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The Bookseller of Kabul

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  27,348 ratings  ·  2,232 reviews
In spring 2002, following the fall of the Taliban, Asne Seierstad spent four months living with a bookseller and his family in Kabul.

For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they communist or Taliban - to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists, and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers bur

Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2002)
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Meghna Well, I atleast found the guy's struggle to save and sell his books genuine. …moreWell, I atleast found the guy's struggle to save and sell his books genuine. (less)
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Apr 11, 2007 Ariel rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one, it's bad
I was irritated early on by the way this book was written. I think it encompasses all my other grips about the book.

Basically the situation is like this: a woman journalist is in Kabul after 9/11. She meets this bookseller, lives with his family a few months with only 3 people in the family speaking English and then she writes a book about them.

First of all, having lived abroad and lived abroad with families, you can't know a family the way this author pretends to in that time. We don't even kn
I think I learned more from this one book than from any news story or other examination of Afghanistan.
You think, after reading the forward and the beginning of the book, that the bookseller will be a progressive man, but his love for his country's history and its literary heritage is his only redeeming quality and yet the very reason he is such a bastard toward his family. Everything comes second to his passion.
In the wake of the Taliban's withdrawal we see them slowly try to regain their f
Enter the world of the Norwegian journalist, Åsne Seierstad, who covers the aftermath of the Taliban on society in Afghanistan, and you get what you could expect, but still hope you're wrong: a 'pseudo-novelistic' attempt at exposing the life of a country in turmoil / vicious power struggles / chaos.

Coming from a liberal Norwegian society, and being a young journalist, it is expected that the book will be written from a pessimistic, typical journalistic point of view. In fact, I struggled to get
Miramira Endevall
Jan 28, 2010 Miramira Endevall rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Valerie
Valerie - I found a used copy of this book for your Christmas present (since I raved about it to you) so don't go buying it! :-)

I wasn't going to write a review of this book at all until I read some of the other reviews posted here and became horrified at their castigation of Ms. Seierstad.

A rebuttal:

I liked this book BECAUSE it doesn't read like investigative journalism. Seirstad never once pretends that she's being unbiased and doesn't apologize for the obvious slant. Frankly, her slant is wha
my issues with this book are basically ideological/political -- in spite of an introduction justifying her decision to erase herself from the story, the author also says that she spent a significant period of her time in the household arguing with its male members (presumably about gender politics and the subordinate status of the family's women). i think including these disagreements would have made for a far stronger and more compelling story (not to mention more honest) -- as it is, this is j ...more
Prithvi Shams
After finishing the book, I was quite surprised at the number of negative reviews here in Goodreads. Maybe a huge culture shock is at play here. Many in the West may be put off by the realization that the values that they take for granted may be totally unheard of in certain parts of the world. There *are* certain cultures where children are nothing but tools for parents and as such, are actively denied education. There *are* cultures where falling in love is a greater "crime" than sawing off a ...more
Okay so the author seems very naive, and that's a pretty safe bet. She is knowledgeable however, so I'll give her that. I wouldn't take this book seriously if you're looking for some real social or historical insight into Afghanistan. It really pales in that sense. If you're looking for a light read and a good story, in that sense, it's good and can offer some inspiration. So it's all right so far.


All right, just finished it. It was interesting and page-turning, but the author's tone really ag

هناك مجتمعات غالبا أى شئ يُكتب عنها بيكون شيق.
المجتمع الأفغانى من اهم المجتمعات دى . نظرا للتحولات العنيفه التى تعرض لها والظلم الشديد الذى طال الكثير من مواطنيه
هذا الكتاب هو تقرير صحفى طويل من اروع ما يكون .
اذا كنت من عشاق الروايه ستجد صيغته روائيه وممتعه
وان كنت من عشاق الصحافه ستجده يروى نهمك الصحفى
وان كنت من هواة التاريخ ستجد معلومات مهمه جدا فيه
فى المجمل هو عمل شامل . وواقعى جدا
الترجمه كانت ممتازة وأوصلت المعلومه بكل دقه
صحفيه عاشت ضيفه على أسرة أفغانيه لشهور لتسجل هذه الشهاده الحيه
من خل
The most depressing book about the area that I have read. Most of the characters have little to no redeeming qualities or likeablity. The bookseller was the least likeable of all. The ones that were likeable and you wanted to root for you realize have no chance for happiness or an existance other than servitude and repression.
The book didn't flow very well either. At times I wasn't sure if I was reading a book or a collection of magazine articles. The author represents the people and events as
Susan Johnson
This was a selection from my in person book club and I found it to be okay. It is a true story and I thought I would be reading more about his quest to distribute literature in Kabul. Although he talks about it somewhat, it's not the main thrust of the book. Still the passages about the destruction of libraries and museums is enough to break your heart. I don't understand the "logic" of the Nazis and the Taliban in the burning of books but I guess it cuts down on people having different viewpoi ...more
وصف حياة أسرة أفغانيه, ذلك الشعب الذي يحيطه الغموض و لا يدري أحد ما الذي يدور فعلاً داخل أسوار بيوته , استطاعت الكاتبه ان تقنع رب الأسرة بأن تعيش مع أسرته و تراقب حياتهم لتؤلف كتابها الذي يوصف بانه الوصف الأكثر حميميه لحياة
عائليه أفغانيه الذي استطاع صحفي غربي كتابته على الإطلاق
تستطيع فعلاً تخيل الجدران االمثقوبه بالرصاص و مشاهدة الأطفال الذين يسيل المخاط من انوفهم و تشعر بلذة استمتاعهم بتناول الأطعمه الغنيه بالدهن و اللحم و الأرز كما تشعر بالتعاطف مع جميع شخصيات القصه بدءً من بيبي غول الجده الا
I was slightly confused about this book as when I read the blurb I thought the book was going to be about the bookseller himself and his book shop and about how he defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul but this book sways away from the blurb and concentrates more on Sultan Khan's family.

