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A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent—she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concer A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent—she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concerns about our ability to win hearts and minds in the region. In The Taliban Shuffle, Barker offers an insider’s account of the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, chronicling the years after America’s initial routing of the Taliban, when we failed to finish the job. When Barker arrives in Kabul, foreign aid is at a record low, electricity is a pipe dream, and of the few remaining foreign troops, some aren’t allowed out after dark. Meanwhile, in the vacuum left by the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban is regrouping as the Afghan and Pakistani governments floun­der. Barker watches Afghan police recruits make a travesty of practice drills and observes the disorienting turnover of diplomatic staff. She is pursued romantically by the former prime minister of Pakistan and sees adrenaline-fueled col­leagues disappear into the clutches of the Taliban. And as her love for these hapless countries grows, her hopes for their stability and security fade. Swift, funny, and wholly original, The Taliban Shuffle unforgettably captures the absurdities and tragedies of life in a war zone.


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A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent—she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concer A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent—she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concerns about our ability to win hearts and minds in the region. In The Taliban Shuffle, Barker offers an insider’s account of the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, chronicling the years after America’s initial routing of the Taliban, when we failed to finish the job. When Barker arrives in Kabul, foreign aid is at a record low, electricity is a pipe dream, and of the few remaining foreign troops, some aren’t allowed out after dark. Meanwhile, in the vacuum left by the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban is regrouping as the Afghan and Pakistani governments floun­der. Barker watches Afghan police recruits make a travesty of practice drills and observes the disorienting turnover of diplomatic staff. She is pursued romantically by the former prime minister of Pakistan and sees adrenaline-fueled col­leagues disappear into the clutches of the Taliban. And as her love for these hapless countries grows, her hopes for their stability and security fade. Swift, funny, and wholly original, The Taliban Shuffle unforgettably captures the absurdities and tragedies of life in a war zone.

30 review for The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    J

    One of my writing professors once shared, "if I ask you to write about a tomato - yes, a tomato - and if instead, I come away knowing what you look like... Then you have failed." It sounds remarkably silly, but coming from someone whose books won the National Book Critics Circle Award and were nominated for the Pulitzer, this was actually a serious lesson for beginner writers. When I talk about that moment now with fellow students from the class, we recognize, in hindsight, what was really being One of my writing professors once shared, "if I ask you to write about a tomato - yes, a tomato - and if instead, I come away knowing what you look like... Then you have failed." It sounds remarkably silly, but coming from someone whose books won the National Book Critics Circle Award and were nominated for the Pulitzer, this was actually a serious lesson for beginner writers. When I talk about that moment now with fellow students from the class, we recognize, in hindsight, what was really being taught here; "Remember, sometimes it's not about you. Less is better. Dig deep. Don't settle for the easy way out." At the time, this professor was trying to separate those who could actually take on the real work of writing - the heavy lifting - from the younger, "oh-look-at-me" sophomoric writers who inevitably, when they had nothing else to say, simply wrote about themselves. This book is sort of like reading one of those writers. It's not funny at all. I think maybe, when people mentally transplant the author to American soil, it could be sort of amusing. Sort of. When I picked up the book I thought this would be a self-deprecating, ironic story complete with well intentioned but hilarious, disastrous moments. No. Sorry. This book is not that. When you take into account that the author does such a bad job at capturing Afghanistan in general, it takes the book even further away from funny and more towards the opposite direction. It reads like a sophomore essay that has so clearly failed at the assignment. It's just sad. And even the intended humor gets swallowed by the pain you're feeling on behalf of the poor kid who's about to get his ass handed to him because, well, the kid failed. I read this book as part of a Campus Book Club at my university as part of our "Af-Pak Month." There are lots of books about the region, but this elicited some of the strongest reactions among our group. One of the most memorable was from a student who shared that somewhere in India (I think she said New Delhi), there is a collection of letters from the British Colonial Period, written by British civilians who accompanied or visited their relatives stationed with British troops. Even the most well intentioned writers among them, simply could not relate to the "native," the "Hindoo," or essentially, "the Other." Instead, many of them would come up with their own opinionated narratives as to why Indian women wore saris, or why the Indians hadn't come up with forks and knives and ate with their hands. They resorted to simplistic one-liners to explain why the Indians loved yoghurt or Gandhi drank his goat milk (one memorable letter apparently mentioned, `they learn to breed, as fast as they learn to farm,' or something to that effect). I may have been disappointed with "The Taliban Shuffle" when I first read it. But after this student (in a very clever way, I thought) elucidated the rather deep-seated problem with it, I now hate it. The worst part is, I don't even have to look through the book to see what she's getting at. In the first chapter alone, I come across all the superficial one-liners that explain why Afghan men fight, or why they like flowers. Its not that we're a bunch of serious readers- we've read "Bossy Pants" by Tina Fey, and "Eat, Pray, Love" (which, I thought was funny and beautifully written). I am currently reading Mindy Kaling's autobiography. I particularly love David Foster Wallace's "Big Red Son," which made me laugh out loud several times. What I have learned from these writers is that humor is so very tricky. Its incredibly difficult to write, but if you succeed, the reading experience then becomes a beautiful Brechtian dynamic of simultaneously laughing while recognizing the humanity inherent in the situation. Sadly, I think this book captures a different lesson. I originally offered, ""if you couldn't write about the tomato without making it about you, should you even be writing?" My Book Club friends had this final thought: when you fail at being funny when writing about Afghanistan and Afghans, you end up highlighting a host of serious problems about your perspective as a Western journalist in Afghanistan.

