1. Introduction to Cambodian art

Cambodia is a profound and mysterious country, attracting a variety of artists and creative people. Many of these writers chose the kingdom to live here and write. The tropical weather, exotic culture and colourful inspirations of Cambodia work as a boon. This article suggests some books and readings related to Cambodian culture.

2. Non fiction and political books

An interesting non-fiction book is ‘Off the rails in Phnom Penh’, by Amit Gilboa. Living in Phnom Penh he describes the Bohemian life of the expats as well as the political turmoil. Another book describing the political situation of the time is ”Hun Sen’s Cambodia by Sebastian Strangio, focusing on the autocratic role of the prime-minister.

3. Award winning books

Pulitzer prize winner Joel Brinkley wrote ‘Cambodia’s Curse‘ describing the aftermath of Khmer Rouge regime. Especially 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. Significantly crucial testimony by one of the few western journalists visiting Cambodia during Khmer Rouge regime.

Cambodian books

4. First they killed my father

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. It talks about what she had to go through and everything her family had to overcome.

Of a similar thematic is ‘When broken glass floats grows‘ by Chanrithy Him. In essence it’s a story of a survivor child from the Khmer Rouge and essential to understand the recent past of Cambodia.

5. Poetry

For the ones into poetry, Scott Bywater and Nathan Thompson are regular publishers. Bywater, for instance, writes a lot about expat life in Phnom Penh, such as in his book ‘Voluntary exile‘. You can also check the promo video of his last book, ‘Pepper and silk, honey and lime‘.

Cambodian books
On a different note, ‘River of time‘ by John Swain, is a homage to the Mekong and a passionate portrait of Cambodia and Vietnam. It focusses 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.

6. Contemporary and crime

Another writer living in Phnom Penh, but in a contemporary setting, is Steven Palmer, who writes crime and suspense novels taking place in the kingdom, such as ‘Angkot Tears‘ or ‘Angkor Away‘.

Also about crime novel, ‘Temple of the leper king‘ is a story of a retired police man living in Cambodia. It takes 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
  • The disappeared‘ by Kim Echlin, a love story between a Canadian woman and a Cambodian man.

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Cambodian books

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!