I am not sure I like the way the story reads, In spring 2002 award winning journalist Asne Seiratad spent four months living with the bookseller and his family but while the story is told
Fatema Hassan , bahrain

بائع الكتب في كابول
للصحفية و المراسلة النرويجية ( آسني سييرستاد )

خلافًا لما يتوقعه القارئ بناءًا على العنوان من إنصات لبيواغرفية بائع الكتب .. فالكتاب عبارة عن حالة توثيق شاملة لبيوغرافية المجتمع الأفغاني و إقتفاء لعاداته وتقاليده و رصد للتغييرات التي تنطوي عليها بلد مهمش و متكتم كأفغانستان ذو الأكثرية المسلمة الذي تعاقبت فيه الأنظمة و تناقلت السلطة في فترة متقاربة من نظام لنظام مما أدى لتدني مستوى معيشي على كل الأصعدة ، و بيوغرافية الفرد جزء لا يتجزأ من بيوغرافية المجتمع لذلك أعجبتني المناصفة
Ana T.
For more than twenty years, Sultan Khan has defied the authorities, whether communist or Taliban, to supply books to the people of Kabul. He has been arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned, and has watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. Yet he has persisted in his passion for books, shedding light in one of the world's darkest places. This is the intimate portrait of a man of principle and of his family - two wives, five children, and many relatives sharing a ...more
In keeping in line with my Afghanistan kick, I discovered this book online and got it from the library.

The premise of the book is this: Its non-fiction, written in novel form. Basically, this author (female from Norway) lived with a family for a period of time and interviewed them about their family. So you get the honest workings and day to day life of this family. The are really far from normal. They are all literate(rare for Afghanistan), as the father is a bookseller, and some of them have
Kumar Anshul
Another non-fiction from the gothic Afghanistan which will pierce your heart. What makes this book different though, is the profound potrayal of the day-to-day life in an Afghan household post-Taliban era.
A country which is war torn by more than 30 years of war and is finally trying to rebuild itself but is constantly threatened by the dogma of internal dissidents and the ambiguities of its own citizens- who are thrown in between the complex fabric of a phase where they are happy to be free, st
Amaal Ibrahim
بناء على ماهو مكتوب خلف الكتاب أن الصحافية الشقراء تذهب لافغانستان وتسكن مع أحد العائلات لتسجل مشاهداتها لحياة الافغان بعد سقوط نظام طالبان. وتبدأ لتتكلم باقتضاب عن كيفية دخولها للعائلة، وفجأة تنسحب الكاتبة من مجريات الاحداث لتتم مشاهداتها بطريقة أدبية كما تقول. كما وتتكلم باقتضاب أيضا عن "سلطان" وهو بائع الكتب وعن تجارته وكيفية تأسيسه لها في مايقارب الفصل أو الفصلين. وتكمل باقي الكتاب بالحديث عن بقية أفراد الاسرة وتصور حياتهم فردا فردا.

أما عن رأيي بالكتاب فلم يضف لي الكثير. صوّر حياتهم بطريقة ك
We all know those travel books who pretend to teach you about a culture of which the writer doesn't even speak the language: if you travel using this "guide", I can only feel sorry for you (alright, I'll drop the pretense of anonymity: I mean Rick Steeve).
Only this isn't about tourism, it's about the pain and suffering of an entire country that hasn't known peace and respect for as long as they can remember. Patronizing them and their "inferior" culture isn't just tasteless, it's downright damna
It was okay. I should have read it earlier, when it was Current Events and might have seemed original. Now it feels like Ancient History. I have also read A Thousand Splendid Suns, to which it shows an uncanny similarity in several parts.