  2. 4 out of 5

    W

    It didn't begin too well,I saw some negative reviews and nearly abandoned it myself. But it get a lot better by the time it ended.The portion on Afghanistan didn't interest me much,it is rather superficial,and there are many better books on Afghanistan.The author,a journalist,was embedded with some US troops and talks about what she saw. However,I was more interested in what she had to say about Pakistan. It is a lively account,of what was a very turbulent time in Pakistan's recent history.In 2007, It didn't begin too well,I saw some negative reviews and nearly abandoned it myself. But it get a lot better by the time it ended.The portion on Afghanistan didn't interest me much,it is rather superficial,and there are many better books on Afghanistan.The author,a journalist,was embedded with some US troops and talks about what she saw. However,I was more interested in what she had to say about Pakistan. It is a lively account,of what was a very turbulent time in Pakistan's recent history.In 2007,terror attacks of great intensity had begun in Pakistan's cities. The Musharraf era was drawing to a close.Pakistan's TV channels had whipped up a campaign alongwith the opposition,for the restoration of controversial former Chief Justice,Iftikhar Chaudhry.It was as if he was the solution to all of Pakistan's problems.That media campaign,however,did result in Musharraf's ouster. The author found herself at those rallies,and repeatedly complains about getting her bum pinched by street hooligans,who would hardly ever have seen an American woman in such close proximity Benazir Bhutto came home,and Barker describes the carnage on her homecoming in Karachi as powerful bombs exploded killing 140.Benazir survived on that occasion.The author went to the blast site and looked at the bits and pieces of bodies. Benazir would eventually be assassinated,and Barker describes the chaos while going to interior Sind to attend her funeral. The Marriott hotel would be bombed to the ground,and armed militants would take over Islamabad's Red Mosque,resulting in another bloodbath.But while describing all these blood curdling events,Barker manages to retain her sense of humour. Most interestingly,she describes how former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flirted with her.He kept saying a friend would have to be found for her and wanted to gift her an iphone.Eventually,as she puts it,"the lion of the Punjab pounced,offering to be that friend himself." The book is worth reading for that part alone.She,of course,was more interested in her own boyfriends,whom she describes at some length. On her last night in Pakistan,there was yet another terror attack.She eventually was forced to leave Pakistan and Afghanistan,as her job was cut down and her newspaper went bankrupt,leaving her to wonder why she was risking her life.Possibly,because she had become a war junkie.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aurina

    I read really good reviews of this book. It was on the Guernica Staff's "Best of" List. I generally enjoy books written by foreign correspondents. And so I really, really wanted to like it. That did not happen. This is possibly the worst book I have ever read by a journalist. The entire book reads like a high school diary with painfully unnecessary details of the author's personal/social life - Barker is almost unbelievably callow, self-obsessed, condescending and just plain ridiculous. There is I read really good reviews of this book. It was on the Guernica Staff's "Best of" List. I generally enjoy books written by foreign correspondents. And so I really, really wanted to like it. That did not happen. This is possibly the worst book I have ever read by a journalist. The entire book reads like a high school diary with painfully unnecessary details of the author's personal/social life - Barker is almost unbelievably callow, self-obsessed, condescending and just plain ridiculous. There is very little in here about Afghanistan or Pakistan or the Taliban, but hey, if you want to read about every outfit she ever wore, every man she's ever had a crush on and how she 'danced sexy in a circle of women,'then you cannot ask for a better book. Taliban Shuffle is more about Barker's drunken adventures in Kabul and to a lesser extent in Islamabad, with the actual foreign correspondent stuff being an afterthought. Moreover, she doesn't seem to question or critique the 'No Afghans Allowed'policy in the bar she frequently mentions. In fact, she yearns for the frat-like social life it offers, racism be damned! It was hard for me to believe that this shallow, self-congratulatory and often unintelligent piece of work was written by a bureau chief for South Asia. If you hope to get any insights on a fascinating yet vastly misunderstood region and a largely forgotten war, look elsewhere. If you're more interested in drunken, self-important foreigners traipsing around war zones, though, you've hit the jackpot.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emilie Greenhalgh

    This book is shallow, simply put. Full of somewhat amusing anecdotes about life in Afghanistan and Pakistan, anything deeper - details about the war, cultural interactions, having to witness death and destruction - falls flat. If she lived in these countries for so long and this is all she has to say about them, it makes me sad. She is funny, but not quite funny enough to make this anything ground-breaking. I currently live in Afghanistan, and see the expat debauchery in Kabul. As this seemed This book is shallow, simply put. Full of somewhat amusing anecdotes about life in Afghanistan and Pakistan, anything deeper - details about the war, cultural interactions, having to witness death and destruction - falls flat. If she lived in these countries for so long and this is all she has to say about them, it makes me sad. She is funny, but not quite funny enough to make this anything ground-breaking. I currently live in Afghanistan, and see the expat debauchery in Kabul. As this seemed to be her main focus throughout much of the book, she could have followed through and done more of an exposé, done more research as to why this expat scene is so different than other places in the world, examined why people act the way they do. Instead, as one other reviewer puts it, it reads like an indulgent high school diary with little to no reflection or relevant conclusions. Disappointing!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    I cannot say this is a must read, but the book certainly brought much insight into the politics behind the American and Afghanistan war of the era in which Osama Ben Laden and the Taliban captured the world's imagination. An embedded journalist, Kim Barker, wrote this memoir commemorating her five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the war she had to report on as the South Asia bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune in 2004. She constantly moved between the American armed forces on the ground, N I cannot say this is a must read, but the book certainly brought much insight into the politics behind the American and Afghanistan war of the era in which Osama Ben Laden and the Taliban captured the world's imagination. An embedded journalist, Kim Barker, wrote this memoir commemorating her five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the war she had to report on as the South Asia bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune in 2004. She constantly moved between the American armed forces on the ground, New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul, and made friends with her bodyguards while discovering her own spiritual being. Sometimes it was almost funny, but other times, it was hard to find comedy in her situation, even though it was suppose to be hilarious. Her love life is more or less sterile, although debauchery is the order of the day in the nightclubs the journalists frequent to escape their tough realities. Some of the warlords, whom she really wanted to interview, demanded 'special friendships' with female reporters from the west. She became involved enough in the culture and people surrounding her to regard it as home from home, and get insight into her previous comfortable life in America. Her needy boyfriend was eventually replaced with her love of this new life and her passion to keep this 'Forgotten War' in the news. It became a struggle, but one she aimed to win. With the keen eye of a journalist, picking up minuscule details, and her ready sense of humor, Kim Barker takes the reader on a dangerous adventure and keep the interest going with the colorful details of the surroundings, the characters and the residence. Some are expats with their own histories they thought to escape in their new chosen lives in Asia. I really did not find the book interesting enough to jump up and down with joy. It's a memoir, yes, with Kim Barker as the protagonist. It therefor revolved around her. But somehow I needed more than shallowness or the me-me-me thoughts. The book is undoubtedly about the author and her own experiences, and not about Afghanistan or Pakistan per se, however, I wish it was. The humor did not really kick in as well. I would have enjoyed something deeper than just the author's thoughts about herself. But then again, I must remind myself that this was a memoir. Tina Fey played the lead in the Netflix movie " Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot" based on this memoir. It was okay though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Raúl Omar

