Must read books before visiting Cambodia
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
Written from a perspective of a child, First They Killed My Father is a memoir by a Cambodian childhood survivor of the brutal Pol Pot’s regime. When in 1975 Khmer Rouge seized control of the country, a five year old Loung and her family were forced to flee Phnom Penh, move from one village to another and eventually separate in order to survive.
Hun Sen’s Cambodia by Sebastian Strangio
Sebastian Strangio, an Australian journalist who has lived in Phnom Penh since 2008 gives a comprehensive overview of the past two decades in the country’s history. Unlike most of the literature about Cambodia, Hun Sen’s Cambodia focuses on the post Khmer Rouge regime era, in particular it’s prime minister Hun Sen, first appointed in 1985.
The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong by Edward Gargan
A 2003 memoir from a 300 mile journey down the Mekong River, from it’s source in Himalayas to mouth in the Mekong Delta through Tibet, China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Blending history and personal experiences Edward Gargan offers a very insightful view into the culture politics and geography of the region.
A history of Cambodia by David P. Chandler
A comprehensive and informative overview of Cambodian history from it’s beginnings, Angkor empire, French colonialism, independence, Khmer Rouge regime and through to present day.
Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing S. Ngor and Roger Warner
A gripping memoir of Haing Ngor, a Cambodian gynaecologist, actor and survivor of the communist Khmer Rouge regime responsible for killing one quarter of the nation’s population. Ngor became famous for his award winning role of a Cambodian journalist and translator Dith Pran in 1984 drama The Killing Fields.
The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
A novel inspired by real events. It tells a story of a young family struggling to make a living by picking through garbage in Cambodia’s largest waste dump Stung Meanchey. Facing eviction and worried about her son’s worsening health, Sang Ly sets out on a journey for a better life.
The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
A romantic novel set during and post Khmer Rouge regime in 1970’s. The book follows the lives of Anne and Serey. Anne was only 16 when she met and fell in love with Cambodian musician exile in Montreal. One day Serey decides to return to Cambodia in search for his family. Ten years later, Anne travels to Cambodia to find him.