Cambodia, Featured

Five Must Read Books About Cambodia

If you are heading to Cambodia, it is a good idea to do some reading first. I am not just talking about Lonely Planet books, either.

I have read plenty of books about Cambodia during my five years in the country. Although you can buy some for just a few dollars in the country, I would suggest heading online and ordering real copies before your trip. These five books about Cambodia are, in my opinion, essential reading. If you can’t read them all, at least choose one or two from the list so you can learn all about the ancient and modern history of this fascinating country.

cambodia-booksA Woman of Angkor | John Burgess

This book is set in the 12th Century of Cambodia’s lost Angkor civilization. The imagery is divine, and when I close my eyes I can picture exactly where the main character Sray was doing and where she was. The story spans over a number of years and focuses on a beautiful woman who is called to a life of prominence in the royal court. In telling her tale, Sray travels to may of the places I have visited, and it makes me feel even more connected with the country, in particular, Preah Rup temple in Angkor Archaeological Park. This book about Cambodia has phenomenal details, and is perfect for those interested in the history of the Angkor temples.


book-about-cambodiaFirst, They Killed My Father | Loung Ung

I have read this book four times, and the impact never gets lighter. This true story is written by Loung Ung in the voice of her five-year-old self. It covers her life before the Khmer Rouge assumed power over Cambodia in 1975, her four years under the brutal regime and what happened in the end. Although there are many stories out there from Khmer Rouge survivors, this is one of the best. It has been made into a movie on Netflix that will be released in late 2017.



book-about-cambodiaCambodia’s Curse | Joel Brinkley

This incredibly detailed book was written by the late Joel Brinkley, a talented journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Cambodia on the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. The close-up reporting in this book about Cambodia illuminates the country, its people, and the deep historical roots of its modern-day behaviour. Reading this book gave me such clarity on what is happening in Cambodia and why people behave the way they do. Although it is a heavy book, it really is worth reading, especially if you are moving to Cambodia.


angkor-book-about-cambodiaThe Kings of Angkor | Mary Moriarty

I originally bought this book in the Kindle store for $1.29. After reading it in just three days, I couldn’t wait to get my hand on a paper copy, which I ordered as soon as I moved back to Australia. This book thrusts an archeologist between ancient and modern Cambodia, giving you an insight into both worlds. The archaeologist, Anna, must deal with evil and corrupt forces who threaten her life, whilst also battling her feelings for a man she isn’t supposed to love. The book ends with a cliffhanger, however despite tweeting the author about when the sequel will be released, it doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.


book-about-khmer-rouge-cambodiaWhen Clouds Fell From the Sky | Robert Carmichael

When I read a heavy book, I always have nightmares about it that won’t stop until the book is finished. That is why it only took me four nights to read this book about Cambodia’s recent history. When Clouds Fell From the Sky recounts the lives of five key people to tell the story of five decades of Cambodia’s history. It covers the 1960s – before the Khmer Rouge were powerful, to the 1970-75 civil war, to the Khmer Rouge’s disastrous 1975-79. It then moves to the 2000s to examine the  Khmer Rouge tribunal, which has been said to be a failure in seeking justice for the two million people who lost their lives.

Disclaimer: This book will undoubtedly make you cry.

Do you think any other books about Cambodia should be on this list? Tweet me and let me know!