Recommended Reading:

13

Mar
2020

Recommended Reading:

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Compared to neighbouring Thailand, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, there is a paucity of good reading on Laos. Better titles are difficult to find and are often best sourced from Asia Books, Kinokuniya or Bookazine bookstores in Bangkok.

Guide Books

  • ‘The Rough Guide to Laos’ – This guidebook provides detail and (generally) accuracy where others are lacking. Great maps, and the best of the English language guidebooks on the land of a million elephants.
  • Inside Guide to Laos and Cambodia by Inside Guides.

Travelogues

  • A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis – A wonderful book by the doyen of English travel writing, perceptive, and full of detail based on the author’s travels in Indochina in 1950.
  • Ant Egg Soup, by Natacha Du Pont De Bie – Best-seller in the United Kingdom, this travelogue is focused around the author’s quest for authentic Lao food, and includes recipes collected during her travels. A light, very enjoyable read.
  • One Foot in Laos, by Dervla Murphy – Easy to read account of an intrepid Irish travel writer’s cycling discoveries of Laos, with a focus on the wonderful encounters she has with local people.

Lao Culture and Politics

  • Culture Shock: Laos(Times Books International), by Stephen Mansfield – useful insights into the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Lao culture. Easy to read and very interesting.
  • Laos: Politics, Economics and Society by Martin Stuart-Fox.

The war years (including the ‘secret war’)

  • Shooting at the Moon, by Roger Warner – lucid, moving, and fascinating account of the CIA’s role in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s, of events leading up to American carpet bombing of the Plain of Jars, and of the ultimately futile and tragic role played by the Hmong in the Indochina arena.
  • The Ravens (Asia Books) by Christopher Robbins – A thriller read about America’s ‘secret war’, the daring pilots who fought it, and the tragic fate of the Hmong people who sided with the CIA.
  • Air America: The story of the CIA’s Secret Airlines’ (Asia Books), by Christopher Robbins. Appeals to those with a specific interest in aviation, however some fine recounts of the role of the Air America airline in Laos’s secret war.

Lao history

  • A History of Laos by Martin Stuart Fox.
  • A Short History of Laos, by Grant Evans. Concise yet very useful history of the ‘land of a million elephants’. Interesting discussion on reform attempts of the past decade, and the future of this under-populated country surrounded by growing giants, Thailand, China, and Vietnam.
  • A Brief History of Southeast Asia, by Mekong Osborne – Provides very good context to the empires of Angkor, Lane Xang, Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, by also referring to highly influential empires in Indonesia and the role the Arabs, Europeans, and Japanese.
  • Mekong, by Milton Osborne – A book with a focus on history which entertains as if a novel of fiction. This is a great read about a great river and the French explorers who tried to navigate it from Saigon to China in an effort to create a trade conduit through Indochina.

General

  • Stalking the Elephant Kings, by Christopher Kremmer – The first edition of this light read recounts the author’s intrepid investigation into the fate of the last King in Laos, his wife, and son. ‘Bamboo Palace’ by the same author has just been published, shedding new light on the mystery of the Royal family disappearance.
  • Bamboo Palace, by Christopher Kremmer – somewhat overlaps with Kremmer’s ‘Stalking the Elephant Kings’, however an excellent and interesting read which includes new material on the fate of the last king and queen of Laos.