The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Yesterday was my first day off in 11 days. Naturally, I spent a decent chunk of it reading, and was able to finish The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker. This is the book that the controversial new Tina Fey movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on.

I give this book 3/5 stars. I think that it was very well-written, and Barker did an excellent job telling her story, as well as providing readers with a better understanding about the war and politics in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Somehow this book is funny in the midst of such a crazy situation.

Two things enhanced my reading experience. First, I read this book while listening to the second season of Serial. This helped have a better understanding of the region, as well as the climate there. The text and the podcast certainly complimented each other. Secondly, I was able to hear Kim Barker speak on the campus where I work!

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(Left to Right) My friend Katy, Kim Barker, and Me.

Kim was funny, smart, and shared a lot of information about Afghanistan. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – Afghanistan and Pakistan are not regularly on my radar. However, this book helped me to gain some perspective and better understand why the war in Afghanistan has been going on for so long, and why it has not really worked.

I think what I appreciated most about this book was Barker’s internal conflict about her desire to stay in the Middle East – she did not want to come back to the U.S. Reading about her internal debate about how to dress and act in a culture that oppresses women versus her feminist upbringing.

Overall, I found this book interesting and informative. I learned a lot, but I recognize that what I learned is just a sliver of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Barker did a great job of balancing her personal experiences with the history and the current events of the area. It would have been easy for the book to become solely about Barker and make her situation seem bigger and more important than the circumstances that surrounded her. That was not the case at all. This book is worth checking out, despite the controversy with the movie.

Next up: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


Fifth Business

This morning I gave up on a book. I cannot remember the last time I did that, or if I have ever actually set a book down with the intention of not finishing it.

I have been slow to pick up Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. This book is the first in The Deptford Series trilogy, which was on my list of books-to-read-in-your-20s. The book is set in Canada in the early 1900s. It begins with the story of two young boys throwing snowballs as they race home. One hits an unintended target, and this act changes several character’s lives forever. I like the main character, but the book has been incredibly boring to me. I am 125 pages in, and I just do not look forward to reading it, so I keep finding other things to do instead.

While this book did not interest me, that does not mean it could not be interesting to you. If you enjoy stories of how World War I impacted people who were both directly (or not-directly) involved in it this book could be added to your TBR. I could not get into it, and used it as a reason not to read for the past two weeks. I’ll be moving onto something else.

What books have you started, but not been able to finish?