I’m reading Thomas Barfield’s Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. A couple of chapters in, it’s the model of how to write academically for a broader audience. He also has a great, dry wit:
Few peoples in the world, particularly the Islamic world, have maintained such a strong and unproblematic sense of themselves, their culture, and their superiority as Afghans…. Although the great powers might have been militarily, technologically, and economically superior, because they were nonbelievers, or infidels, their values and way of life were naturally suspect. Afghanistan’s Muslim neighbours, however, fared only slightly better in (Sunni) Afghan eyes. The Uzbeks must have been asleep to allow the Russians to occupy central Asia for more than a century; Pakistan is a suspect land of recent Muslim converts from Hinduism (Pashtuns and Baluch excepted) that never should have become a nation; and Iran is a nest of Shiite heretics who speak Persian with a ludicrous accent.