- Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game
- Lonely Planet Central Asia
- Colin Thubron's Lost Heart of Asia
The rest of the book contains a fairly thorough assessment of present day Central Asia. Politics; human rights abuses; relations with the U.S., Russia, and China; and the importance of natural gas and oil dominate the narrative. However, snippets of history, cuisine, and sports (see the chapter re the game of buzkashi) are carefully laid out throughout the book.
About half the pages in the book have some sort of illustration, be they photographs, maps, graphic novellas, or four-cell comic strips. Rall's style is akin to Matt Groening's Life in Hell. They make the reading fun and fast. I went through the 300 page book during a work week. I wish I can say the same for Owen Lattimore's The Desert Road to Turkestan and its companion, High Tartary, which I placed on hold midway through to read Silk Road to Ruin.
My only complaints have to do with the editing process. There are a few glaring typographical errors. Errors akin to confusing "there" with "their" are hard to ignore. Though it was not a big deal, it did take a little bit away from the experience. I also had a problem with the layout. The font was small and there was literally no room for margins. I'm sure the publishers could have spared the money and added a few more pieces of paper to the book.
All in all, this book was a great effort in making the topic of Central Asia real and un-academic. Both Central Asia aficionados and neophytes alike will love the book. I can't wait to read Rall's To Afghanistan and Back.