After writing these two posts on Xinjiang, I did some more searching for a comprehensive introduction into the history, geography and culture of the region. I can’t say I found what I’d set out for but I came across this:
Annotated Bibliography of the History and Culture of Eastern Turkistan, Jungharia/Zungaria/Dzungaria, Chinese Central Asia, and Sinkiang/Xinjiang,
by Nathan Light.
You can download the June 2005 issue of The Silk Road from academia.edu and find this bibliography on pages 28-48. Here’s Nathan Light’s personal page at Academia.
If you’re new to this field and feel it’s worth exploring, you’ll probably find the list of books and articles endlessly fascinating. If you read Russian, try – to get a taste – Nikolai N. Pantusov’s description of Christian (Nestorian) gravestones and inscriptions in Almalyk (the article begins on p. 161, the relevant section, on p. 172).