Customer Reviews for

The Bookseller of Kabul

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Insight Into a Different World

Seierstad's intimate portrait of an atypical family in Kabul, Afghanistan evokes a myriad of emotions. The reader, at times, feels caught between admiration for Sultan the bookseller who defends women's rights, and Sultan the tyrannical leader of his family who takes a...
Seierstad's intimate portrait of an atypical family in Kabul, Afghanistan evokes a myriad of emotions. The reader, at times, feels caught between admiration for Sultan the bookseller who defends women's rights, and Sultan the tyrannical leader of his family who takes a different stance when it comes to the women in his household. I was left with a feeling of frustration and anger towards him and felt that his passion for books and knowledge was the most important thing in his life. His lack of compassion and concern for the plight of family members (especially the women) mirrored the way his father had ruled his family and, I suspect that Sultan's sons will follow in kind. One is left wondering if this cycle can ever be broken. A good read.

posted by Paige01 on March 27, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A Thrilling Adventure of a lifetime

I'm a soon to be junior at Holt High School. I'm doing a review in English class for the book The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad. I came across this book one day in my school library when I was looking for a silent reading book. I told our librarian that I real...
I'm a soon to be junior at Holt High School. I'm doing a review in English class for the book The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad. I came across this book one day in my school library when I was looking for a silent reading book. I told our librarian that I really liked the book The Kite Runner which had similar themes and she introduced me to this new book that had not even been put in our school library system yet. When she told me about the book and how it has a lot of connections with Afghan culture it made me want to read it more because that subject interests me.
This book is about a family living in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. They allow a reporter to come and stay with them for several months and shadow them as they go about their lives. The main character is Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul. During the Taliban rule all books were banned besides the ones given by the Taliban. He is so in live with his books that throughout the book you will find yourself following him to prison and conflict. Another character in the book is Sultans wife Sharifa and his main wife Jamila. You also follow them as they demonstrate the strong principles of the role of women. You will get to experience Sultans son's first rebellion as a youth and his younger sisters as they get married and find jobs to escape their family's tight grip on their lives.
Overall I give this book 3.5 stars because it is a very hard book to read and I would only suggest for advanced readers. It is interesting if you truly want to read but if you are not enjoying it the book will not make sense so a book I might suggest for you is the Kite Runner.

posted by 1442652 on June 8, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2009

    I would read this book again...

    This book opened my eyes to many things that I would have never learned about Afghanistan from American media or literature. It was very enlightening, and I felt that for once I was getting truly expositional and objective information on the country, it's culture and beliefs etc. The author actually lives with an Afghani family and writes down what she witnesses. Much different than what we see on the CNN headlines. I would read this book again, it was very stimulating and made for interesting and intelligent conversations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Thrilling Adventure of a lifetime

    I'm a soon to be junior at Holt High School. I'm doing a review in English class for the book The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad. I came across this book one day in my school library when I was looking for a silent reading book. I told our librarian that I really liked the book The Kite Runner which had similar themes and she introduced me to this new book that had not even been put in our school library system yet. When she told me about the book and how it has a lot of connections with Afghan culture it made me want to read it more because that subject interests me.
    This book is about a family living in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. They allow a reporter to come and stay with them for several months and shadow them as they go about their lives. The main character is Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul. During the Taliban rule all books were banned besides the ones given by the Taliban. He is so in live with his books that throughout the book you will find yourself following him to prison and conflict. Another character in the book is Sultans wife Sharifa and his main wife Jamila. You also follow them as they demonstrate the strong principles of the role of women. You will get to experience Sultans son's first rebellion as a youth and his younger sisters as they get married and find jobs to escape their family's tight grip on their lives.
    Overall I give this book 3.5 stars because it is a very hard book to read and I would only suggest for advanced readers. It is interesting if you truly want to read but if you are not enjoying it the book will not make sense so a book I might suggest for you is the Kite Runner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Bookseller of Kabul - A gift for book lovers

    This book satisfied some of my desire for knowledge about Afghanstan; the country, people and culture. The writing style made a difficult subject a pleasure to read and encouraged me to continue my search for further knowledge of this subject. A highly recommended read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Insight Into a Different World

    Seierstad's intimate portrait of an atypical family in Kabul, Afghanistan evokes a myriad of emotions. The reader, at times, feels caught between admiration for Sultan the bookseller who defends women's rights, and Sultan the tyrannical leader of his family who takes a different stance when it comes to the women in his household. I was left with a feeling of frustration and anger towards him and felt that his passion for books and knowledge was the most important thing in his life. His lack of compassion and concern for the plight of family members (especially the women) mirrored the way his father had ruled his family and, I suspect that Sultan's sons will follow in kind. One is left wondering if this cycle can ever be broken. A good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    Quick and enjoyable read that leaves a lasting impression. . .