    I loved the weird balance between, serious, funny and sad stuff. Barker knows when a joke helps to put things in perspective and when to get serious about serious stuff. Some reads make you think about your life, goals and expectations, some others make you laugh and some other make you feel sad. Barker delivers the whole package but instead of an awful emotional rollercoaster mess, I experienced a complex… well yeah, emotional rollercoaster mess, not in the awful way but in the way that life is I loved the weird balance between, serious, funny and sad stuff. Barker knows when a joke helps to put things in perspective and when to get serious about serious stuff. Some reads make you think about your life, goals and expectations, some others make you laugh and some other make you feel sad. Barker delivers the whole package but instead of an awful emotional rollercoaster mess, I experienced a complex… well yeah, emotional rollercoaster mess, not in the awful way but in the way that life is supposed to be when you face reality and try to find balance between work, responsibilities, romance, war and everything else. I guess. I was really surprised to discover so many negative reviews of The Taliban Shuffle. A shallow reading of those reviews revealed to me that readers were disappointed about the author talking too much about herself, and that this book is not a journalistic work. I have to agree: this is not a journalistic work, is a lot more: Barker offers not only an account of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also offers the human side of journalism and a personal consideration of what she is living. Especially when reading non-fiction, honesty is a very valuable item for me as a reader and Barker's writing seemed to me quite honest. She shares her feelings, thoughts and expectations, she is open about everything and this is great. She is not trying to impress anyone nor trying to be funny nor trying to convey any particular agenda. She just states what she thinks and I liked that. What other reviews complain about, is what I enjoyed the most: Barker talks a lot about herself. This is not merely an account of war in South Asia, is an account of war in South Asia through the eyes of a woman who struggles with her highly demanding job, her personal life and the inconvenience of living in a foreign country. In two foreign countries, actually. Not the kind of book I’m used to read but I really enjoyed it. I don't want to sound corny but reading this book made consider many things. On one hand I realised how litle I know about armed conflicts in the world, real problems of real people suffering. On the other hand, I reflected on how terribly I'm handling my life-work balance and the need I have for prioritizing and bring some order to my life. This review was also posted on my blog :)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    This was far too self involved for my taste and expectation of the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jānis Lībeks

    I was furious at the author at first. Just like the US insurgency in to Afghanistan, she went in without much of an idea of what she was doing. I was under the impression that foreign journalists would be experts in their field to begin with. I was wrong. Then I started questioning her morals. She outlines several episodes in which she interacted with the locals in arrogant ways; leading some people on, exploiting others. Refusing to take bribes, but then seemingly giving in. But then I realized I was furious at the author at first. Just like the US insurgency in to Afghanistan, she went in without much of an idea of what she was doing. I was under the impression that foreign journalists would be experts in their field to begin with. I was wrong. Then I started questioning her morals. She outlines several episodes in which she interacted with the locals in arrogant ways; leading some people on, exploiting others. Refusing to take bribes, but then seemingly giving in. But then I realized that this is not a book about Afghanistan or Pakistan or the Taliban (contrary to the title), but a self-centered character study, a memoir with Afghanistan and Pakistan as backdrops. Kim Barker pretty much admits that she is a flawed human (aren't we all); that living in those two countries had a profound effect on her life. She never claimed to be an impartial journalist, she clearly admits that people who report from Afghanistan and Pakistan are in it for the adrenalin, not the paycheck. These people choose to be in a war zone, and through this, the privilege of being mere visitors, their experience is already biased. Unlike the "natives", they can leave when they choose to. That, precisely, is also the reason why US involvement in Afghanistan has been a failure. So yes, this is not a bad book, though the title might be a bit misleading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Taught me more about the war in Afghanistan and an understanding of Pakistan/US relations than I ever expected. Great informative, very readable account of Baker's years as a war correspondent. Would recommend it without reservation. The movie (whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot) does not do it justice. Taught me more about the war in Afghanistan and an understanding of Pakistan/US relations than I ever expected. Great informative, very readable account of Baker's years as a war correspondent. Would recommend it without reservation. The movie (whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot) does not do it justice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Yoonmee

