5 Best Books About Cambodia

My latest book is about Cambodia, and I have an abiding interest in this amazing place. And this is not just a recent interest. I have tried to read most of the new books about Cambodia since my first visit there in 1996, and so have managed to cover quite a lot of literary space in that time.
As more and more Australians visit Cambodia, there is a growing interest in Cambodian history and culture. I was most privileged to have a prominent Australian publisher ask me to recommend my favourite books on Cambodia, as he was going there soon on a holiday and wanted to learn more.
So I thought I'd share my list with you, in case you were planning your own trip, or simply wanted to know more about one of the world's most beautiful places:

5 Best Books About Cambodia

1. Cambodia's Curse by Joel Brinkley - This one is a terrific read, and he does know Cambodia well, but it is not without controversy. Many people in Cambodia dislike the book, and Brinkley's recent pronouncements about Vietnam are, I feel, completely wrong. That said, this is still a very interesting book and taught me a lot about Cambodia.  

2. The Gate by Francois Bizot - An absolutely amazing book, you couldn't read a better account of the fall of Phnom Penh and the early days of the Pol Pot era. Bizot is a French academic (a world expert in Cambodian Buddhism) and was trapped in Phnom Penh when Pol Pot entered - his survival is a miracle. I can't overstate what an incredible book this is.

3. To Cambodia With Love by Andy Brouwer - Just came out this year, it's quite a lovely little book. Collections of observations and stories about different places/experiences in Cambodia written by various people. Unique and well worth reading. The editor, Andy Bouwer, is a long-term Cambodia resident and a real expert in Cambodian culture, so you can trust his editorial eye.


4. Phnom Penh: A Cultural History by Milton Osborne - Osborne is an Australian and one of the world's leading experts on Cambodia. Quaintly old-fashioned, Osborne has known Cambodia sine the 1960s.

Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice by Ian Harris - It's quite readable and utterly fascinating. Points out how unique Cambodian Theravada Buddhism is, and how different from the Thai forms most Westerners would be familiar with.

Plus two extras:

- The Gods Drink Whiskey by Stephen T. Asma - Not just about Cambodia, this travel book is still filled with excellent information about Cambodia, and is a great read to boot.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung - There are any number of books about the despair of the Pol Pot times. I have read dozens of them, but this is by far the best.

If you'd like to know more about what inspires me why not check out my Tumblr page at http://waltermason.tumblr.com/


Andy Brouwer said...

Look forward to hearing more about your book on Cambodia. Please keep me in the loop.
Andy Brouwer

Walter said...

Oh Andy - how lovely to hear from you! Congratulations on your lovely book.

kel bookbird said...

Fantastic reading list. So excited to read your new work, Walter!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this list. Planning a trip to Cambodia and googled 'best books on Cambodia' and got your list. Have ordered most! Cheers. Francesca

khmerbird said...

I made another list about fiction books that might give imaginations to the readers before they visit Cambodia for the first time.

If someone is interested in reading more books about Cambodia, check out my article: http://www.khmerbird.com/book/books-about-cambodia.html

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