The Places in Between, Rory Stewart, Harcourt Inc, 2004, 297 pp
The Places in Between is the truest thing I have read about the Middle East since 9/11. It is travel writing, memoir, political opinion, current events and extreme adventure all in one fairly slim volume. The writing is excellent: Stewart describes clearly and reports in a more emotional style than many non-fiction tales but doesn't overdo the emotion either.
On the other hand, this is not an easy read; not as hard as The Gate in the Sun, but not easy. Stewart walked across Afghanistan in January, 2002, shortly after the United States invasion drove out the Taliban but failed to find Osama Bin Laden. If you are not familiar with Afghanistan geography (who is?), read this book with your globe and your world atlas by your side. It is worth whatever you need to do to read this book if you truly want to understand the world we live in today.
After finishing, I was amazed that Rory Stewart lived to tell his story. Many times he almost did not. His knowledge of languages and dialects and his cojones pulled him through, not to mention the incredible dog he acquired on his journey. Just read it and let me know what you think.