    Hmmm... Well, as many other reviewers have mentioned, this often feels more like a high school journal than good journalism. But (and this is a big but) if you read it more as an immature, entitled American woman's experience as a journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan as opposed to reading it as a piece of journalism, then you're good to go and won't be too disappointed. Barker is often annoying, she's often a bit racist, she's an example of an ugly American in another country... It's good she' Hmmm... Well, as many other reviewers have mentioned, this often feels more like a high school journal than good journalism. But (and this is a big but) if you read it more as an immature, entitled American woman's experience as a journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan as opposed to reading it as a piece of journalism, then you're good to go and won't be too disappointed. Barker is often annoying, she's often a bit racist, she's an example of an ugly American in another country... It's good she's honest about herself and her actions, although she doesn't bother to really give her actions much thought. Other reviewers thought she was funny, but I didn't find her funny at all. Based on the reviews and the jacket cover info, I thought the book would offer a few laughs, but I never even chuckled. I guess Barker and I have a very different sense of humor. Take it for what it is: a memoir about being a journalist. A badly behaved, culturally insensitive journalist at that. Take it for what it is and be ashamed that we're sending journalists like this to different countries.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Often called “The Forgotten War”, Afghanistan is a chaotic hotbed of racial, religious, and political tensions that has suffered centuries of indignities at the hands of British, Soviet, and American forces. Often labelled “primitive”, “tribal”, and “uneducated” by the West, Afghanis certainly---and by all rights---should have no shortage of mistrust, loathing, and hatred of the West. In 2004, journalist Kim Barker decided to cover Afghanistan as a fill-in correspondent. She wasn’t expecting to s Often called “The Forgotten War”, Afghanistan is a chaotic hotbed of racial, religious, and political tensions that has suffered centuries of indignities at the hands of British, Soviet, and American forces. Often labelled “primitive”, “tribal”, and “uneducated” by the West, Afghanis certainly---and by all rights---should have no shortage of mistrust, loathing, and hatred of the West. In 2004, journalist Kim Barker decided to cover Afghanistan as a fill-in correspondent. She wasn’t expecting to stay very long. The heat, the desert, the smell of human feces in the air, the suicide bombers, the fact that she had a needy boyfriend who was giving her crap about leaving: there were many reasons why she shouldn’t have wanted to stay. She ended up staying for five years. Barker became the South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune in 2004, living in New Delhi, India, and Islamabad, Pakistan while spending lots of time in Kabul and other war-torn places in Afghanistan. She was what is called an “embed”, a journalist permanently attached to a particular military unit, going where they go and living in tents for long stretches. She shuffled back and forth between this life in the war-torn desert and the big city life of India/Pakistan. She called it the Taliban Shuffle. This would become the title of her 2012 memoir about her life in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” described her inexplicable spiritual awakening in the middle of the Forgotten War. She writes, “I had no idea that I would find self-awareness in a combat zone, a kind of peace in chaos. My life here wouldn’t be about a man or God or some cause. I would fall in love, deeply, but with a story, with a way of life. When everything else was stripped away, my life would be about an addiction, not to drugs, but to a place. I would never feel as alive as when I was here. (p. 6)” Barker’s memoir does for Afghanistan what Michael Herr’s classic book “Dispatches” did for the Vietnam War, bringing the real “boots-on-the-ground” visceral experience of Afghanistan to the readers. With one major difference: Barker’s book is hilarious. It’s a weird mash-up of Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City” and the film “The Hurt Locker”, except that Barker is the anti-Carrie Bradshaw. She’s more of a female Hunter S. Thompson, and her story reads like “Fear and Loathing in Kabul”, with a little "M*A*S*H" thrown in. Her attempts at romantic interludes in shady nightclubs and bars are pathetic, but, to be fair, it’s hard to be romantic when you are in a country where public displays of affection AND alcohol are illegal. Plus, the men she meets are much like her: adrenaline junkies and commitment-phobes. Her love life is doomed from the start. But the fact that she is a female in a country run by violent and horny misogynists is, actually, a point in her favor at times. She can get in to some places that other American men can’t. This has its obvious advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are, of course, good copy for her newspaper. The disadvantages arise when the warlords want a little more than just a “one-on-one” interview, if you know what I mean... Barker writes honestly and without any illusions as to why the war in Afghanistan was a fiasco: “Some foreigners wanted to make Afghanistan a better place, viewed Afghanistan as a home rather than a party, and even genuinely liked Afghans. But they were in the minority, and many had left, driven out by the corruption and the inability to accomplish anything. For most, Afghanistan was Kabul High, a way to get your war on, an adrenaline rush, a resume line, a money factory. It was a place to escape, to run away from marriages and mistakes, a place to forget your age, your responsibilities, your past, a country in which to reinvent yourself. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but the motives of most people were not likely to help a fragile and corrupt country stuck somewhere between the seventh century and Vegas. (p. 284)” In the end, Barker’s sense of humor, her self-deprecating honesty, and her sharp journalistic eye for detail makes “The Taliban Shuffle” one of the best books I have read about the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. P.S. This book was recently re-published under the title “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” as a tie-in to the Tina Fey movie adaptation that was recently in theaters and will probably be on DVD soon. I have not seen the film.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Schnaucl

    I wanted to read this book because I thought it was going to give me a look into how people in Afghanistan and Pakistan viewed the war on terror while Barker from around when it started to when Barker left. There are occasional glimpses, far too few and far apart but that's not what the book is about. The book is really the autobiography of an extremely self-indulgent, entitled, arrogant journalist who is learning how to be a foreign correspondent. I found myself cringing more than once. Near the I wanted to read this book because I thought it was going to give me a look into how people in Afghanistan and Pakistan viewed the war on terror while Barker from around when it started to when Barker left. There are occasional glimpses, far too few and far apart but that's not what the book is about. The book is really the autobiography of an extremely self-indulgent, entitled, arrogant journalist who is learning how to be a foreign correspondent. I found myself cringing more than once. Near the beginning she shares an anecdote about basically being the stereotype of an ugly American and reaming out the hotel staff for ruining her shirt in the laundry. It's a shirt ($70) they'd probably never be able to afford. After reading a book on Islam she gets into a fight with her fixer after she lectures him on how his namesake is responsible for the oppression of Muslim women. There are numerous anecdotes about the nightlife, especially in Afghanistan. Lots of staying up late with fellow reporters and sleeping in late. There are anecdotes about the boyfriends she keeps around because she doesn't want to be alone but each boyfriend (there are only 3 or so) ranks a distant second to her job and nothing in her writing suggests she actually cared about any of them (maybe she did, but it certainly didn't come across that way). She also tells the story of her second embed in 2005. She's in with soldiers in Afghanistan and her idea of preparation is to bring along Band of Brothers on DVD. Because it's a war move, you see. While she's embedded the soldiers are open about how bored they are, how monotonous their duties are and how complacent they are. She duly reports all this in her articles and the soldiers are horrified because they thought she knew the unwritten rule about not publishing that kind of thing. The military is unhappy and the soldiers she mentioned get transferred to a more dangerous post where one eventually suffers a grievous (but not fatal) injury. A couple of thoughts: 1) I don't know why the military was so bent out of shape. It's certainly common knowledge now that patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan are often long periods of boredom and monotony sometimes interrupted by brief moments of terror. I don't remember how well known that was in 2005, but it is the same year that the movie Jarhead was released in theaters and the whole point of that movie was that this war is really a lot of waiting around being bored in blistering heat with no air conditioning. 2) There's a big difference between making a deliberate decision to talk out of school (as Michael Hastings and Rolling Stone did with the article on McChrystal, for example) and doing it out of ignorance. If there were unwritten rules she didn't know about that should have been a conversation either with the soldiers, or, more likely, with other reporters who had been embedded. There's no excuse for that kind of sloppy work. (This is off topic, but for the record, I absolutely back Hastings and Rolling Stone's decision. I think it's an incredibly sad indication of how much both journalists and citizens have abandoned their duties that practically the only discussion at that time was about whether the article should have been published at all as opposed to, say, the fact that the guy in charge of implementing our strategy who had originally backed that strategy now believed that strategy could not possibly succeed. I no longer trust any reporter who professed the belief that the McChrystal article should not have been published. Christine Amanpour, this includes you. But I digress). 3) Watching Band of Brothers does not sufficient preparation make. There are several occasions where Barker tries to make the point that Afghanistan and especially Pakistan need to take responsibility for their problems. She mentions US contractors in passing once or twice and gives a quick line about how the US has contributed to their problems but she clearly feels the burden should rest squarely on Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are a few problems with this. I don't deny that of course both governments are responsible for what happens in their respective countries. But we're imposing what we want on them, it's not necessarily the population of the country that wants things to go in the direction we're steering them. Take the Taliban in Pakistan. We basically shoved a bunch of money on them to fight people they aren't necessarily opposed to and then we're shocked when they choose to focus on their traditional enemies rather than ours. There's never any consideration of the fact that it's possible these countries literally can't handle the amount of money we're pouring on them. While there is acknowledgment that we get it wrong sometimes (for example, she mentions sending a translator from the wrong tribe/clan for a meeting) she never really seems to grasp that in many ways we're expecting them to completely ignore their own culture and customs in favor of our own. We expect them to change centuries of behavior essentially over night. It makes this book a very frustrating read. Through it all there's this almost smug sense of "oh, I was so silly and naive then but I'm much wiser and more mature now." The problem is I never get the feeling she's actually improved all that much. Congratulations, you've finally figured out that you should probably dress in attire appropriate for a conservative Muslim woman when doing an interview with someone in a very conservative part of the city whether you're Muslim or not. The other frustrating thing about this book is that there are occasional glimpses of the kind of information I was looking for. For example, she mentions that all or nearly all of the English speaking medical students quit to work as fixers or translators for foreign reporters because the pay is so much better than what they'd earn even as full doctors. She writes that they're probably almost single handedly responsible for wiping out a generation of doctors in Afghanistan. And then never mentions it (or the implications) again. She also mentions a clinic that was built very poorly and then not staffed, nor did the US provide money for staffing. But it's Afghanistan and Pakistan's fault for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Sound familiar?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Markus

