• Games Without Rules

  • The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan
  • By: Tamim Ansary
  • Narrated by: Tamim Ansary
  • Length: 14 hrs and 40 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (331 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real, but it sits atop an older struggle between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan - a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.

Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while every 40 to 60 years a great power disrupts whatever progress has been made. Related in storytelling style, Games Without Rules provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.

Tamim Ansary is the award-winning author of Destiny Disrupted and West of Kabul, East of New York. He has been a major contributing writer to several secondary-school history textbooks offering an Islamic perspective.

©2012 Tamim Ansary (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire…. Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"In Games Without Rules, Tamim Ansary has written the most engaging, accessible and insightful history of Afghanistan. With gifted prose and revealing details, Ansary gives us the oft-neglected Afghan perspective of the wars, foreign meddling, and palace intrigue that has defined the past few centuries between the Indus and Oxus. This brilliant book should be required reading for anyone involved in the current war there - and anyone who wants to understand why Afghanistan will not be at peace anytime soon." (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan)

What listeners say about Games Without Rules

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Very enlightening read

As an Afghan born in Kabul and raised in Europe, this book has been an incredible source of info. It systematically and very neutrality answers a lot of big questions about the ongoing wars and foreign economical and political stakes. It is common knowledge that the US and Western powers have an interest in maintaining instability there and this book explains the WHY without falling into stigmatization.

I would highly recommend this read to any Western country politician because there is a clear win win to be sought if Afghanistan was better understood.

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Loved it!

I loved the final modern portion. I spent 2 deployments with the Navy Seabees in Afghanistan workinf with local artisans and love the culture. I havent been back in 5 years but its great to hear from someone who is native how it is coming back.

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  • MM
  • 04-01-14

As good as David McCullough

Any additional comments?

Afghans deserve a voice like Tamim Ansary to tell their modern history in contemporary English. His style reminded me of my grandfather who told me among many others about the reign of Amanullah Khan in relatable way full of rich imagery and humor. Most other history books about Afghanistan originally written in English are by outsiders which makes Afghanistan and its history seem like an exotic carnival completely disconnected from modern issues, or a place full of gloom and tragedy. Not to say that Afghans haven’t lived through some crazy carnival type periods filled with pain and tragedy, their story is not very different from most people elsewhere like the United States. Except that every time they’ve tried to create a nation that allows its inhabitants to more freely pursue happiness, they’re rudely interrupted. These interruptions in past couple of hundred years came in form of three wars with Great Brittan, Russian invasion, a civil war, followed by a brutal Taliban rule, and the ongoing U.S/NATO occupation. In those brief peaceful periods yet greatly influenced by outside powers, Ansary argues Afghans made great progress to become a functioning nation with lingering conflict between urban and village perspectives. Solaiman Afzal

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Fascinating history!

This book started to connect the dots of history of this tragically amazing land. Thank you.

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Excellent

I've known a great number of people who have been to Afghanistan. This book gave both past and recent history. Ansari supplied insightful cultural analysis with key historical events and figures. I like his book and narration.

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Excellent book

I’m a westerner that was looking for a deeper understanding of the Afghanistan culture and the wars that have been fought thus far. I wanted a guide to help me come to my own conclusion of where we are headed after exiting. The author has deep understanding of both Afghanistan and the USA. Very fairly written and unbiased towards our US political views.

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Good read until

I would recommend this book to any readers who like me are enamored with Central Asian history and the Great Game . I would have rated the book a solid 4 stars and given a glowing reference if not for the author's subtle opinions about certain people and topics in the book.

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Mr. Ansari delivers

I love all of Mr. Ansari's books about history and his personal memoirs. He weaves events with personal anecdotes and makes it all so inviting.

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Both history and perspective from a guy who knows both extremely well.

His own family history life experience and education uniquely qualifies him to tell the story of Afghanistan like nobody else can. Details are great but the ability to provide perspective is what makes this book a must for anyone interested in Afghanistan.

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Educational

It was quite informative. It provides background and history to modern day issues and news stories involving the country of Afghanistan.

I knew very little of the country besides just bits and pieces from the news over the years. This book helped fixed my knowledge gap.

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  • judith
  • 05-18-14

Accurate title

This is a fascinating journey through the history of Afghanistan and its people. Thoroughly knowledgeable and eminently readable/listenable, the author quietly and authoritatively relates this complex nation's background, bringing it up to the present day. It is a book that would repay, at least for me, a second reading, because of the complexity of the subject. I recommend it.

