Chechnya Diary isn't your typical book about war. For one thing, it reads more like an adventure or a novel than straight history. It's also much more philosophical than I would have expected. The book begins with the quote, "The observer affects the observed," and boy is that statement ever borne out as the story unfolds.
Author Thomas Goltz sneaks into the country to cover the war, and ends up in a small town called Samashki, where he depends on the hospitality of a man named Hussein. Ostensibly there to record the fighting, Goltz soon becomes intimately involved, raising many tough questions about journalistic ethics and the effects of media war coverage.
The book really picks up steam in the second half, as Goltz returns to Chechnya to discover the damage his participation has caused, and tries to rectify it.
It's a thought-provoking book that provides background on the Chechnyan war but also goes far beyond that to dwell on how our shallow media culture affects our understanding of world events (and beyond that, how media coverage actually determines the course of those events as they play out). Goltz is a likable narrator who doesn't shy away from implicating himself when it comes to the sticky moral questions. He brings to life real Chechnyans in such vivid fashion that you'll remember them every time you hear about Chechnya in the news.
I had tears in my eyes as I finished the book. Highly recommended.