    I feel as if I just read the autobiography of someone who doesn't know her subject very well. A lot of reviewers here have said this book is intensely self-involved, and it is. Which makes it that much stranger that, having read it, I still don't know some basic facts about the author. I don't know why she became a journalist. I don't know why she fell in love with Afghanistan. I don't know what being in love with anything or anyone means to her, since depth of emotion seems something she instinc I feel as if I just read the autobiography of someone who doesn't know her subject very well. A lot of reviewers here have said this book is intensely self-involved, and it is. Which makes it that much stranger that, having read it, I still don't know some basic facts about the author. I don't know why she became a journalist. I don't know why she fell in love with Afghanistan. I don't know what being in love with anything or anyone means to her, since depth of emotion seems something she instinctively shies away from. I will give Kim Barker's writing this much: she doesn't mind letting other people have the good lines, even at her own expense. This snippet of conversation between her interpreter and a warlord she desperately wants to interview represents the best this book has to offer: Farouq tried to sell my case in the Pashto language. The warlord had certain questions. "Where is she from?" Pacha Khan asked, suspiciously. "Turkey," Farouq responded. "Is she Muslim?" "Yes." "Have her pray for me." I smiled dumbly, oblivious to the conversation and Farouq's lies. "She can't," Farouq said, slightly revising his story. "She is a Turkish American. She only knows the prayers in English, not Arabic." "Hmmm," Pacha Khan grunted, glaring at me. "She is a very bad Muslim." "She is a very bad Muslim," Farouq agreed. I continued to grin wildly, attempting to charm Pacha Khan. "Is she scared of me?" he asked. "What's going on? What's he saying?" I interrupted. "He wants to know if you're scared of him," Farouq said. "Oh no," I said. "He seems like a perfectly nice guy. Totally harmless. Very kind." Farouq nodded and turned to Pacha Khan. "Of course she is scared of you," Farouq translated. "You are a big and terrifying man." I read this passage, loved it, and read the rest of the book in the hope it would give me more: more of this wit, more insight into its writer, more of an understanding of Afghanistan and America's involvement there. I got some, but not enough. I was often entertained and occasionally informed, but ultimately unsatisfied.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    DNF at page 48. I've abandoned about five books already this year and its still only January but I'm getting more confident in discarding books when it's clear that I'm not going to enjoy it rather than trying to finish it just for the sake of it. I gave up on this book because Barker comes across as shallow, unlikable and self important. I can't read any more from her perspective because it's so infuriating. I really want to read a good, personal, true account of life in Afghanistan at this poi DNF at page 48. I've abandoned about five books already this year and its still only January but I'm getting more confident in discarding books when it's clear that I'm not going to enjoy it rather than trying to finish it just for the sake of it. I gave up on this book because Barker comes across as shallow, unlikable and self important. I can't read any more from her perspective because it's so infuriating. I really want to read a good, personal, true account of life in Afghanistan at this point in recent history but The Taliban Shuffle doesn't fit the bill for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    My review from the Missoula Independent: War is not supposed to be funny, and Middle East conflict is even less uproarious. Add to this the largest heroin and opium production center in the world and corruption leaking into the highest echelons of society, and you have a situation that is in no way amusing, let alone bearable. In Kim Barker's hands however, it is, somehow, hilarious. Scurrying back and forth between hotspots in Afghanistan and Pakistan to report for the Chicago Tribune (she spent My review from the Missoula Independent: War is not supposed to be funny, and Middle East conflict is even less uproarious. Add to this the largest heroin and opium production center in the world and corruption leaking into the highest echelons of society, and you have a situation that is in no way amusing, let alone bearable. In Kim Barker's hands however, it is, somehow, hilarious. Scurrying back and forth between hotspots in Afghanistan and Pakistan to report for the Chicago Tribune (she spent 2004 to 2009 in a manic rush), Barker planted herself in the midst of terrorism, rigged elections, and a largely ineffectual international response. But it is the quirky anecdotes and sarcasm of her new book, The Taliban Shuffle (Doubleday, $25.95) that grab our attention and don't let go. Much of the Montana native's book seems like a montage put together by David Lynch. A rock star-like United States ambassador who travels with a coterie of attractive women? Yes. Militant warlords running and winning public elections? Absolutely. Massive protests of white-shirted, black-suited lawyers? Definitely. Donkey-borne improvised explosive devices? Of course. Whether portraiture or caricature, her cast of eccentric personalities—from her protective translator (he would also arrange many of her meetings with diplomats and dangerous people) to high-level rulers—are depicted so colorfully that they could be confused for fictional stand-ins, while the details of her environments are exquisitely fine-tuned. "Afghanistan... had jagged blue-and-purple mountains, big skies, and bearded men in pickup trucks stocked with guns and hate for the government. It was like Montana." Taking a break from the land and its tragedies, she stays at a rollicking Kabul establishment called the Fun House, where journalists and foreigners gather to wear wigs, get wasted, shoot BB guns, and do whatever else they can to avoid the wreckage outside their windows. Pakistan, a far more volatile country, provides the author with a clear-sighted analysis of America's Soviet-era tutelage of jihadis—the same Kalashnikov-toting people who would go on to join the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, turning the country into a dystopian battle between Islam and secularism, "ruled by the seat of its pants." While on a visit to Punjab province, Barker befriends the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and their bizarre relationship furnishes some of the book's finest moments. Sharif insists, for instance, on securing her an iPhone and a man (his first choice is Zardari, the current president), and when she refuses, he offers himself as her boyfriend, which she also refuses. In Barker's unorthodox, autobiographical coverage of insurgency and destruction, there is no such thing as a slow news day. "I had no idea that I would find self-awareness in a combat zone, a kind of peace in chaos," she says at one point. Observational and honest, The Taliban Shuffle is filled with amusing vignettes (the schizoid history of modern Afghanistan from the perspective of a lion at the Pak-Asia Circus, "the most decrepit circus on the planet"), romantic involvements in a locale where holding hands is suspect, and the disturbing slapstick of training Afghan policeman who have a tendency to point their guns at themselves. With a landscape reminiscent of "M*A*S*H" (although it has more in common with the bleak satire Three Kings), Barker's edgy prose reads like vintage Joseph Heller. Unflinching in its brutal recap of suicide bombings and American soldiers plodding through a "forgotten war," the book is kept tethered by an ambivalent wryness that is simultaneously witty and empathetic. So while the comedy is hugely entertaining it is, on a primal level, the sort of purging necessary for self-preservation in emotionally draining climates. Amid the human rights violations and kidnappings of fellow journalists, Barker's phantasmagorical digressions are never far away, her addictive curiosity undimmed by her surroundings. The Taliban Shuffle caused at least one reader to lose a few hours of sleep chuckling in disbelief. How good is The Taliban Shuffle? My copy is so highlighted it provides its own illumination to read by. Barker has unleashed a memoir of broad intelligence, reporting on the dramas of hell while somehow maintaining a resilient sense of humor. At its heart, this is an intimate road trip undertaken by a tough correspondent, shuffling around a war that cannot be won as it is being waged, and the individuals who are lost in the hubris of victories that should always be wearing quotation marks. With its Warhol-esque cover design and refreshing cynicism, The Taliban Shuffle is an unconventional look into the secret lives of journalists: the burnout, the dangerous assignments, the adrenaline-charged elation of finding the perfect headline. The book's scarcity of key dates may force you to do some extra work researching Barker's timeline, but you'll probably be enjoying it too much to really notice.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Talia

