Reading Kyrgyzstan: Restless Valley

Central Asia is endlessly fascinating to me, so I was super happy to Kyrgyzstan up on my reading list. I landed on Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia, by Phillip Shishkin as my introduction to this corner of the world.

But, second destination in a row where the locale is way more intriguing than the book I picked. I swear I’m not being curmudgeonly! Or at least I hope that’s not it…

There was a lot to like about this book, don’t get me wrong. The author obviously knows his way around the political and social terrain of a very, VERY complicated place. I doubt that any one viewpoint could fully embrace all of the intricacies baked into the cake there.

That said, this just read oddly to me. A bit repetitive perhaps? The author didn’t trust the reader to remember people he had introduced earlier, leading to awkward second meetings. I hadn’t realized before this book that would bother me, but indeed it does. Good to know, huh?

I am glad to have had the chance to learn what I’ve learned, and I look forward to some fiction titles I have picked out by Kyrgyz author, Chignhiz Aitmatov. Now, I have a bit of a sense-of-place before diving in. Onward and upwards!

Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan (image by Jürgen Grösel, via Wikimedia Commons)

Country #46: Kyrgyzstan

Central Asia: SO INTERESTING. And so not-talked about here in the U.S. very often, even though I’m sure our government is up to all sorts of things in that part of the world.
Very ready to dive in and learn as much as I can. Let’s do this!

Reading Tonga: Island Kingdom – Tonga Ancient & Modern

Tonga! So interesting!

BUT. I’m not saying that the book I ended with up (Island Kingdom: Tonga Ancient & Modern, by I.C. Campbell) was weighed down by a little too much Great Man Theory; yeah, wait…I am saying exactly that.

There were moments that my brain was happy: info about the uniqueness of Tonga’s geology and natural history, the amazing and brave Oceanic people that first made their way to the islands, the effects of European contact and the introduction of Christianity…I want to know more! Unfortunately, all of that got lost in an overly exhaustive list of chiefs, kings, and politicians. So. Much. Detail.

Too much.

So, I’ll be on the lookout for a more personal telling of life in Tonga. Please let me know if you know of such a book! I would be thrilled to check it out!

Approach to Fua'amotu Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga
Approach to Fua’amotu Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga (image by David Broad, via Wikimedia Commons)