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I’m not sure I’ll ever finish reading Descent into Chaos: the United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, but like his previous book, Taliban, he proves himself immensely knowledgeable about Pakistan’s role in the “Afghanistan problem.” While both Descent and Taliban offer readers a framework for understanding the many strands of the conflict in Afghanistan, Rashid amps up his criticism of the many failures of the Bush administration, the tangled mess of Afghani warlords, and what he perceives to be the “terrorism central,” Pakistan, in his latter work.

Folks, Rashid does not skimp on the details. The book is jam-packed with information. You’ll find that if you are prone to underlining important passages in books that nearly every page will be thoroughly marked up.

If you want commentary on the last 10 years of turmoil in Central Asia, go for Descent into Chaos. If you want a more comprehensive understanding of Central Asia and the making of terrorist states, read Taliban. If you go for both, be sure to space them out and have plenty of trash fiction to read in between Rashid’s books.

Explore grief. Joan Didion introduces you to her world as her husband dies and her only daughter goes though intense medical crises. One of the best books I’ve ever read because Didion is plain-spoken and sharp-edged. She is brilliant at looping ideas to reflect the ruminations of grief/depression—not to mention it’s also a cool writing strategy.


I read this for a class few years ago. Here was one of the notes I had about it (for what it’s worth): It’s strange that it’s the Autopsy chapter (18) that seems to be the turning point, the point where we know she’s made it out of the grief.  Not that it’s gone away, but that she’s survived it.  The autopsy seemed to tie things up for Didion. She’d been working hard to lift herself from the abyss for a year.  She’d been coping with Quintana’s illnesses and her own grief for a long time. She’d processed a lot in a year, even if she felt she had not.  The autopsy gave her proof that her thinking was magical, that her blame was fanciful even, that the John’s death was then, and this was now.

SOB with me

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