    Kim Barker was sent to Afghanistan as a very green, young reporter--selected for this role in part because she was female and had no kids/no attachments at home. Her interview with her 'first warlord' is more of a personal photo op than a great story for her newspaper, the Chicago Tribune ("...Male ethnic Pashtuns loved flowers and black eyeliner and anything fluorescent or sparkly, maybe to make up for the beige terrain that stretched forever in Afghanistan, maybe to look pretty..." "The decora Kim Barker was sent to Afghanistan as a very green, young reporter--selected for this role in part because she was female and had no kids/no attachments at home. Her interview with her 'first warlord' is more of a personal photo op than a great story for her newspaper, the Chicago Tribune ("...Male ethnic Pashtuns loved flowers and black eyeliner and anything fluorescent or sparkly, maybe to make up for the beige terrain that stretched forever in Afghanistan, maybe to look pretty..." "The decorations spanned the narrow range between unicorn-loving prepubescent girl and utilitarian disco..."). Working between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India over the course of 5 years, Afghanistan came to feel like the closest thing to home: "Afghanistan seemed familiar. It had jagged blue-and-purple mountains, big skies, and bearded men in pickup trucks stocked with guns and hate for the government. It was like Montana--just on different drugs." I liked Barker's descriptions of her friendship with her translator, Farouq. And, I felt like I could really understand the shock and responsibility that Barker felt when she got unexpectedly immediate and easy access to some horrific scenes -- the bedroom of an innocent victim of a military strike, a public marketplace after a terrorist bombing killed 140 people and left blood and body parts on the railings, the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. I appreciated the sections of the book dedicated to Pakistan's Benazir Butto--it was a more complete telling of her role and her death than I had read before. I was saddened but not surprised by the reality of how little foreign aid could do to help in the region, with workers cycling in and out on 6-month stints and never really getting traction. I also found it unsurprising that Barker's sources hit on her. Her disclosure about the unwanted attention she got from former Prime Minister of Pakistan was totally within the bounds of this telling. It was right for her to describe it, even though her stories caused negative stir when the book was published in 2011. Other reviewers have accused Barker of being anti-American, but that's just simply not true. She tried to tell it as she saw it, and to her the situation it seemed intractable. That's part of why she got out when she did, burned out and exhausted at the end of her turn at the adrenalized spectacle of war. Visiting the home office at Tribune she saw how quickly things in journalism had fallen apart while she was away, including the layoffs and the degraded quality of the newsroom in their wake. Barker took four months off after quitting Tribune (traveling back to Afghanistan, of all places, for the bulk of her recovery), and then worked at the Council on Foreign Relations for a year after that. She now writes for ProPublica.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Philip Girvan

    Barker's memoir of her time spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2003-09 as the Chicago Tribune's South Asia Bureau Chief is a fun read. She's an astute observer, both of human nature as well as the failures of the US and NATO forces as well as their allies and enemies in the region. Barker's sense of humor gets blacker and blacker as the situations in both countries worsen, and she's as likely to poke fun at herself as she as anyone (and there are no shortage of targets). Among the sections Barker's memoir of her time spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2003-09 as the Chicago Tribune's South Asia Bureau Chief is a fun read. She's an astute observer, both of human nature as well as the failures of the US and NATO forces as well as their allies and enemies in the region. Barker's sense of humor gets blacker and blacker as the situations in both countries worsen, and she's as likely to poke fun at herself as she as anyone (and there are no shortage of targets). Among the sections that I particularly enjoyed are her comments on the diminishing fortunes of Chicago Tribune following its purchase by billionaire Sam Zell and the shift from reporting to listicles, foreign desks closing while Zell's company asks bankruptcy courts to protect executive bonuses, reporters lucky (?) enough to have stuck around are encouraged to attend "Advanced Twitter classes".

