Do you love to read?
Do you love Southeast Asia?
Grab your coffee or tea and find a comfortable chair, because we have collected 10 books which capture the history, beauty, and stories of Southeast Asia.
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung
One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.
Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.
Finding George Orwell in Burma, by Emma Larkin
In one of the most intrepid political travelogues in recent memory, Emma Larkin tells of the year she spent traveling through Burma using the life and work of George Orwell as her compass. Going from Mandalay and Rangoon to poor delta backwaters and up to the old hill-station towns in the mountains of Burma’s far north, Larkin visits the places where Orwell worked and lived, and the places his books live still. She brings to vivid life a country and a people cut off from the rest of the world, and from one another, by the ruling military junta and its vast network of spies and informers. Using Orwell enables her to show, effortlessly, the weight of the colonial experience on Burma today, the ghosts of which are invisible and everywhere.
Letters from Burma, by Aung San Suu Kyi
Letters from Burma – an unforgettable collection from the Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi In these astonishing letters, Aung San Suu Kyi reaches out beyond Burma’s borders to paint for her readers a vivid and poignant picture of her native land. Here she celebrates the courageous army officers, academics, actors and everyday people who have supported the National League for Democracy, often at great risk to their own lives. Aung San Suu Kyi is now the leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest in Rangoon in 1989, where she remained for almost 15 of the 21 years until her release in 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners. She reveals the impact of political decisions on the people of Burma, from the terrible cost to the children of imprisoned dissidents – allowed to see their parents for only fifteen minutes every fortnight – to the effect of inflation on the national diet and of state repression on traditions of hospitality. She also evokes the beauty of the country’s seasons and scenery, customs and festivities that remain so close to her heart. Through these remarkable letters, the reader catches a glimpse of exactly what is at stake as Suu Kyi fights on for freedom in Burma, and of the love for her homeland that sustains her non-violent battle.
The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma, by Thant Myint-U
What do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma’s past tell us about its present and even its future? For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma―through sanctions and tourist boycotts―only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship.
Now Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, and the story of his own family, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Through his prominent family’s stories and those of others, he portrays Burma’s rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through a sixty-year civil war that continues today―the longest-running war anywhere in the world.
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, by Simon Winchester
Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island’s destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all — in view of today’s new political climate — the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.
Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery, by William Warren
Burmese Days, by George Orwell
Orwell draws on his years of experience in India to tell this story of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen living in a settlement in Burma congregate in the European Club, drink whiskey, and argue over an impending order to admit a token Asian.
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.”
So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear. Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay’s hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.
As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city’s poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas—this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.
The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society. “This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you’ve never heard it before” (John Burdett, Bangkok 8).
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.
The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh
Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her. The struggles that have made Burma, India, and Malaya the places they are today are illuminated in this wonderful novel by the writer Chitra Divakaruni calls “a master storyteller.”