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The Places in Between

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  11,550 Ratings  ·  1,252 Reviews
In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' flo
Audio CD, 8 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Recorded Books (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Sean Sullivan
Sep 11, 2007 Sean Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In theory, it is easy to hate an Eton educated upper class Scotsman who decides it’d be a lark to walk across Afghanistan six months after the fall of the Taliban. The idea reminds me of the stupidity and adventurism I encountered when I went to Palestine with ISM. People vacationing in other people’s misery so they can go home and brag about it is not really my cup of tea.*

But after reading Stewarts book, I have to say it is extremely good. We learn next to nothing about Stewart here outside of
Oct 30, 2008 Carmen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carmen by: Julie
It is what it is: a guy walks across Afghanistan. What do you think happens?
A) he encounters very poor and poorly educated tribal/feudal lords
B) he encounters hostile, backward, cruel teens and militia and former soldiers
C) he walks 25 miles a day with not much to describe: rural Afghanistan is rural for a reason
D) all of the above

D, of course D. Well, at one point he does get a dog. Now Rory can describe how Babur likes to sniff and pee and roll in snow.

I give Rory some credit for what he cho
Nov 18, 2008 Tracey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rory Stewart walks across most of Afghanistan. I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, Stewart’s total disrespect for the customs of the people he meets along the way interfered with any enjoyment I might find in the story of his journey.

He feels a sense of entitlement towards their hospitality. He expects to show up and be provided with the best accommodations and the best food. That he does this in an area where people often have a difficult time feeding themselves is irresponsible.

Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 14, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Just weeks after the fall of the Taliban in January of 2002 Scotsman Rory Stewart began a walk across central Afghanistan in the footsteps of Moghul conqueror Emperor Babur and along parts of the legendary Silk Road, from Herat to Kabul. He'd find himself in the course of twenty-one months encountering Sunni Kurds, Shia Hazala, Punjabi Christians, Sikhs, Kedarnath Brahmins, Garhwal Dalits, and Newari Buddhists. He said he wanted to explore the "place in between the deserts and the Himalayas, bet ...more
Jennifer Chen
Aug 21, 2007 Jennifer Chen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: South Asia hands and wanna be war zone journalists
Shelves: recentlyread
I'm not quite sure how to classify this book. It's not exactly a travel book, nor is it "current affairs." So perhaps I'm not judging fairly by seeing it air more on the side of travel than any other genre.

Anyway, a good travel book, in my opinion, should make you vaguely want to go to a place. Even if it's a wretched journey (as in In the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O'Hanlon). Even if the trip is perhaps beyond your financial or physical means. Even if you know what's being described on the pag
Aug 25, 2007 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found out about this charater from a magazine article at the time of the book's release. A scotsman who, for a variety of personal reasons not really revealed (a nice change of privacy in this world). begins walking across Afgahnistan.

He intersperses historical entries of a previous walker & conquerer between tales of hospitality and snow and destruction of antiquities.

