Book recommendations for Uzbekistan and Central Asia / Buchtipps für Usbekistan und Zentralasien

Most of us have to be at home right now and have a lot of time to read books, for example. Regardless of whether you are planning a trip to Uzbekistan or have already been there and would like to deepen your knowledge of the country and perhaps also the region of Central Asia.

I am very pleased that the interest in Central Asia has increased a lot lately and that some new books have been published in the past months/years. After my first visit to Uzbekistan, I dealed intensively with the country and the region and read many books, which is why I would like to present you some books.

Travel reports

Ella Maillart - Turkestan Solo


"Ella Maillart travels to Russian Turkestan which the Soviet revolutionaries are attempting to westernize. On horseback, she crosses Kirghizstan as far as the T'ien Shan range (the Celestial Mountains ). With makeshift skis, she climbs a mountain of 5000 metres on the Chinese border. She explores Tashkent, Samarkand and Bokhara and travels down the Amu Daria. On a camel and in glacial winds she crosses, solo, the Desert of Red Sands to the east of the Aral Sea, avoiding dangerous checkpoints." (goodreads)

My Opinion: I highly recommend this book because it gives great insights into Central Asia of the 1930s. A lot has changed in the meantime, but some things have remained the same. Although this book is 90 years old, Ella Maillart's writing style is still well readable.

"The fascinating travelogue of an adventurer through a changing region. A historical document of great topicality." - Amazon

Colin Thubron - Shadow of the Silk Road

Source: Google Books

"On buses, donkey carts, trains, jeeps and camels, Colin Thubron traces the drifts of the first great trade route out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey. Covering over 7000 miles in eight months Thubron recounts extraordinary adventures - a near-miss with a drunk-driver, incarceration in a Chinese cell during the SARS epidemic, undergoing root canal treatment without anaesthetic in Iran - in inimitable prose. Shadow of the Silk Road is about Asia today; a magnificent account of an ancient world in modern ferment." (Amazon)

My Opinion: Exciting! Discover 11,000 kilometers of overland travel on 459 pages. Colin Thubron gives us interesting insights into the countries he travels and people he meets along the way.

Christopher Aslan Alexander - A carpet ride to Khiva

Source: Google Books

"Chris Alecander originally trevelled to Khiva, a remote walled city in Uzbekistan on the route of the ancient Silk Road, to write a guidebook. But he stayed, mesmerised by a world of silk and forgotten 15th-century carpet designs - discovering indigo blue, madder red, pomgrante gold and the subtle shades of life in a desert oasis.

Alexander's entracing traverlogue sees him stripped naked at a former Soviet youth camp, crawling through silkworm droppings, tackling a carpet-thieving mayor, distinguishing natural dyes from sacks of opium in northern Afghanistan, holed up in the British Museum discovering carpet designs dormant for half a millennium and seeking sanctuary as an anti-Western riot consumed the Kabul carpet bazaar.

The result is an unforgettable true story of a journey to the heart of the unknown." (spine text)

My Opinion: This book was very interesting for me because I also want to open a workshop in Uzbekistan and I am very interested in Uzbek handicrafts. In addition, I was able to put myself much better in Christopher's than Ella Maillart's story and experiences, since it was not so long ago.

Erika Fatland - Sovietistan

"Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan became free of the Soviet Union in 1991. But though they are new to modern statehood, this is a region rich in ancient history, culture, and landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world. Traveling alone, Erika Fatland is a true adventurer in every sense. In Sovietistan, she takes the reader on a compassionate and insightful journey to explore how their Soviet heritage has influenced these countries, with governments experimenting with both democracy and dictatorships. In Kyrgyzstani villages, she meets victims of the tradition of bride snatching; she visits the huge and desolate Polygon in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union tested explosions of nuclear

Source: Orell Füssli

bombs; she meets shrimp gatherers on the banks of the dried out Aral Sea; she witnesses the fall of a dictator. She travels incognito through Turkmenistan, a country that is closed to journalists. She meets exhausted human rights activists in Kazakhstan, survivors from the massacre in Osh in 2010, and German Mennonites that found paradise on the Kyrgyzstani

plains 200 years ago. We learn how ancient customs clash with gas production and witness the underlying conflicts between ethnic Russians and the majority in a country that is slowly building its future in nationalist colors. Once the frontier of the Soviet Union, life follows another pace of time. Amidst the treasures of Samarkand and the brutalist Soviet architecture, Sovietistan is a rare and unforgettable adventure." (Pegasus Books)

book sample

My Opinion: When I went to Uzbekistan in summer of 2017, this book was freshly published. The Uzbeks were not so good at talking about this book because in their eyes Fatland makes a negative image of Uzbekistan and all of Central Asia. Back in Switzerland, I immediately bought this book because I wanted to make my own opinion. In fact, Erika Fatland sometimes reports very critically. Nevertheless, I think that Sovietistan is a very good book because it gives a good overview of the region and Fatland addresses many historical and political issues.


  • Christopher Robbins - In search of Kazakhstan

  • Tiziano Terziani - Goodnight, Mister Lenin


Amin Maalouf - Samarkand

Source: Amazon

"Accused of mocking the inviolate codes of Islam,