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Central Asia Explorer

READING AND TRAVEL GUIDE

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Books for

Enrich your travels with reading! Here's a hand-picked list prepared for your journey in conjunction with the book experts at Longitude.

Essential Reading

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Lonely Planet Central Asia

Lonely Planet Central Asia

by Lonely Planet

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2014
  • PAPER
  • 512 PAGES

A comprehensive, detailed guide to travel in the region, including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. (CAS42, $34.99)

The Great Game

The Great Game

by Peter Hopkirk

  • HISTORY
  • 1994
  • PAPER
  • 565 PAGES
  • FAVORITE
  • HARD TO FIND ELSEWHERE

Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great struggle for European supremacy in Central Asia takes us over the high mountain passes and through the scorching deserts and caravan towns of the Silk Road, capturing the glamour, intrigue, treachery and adventure of the time. (CAS09, $18.00)

The Lost Heart of Asia

The Lost Heart of Asia

by Colin Thubron

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 374 PAGES

In this classic narrative, Thubron recounts his travels to Samarkand, Bukhara and throughout Central Asia in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union. A fine writer, intrepid traveler and insightful observer, he's an outstanding guide to the history, people and culture of the region. (CAS07, $15.99)

The Silk Road, Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia

The Silk Road, Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia

by Frances Wood

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2004
  • PAPER
  • 270 PAGES

Wood draws on hundreds of archival photographs, manuscripts and paintings from the British Library in telling this lively story of the art, culture and history of diverse trade routes. With chapters on jade and silk, trade during the Han Dynasty, Dunhuang, the Great Game, explorers and the Silk Road today. (ASA36, $30.95)

Central Asia Map

Central Asia Map

by Nelles

  • 2011
  • MAP

An up-to-date, double-sided shaded relief map at a scale of 1:1,750,000. (CAS37, $13.95)

 
Silk Road Countries Map, Central Asia

Silk Road Countries Map, Central Asia


by Gizi Map

  • 2003
  • MAP

A map covering the Silk Roads and surrounding territories from western China and India across Asia to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Black Sea at a scale of 1:3,000,000. (CAS100, $14.95)

The Ancient Silk Road, An Illustrated Map

The Ancient Silk Road, An Illustrated Map


by Odyssey Maps

  • 2011
  • MAP

Three large annotated color maps, which include dozens of photographs, expert commentary and illustrated Silk Road sites. (ASA58, $14.95)

Insight Guide Silk Road

Insight Guide Silk Road


by Insight Guides

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2013
  • PAPER
  • 421 PAGES

From Xi'an across Central Asia to Turkey, Chris Bradley covers the sweep of the Silk Road in this gorgeously illustrated guide. (CAS200, $24.99)

Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook

Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook


by Justin Jon Rudelson

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 239 PAGES

A handy pocket phrasebook that focuses on pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler on the Silk Road. (CAS38, $8.99)

Odyssey Guide The Silk Road, Xi'an to Kashgar

Odyssey Guide The Silk Road, Xi'an to Kashgar


by Judy Bonavia

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 352 PAGES

With photographs, maps, essays and lively sidebars on people, literature, food, religion, nature and customs, this is a terrific guide. (CAS13, $24.95)

Odyssey Guide Uzbekistan

Odyssey Guide Uzbekistan


by Calum MacLeod | Bradley Mayhew

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2014
  • PAPER
  • 393 PAGES

A concise introduction to Uzbekistan, its history, culture and attractions, featuring full-color maps and excellent photography. Covering Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. (CAS23, $27.95)

Empires of the Silk Road

Empires of the Silk Road


by Christopher I. Beckwith

  • HISTORY
  • 2011
  • PAPER
  • 504 PAGES

Beckwith rescues Central Asia from the periphery of world affairs with flair and scholarship, depicting millennia of empires, trade and cultural life on the Silk Road. (CAS171, $16.95)

Everyday Life in Central Asia, Past and Present

Everyday Life in Central Asia, Past and Present


by Jeff Sahadeo

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2007
  • PAPER
  • 401 PAGES

Dozens of scholars and ethnographers contributed to this lively reader on the peoples, cultures and customs across Central Asia. (CAS148, $28.00)

