel.

  • A Man and A Motorcycle, Nov. 19, 2014 – Candice Rondeaux dives into Bette Dam’s account of Hamid Karzai’s ascent to power in Afghanistan.
  • The Underground Girls of Kabul, Oct. 15, 2014 – Emily Schneider looks at Jennifer Nordberg’s outstanding investigation of a cultural phenomenon in her book, Underground Girls of Kabul.
  • A Soldier Reports: The Education of John Nagl, Oct. 15, 2014 – Dan Green reviews John Nagl’s book, Knife Fights.
  • Korengal: The Movie, June 30, 2014 – Douglas Ollivant tells readers that Sebastian Junger’s movie, Korengal, is not about Afghanistan. It is a movie about Americans, young combat soldiers, in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban Revival, June 11, 2014 – Malik Siraj Akbar takes readers through Hasan Abbas’The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014) to explain how the future of the Taliban will affect Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • The Pashtun Question, June 10, 2014 – Daud Khattak reviewsThe Pashtun Question: An Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghnistan, byAbubaker Siddique (London: C. Hurst and Co., 2014).
  • The Pashtuns and the Taliban, June 9, 2014 – Both the histories and the futures of the Pashtun people and the Taliban are intertwined, as Douglas Ollivant discovers in reading Abubaker Siddique’sThe Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Afghanistan and Pakistan(London: C. Hurst and Co., 2014) and Hasan Abbas’The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).
  • A Hedgehog and a Fox Explain Afghanistan, April 14, 2014 – Douglas Ollivant reviews Carlotta Gall’s book,TheWrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), andNo Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes(New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Anand Gopal.
  • The Odyssey of Jim Gant: An Insurgent within the U.S. Military, April 9, 2014 – Daniel R. Green dives into Ann Scott Tyson’s book,American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission, and The Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant(New York: William Morrow, 2013).
  • The Days of Saffron and Roses, March 24, 2014 – Douglas Ollivant ties Graeme Smith’s book, The Dogs are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan(Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2013) to the photography of Robert Nickelsberg as showcased in his book, Afghanistan: A Distant War(Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2013) to explain how the United States has found itself in the current situation in Afghanistan.
  • I Am Malala, February 21, 2014 – Daud Khattak looks at how Malala Yousafzai’s book,I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban(New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), has been received by Pakistan.
  • Gates: What He Really Thought About the Afghan War, February 6, 2014 – Douglas Ollivant sorts through Robert M. Gates’ book,Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014)to lay out the former secretary’s doubts and concerns about the war.
  • Why India and Pakistan Hate Each Other, February 4, 2014 – Shamila N. Chaudhary uses two books: Stephen Cohen’sShooting for a Century: The India-Pakistan Conundrum(Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2013) and Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’sThe Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel(New York: Penguin, 2013) to frame the intense rivalry between the two nations.
  • War From the Ground Up, January 16, 2014 – Douglas Ollivant looks at Emile Simpson’s book,War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First-Century Combat as Politics(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • The Most Magnificent Delusion, December 23, 2013 – Michael Kugelman reviews Husain Haqqani’s book,Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding(New York: Public Affairs, 2013).
  • The Blood Telegram, December 17, 2013 – Meena Ahamed looks at Nixon’s foreign policy toward South Asia as highlighted in The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), written by Gary J. Bass.
  • Fountainhead of Jihad, June 27, 2013 – Stephen Tankel calls Vahid Brown and Don Rassler’s book “the most complete portrait of the Haqqani network to date.”
  • Soldiers and Spies, June 6, 2013 – Shane Harris reviews Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife: The CIA and a War at the Ends of the Earth and Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.
  • The Ever-evolving al Qaeda Threat, May 16, 2013 – Mitchell D. Silber says of the book After Bin Laden – Al Qaeda the Next Generation: “Mr. Atwan makes a compelling case that while the death of Osama bin Laden and the decimation of al Qaeda Core’s top leadership has hurt the central organization that was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the movement and ideology, with its worldwide presence via regional associated movements, is as much of a menace to the West as ever and undiminished in its goal of a global caliphate.”
  • A War for No Wise Purpose, April 23, 2013 – In The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, Gerald Russell sees the history of the first war fought by Westerners in Afghanistan in modern times and is clearly designed to cast a light on the present conflict here.
  • The Valley’s Edge, December 4, 2012 – Michael Waltz of Daniel Green’s book: “The book is a detailed, first-hand account of how a team of U.S. soldiers and civilians, focused on improving governance and development, operated in the midst of a worsening insurgency in one of the most remote provinces in Afghanistan.”
  • Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, July 18, 2012 – Gerard Russell calls the book a “well-researched, clearly-written expose of the debates, disputes and political skullduggery between those involved in the Afghanistan “surge” in 2009.”
  • Instant city: Life and Death in Karachi, November 18, 2011 – Madiha Afzal reviews Steve Inskeep’s book, saying: “His reliance on extensive story telling in addition to analysis and an overview that is not as wide-ranging as it co
    uld be sets it apart from other recent books written by foreign visitors about this part of the world.”
  • Appraising al Qaeda: The Practitioner’s Perspective, November 5, 2012 – Raffaello Pantucci says of Seth G. Jones’s book, Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa’ida since 9/11, that “identifying three key prongs to an effective counterterrorism strategy – a light military footprint, helping local regimes and authorities in their counterterrorism efforts, and exploiting al Qaeda’s tendency to massacre civilians – Jones draws upon events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen, as well as al-Qaeda plots in America, Spain and the United Kingdom.”
  • Counterstrike, September 23, 2011 – Michael Waltz says of Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker’sCounterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al-Qaeda: “The authors personalize the often mundane bureaucratic policy initiatives such as Presidential findings, resources, and authorities needed to gradually shift our approach to terrorism through the stories of key individuals working on these issues over the last ten years.”
  • The 9/11 Wars, September 19, 2011 – Daniel Byman says that Burke brings the reader from villages in Afghanistan and Iraq to slums in London and France, offering individual portraits of combatants and those overrun by war while also weaving in government policies and scholarly research to portray the broader context.
  • Cables from Kabul, August 8, 2011 – To Gerard Russell, this book was the equivalent of a guided tour around the international community in Afghanistan.
  • The Triple Agent, July 25, 2011 – Art Keller –The Triple Agentprovides a riveting look at the disastrous attempt by the CIA and their partners in the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) to maneuver the Jordanian doctor-cum-cyber-jihadist, Humam al-Balawi, into penetrating the leadership of al-Qaeda.
  • The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, April 14, 2011 – Gerard Russell says that “it has genuine Afghan voices, which is all too rare in Western books about Afghanistan. Speaking from the perspective of the infantryman, it reminds us of the powerful virtues of the military, andI recommend it without hesitation.”
  • Pakistan: A Hard Country, April 11, 2011 – Huma Yusuf calls this book an “insightful, comprehensive portrait of Pakistan” and says that it “is the perfect antidote to stereotypical descriptions of the country as the most dangerous place in the world.”
  • Inside the Taliban Shuffle, March 2, 2011 – Joshua Foust says that Kim Barker’s book, where she describes a decade of encounters in Afghanistan, is funny for its tales of zaniness, but sad because of how she uses Afghans as props.
  • Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, June 29, 2010- Gerard Russell deems the book a “comprehensive but readable short history of Afghanistan.”


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