Myanmar people love to read. The illiteracy rate being as low as an estimated 9%, most readers can´t get as many books as they would like to read. Many copies are passed around, exchanged for another, bought and sold until their pages are held together by the passion of its readers only.
Outside the country, we have the privilege to choose our reading material freely and order online. Please keep this in mind and hold the following books about Myanmar or by Myanmar authors in esteem while you are reading them (and bring good English language books with you next time you travel to Myanmar). Most books are available in various editions.
– “Burmese Days”, 1934
The classic, well worth a read to feel the colonial atmosphere of former British times. You can literally hear the mosquitoes and suffer from the heat with the characters in the story.
– “The Piano Tuner”, 2002
Another favourite story of former times, a bit of Joseph Conrad´s “Heart of Darkness” in Myanmar style
– “The Glass Palace”, 2000
This is the story of the expulsion of the last king of Myanmar by the British, King Thibaw. He was forced to spend the rest of his life in India.
– “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats”, 2012
This is a novel that is lovely to read even when you do not intend to travel to Myanmar. The American daughter of a Mynamar man who mysteriously disappeared one day, tries to retrace her father´s life in his home country.
– “The Road to Wanting”, 2010
– “The Tiger’s Footprints: My father, his newspaper and a lost Burma“, to be published 2013
– ” The Coffin Tree: A Novel“, 2003
– ” Irrawaddy Tango”, 2003
The author of these books could only spend part of her life in Myanmar before she tried to flee, was captured, spent time in jail before being “freed” into the life of an exile in the USA. Wendy Law-Yone nows lives in the UK. Her books speak of the hard life under the military regime, the female protagonists of the stories each trying to accept life that the author develops for them. The stories are often gruesome, very direct, nothing is spared when it comes to the human condition. Great literature.
– “The Gentleman in the Parlour”, 1935
Somerset Maugham describes a journey he took from Rangoon to Haipong. Whether by river to Mandalay, on horse through the mountains and forests of the Shan States to Bangkok, he travels in his very own literary style.
– “Siamese White”, 1931
Maurice Collis was born in 1889. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was posted to Burma, rising to the position of district magistrate in Rangoon in 1929, where the independence of his judgments displeased his superiors who moved him to the position of Excise Commissioner. His career has certainly helped him write this book about Samuel White of Bath who, during the reign of James II, was appointed by the King of Siam as a mandarin of that country. James White reigned over Mergui and Tenasserim in the 17th century and over the seas beyond towards Madras. The book superbly embodies that old adage – truth is stranger than fiction.
– “The River of Lost Footsteps”, 2008
– “Where China meets India – Burma and the new crossroads of Asia”, 2011
Thant Myint-U is an Oxford educated historian who communicates the history of Myanmar in a way that you cannot put down his books once you have started reading. The first book is about earlier history, the second dissects the implications of Myanmar´s geopolitical situation and puts it into the perspective of today´s politics, all the while providing the framework of historical events and national characteristics. A must.
– “Finding George Orwell in Burma”, 2011
– “Everything is Broken: Life Inside Burma”, 2011
– “No Bad News for the King: The True Story of Cyclone Nargis and Its Aftermath in Burma”, 2011
The author has been traveling extensively through all corners of the country. The first book follows the various postings of George Orwell while he was stationed in Myanmar, trying to find traces and hints about the life then and now in these locations. The other books explain the human and political circumstances after hurricane Nargis hit the country. Emma Larkin was able to speak with many Myanmar people. She provides an insight into the culture and mindset that is available nowhere else.
– “Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy: One Woman’s Mid-Life Travel Adventures on Myanmar’s Great River”, 2010
– “Illusions of Life: Burmese Marionettes“, 2003
– “Myanmar Architecture: Cities of Gold“, 2006
– “The Native Tourist: A Holiday Pilgrimage in Myanmar”, 2005
– “A Man Like Him: Portrait of the Burmese Journalist, Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung “, 2009
Ma Thanegi is an author living in Myanmar, writing poetically about her country. You can find articles written by her on airline magazines, her style makes you want to see more of Myanmar.
– “Twilight Over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess”, 1995
An Austrian lady married a Myanmar fellow student at a college in the USA, not knowing that he is of royal Shan blood. She only finds out when she travels with him to his home country where she was greeted as a princess. The changes in power took their toll on their lives… A true story