I don't imagine I will ever have the opportunity to go to the places he writes about. So much of it was unfamiliar that th
Graham borrowed my copy and didn't return it. Graham is a friend from the pub. He's retired and he often forgets many things. I bet he forgot he borrowed The Places In Between. The arrogance of the Westerner is on full display in this romp just after the NATO/Northern Alliance victory over the Taliban in 2001. Rory has a dog and the pair walk around. Rory finds many of the locals lazy or selfish. These same locals routinely give him food and shelter, this in the aftermath of an invasion. It is d ...more
The author walked across Afghanistan! Yes, all the way on foot. The book covers his travels from Herat to Kabul over the mountains in the winter of 2001, after the US invasion. Rather foolhardy/dangerous, but I enjoyed hearing about his meetings with the Afghans of different ethnic groups. A Afghan mastiff became his companion, which added a heartfelt touch.
Jan 29, 2008 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: culture lovers
Recommended to Morgan by: myself!
Shelves: middle-east
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart has to be one of my favorite books. Rory has this gift to tell stories in such a brutally honest way that you find humor in even the most mundane life experiences. Although, I wouldn't generally categorize walking across Afghanistan 2 months after the Taliban fell, mundane. Yet, nothing about this book was breathtaking. Nothing was romantized, nothing placed on a pedestal. He spoke openly and honestly of all the people he met, those friendly, and those that ...more
Will Byrnes
Stewart is an upper class Brit who sustains the English tradition of adventurism. He has worked in Iraq (and done other things I cannot recall here) and in this book he tells of his walk across Afghanistan. It was an interesting tale, one in which he offers a picture of what life is like for many of the locals. It is not a happy existence, having to survive on land that is not very productive, at the edge of poverty for a lifetime, subject to the whims of the local warlords and bandits. One thin ...more
I saw this author interviewed on PBS and quickly decided I had to read his book. So glad that I did. This man, a former British soldier who now works at Harvard, walked across Afghanistan entirely on foot in 2002-03. His story is a deep look into the culture of Afghanistan outside the cities. Basically what we hear about on the news takes place inside the cities. But most of the country is comprised of villages. When we talk about "winning" in Afghanistan we need to realize what that means. This ...more
I'll be honest, The Places in Between was not at the top of my to-read list for this year. The book description was great, but when I read the about-the-author synopsis and saw that Rory Stewart was an Oxford graduate with a background in politics, I grew skeptical and hesitated to order it. I feared the author would be snobby and out-of-touch and the writing would be a dry fundraiser for various political causes and agendas. Boy was I wrong!
Stewart is a very good writer and the book was never d
I started out thinking I was going to really, really like this book. It is about a fascinating part of the world and one that is extremely important to us - and important that we understand - Afghanistan. It's a travelogue of Stewart's walk across that country, from Herat to Kabul after September 11, 2001.

In the last couple of years, I have read Khaled Hosseini's fictional books about his native land and I found them very revealing and sympathetic. I had hoped for a broadening of that experienc
Mar 29, 2009 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of Asia and war history
This Stewart guy has a pair of big brass ones-walking across Aghanistan in the shadow of the Taliban's defeat. He doesn't write as well as Robert Kaplan, another trekker of the world, but his stories are interesting nonetheless. There aren't many people in this story you want to meet but you get the clear description of one of the remotest parts of the world. Intriguing country. If I had the chance, I would like to visit the Hazara people and Bamiyan area. He paints an intriguing picture here. D ...more
Diane Challenor
Enjoying every step of the journey. Rory Stewart's perceptive acceptance of a foreign world, leaves me shaking my head in admiration. I'm reading the book slowly, a chapter every few days. The author's desire to understand and experience things around him, overtakes his sense of self preservation. The book gives us an insight into the journey of an incredibly kind, brave and intelligent human being. His book has given me a window into the way things are in Afghanistan, and showed me a little of ...more
Leah Petersen
Mar 13, 2010 Leah Petersen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I closed this book sobbing and I would just like to point out, I KNEW THE DOG WOULD DIE! I just knew it. As I hugged and kissed my own dog I reflected on my obsession with the dog contextually in a book that covers so many weighted subjects. The book explores a culture which America both hates and knows nothing about. Throughout the author's extreme journey through this land, capturing moments, ideologies and fears of the people hidden in Afghanistan's mountains, plains and plateaus...I could th ...more
Oct 15, 2008 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really amazing book. Rory Stewart approaches his post 9/11 walk (with no money!) through Afghanistan with a certain academic detachment. He keeps his journey grounded in the history of the country by tracing an ancient route and describes his interactions with the people that he meets with the distance of an anthropologist. Unlike in other travel books, Stewart does not glorify himself or anyone he meets. He also resists the temptation to villainize or judge even those who threaten him ...more
Sep 01, 2009 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-travel
This book received a glowing review in The New York Times when published. The reviewer called it a “striding, glorious book”. This quote appeared on the front of the old-school paperback copy I acquired. I understand that the reviewer liked the book, but…. striding? You know, now that I think about it, I've read reviewers complain that it's difficult to find new, fresh ways to praise a book, but still, “striding” is a fail. Does it mean the book is fast-paced? Leaves your breathless, as after a ...more
Feb 18, 2008 Brett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brett by: book club
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart. It's a quick and easy read, and although it is not all that illuminating in many ways, it does give a snapshot of one person's fascinating journey through that country, and at least an idea about what it is like in the rural hamlets that comprise much of the population.

