8 Best Books On Southeast Asia You Should Read

8 Best Books On Southeast Asia You Should Read

As we know, Southeast Asia’s countries has their own history through centuries. War, torment, colonialization, nation building, and many stories has been a part of each countries’ journey. In the 21st century, the countries has recovering from their pasts and are instead known by nicknames such as Cambodia’s The Land of Smile, Philippines The Pearl of The Orient Seas and many more.

Knowing the history of Southeast Asia countries can be found by reading books, if you can’t get there to see if for yourself. These selected eight books covering the stories of it, include a mix of new release and some older titles that have become classics of their genre. Through this book you can discover the beautiful beaches, incredible mountains, welcoming people, super-moderns cities, and ancient temples are combined the fascinating area of Southeast Asia.


1. First They Killed My Father

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

This is a story of Loung Ung, a Cambodian who was forced to leave the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to become a child soldier at the age of five years old when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army captured the city. She describes the sight and smell of rotting corpses and being forced to eat whatever scraps they could get their hands on, and the terror and loss suffered by so many. It’s a story of survival that will grip you and not let go, even after you’ve turned the final page.


2. Smaller and Smaller Circles

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First published in 2002 and released as a film last year, this book is considered as the first Filipino crime novel. Written by FH Batagan, this engrossing fast-paced tale sets in Payatas, a vast 50-acre dump north-east of the capital city Manila. Communities scavenge to survive, and there’s little police protection. When disembowelled bodies of young boys begin to appear among the rubbish, two Catholic priests take up the cause to attempt to bring justice to this corrupt and poor neighbourhood. The cleverly written book won the Philippine National Book Award when it was first published.


3. Evening is The Whole Day

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

This is the first novel of Preeta Samarasan, immerses the reader in 1980s Malaysia.  Using flashbacks, the narrative delves into the Rajasekrharan family’s secrets – the mysterious dismissal of the family’s servant girl and the death of Aasha’s grandmother who died shortly before the start of the novel.  As the years leading up to the suspicious events unravel, each character is pulled apart and relationships between parents and children, and employers and employees, rich and poor are laid bare. 


4. Indonesia, Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation

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Elizabeth Pisani’s compelling and humorous travelogue uncovers what the “etc” in Indonesia’s declaration of independence really meant. Covering a year-long journey and almost 26,000 miles via boat, bus and bike, Pisani finds 80 million people still without electricity and a country which has not shaken its cloak of corruption. The little matter of “etc” still looms as the country struggles to find its independent identity. This book gives the reader a clear window into Indonesian society and politics.


5. The Things They Carried

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

The third novel of Tim O’brien is based on his own experience of the Vietnam War and the men in his own troop, Alpha Company, 23 infantry division. Brought together by interlinking short stories, the novel does much more than just picturing the brutalities of the war. It explain how the war affected the soldiers’ life, the terrible loss of their fellow men, and the lasting physical and emotional impact they had been fighting day by day.


6. The Sympathizer

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

A debut novel of Viet Thanh Nguyen, an American-Vietnam professor won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016. This thriller novel draws on about immigration, war, and politics, exploring the idea of a dual identity of a communist double agent who ever known as the captain. Struggles with a sense of double identity from a young age, his character gives a voice to Vietnam War from a non- American perspective.


7. Catfish and Mandala

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Andrew Pham sold his life possessions and embarked on the journey of a lifetime – a solo year-long bike trip around the Pacific Rim around the US, through Japan and ending in his native Vietnam. After settling in California at the age of 10, he was foreigner. But as a hybrid, he faces racial discrimination in Vietnam too, where he is instantly labelled an outsider by the immigration officer who calls him “viet-kieru” – foreign Vietnamese. His soul-searching return powers him through his family history – seen through his childhood eyes – from the fall of Saigon to his father’s imprisonment by the Viet Cong. 


8. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

This anti-colonial rule novel is Malaysian-born Dinah Jefferies’ third book. It tells the story of Nicole, a young half-French and half-Vietnamese woman in 1947’s Indo-China, who has spent her life living in the shadows of her elder sister. After meeting a young rebel, she is opened up to the corruption of colonial rule and leaves her family behind her, only to find she’s made a mistake. Jefferies portrays the time period beautifully through evocative descriptions and creates a strong heroine readers can relate to. 

Source : 

Thomas Benmetan

A Fulltime life-learner who lost himself into book, poem, Adventure, travelling, hiking, and social working. Graduated from Faculty of Communication Science, Petra Christian University. Currently More pursuing his career as a writer and traveller. Less
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