The Taliban Shuffle

The Taliban Shuffle

Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Book - 2011
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A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region's longest-serving correspondents.

Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent--she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concerns about our ability to win hearts and minds in the region. In The Taliban Shuffle, Barker offers an insider's account of the "forgotten war" in Afghanistan and Pakistan, chronicling the years after America's initial routing of the Taliban, when we failed to finish the job.

When Barker arrives in Kabul, foreign aid is at a record low, electricity is a pipe dream, and of the few remaining foreign troops, some aren't allowed out after dark. Meanwhile, in the vacuum left by the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban is regrouping as the Afghan and Pakistani governments floun­der. Barker watches Afghan police recruits make a travesty of practice drills and observes the disorienting turnover of diplomatic staff. She is pursued romantically by the former prime minister of Pakistan and sees adrenaline-fueled col­leagues disappear into the clutches of the Taliban. And as her love for these hapless countries grows, her hopes for their stability and security fade.

Swift, funny, and wholly original, The Taliban Shuffle unforgettably captures the absurdities and tragedies of life in a war zone.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385533317
Branch Call Number: DS371.4135 .B37 2011
Characteristics: viii, 302 p. : map ; 22 cm


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JCLDevinB Apr 02, 2020

The Taliban Shuffle is a candid memoir about the experiences of embed journalist Kim Barker as she wrote about the conflicts in the middle east. Barker's writing is often darkly humorous punctuated by her frustrations of the politics of western journalism and commentary on her personal life and mental well-being. I would recommend for those who enjoyed the film version, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and are interested in a more detailed look at the mechanization of Afghani and Pakistani politics.

Mar 08, 2017

A rarity: The movie (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) was actually far more enjoyable than the book.

The book has several laugh out loud moments early on but then goes on far too long with no additional laughs. The author is, herself, a journalist so I found it amusing that I finished the book thinking "wow, that really could've used some editing".

An enjoyable read that goes on too long. Watch the movie instead.

Jul 19, 2016

I overall enjoyed this book and am glad I read it, however book did get repetitive.

Jul 08, 2016

Memoir about the author's experiences as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Honest, funny, disturbing, and packed with information about the complexity of the politics of this area. I liked this book.

britprincess1ajax Jun 01, 2016

As I read THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE, all I could think was, "Holy smokes. How much can a government drop the ball?" Frankly, I thought I was going to read something more humourous, the more comedic side of war replete with shenanigans, especially considering the trailers I'd seen for WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, the film they made this year from the book. I mean, it's Tina Fey. You expect laughs. Yet THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE is playing it straight and is more heartbreaking than sidesplitting. Journalist Kim Barker was definitely in a weird place. She volunteered and became quickly and thoroughly addicted to the miserable existence of life as an embed in the U.S. troops in the wartorn Middle East. While most find India chaotic, Kim wrote how boring and normal it was, how desperate she was to get back in the action in Kabul. Then, the government truly screwed up. Not like the minor mistakes she'd witnessed prior, she truly felt affected after a friend of hers dies and a person she'd never meant but knew a bit about is sent back out into Afghanistan way past their prime. With that, Kim decides to leave Afghanistan to investigate the other side of the mountain: Pakistan, or as she describes it, Whack-a-Stan. In Pakistan, Kim encounters a new set of problems. For one, the men won't stop grabbing her butt. Secondly, she is being chased by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. Third, her foolish friend and fellow journalist decides to meet a high-profile insurgent in the tribal lands of Pakistan, a virtual no-man's-land where Westerners are kidnapped, held for ransom, and often killed. Then, her allergies and sinus problems to the polluted air send her back to the States for nasal surgery to remove polyps and, she hopes, fix the problem for good. Alas, while still in the States, she faces a new set of problems, both professional and personal, as the landscape of her workplace changes and she becomes a victim of identity fraud.
Things certainly pile up. Although it's not funny per se, it is very informative, and I feel I've learned quite a bit about life in the Middle East during the Bush administration and the early days of Obama's admin, too. As someone who hates war films, war books, and, of course, the event that inspired it all, war, I had every reason not to like this book. And yet, I really did enjoy it. So, even if you're just like me with an utter disdain for grenades and camo, THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE still offers something worthwhile. I recommend it.

Jul 19, 2011

The only reason I began reading this book was because of a review that claimed the book was another Catch-22, a book that I had somewhat enjoyed recently. I'll admit, the humor in this book is sometimes laugh out loud funny. But for some reason, I just couldn't wait to finish the book, and despite the "impossible to put down" tag, I found that I was forcing myself to read and constantly glancing at the clock. Perhaps it was because this is my first nonfiction book in a long time? It's amazing to think that the whole story has, in fact, happened in real life and is STILL occurring though. Perhaps my reaction is a result of me experiencing the summertime symptoms of restlessness and boredom, but bottom line, The Taliban Shuffle is not a bad book.

debwalker Apr 14, 2011

Looks at what happened when the U.S. diverted its attention from the war in Afghanistan to Iraq.


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britprincess1ajax Jun 01, 2016

"I was not a brave child. I was convinced that death lurked behind every corner, perhaps the most unlikely future foreign correspondent ever born, the most improbable person to contend with suicide bombs and the real threat of nuclear war. I was scared of the dark, of my dreams, of nuclear weapons, of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who reminded me of Darth Vader. I was a neurotic, everything-o-phobic child, always convinced that any health problem was the dreaded cancer, always worried about stranger-danger. The peppercorns in cotto salami, and particularly the bluish meat surrounding them, I deemed poisonous and excised with a sharp knife. Halloween candy -- a deadly mix of sugar, poison, and razor blades, to be tested first on my brother or our dog. Mushrooms -- off-limits, ever since the elephant king in the Babar cartoon died from eating a bad one. Brown pop -- it could kill me, even though I had no idea where that thought came from, maybe the Mormon on my softball team."

britprincess1ajax Jun 01, 2016

"Kabul had no bars or dates, except for the edible kind."

britprincess1ajax Jun 01, 2016

"Afghanistan was the so-called Graveyard of Empires, a pitiless mass of hard mountains and desert almost the size of Texas that had successfully repelled invaders like the Brits and the Soviets and seemed amenable only to the unforgiving people born to it. Men learned to fight like they learned to breathe, without even thinking. They fought dogs, they fought cocks. They fought tiny delicate birds that fit in a human hand and lived in a human coat pocket, and they bet on the results. They fought wars for decades until no one seemed to remember quite what they were fighting for. The national sport was essentially a fight, on horseback, over a headless calf or goat. Over the years, whenever Afghan men would tell me that they were tired of fighting, looking weary and creased, I would have only one response: Sure you are."


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