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzie

    Wow, there is such a diversity of opinion on this book. I felt one reviewer correctly summed up that the title was misleading - this book is about Kim Barker with Afghanistan and Pakistan as a backdrop. However I did quite like the book and reading about her experiences as a foreign correspondent

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny McPhee

    Barker’s book unfolds during the years 2003-2009 and is a darkly funny, informative, and revelatory account of her trajectory while a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune from clueless cub war reporter to adrenaline-junkie South Asia bureau chief to overseasoned, burned-out hack. Her book lies somewhere in between Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World with Barker playing a 21st century version of wise-cracking, cynical, ace reporter Hildy Johnson from Howard Hawks’s Barker’s book unfolds during the years 2003-2009 and is a darkly funny, informative, and revelatory account of her trajectory while a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune from clueless cub war reporter to adrenaline-junkie South Asia bureau chief to overseasoned, burned-out hack. Her book lies somewhere in between Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World with Barker playing a 21st century version of wise-cracking, cynical, ace reporter Hildy Johnson from Howard Hawks’s screwball comedy His Girl Friday. Her lively, instructive chronicle of the key events and figures of “the forgotten war” in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not restricted to the “objective” school of book-length reportage. Along with a penetrating, stinging analysis of the political and military situation, she paints a vivid portrait of what it’s like to be groped by mobs of men while covering a story, how to deflect heavy flirtation from senior statesmen while maintaining them as sources, and the perils of trying to have any meaningful personal relationship while covering unremitting disasters. She does not shirk from examining her motives for being a legitimized voyeur in a ravaged foreign land: “It was a place to escape, to run away from marriages and mistakes, a place to forget your age, your responsibilities, your past, a country in which to reinvent yourself.” In a New York Times op-ed written in response to the hideous attack on Lara Logan while she was covering the uprising in Egypt and the subsequent blame-the-victim international media frenzy, Barker expressed her fear that the incident might result in fewer women journalists being sent to report on dangerous situations. Women reporters, she writes, “do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.” See my full column "Women Writing War" at Bookslut: http://www.bookslut.com/the_bombshell...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen C.

    I managed to get through this book. I'm not sure I can quite put my finger on why it felt like a drag through Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should have been more exhilarating. Although the topic is interesting, the fact that the author is a journalist venturing to places that most of us would never go in a million years (unless we fancy a good groping and a dose of female repression and humiliation), the book just didn’t feel well organized and lacked clarity. Names were strewn around and I could I managed to get through this book. I'm not sure I can quite put my finger on why it felt like a drag through Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should have been more exhilarating. Although the topic is interesting, the fact that the author is a journalist venturing to places that most of us would never go in a million years (unless we fancy a good groping and a dose of female repression and humiliation), the book just didn’t feel well organized and lacked clarity. Names were strewn around and I couldn’t remember who was who. But you do get tidbits of information like the troops that we’re trying to train - the so called good guys - are high on drugs. You’re not going to get that in the American news. The author is tongue in cheek, but this is not a hilarious book. Then again, it’s not really a hilarious subject. It’s all very sad.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    There have to be better books on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was a good appetizer, but lacking as an entrée.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    Afghanistan cannot be conquered actually means that Afghanistan cannot be governed and evidence can be glimpsed in this great book by a woman journalist over her time spent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The author has done a very good job of explaining her life as a White foreigner living an Afghan high, to a chaotic and confusing Pakistan to a monotonous India. Her clear favourite is Afghanistan which didn't surprise me as it provided the maximum kick for a war any junkie, followed by Pak Afghanistan cannot be conquered actually means that Afghanistan cannot be governed and evidence can be glimpsed in this great book by a woman journalist over her time spent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The author has done a very good job of explaining her life as a White foreigner living an Afghan high, to a chaotic and confusing Pakistan to a monotonous India. Her clear favourite is Afghanistan which didn't surprise me as it provided the maximum kick for a war any junkie, followed by Pakistan which can provide second rate proxy war experience and least interesting for her was India, which can only be the poor victim of the high handiness of its ugly unruly bloodthirsty neighbours. Nothing is out of the ordinary here as Afghanistan has always been a pretty tumultuous place with a in-between Pakistan undecided with a calm India on the other end. Pakistan is unsure, one neighbour has a democratic tradition and the other is a lackey of the superpowers. The story seems a pretty candid view of the pretty interesting era in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and her being a White woman in Pakistan has privileged benefits, as politicians and important people tend to open their hearts out so easily. Kim is not the first young woman to have experienced this very privileged position when professionally operating in Pakistan, there have been others like Emma Duncan for instance. But I am not complaining as the secret revelations are very revelatory indeed, like her friendship sight the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. And for this reason only this book makes a very compelling read indeed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I honestly do not understand the hate on this book especially since it's the exact same book as Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. I found this fascinating! In the way it sort of picks up where Charlie Wilson's War leaves off and helps understand what a mess the super powers have made of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is on the light side but it's never presented as the history of the world by David McCullough. It's sarcastic, and funny yes, but you do get a very real sense of the mess going on there. My I honestly do not understand the hate on this book especially since it's the exact same book as Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. I found this fascinating! In the way it sort of picks up where Charlie Wilson's War leaves off and helps understand what a mess the super powers have made of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is on the light side but it's never presented as the history of the world by David McCullough. It's sarcastic, and funny yes, but you do get a very real sense of the mess going on there. My biggest gripe is that HONESTLY not a single thing in the movie is in this book. How they can even say with a straight face that the move is based on the book is a boldface lie. If there is anything in this book like the movie it would be the relationship between Kim and her translator Farouq/Fahim - the rest is pure fiction! Kim does not have a relationship with the kidnapped journalist, there is no gorgeous blonde that takes her job, there is no family kumbaya dinner between Kim and the soldier that loses his legs (in the book he loses one not two), the president does not dance in her garden shook she doesn't blackmail him, she's not even a tv journalist?! She works for the breakfast newspaper! I could go on and on. If you are drawn to this book because of the movie tie in don't bother it is the worst. But if you're interested in some background on the region this is fun and factual.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The current movie Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot is based on the memoir of Kim Barker during her time as war correspondent. She went unprepared and naive. Descriptions of politics, bombings and shootings fell flat. She rushed into the centre of destruction and killing, and was easily bored by quiet times. She thinks foreign correspondents are there not so much for the salary but for the adrenaline rush. She comes across as self absorbed and entitled, often impatient and rude to people trying to help. The current movie Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot is based on the memoir of Kim Barker during her time as war correspondent. She went unprepared and naive. Descriptions of politics, bombings and shootings fell flat. She rushed into the centre of destruction and killing, and was easily bored by quiet times. She thinks foreign correspondents are there not so much for the salary but for the adrenaline rush. She comes across as self absorbed and entitled, often impatient and rude to people trying to help. We learn more of what she wore, the drunken parties, her flirtations than we learn about India where she was based, or about Afghanistan and Pakistan where she covered the news. Those native people she called her friends seem to be people she used as drivers, translators and for information without much regard for their personal time,safety or feelings. She seemed to want a boyfriend but could not compromise in a relationship and these romances ended badly. While she was in Afghanistan the USA started concentrating their military resources and aid in Iraq. Tribal warfare and political corruption were increasing in Afghanistan, but still the wild parties of the Westerners based in Kabul continued.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carol Douglas