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  • Devopser
  • 10-04-20

The best book on Afghanistan

As an Afghan I found this book really informative and extremely well balanced and honest. The author has done a fantastic job in explaining the situation from an Afghan perspective. The explanation of Afghan society and how it has shaped Afghan history is really accurate. I think this can be a very good read for anyone trying to make sense of this country and to understand why it has suffered so much. I can’t recommend this book enough. At the end I want to thank the author Tamim Ansary for his hard work in writing such a masterpiece.

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  • Derek A. de la Harpe
  • 09-13-19

Excellent potted history

A really interesting history of an extremely complex country, written and performed with humour by the author. Thank you.

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  • Mena
  • 03-01-22

The best book on Afghanistan I have come across

Very detailed.

This books adds colour to the history of Afghanistan in a way that similar such books by non-Afghan writers have not been able to.

Ansary's cultural understanding, time spent in Afghanistan and stories from his family tell a story very similar and familiar to other Afghans.

Yet still added a valuable perspective and presents well thought arguments.

I hope he writes more books and reads it himself. Hearing him pronounce Afghan words properly was a breath of fresh air in an Audible category of White American men completely butchering the words.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-02-21

Great

Everyone interest in what makes this part of the world tick should read this before listen to FOX or CNN or the BCC

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  • K Oliver
  • 12-31-20

Gives Afghan perspective in a very accessible way

This does not seek to be an authoratitative history of Afghanistan. The book has a very informal, openly subjective, style, there are a few misunderstandings about other countries, and it only gives the last couple of centuries of Afghan history in any detail. Even within this time-frame, the earlier parts of the book are principally setting the scene for using very recent history to communicate an understanding of contemporary Afghanistan. If you can accept this, and so long as you don't object too strongly to the author's narrative, Games Without Rules is an outstanding book.

--- Rather than simply telling the story of powerful individuals (though it does this too), the book conveys as much of a country's culture as a history book can hope to do, which is essential for a westerner to begin to understand recent events. To pick just one moment within the book, who could fail to empathise with, even be warmed by, Kabul's chorus of "Allahu Akbar" as a rejection of the Soviets? Who could fail to see a link between this and the later direction of Afghanistan's domestic politics? And who could fail to see why the British, Soviets and Americans all had a lot in common, when viewed from the Afghan perspective?

--- Unlike some readers, I appreciated the author's frequent anecdotes and mentions of his own family. Firstly, they helped to give perspectives of slightly more ordinary Afghans (though of course his family are not ordinary), something too lacking from most history books. Secondly, they laid bare biases (for example, why he would be more sympathetic to the USA than to other foreign powers), which all authors have, and which are best placed in the open rather than concealed by artificial distance.

--- The narration is much better than you would expect from the author of a history book. It is an audiobook book that I can equally use as wallpaper, even sleep to, or closely focus on for the fascinating story it tells.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-13-20

Master piece of contemporary Afghan history

A must read for those interested in Afghanistan. Fantastically narrated by Tamim Ansary himself - much more powerful.

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  • TJ
  • 03-02-19

A great canter through the history of Afghanistan.

Read (listen) for a great taster of the Afghan psyche.

Expertly narrated by the author, this book gives a fantastic insight into the cultural nuisances of a nation with a troubled history. It's focusses on the numerous warlords, power brokers, strong men and religious leaders who have played a role in running an enigma of a "nation" before during and after the invasions of world powers.

Particually useful for an insight into the Afghan approach to life, regurally explaining logically why the people do what at first glance appears completely illogical from a western perspective.

The only negative I would suggest are some comments relating to the countries current woes are presented as factual but are more likely the authors opinion. Otherwise great if you're coming for a short trip or just plain intrieged by the mysteries of a complicated land.

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  • M. Griffiths
  • 03-18-17

Intimate history

The authors obvious affection for his country makes this a compelling listen. I found that I was drawn in, getting increasing enjoyment as the story unfolded towards the present.

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  • Obaidullah
  • 06-17-22

A must read on Afghanistan

Ansary’s is a natural story teller, he lays out a very balanced overview of the long history of Afghanistan here. He wanders off into commentary more towards the end but it’s still a book very much worth reading on Afghanistan

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  • Daniel Smyth
  • 09-09-21

Afghanistan explained by an Afghan

If you want to begin to understand Afghanistan listen to this book beautifully read by the author.