    As someone who is not very knowledgeable of Afghanistan's culture, I found that Ms. Seierstad's book opened up a whole new world for me. She gave a revealing glimpse into the daily lives of the Khan family and I was impressed that they allowed her to experience, live and be a part of all these intimate details. What left the biggest impression for me is the way the author presented the personal conflicts of the younger Khan family members and in particular, Leila. Here she is, a 19 yr old who is clearly torn between her duty as an obedient daughter strapped by their culture and her own desires to live a different life. In the end, her choices were still made for her and one can't help but feel a little saddened. Great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    I bought this book from a spontaneously decision while engaged w

    I bought this book from a spontaneously decision while engaged with THE KITE RUNNER. It is an amazing story of the life of an Afghan family that is keenly observed and portrayed by the author who lived with them for several months and observed their lives listened to their stories and finally came to relate to them. Though from quite a wealthy educated background, the family's story is still a struggle for self-esteem in a domineering culture of hierarchy that favors males and the elders, a culture of denial that often looks for scapegoats. Polygamy, oriental way of engaging in business, the status of women in the tribal and religious arrangement of southern Asia and the backdrop of the Afghan war all contributed to make this story enticing and gave a view of Afghanistan that many foreigners are not aware of.Disciples of Fortune, Swallows of kabul are other titles which helps us foreigners understand what the news do not present.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2010

    Grateful to be an "infidel"

    I picked this book up from the library at around the height of the controversy about building an Islamic culural center and mosque a few blocks from ground zero in NYC. That fact was purely coincidental but while beforehand I had not been too interested in the controversy one way or the other, this book did give me pause to think more deeply about the issue. This book is really less a cohesive novel than a series of stories about the individual dreams and plights of various people within Sultan, the bookseller's family. If Sultan is a modern and moderate Muslim, and if this depiction of family life is largely true, then God help all of these people. More interestingly, it seemed to me that in Afghanistan, at least, culture and religion are so strongly intertwined that it would be difficult to condemn the culture without at least seeming to condemn the faith. How can you separate the two? In this book it seemed Afghani culture was one in which women were bought and sold like animals, their only value to society on whether they could produce male offspring. Men's lives were no piece of cake either and it seems relationships between people are largely based on manipulation and fear, rather than love and mutual respect. One thing I did notice was that several of the men (and women too) would follow the strictures of their faith more for appearances than anything else. Where one minute they might be praying devoutly, the next minute they might be speaking and treating each other with the most callous of behaviors. I would not be surprised if some of these families--if they relocated to a western country--might simply abandon the demoralizing aspects of their culture/faith. I also can't help but think if they encouraged education for all, encouraged safe and responsible birth control and allowed both women and men to help earn money for their families, how so many more families would be lifted out of dire poverty. Western civilization is far from perfect, but I'll take being an infidel over Afghani life any day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    A glimpse into Afganistan daily life.

    It gave me a glimpse of what it would be like living in Afganistan...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Pretty good.

    I found this book to be wonderful. However, some parts were very boring--which of course made me uninterested and made me want to skim through the chapter instead of reading it. But, the majority of this book was great! Very detailed and really let you learn about the life of a bookseller, the repressiveness in Afghanistan, the Taliban rules, Afghan history, and the horrible lives of women their. Overall, I recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2007

    not accurate

    I thought this book protrayed Afghan culture very negatively. Some of the wording used was a bit offensive. Although many aspects of the culture are protrayed correctly many are not. I think it leads to people making assumptions about how afghans/middle easterners live.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2007

    A Look at Reality

    This well-written book gave, what I assume, is an accurate view of daily living in almost any Middle-Eastern country. I thought the descriptions of what women must deal with on many levels was informative and gave me pause not to complain about a particulary hard day in my life. My perception of the bookseller was that he was basically a good person yet so rigid with his rules. He did have a sense of fairness about him shown briefly but he always went back to the rules. His thought that if you didn't have an orderly house, how could you have an orderly community, etc. makes sense except it was carried to the extreme and then it lost its humaness. I thought the book was very readable, kept my interest, told life like it is, and I applaud the author in her honesty. This is definitly a book to be read by men and women.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    Very Enjoyable Read!

