Baechtold's Best: Afghanistan: The Ultimate Visual Travel Guide, by Claude Baechtold, et. al. (2005). Eschewing the lengthy descriptions found in most travel guides, Baechtold goes for visual guideposts. Interested in seeing for real the Khadji Sattar poppies that fill one of the pages? A map below the images pinpoints the poppy field's location. This quirky photo book is full of such iconic Afghan sights.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (2003). In Afghanistan's peaceful, affluent Wazir Akbar Khan district in northern Kabul during the 1970s, boyhood pals Amir and Hassan are inseparable. But after an unspeakable event occurs, Amir and his father flee to the United States. This heartbreaking, richly drawn debut novel follows Amir from his childhood days flying kites in his poplar-lined neighborhood to his present-day search through orphanages in war-torn Kabulilluminating the personal turmoils behind today's headlines.
*An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, by Jason Elliot (1999). Afghanistan is on our minds these days, but it has been in Elliot's thoughts since 1979, when he fought for the mujahideen. A subsequent visit to the war-torn land only heightened his perceptions of the paradoxes of this ancient place.