ETA: I should have said that ATSS is similar to Bookseller, as Bookseller pre-dates it by several years.
Olga Milemis
Shortly after 9/11 the Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad spent few months in Kabul living with the bookseller Sultan Khan and his family. The result of her experience in Khan’s house is a matchless portrait not only of this particular family but of the country as well. “The bookseller of Kabul” (2002) offers an in-depth look in the life of people who experienced and survived different occupations of the country. In this book, we learn as well about food and customs, feelings, hope and fear and ...more
A factual account written in a fictional way. This made for a very good read. I read this book after I had read The Kite Runner and Reading Lolita in Tehran. It enhanced my knowledge of the difficulties of living in a restrictive culture.
Hats off to Afghan women. It was heartbreaking to read of their slavery and oppression, the way society treats them, the way they have to live without hope or expectations, how basic necessities like education and wealth are denied to them, how they are married off (or literally sold off to the highest bidder) to men decades older than them, sometimes as third or fourth wives and how they are physically abused and punished if they even look at another man. I used to think dowry system in India w ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
It's hard to read this book even though it is very good. I just can't believe that a society can treat women the way they do in this area of the world. I also got so angry at all of the world treasures the Taliban blew up or destroyed. It just boggles my mind. In fact, I consider it "crimes against humanity." Has there ever been a group of people who destroyed so many of their own national treasures? I guess the Huns and Visigoths did the same, but world has lost a lot because of the Taliban.

Robin Hemmer
I am torn with this book. I would definitely say that there is not anthropological merit to it considering her special "bi-gendered" creature (her words) stature. She rides a line between how an outside women is able to act and what an Afghan women is limited to. It is depressing to see the oxymoron that is life in this world. In one instance Sultan Khan talks of empowering women but then treats them in the traditional fashion - he only has his past with which to guide his actions.

تحكي الرواية حياة عائلة أفغانية " حقيقة " بأسلوب شيّق جداً.
عاشت الكاتبة مع العائلة فترة من الزمن أثناء كتابة هذه الرواية , وحاولت نقل مايحدث في الداخل لنا نحن الذين في الخارج .

بؤس بؤس بؤس ..
هذا أكثر ما أحسست به أثناء قراءتي للرواية
لم تستطع سييرستد نقل لحظة فرح كاملة من المجتمع الأفغاني دون تشويه صورتها بمشاعرها هي الخاصة , بعكس ألف شمس مشرقة , مع الإختلاف في الوضع الإجتماعي للأبطال والحالة المؤسفة التي عاشها الأبطال في ألف شمس مشرقة , كانت هناك لحظات سعادة واضحة , حد أني أحسست بلمعة أعينهم من خل
The Norwegian author of this book (Asne Seierstad) is a journalist who reports on war-torn regions (Chechnya, Balkans, Afghanistan). She lived for 3 months with the Afghan family that is the suject of this book. She gives us a unique glimpse into their day-to-day lives.

The author focuses on different members of the Khan family throughout the book. The family is not a typical poverty stricken family since the patriarch makes decent money selling books. However, he is not free in spending the mon
Debbie Boucher
This book has been out for a while. It was given to me by Nigel Khan who was my next door neighbor during a weekend trip to Grand Riviere in TT. Nigel is Mr. Barnes and Noble of TT. His stores are called Nigel Khan, bookseller, so this book interested him greatly as his ancestors come from this part of the world. We had a conversation about it before I had read the book completely. I plan to send him a brief e-mail as he is a very busy man, much like Sultan the protagonist of this non-fiction na ...more
Gail Francis
This is worth a read as long as the reader recognizes that Seierstad isn't trying to write a definitive work of the culture of Afghanistan. The prose is uneven. She is strongest when she conveys the complexity of the individuals in the family, weakest when describing the urban environment, the clothes, and other details.

The biggest flaw in the book is that she attempts to remove her own voice, giving the impression that the characters are speaking for themselves rather than being the subjects of
في صفحة تقع هذه الرواية تتجول بك في حياة عائلة أفغانية تنقل القارئ لذلك البلد بأسلوب بديع تقييمي /

أسلوب الكاتبة جميل جدا فهي تشدك لآخر الرواية حتى تعرف مصير أبطال الرواية وكأنك تنتزع اعترافا من جاسوس

الرواية دسمة بالمعلومات عن ظروف حياة العائلات الأفغانية وطقوسهم المعتادة في الزواجات وترى مدى تقارب افراد العائلة الواحدة

أحداث الرواية حقيقية وقد عاشت مؤلفتها فترة من الزمن في هذا البيت الأفغاني وأصبحت كأنها فردا من العائلة

من يعشق الكتب والمكتبات والنشر سوف يعيش أوقات سعيدة وأخرى حزينة مع هذا البائع
Ahmad Al-Maaini
(نُشر هذا العرض في ملحق شرفات في جريدة عمان بتاريخ 3 مارس 2010)

من تبعات الغزو الأمريكي لأفغانستان في 2001 ونجاحه في إسقاط نظام "طالبان" أن تكوّن اهتمامٌ عالمي بهذه البقعة من الكرة الأرضية، بتاريخها وتراثها وتقاليدها ونظامها الاجتماعي، إضافة إلى الوضع السياسي بعد الحرب بطبيعة الحال. وفي الحقيقة فإن هذا الظرف المؤسف لأفغانستان كان فرصة سانحة لمن أراد أن يكتب كتابًا يحقق أعلى المبيعات عالميًا، وهذا ما حصل فعلا، فظهرت كتب كثيرة تتناول أفغانستان تاريخًا وحاضرًا وتكهنًا بالمستقبل. ومن بينها كتابٌ بعنو
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