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read for me, mostly in part because once I started I wanted to finish it! The chapters did not flow together well, but the stories within the chapters were very interesting. I thought Seierstad did an excellent job portraying the life of women in the post-Taliban era. I was amazed on how little their lives had changed since the Taliban had left. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about Afghanistan and women there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    A foreign, mind-boggling world

    The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad is an insightful and absorbing book set in Afghanistan immediately after the fall of the Taliban. It provides the reader with an unforgettable look into the daily lives of a unique people during a sluggish period of change when the military and male-oriented principles imposed by the Taliban continue to persist despite its fall from power. In 2001, Åsne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, decided to experience life as a woman belonging to the household of Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul, Afghanistan. She partook in the wearing of a burka, a muggy, constricting garment worn by women, and slept on a mat on the apartment floor with numerous other family members. She observed the hierarchy of power and the lack of freedom which affected the lives of each family member, from the eldest man of the household right down to the youngest unmarried sister. Long hours of work, a lack of education, and a need for trustworthy employees in the book store left the males of the household with no decisions regarding their future. Even so, the women had far less of a choice in their future plans than the men. The courting rituals of the Islamic religion required that a woman marry a man of the parents¿ choosing, and cooking, cleaning, and producing children became a woman¿s main purpose in life thereafter. Freedom, education, entertainment, reliable transportation, and security were rarely experienced. Despite the positive aspects of this Islamic culture, any American traveling to Kabul would immediately appreciate the overwhelming amount of choices that one gets to make on a daily basis. While reading The Bookseller of Kabul one truly experiences a foreign, mind-boggling world. Åsne Seierstad does a brilliant job of objectively portraying the daily lives of the Islamic family of Sultan Khan. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, informative, and interesting book to enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005

    A defining showcase of Afghani culture

    The Bookseller of Kabul showcases the lives in a family in Afghanistan after the Taliban's downfall. Seierstad gives the reader an intimate look at Afghani customs, daily life, family hierarchies, and attitudes. The most striking concept of the book for me was how scared people were to abandon the old Taliban enforcements. It was interesting to learn about another culture that most Americans know hardly anything about. The book surprised, frustrated, and entertained me, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in an informative and captivating read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A Realistic Account

    This book provides a great insight of the daily life of a typical Afghan household. In particular, Seierstad focuses on the domestic workings within the Afghan family. She provides us with a more realistic and personal description than could be derived from any non-fiction book. Whether Seierstad is describing the restricting burkas, the traditions involved in a wedding, the education system, or the hierarchy within the Afghan family, she does so with great detail and objectivity. This is a book that will open the eyes of westerners to the undeniable oppression which still exists in Afghanistan today. In reading this book I was able to connect to a country, once distant to me in so many ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    An interested reader....

    This book is fantastic..... I allways understood that women in this scociety led such a miserable existance, but I never realized how it also affects the males of this scociety..... . This book is a real eye openner for anyone that wants to catch a glimpes into what life must be like in another part of the world, few have had the oppertunity too see. It has allowed me to understand at some level why it is that (they) view us the way (they) do and how very diffrent our culture's are. It will haunt me for a long time.... Everyday is a good day because, I did not wake up in Kabul,Afghanistan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    An Excellent Read

    The Bookseller of Kabul is an intimate portrait of a post-Taliban family constructed by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad as she lived with the family for three months. During her stay she used what others might over look as tools to understand this unusually educated and rich, yet decidedly traditional Afghani family. Using the burka to avoid attention in public, she has access as a journalist to both the woman and male perspectives, as a woman she can talk with the women and avoid rumors while as a journalist she can interview the males. With the ability to do this she has a very general and complete view of the happenings in this family. The book is put together in very organized short stories, giving a rich taste of the life customs and traditions of marriage, religion, and gender roles of a land that has been shattered by the Taliban regime. Two years has passed since U.S. occupation ands very little change has occurred in this country. People still live in fear and isolation seemingly hundreds of the years in the past. The book is more like a novel than a documentary, it is a very quick read, and is one of the more enjoyable books I have read all semester. One relates to the character¿s difficulties yet are tossed into an alien world. Just like the author, one becomes fed up with the patriarchal traditions and the seeming hopelessness for some who have no control over their destiny. It is an excellent and intimate view of a world across seas that people hear so much about of but know so little.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    A Thought provoking look at women and the Taliban

    The story of a bookseller, braving the Taliban and risking everything to keep some part of Afghan history alive, presents a startling look into the daily life of Afghanistan today. Presented through the words of Asne Seierstad, the reader experiences her intial reactions to the suppression of the people, especially women. The world surely looks different when one is wearing a burka, and Seierstad does a wonderful job of presenting those differences. Little knowlegde of current affairs is neccessary to appreciate this story. A relatively quick read, this book is worth your time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A good read

    This book was informative and yet entertaining. I enjoyed the perspective that Asne Seierstad brought to the book. The only reason that I only gave it four stars out of five is that I felt that it did not give enough attention to how the culture in Afghanistan was just as important as that of the United States. Overall, however, this book was more than worth the time it took to read it. As always it showed how, even though, I though I knew what the situation was like in Afghanistan, I still had no clue as to how it actually was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005

    Cultural Differences Exposed

    The Bookseller of Kabul follows an Afghan bookseller and his family shortly after the fall of the Taliban. The story does a nice job of showing the structure of the patriarchal family and the affect war has had on the society is visible in the descriptions throughout the story. Cultural traditions are also highlighted in the text. The thing I found most striking in this book was how different women are treated in society and within the family compared to Western culture.

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