    Kim Barker is an excellent journalist who reported on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Chicago Tribune for nearly a decade. She met Hamid Karzai and many other important figures in Afghanistand, and Nawal Sharif, now prime minister of Pakistan, and many other important figures in that country. She provides an excellent outline of the history of the war in Afghanistan and political developments in Pakistan, where militants infiltrate into Afghanistan. They also cause disruption in Pakistan, which Kim Barker is an excellent journalist who reported on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Chicago Tribune for nearly a decade. She met Hamid Karzai and many other important figures in Afghanistand, and Nawal Sharif, now prime minister of Pakistan, and many other important figures in that country. She provides an excellent outline of the history of the war in Afghanistan and political developments in Pakistan, where militants infiltrate into Afghanistan. They also cause disruption in Pakistan, which generally lets them operate. Barker's style is always readable and sometimes breezy, but don't be fooled by her colorful style. This is an important book for all Americans. The picture it gives of the hard-partying foreign community in Afghanistan is depressing, as is the picture it gives of the country. She doesn't pull punches. A movie based on the book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, will soon be released. New editions of the book are being given that name. By any name, this is a book to read. The movie, which excludes Pakistan, can't possibly be a substitute.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matt Heimer

    I've been meaning to pick this book up ever since I saw it reviewed. Unfortunately, I've also been following the news from Afghanistan/Pakistan for all 204 years we've been at war there, and if you have, too, then (a) I feel sorry for you and (b) this book won't tell you anything you don't already know. Barker saw some amazing things in her 6 years in AfPak, and she's genuinely funny. But she isn't really introspective enough to be a super-engaging memoirist -- or, to be more charitable, she pr I've been meaning to pick this book up ever since I saw it reviewed. Unfortunately, I've also been following the news from Afghanistan/Pakistan for all 204 years we've been at war there, and if you have, too, then (a) I feel sorry for you and (b) this book won't tell you anything you don't already know. Barker saw some amazing things in her 6 years in AfPak, and she's genuinely funny. But she isn't really introspective enough to be a super-engaging memoirist -- or, to be more charitable, she probably hasn't yet had the time to pause and look back on events and give them Deeper Meaning (tm). So as the shocking, improbable anecdotes pile up, they lose impact -- it's like watching 20 consecutive episodes of M*A*S*H.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alice Warren-gregory

    I know I marked this book read, but the truth is, I didn't finish it because it was so poorly written and, frankly, boring. I expected much more based on the critical acclaim, the source material, and the fact that the author was a professional journalist. Well, you wouldn't know that this book was written by a professional anything or that it was written about one of the most compelling and unique regions/conflicts in the world. Skip this unless you want to learn how not to write a memoir. I know I marked this book read, but the truth is, I didn't finish it because it was so poorly written and, frankly, boring. I expected much more based on the critical acclaim, the source material, and the fact that the author was a professional journalist. Well, you wouldn't know that this book was written by a professional anything or that it was written about one of the most compelling and unique regions/conflicts in the world. Skip this unless you want to learn how not to write a memoir.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A journalists memoir of her work in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2004-2009. It's an ok read overall. Not much insight really if you study or know much about the countries already. The book felt like an outlet for the author to decompress from spending so much time in a crazy, surreal environment. Overall I give it an "Ok" rating. A journalists memoir of her work in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2004-2009. It's an ok read overall. Not much insight really if you study or know much about the countries already. The book felt like an outlet for the author to decompress from spending so much time in a crazy, surreal environment. Overall I give it an "Ok" rating.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This one was OK. It was informative and interesting but I wished that the author would have gone more in depth on certain of the events. The actual events were much more important than the reporter having a bad hair day, etc. There were parts that were humorous and some that were very sad.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Atulya

    There is a lot of written literature available on the war being fought in Afghanistan. Literature in the form of books, essays and articles by prominent historians, journalists and other experts which are not only profound and insightful, but also give a detailed humanistic view of the battles being fought and lives being lost. Aptly named, Kim Barker's new book is a shuffle - a shuffle of her own personal travails during her time as a South Asia bureau chief (from 2004-09) for the Chicago Tribu There is a lot of written literature available on the war being fought in Afghanistan. Literature in the form of books, essays and articles by prominent historians, journalists and other experts which are not only profound and insightful, but also give a detailed humanistic view of the battles being fought and lives being lost. Aptly named, Kim Barker's new book is a shuffle - a shuffle of her own personal travails during her time as a South Asia bureau chief (from 2004-09) for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. This book is refreshing and unique in a way that the tragedies unfolding in a war zone are often interwoven and told with the author's own personal struggles in life. This perspective,as unique as it may seem,takes the sting out of reading about a bloodied war zone but gets the meaning conveyed nonetheless in a more subtle fashion.Her writing comes alive with vivid (and often distressful) images of the war being fought and other political upheavals that continue to ravage Afghanistan and its neighbors. The chapters where she is meeting and covering political rallies of Pakistan's former prime minister are filled with irony and downright amusing, while portraying at the same time Pakistan's dire economic status,its failure as a state to control home grown terrorism and blame its neighbor for its own problems. Since we are reading a personal account of the author's time spent covering events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are also introduced to the dilemmas war journalists constantly face when they have to make decisions that sometime cost the lives of others or scar their own lives. As much as this book is about coverage of the events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it also a very deeply personal account of the author's life and her reflection on the choices she had to make while she was out there. This book is a light read and is by no means a substitute for works which are scholarly, objective and more thoroughly researched. But on the other hand if you want a quick refresher on the war on terror in Afghanistan, Kim Barker's 'The Taliban Shuffle' will not disappoint.

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