Reading Southeast Asia (updated)


Ah the real fun of themed reading is coming up with the lists!

As I had mentioned, my goal for this month is to concentrate on reading books set in Southeast Asia, especially the countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Unfortunately my list is limited to books available in my library.

Of course I realize that I won’t actually finish reading the books on the list, but a girl can dream. And try.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

In the shadow of the banyan – Vaddey Ratner
The king’s last song, or, Kraing meas – Geoff Ryman
When broken glass floats : growing up under the Khmer Rouge : a memoir – Chanrithy Him

All that is gone – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
The Mute’s soliloquy : a memoir – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
The Buru Quartet (This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps, and House of Glass) – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Map of the invisible world : a novel – Tash Aw


The Coroner’s Lunch – Colin Cotterill

Evening is the whole day – Preeta Samarasan
The Harmony Silk Factory – Tash Aw
Rice Mother – Rani Manika
The Gift of Rain – Tan Twan Eng
The Garden of Evening Mist – Tan Twan Eng

The river of lost footsteps : histories of Burma – Thant Myint-U
The lizard cage – Karen Connelly
Finding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin.
Everything is broken : a tale of catastrophe in Burma – Emma Larkin
From the land of green ghosts : a Burmese odyssey – Pascal Khoo Thwe
Burma chronicles – Guy Delisle

Ginseng and other tales from Manila – Marianne Villanueva
Mayor of the roses : stories – Marianne Villanueva
The Tessarect – Alex Garland
The solemn lantern maker : a novel – Merlinda Bobis

Tanamera – Noel Barber
The Singapore Grip – J.G. Farrell
The thorn of Lion City : a memoir – Lucy Lum
Breaking the tongue : a novel – Vyvyane Loh
A different sky – Meira Chand
Shadow Theatre – Fiona Cheong
Foreign bodies – Hwee Hwee Tan
The bondmaid – Catherine Lim

Fieldwork – Mischa Berlinski
Bangkok 8 – John Burdett

Le colonial : a novel – Kien Nguyen
The tapestries : a novel – Kien Nguyen
The lotus eaters – Tatjana Soli
A dragon’s tale – Long Lee
Headmaster’s Wager – Vincent Lam

The unwanted : a memoir – Kien Nguyen
Catfish and Mandala – Andrew X. Pham

Southeast Asia in general (often multiple countries)
The reeducation of Cherry Truong – Aimee Phan
The Inspector Singh Investigates series: (A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder; A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul; The Singapore School of Villainy; A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree) – Shamini Flint
The unyielding clamor of the night – Neil Bissoondath


  1. This is one of my favourite list as you may know why.
    I plan to read Evening is the whole day – Preeta Samarasan this month just because I make it a point to read a Malaysian author by the National Independence day in 31 August. May I suggest Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng’s The Gift of Rain and this year’s The Garden of Mist, both longlisted for Man Booker Prize.

    I have read the following:
    – Both of Tash Aw’s. Started off strong and promising, always finished off weakly.
    – absolutely love Fieldwork by Micha Berlinski

    I would like to read the Inspector Singh’s series and also I have read one book from a detective series of Dr. Siri Paiboun called The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill. Set in Laos, the series have 8 books, and he also wrote 2 books in detective series of Dr. Jimm Juree set in Thailand.

    Enjoy, you are in for a treat!


    1. Yay for SEAsia reading!
      And OH THANK YOU for reminding me about Tan Twan Eng. I just could not recall his name!
      A few years ago my family was in Penang and we toured the Blue Mansion, and one of the other travellers in this guided tour mentioned Tan Twan Eng and of course I mentally filed that away, just filed it way too deep…!

      Also the Laos detective series sounds interesting! Thanks for the recommendation!


      1. Vincent Lam (who won the Scotia Giller Prize for his short stories) came up with his first debut novel “The Headmaster’s Wager” 2 months ago. It is set in Vietnam. did you heard of Rani Manika? she published Rice Mother and Japanese lover. The first is set in Malaysia as well. More recommendation, more reason to smile..! 🙂


      2. Ooh definitely… keep them coming!
        I’ve not heard of Rani Manika, but did read Lam’s Bloodletting a while ago. Looks like I might have to hit the inter-library loans for that one.


  2. I have read only one book (Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles off this list, but I did enjoy it very, very much. Southeast Asia (Asia in general) is definitely under-represented in my reading. I’ll really look forward to your reviews this month and getting some ideas to broaden my own reading!


    1. Thanks for that link!
      I think I’m going to have to create a whole new page on my blog for a permanent list of Southeast Asian reads.
      And yes, let’s talk more about something for 2013, focused on August perhaps?


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