A great series of travel essays. Naipaul visits Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and South Africa, trying to understand the practical impliA great series of travel essays. Naipaul visits Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and South Africa, trying to understand the practical implications of African belief, focusing primarily on traditional beliefs. While he adheres to his stated objective of avoiding political topics (except in the case of South Africa, which he acknowledges), he captures the human root sand consequences of beliefs and rituals. He does this not as an anthropologist, but most often as the acquaintance of a friend.
Naipaul offers a unique perspective as the child of colonial Trinidad, a great writer with nothing to lose through his honesty, and a caring man. (He worries about the treatment of kittens and wildlife.) His gently curmudgeonlike willingness to call rubbish rubbish makes his stated respect and admiration far more powerful. ...more
A year or two after the Taliban was removed from Kabul, Ms. Seierstad spends a period of time living with a family in Kabul and writes about the experA year or two after the Taliban was removed from Kabul, Ms. Seierstad spends a period of time living with a family in Kabul and writes about the experience. The family, which is largely appreciative of the efforts of the NATO forces, is unusual in the way that all families are unusual. The patriarch has big dreams and a big personality. There is political drama among the members of the extended family.
In addition to showing the challenges faced by a family in a changing society, The Bookseller of Kabul, also provides some insight into the frustration felt by Muslim societies at the outspoken criticisms that come from the West. The writer is inflexibly opinionated, as are most well-meaning Westerners, when it comes to concepts like the desire for modesty embodied in the burqa. One comes away from reading this book with a sense of the complexity of the interactions between cultures and the difficulty in determining how to reconcile ideals and customs.
There are a lot of history books written about history from 35,000 feet, but there aren't many written about history from the ground level, like EastwThere are a lot of history books written about history from 35,000 feet, but there aren't many written about history from the ground level, like Eastward to Tartary. To understand large historical movements, one has to understand the components that comprise them. In 1998 Kaplan travels by train, bus, and boat, from Budapest through Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Armenia. He talks with scholars, local political figures, and regular guys to better understand the fears and aspirations of the residents of countries that have been largely in transition since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Kaplan looks at the the progress of democratization, and the limits of its value when social and economic foundations are lacking. 12 years after Kaplan's visit, it is interesting to compare the apparent trajectory of the events with the actual outcomes in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia....more