Religions of the Silk Road

Religions of the Silk Road


by Richard C. Foltz

  • RELIGION
  • 2000
  • PAPER
  • 186 PAGES

A scholarly survey of cultural traditions, and especially religions, along the trade routes through China and Central Asia from antiquity to the 15th century. (CAS52, $29.00)

Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants on the Silk Road

Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants on the Silk Road


by Luce Boulnois | Helen Loveday

  • HISTORY
  • 2011
  • PAPER
  • 575 PAGES

A history and guide to the Silk Road, organized chronologically and featuring a nice selection of contemporary photographs. (CAS111, $27.95)

The Great Cities in History

The Great Cities in History


by John Julius Norwich

  • HISTORY
  • 2009
  • HARD COVER
  • 304 PAGES

This inspired book depicts the rise and fall of cities from earliest Mesopotamia through the great trading centers of the first millennium to medieval Europe and the modern megalopolis. Each entry is magnificently illustrated in color and is paired with an essay by diverse dignitaries including Jan Morris (New York), Colin Thubron (Samarkand), Simon Schama (Amsterdam) and Michael Coe (Angkor). (WLD171, $45.00)

The New Great Game, Blood and Oil in Central Asia

The New Great Game, Blood and Oil in Central Asia


by Lutz Kleveman

  • HISTORY
  • 2004
  • PAPER
  • 291 PAGES

An eyewitness account of current policies and conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia, full of interviews, anecdote, history and polemic. (CAS112, $15.00)

Islamic Art and Architecture

Islamic Art and Architecture


by Robert Hillenbrand

  • ART & ARCHITECTURE
  • 1999
  • PAPER
  • 288 PAGES

Covering 1000 years and the geographic scope of Islam, this book is a wide-ranging guide to the arts of Islam, including architecture, calligraphy, ceramics and textiles. (CAS17, $29.95)

Islamic Arts

Islamic Arts


by Jonathan Bloom | Sheila Blair

  • ART & ARCHITECTURE
  • 1997
  • PAPER
  • 445 PAGES

A comprehensive survey of 1,000 years of Islamic architecture, design and decoration. Illustrated throughout with color photographs, maps and site plans. (ISL01, $29.95)

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand, A Study of T'ang Exotics


by Edward Schafer

  • ART & ARCHITECTURE
  • 1985
  • PAPER
  • 399 PAGES

A marvelous study of the court of T'ang Dynasty China, and the many splendid works of art that were given in tribute. (CAS53, $41.95)

Tribal Rugs, Treasures of the Black Tent

Tribal Rugs, Treasures of the Black Tent


by Brian W. MacDonald

  • ART & ARCHITECTURE
  • 2010
  • HARD COVER
  • 304 PAGES

This survey documents the rich diversity of rugs, carpets and kilims of Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia in authoritative text. Includes 220 color photographs. (CAS178, $85.00)

Xanadu, Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East

Xanadu, Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East


by John Man

  • EXPLORATION
  • 2010
  • PAPER
  • 352 PAGES

As in Genghis Khan and Attila, John Man interweaves his own travels with history and biography, this time in the footsteps of Marco Polo across Asia to fabled Xanadu. (EXP84, $15.95)

A Ride to Khiva

A Ride to Khiva


by Peter Hopkirk | Frederick Burnaby

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2002
  • PAPER
  • 390 PAGES

The rousing real-life adventure of a Brit snooping in Russian Central Asia in 1875. The imposing Captain Burnaby rode a thousand miles across steppe and desert, through blizzards and snowdrifts, to forbidden Khiva. (CAS16, $35.95)

Chasing the Sea

Chasing the Sea


by Tom Bissell

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2004
  • PAPER
  • 388 PAGES

Self-confessed adventure junkie, Bissell skillfully interweaves anecdote, history and grim reports on ecological disasters in this smart, funny and informative account of travels through Uzbekistan and Central Asia in 2001. (CAS103, $18.00)

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World


by Jack Weatherford

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2005
  • PAPER
  • 352 PAGES

Weatherford, who has lived and studied in Mongolia, interweaves his own travels and field work on the Central Asian steppes, much of it on horseback, with a lively portrait of Genghis Khan and the world of the medieval Mongols. The Mongols introduced not only mayhem, but also paper, printing, gunpowder, the compass and trousers to their far-flung empire. (CAS106, $15.00)

