Buckle my swash in the 19th century....
February 16, 2011 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I love the Great Game. What books capture the adventure and romance of this historical period?

Thanks to my Middle Eastern Politics and History class, I have discovered that I love reading about 'the Great Game' time period, from about 1813 on and including the Asiatic fronts of WWI. So much exploration, and intrigue, and derring-do! What books, whether engaging non-fiction or historical fiction is out there that satisfy my craving for Great Game and WWI adventure?

I have no particular 'favorite players,' although the English viewpoint seems to be the most widely available. I like things that focus on the Middle East and Asia (Tibet, India, central Asiatic plateau, etc.) rather than British or Russian politics at home. I like books that follow one character or one topic more than I like overviews. I have already read Seven Pillars of Wisdom, A Peace to End All Peace, Dreamers of the Day, Kipling's Kim and the Flashman series. What else is out there that I won't be able to put down?
posted by WidgetAlley to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
There are several good biographies about Sir Richard Francis Burton that should fit the bill.
posted by OmieWise at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia."
John Masters' "The Lotus and the Wind."
posted by codswallop at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2011

Slightly outside the time-period, but definitely in the same spirit is News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir (1936). The book is what it says on the tin. A classic of travel writing by Peter Fleming (brother of Ian).
posted by Jahaza at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's a little different, but I enjoyed Robert E. Howard's El Borak stories. You just have to ignore the racism and sense of innate superiority, but if you've enjoyed the Flashman books (I did too), you can clearly do that.
posted by yerfatma at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2011

Slightly before your time window, but meeting many of your other requirements as far as "exploration, and intrigue, and derring-do!" is the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Depending on the speed you read, it could keep you busy for months.
posted by Morydd at 8:52 AM on February 16, 2011

The Amelia Peabody series (mysteries involving British Egyptologists) by Elizabeth Peters might be right up your alley.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2011

Lermontov's Hero of Our Time is a classic.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:05 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you enjoy epic historic fiction, try The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye. Set in British India, there's a subplot involving spying in Afghanistan - the very heart of the Great Game. It's a huge book with something for everyone: romance, adventure, exotic scenery, political intrigue, and a rather wistful ending. Did they live happily ever after, or not? You decide.
posted by Quietgal at 9:20 AM on February 16, 2011

They're probably a bit harder to get hold of these days, but I can heartily recommend the Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints series. In particular "Adventures of an Officer in the Service of Runjeet Singh" and "Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and the Panjab"
posted by dougrayrankin at 9:47 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

O hey, I asked a very similar question in 2009: "Books about the British Empire in Afghanistan?" (FWIW, having read Flashman helped a lot in reading The Great Game...which is HUGE. Hello, doorstop.)
posted by epersonae at 10:13 AM on February 16, 2011

I'd broaden the time period a teensy bit to include the Sharpe books. I think they're super fun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:14 AM on February 16, 2011

Ever seen Lawrence of Arabia?
posted by Sublimity at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2011

You mentioned Kim so how about Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King"? There's a great filmed version...
posted by codswallop at 12:12 PM on February 16, 2011

There are several good biographies about Sir Richard Francis Burton that should fit the bill.

I was going to recommend Edward Rice's biography of Burton.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:42 PM on February 16, 2011

Oh, and while we're talking about Kipling's man who would be King, read Ben Macintyre's book about another man who would be King.

And do not miss The Bloody White Baron, either.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2011

Laurie R. King's The Game is (as the title implies) set in/about the Great Game.
posted by Lexica at 9:33 PM on February 16, 2011

« Older Weird-eye kitty   |   Wire wire go away! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.