Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What We're Reading: Opium Season

I'll be the first to admit that there are two subjects that don't necessarily tempt me in print - Afghanistan and drugs. However, I happened to catch an interview with the author of Opium Season, Joel Hafvenstein, on one of my NPR podcasts late last year. I was instantly curious; sadly, our library did not own a copy of the book at the time.

It was worth the wait. In Opium Season, Hafvenstein discusses his time in Afghanistan, working on several projects meant to woo farmers away from their profitable poppy fields. The book reads beautifully, with poetic descriptions of the landscape that would make many novelists blush with shame. Sadly, this is not a fictional account. The peace of the first half of the book gives way to increasing instability and danger, and by the end I could barely keep from crying. I believe that this is an important book to read - both for the history and violence of the country's past and present, and the beauty of its vast deserts and ordinary citizens.

On a side note, one of my favorite parts of the book was something that was relatively minor. I did not know that the carrot originated in Afghanistan, and that these vegetables come in colors other than orange. Don't you like to discover interesting factoids in your books?

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