Khubilai Khan, His Life and Times

Khubilai Khan, His Life and Times


by Morris Rossabi

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2009
  • PAPER
  • 348 PAGES

This fascinating, scholarly portrait of the culture and politics of 13th-century Asia examines Khubilai Khan's rise to power, the submission of Korea and the attempted invasion of Japan. (CAS10, $28.95)

Life Along the Silk Road

Life Along the Silk Road


by Susan Whitfield

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2001
  • PAPER
  • 253 PAGES

With insight, scholarship and dramatic flair, Susan Whitfield recounts the lives of ten diverse individuals on the ancient Silk Road, including four tales set in Dunhuang. With a superb 15-page history of Central Asia. (CAS44, $29.95)

Night Train to Turkistan: Modern Adventures Along China's Ancient Silk Road

Night Train to Turkistan: Modern Adventures Along China's Ancient Silk Road


by Stuart Stevens

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 1988
  • PAPER
  • 239 PAGES

An entertaining account of hard travel from Beijing to Kashgar, following the route of Peter Fleming and his classic News from Tartary. (CAS77, $13.00)

Out of Steppe, The Lost Peoples of Central Asia


by Daniel Metcalfe

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2010
  • PAPER
  • 288 PAGES
  • OUT OF PRINT

Metcalfe journeys throughout the five stans, Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of the Jews of Bukhara, Karalpaks, Hazaras, Kalashas. Yaghnobis and other threatened ethnic people of the steppes for this erudite, illuminating report from the field. (CAS191, $16.95)

Shadow of the Silk Road

Shadow of the Silk Road


by Colin Thubron

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 363 PAGES

Thubron returns to Central Asia in this lyrical, erudite account of a 7,000-mile trek across Asia, visiting archaeological sites, people and cities from Xi'an and Dunhuang to Samarkand, Bukhara, Afghanistan and Iran. (CAS133, $15.99)

The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane

The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane


by Beatrice Forbes Manz

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 1999
  • PAPER
  • 231 PAGES

A portrait of the great nomadic conqueror who rose to power in 1370 on the ruins of the Mongol Empire and led campaigns from Moscow to Delhi. (CAS11, $31.99)

Flashman in the Great Game

Flashman in the Great Game


by George MacDonald Fraser

  • LITERATURE
  • 1995
  • PAPER
  • 336 PAGES

What caused the Sepoy Mutiny, a pivotal moment in the Raj? How about Harry Flashman, the reluctant, much-decorated coward, cad and womanizer at the center of George MacDonald Fraser's wildly entertaining, irreverent series of historical novels. (CAS120, $16.00)

Samarkand, A Novel

Samarkand, A Novel


by Amin Maalouf | Russell Harris

  • LITERATURE
  • 1998
  • PAPER
  • 304 PAGES

A fictional history of Persia featuring Omar Khayyam, the 11th-century poet and author of the "Rubaiyat." Written by Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf. (CAS69, $14.95)

The Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights


by Husain Haddawy

  • LITERATURE
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 518 PAGES

Translator Husain Haddawy grew up hearing his grandmother's friends re-tell these tales on winter nights in Baghdad. A wonderful introduction to Islamic Andalucia, the tales, translated from the oldest remaining Arabic version, bring to life the culture and society of the Islamic world at its height. (ARB10, $17.95)

The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years

The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years


by Chingiz Aitmatov

  • LITERATURE
  • 1988
  • PAPER
  • 368 PAGES

First published in 1980 under the Soviet regime, this novel by a famous Kyrgyz writer mixes the story of a man traveling through the steppes to bury a friend and the tale of two cosmonauts aboard a space station. (CAS139, $24.00)

Birds of Central Asia

Birds of Central Asia


by Raffael Aye

  • FIELD GUIDE
  • 2012
  • PAPER
  • 320 PAGES

This compact Princeton Field Guide features 141 superb color plates and excellent introductory chapters on the region. (CAS209, $39.50)

More Recommendations

Here are some other groups of books that might be of interest

Longitude provides recommended reading for travelers in partnership with the leading tour operators and travel programs for hundreds of destinations worldwide. We've got the classic, new and hard-to-find books and maps to help you get the most out of your adventures.