Rory Stewart never explains why it is he decided to walk across Asia. For whatever reason, he walked across India, Nepal, Iran, and other Asian countries. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanist
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Rory Stewart walked through India, Pakistan and Nepal in 2002, a time that was very unstable given the events of 2001 and the subsequent war. He decided that he wanted to walk through the heart of Afghanistan as well. He met with a lot of bureaucracy, but he was eventually given permission to undertake his journey on the condition that several soldiers accompany him. He sets out across Afghanistan in winter, towering mountains and layers of snow between him and his final destination of Kabul.

I w
Aug 15, 2009 abatage rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the best things about this book is the author, and how you learn next to nothing about him personally - the entire journey is focused on the places he goes and the people he meets. A large part of the book is historical as Stewart fills you in on the footsteps he follows (of Babur's journey many years ago) and on the cultural landscape that has made the regions of Afghanistan into what they were when he reached them.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the tale. There's no irritating passages that
Jul 24, 2007 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I thought I already did a review on this book, but then realized it wasn't on my shelf at all. Anyway, read this book for my book club. We try to throw in some non-fiction once in a while. I think I was the only person who liked it/found it halfway decent. The meeting for this book actually opened with dead silence for a full fifteen seconds and then finally, "I didn't like it. It was awful," or something like that. Okay, so sometimes it was a bit boring, and Rory Stewart is not the best artist ...more
Nov 24, 2009 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had access to a hard copy of this book as I listened to Rory read it on CD. I am completely in awe of his heroic walk through the mountains from Herat to Kabul in war-torn Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government in 2002. I learned more from his journey than from many other things I have read about Afghanistan, excepting perhaps Didier Lefèvre's book The Photographer , which is a excellent visual accompaniment to this volume. Stewart managed to distill thousands of interactions he ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Kristel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book for GeoCAT and because I thought it was a PBT 100 NF but I was wrong on that last point. This is the travel writing of Rory Stewart, a Scotsman (Born in Hong Kong, raised in Malaysia and Scotland). Wiki describes him "British academic, author, diplomat, documentary maker and Conservative politician presently serving as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)." In 2002, he walked across Afghanistan shortly after the ...more
Jul 31, 2007 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
rory stewart, a scotsman, decided to walk across Afghanistan in January of 2002, on foot, by himself. if you'll recall, January 2002 was about 3 weeks after we installed the new government in Afghanistan. it was and still is a terribly unsafe place for westerners. as it turns out its even unsafe if you're an Afghani. Afghanistan is a country that is primarily still medieval: tribes based on ethnicity, religion, and location are constantly battling each other. this book is rory's travel diary of ...more
Apr 30, 2007 Sohrab rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Rory accomplishes something that no other travel diaries have done before him; he observes little of value or anything worth remembering from his experience. He loves walking and decides to walk through Afghanistan following footsteps of a Mongul king. As his journey progresses, he becomes more tired and increasing complains about people, food, climate, everything. Makes me wonder who forced him to do this? He complains about backwardness and violence in the Afghan places he visits. Is it any wo ...more
Don Becher
Interesting description of author's walk across Afghanistan. Brings home the isolated nature of much of the country, the varied interpretation of Islam, and the depressing odds of ever bringing the area all together in one country -- which has proved to be quite prescient.
Feb 14, 2010 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rory Stewart is a writer and explorer of great tenacity and compassion, and chronicles his walk across Afghanistan with his ailing dog Babur in a way that is profoundly humanistic and real. I wish this book could be written in Dari and Pashto so the locals could read it.
Feb 16, 2013 Fran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rory Stewart follows the route that the Prophet Babur did by walking through Afghanistan in 2002 just after the removal of the Taliban, he describes his journey in terrific detail and gives the reader a deeper understanding of a completely Alien culture. A riveting read.
Sep 18, 2011 Oceana2602 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german, male-writers, 2011
After I read quite a few negative reviews of this book, I really wanted to like it. I tend to be a bit critical towards other people's opinions of travel literature, probably because of my great love for Paul Theroux, who has quite a few unwarranted critics himself.So, if you write a travel book, and people don't like it, you've done something right in my opinion already. (your book may still suck, though).

So, Rory Stewart then.

Rory Stewart decided to walk through Afghanistan shortly after 9/11,
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Rory Stewart was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Malaysia. He served briefly as an officer in the British Army (the Black Watch), studied history and philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford and then joined the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years ...more
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“Religions . . . seem to avoid mountain passes.” 5 likes
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