Cambodia is a profound and mysterious country, attracting a variety of artists and creative people. Many writers chose the kingdom to live and write, influenced by the troplical weather, the different culture and the colorful inspirations of this Southeast Asian country.
This is an article with some suggestions of books about Cambodia in order for you too dive into some readings on the kingdom, learn more of its culture and history, or simply enjoy interesting fiction or poetry.
An interesting non-fiction book is ‘Off the rails in Phnom Penh’, by Amit Gilboa. This journalist lived in the Cambodian capital at the end of nineties, describing both the bohemian life of the expats and the political turmoil of the era. For instance a revolution organized by the present prime-minister to depose the second prime-minister (in a time that the goverment had two, the other one being one of the sons of the previous king).
Another book describing the political situation of that time is ”Hun Sen’s Cambodia by Sebastian Strangio, focusing on the autocratic role of the prime-minister.
The pulitzer prize winner Joel Brinkley wrote ‘Cambodia’s Curse‘ on the hangover of the Khmer Rouge regime and the transition to a goverment managed by the United Nations, with all the troubles and challenges, corruption and waste of resources that the situation brought.
For the ones interested in history, a very complete book is ‘History of Cambodia‘ by David Chandler, from the Angkor period to recent time.
Another important book is ‘When the war was over’ by Elizabeth Warren: a crucial testimony since the author was one of the few western journalists visiting Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime.
A beautiful memoir and one of the most famous publications on the period, ‘First they kill my father‘ by Loung Ung was recently adapted to a movie by Angelina Jolie. It’s a first person report of the time during the Khmer Rouge, with a young girl living in the labour camps and telling all about what she had to went throught and everything her family had to overcome.
Of a similar thematic is ‘When broken glass floats grows‘ by Chanrithy Him: a story of a survivor child from the Khmer Rouge and essential to understand the recent past of Cambodia.
For the ones into poetry, some of the poets living in the kingdom and regularly publishing books are Scott Bywater and Nathan Thompson. Bywater, for instance, writes a lot about expat life in Phnom Penh, such as in his book ‘Voluntary exile‘. You can also have a look here on the promo video of his last book, ‘Pepper and silk, honey and lime‘.
On a different note, ‘River of time‘ by John Swain, is a homage to the Mekong and a passionate portrait of Cambodia and Vietnam, focusing on the time when the author lived here during the seventies. This journalist got famous thanks to the hollywood movie ‘The Killing Fields’, about his struggle in Phnom Penh during that time.
Also about crime novel, ‘Temple of the leper king‘ is a story of a retired police man living in Cambodia, taking inspiration from the life of its author, Bob Couttie, living in Kampot.
Some other options of fiction are ‘A clash of innocents‘ by Sue Guiney, about an expat woman runnning an orphanage, and ‘The disappeared‘ by Kim Echlin, a love story between a Canadian woman and a Cambodian man.
Hope we gave you some ideas for your reading list inspired by Cambodia – lot of fiction, non-fiction and poetry based here! Enjoy your reading time, and take advantage of peaceful places like the islands or Kampot to sit down on a hammock and dive into a book!