Dec 27, 11
Read in December, 2011
This is the 4.5 book that I'm giving a Christmas gift of a full 5 star rating. It's a wonderfully entertaining first book by a young English author who decided after graduating from college to move to Iran, learn Persian, and then set out into Central Asia to locate and meet some of the area's vanishing peoples. You soon learn from this and other books that the Soviet Union and the Middle East contained great ethnic diversity with many peoples living nearby in relative harmony and that it is only in the last hundred years that concepts of nationhood, communism, and then militant Islam that has destroyed so much of these. Metcalfe manages to find multiple fascinating groups, from the dying out Jews in one country to the literally dying country around the Aral Sea (this book is worth picking up solely for his description of what's happened around that body of water--it's heartbreaking). He also got himself into Afghanistan and Pakistan and wandered around there in search of some unique groups. I read Dilip Hiro's tome on the 5 "Stans" earlier this year and I'm glad I had that background as this is by no means thorough (and Kyrgzstan somehow is skipped altogether), but Metcalfe's enthusiasm for the trip and his experiences along the way make this a great book. Last, note that it's not out in the US but you can readily order it from Amazon from Britain at a good price.