• St. Martin's Press
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Born Under a Million Shadows

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Five Books Andrea Busfield Can't Live Without

An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot

This is a remarkable and beautifully written account of Elliot’s travels in Afghanistan, first in the midst of the Soviet occupation and then during the emergence of the Taliban. It is one of the few books I have read twice and it’s like falling into a vat of chocolate—luxurious, lyrical, and deeply satisfying. There are also some laugh-out-loud moments such as Elliot’s wonderful examination of Afghanistan’s relationship with her neighbors.

Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures) by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson

I started reading this shortly after moving to Kabul and almost regretted not having gone to university—a largely insurmountable barrier to joining the United Nations. The book is the work of three civilians who worked for the UN and the Red Cross and who first met in Cambodia. It is a wonderful, fast-paced, and often humorous account of their growing friendship against a backdrop of some of the world’s worst war zones. At times funny, shocking, and tragic, it is a very personal story that left me inspired.

Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

This is the first book that broke my heart. It’s the tale of a disillusioned teenager growing up in a small Yorkshire mining town who finds a kestrel hawk he names Kes. It’s a slim novel that grabs you instantly and leaves you battered. I read it in one sitting and twenty years later just thinking about it raises the hairs on my neck.

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières

If I am writing, about to start writing, or even thinking about writing, I absolutely do not, under any circumstances, pick up a Louis de Bernières novel. Quite simply, I think the man’s a genius and I suspect a part of me actually wants to be him, albeit with more hair and less manly. Birds Without Wings is perhaps my favorite of his novels. Set in the period when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, the story centers on a small community in southwest Anatolia where Christians and Muslims have peacefully coexisted for centuries— until the outside world intrudes. A long and sometimes complicated tale, this is a novel that requires your absolute attention because there’s a cast of characters to get your head around. But, as ever with a Bernières work of art, those who persevere are always rewarded. Tragic and magical.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

I fell in love with this book on a beach in Tunisia. A quick read packing a massive punch, it’s the tale of a teenager with autism who is determined to uncover a crime (the title should give a clue as to what crime has been committed). Engaging and human, it is one of the few books I’ve read that deserves to be described as hysterically funny. It is a joy from start to finish and in my mind an absolute masterpiece because there’s a fine line between laughing at someone and laughing with them, and in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time you are firmly in tune with the hero.