Books about Cambodia

It turned out to be relatively difficult to buy or order specific books in Cambodia. Book shop and library is mostly understood synonym and people frequently send me to the Central Market. This is a cool place and I hope I can provide pictures soon. Thhere is a reasonable number of book stores but they offer pretty much the same. They seem to be specialized on backpackers and the most frequent exhibit is in fact the Lonely Planet. There are a number of popular books that are apparently cheaply reprinted and are for sale at 2-3 bucks.

Several people indicated that David Chandlers ‘A History of Cambodia’ would be a good thing to read. I bought a cheap copy on the Central Market for about 2 bucks.

Other, different people told me to urgently read Amit Gilboa’s ‘Off the Rails in Phnom Penh. Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja’. The later seems to be the most popular book behind the Lonely Planet. I purchased it and found it to be very well written and insightful on occasion. I presents the Phnom Penh as a “city of beauty and degradation, tranquility and violence, and tradition and transformation; a city of temples and brothels, music and gunfire, and festivals and coups. But for many, it’s simply an anarchic celebration of insanity and indulgence. Whether it’s the 2$ wooden-shack brothels, the ganja-pizza restaurants, the AK-47 fireworks displays, or the intricate brutality of Cambodian politics, Phnom Penh never ceases to amaze and amuse.”

However, it does not reflect the Phnom Penh that I live. Things seem to have changed rapidly over the last few years. I found many insights in this book funny without mercy and think I will quote it once in a while here.

One of them is in line with my observation about Pagodas, however rather blunt: “There is an overwhelming rawness that confronts the visitor: the trash in the streets, the little children running around naked, the dust, the unpaved roads, and the shacks. And amongst all of this one regularly chances upon a beautiful wat (Buddhist temple) rising up into the sky. While stunning in its own right, the sight is even more amazing in the middle of all the shit that surrounds it.”

One thought on “Books about Cambodia”

Leave a Reply