The Bookseller of Kabul

Asne Seirstad definitely makes the cut in my list, for "The Bookseller of Kabul", a tale of post-Taliban Afghanistan but with a “personal” twist.  After befriending Sultan Khan (who, for years, had defied the authorities and kept open a bookstore in the capital), the author was invited to move into his home, where she subsequently spent several months living with him and his extended family (his mother, his aunts, Khan’s two wives and five children).

This is not a “feel good” book, for sure – Seirstad writes openly of the hardships of life for women behind the burka – deprived of education, killed for honour and married off to men against their will, even a man like Khan (educated and wealthy) still holds absolute power in a family that is patriarchal and a society that is tribal.  The book reads well and easily, and the author doesn’t refer to herself. giving the tale a “fly-on-the-wall” feel to it.  You can’t help but come away feeling saddened and furious at the lack of control these women have over their lives.  But don’t let that put you off – she has a sharp eye and writes movingly.  Moreover, reading this tale reminds us never to take books for granted!