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Travelfish Reading Room: please read this first! Sticky!

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/7/2009 at 07:33

So it seems new branches are growing on the forum like mushrooms in the wet season. The Travelfish Reading Room is a forum for suggestions and asking after good books to read on your travels -- after all there's no better way to kill a few hours at the bus station than with a good book -- especially if it isn't the one that told you the bus was supposed to leave three hours earlier ;-) I've moved across a few of the other book-related threads from other parts of the messageboard, but they' ...

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Book Review: In Transit: An Anthology

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/1/2017 at 20:52

In Transit: An Anthology, is a collection of short stories, essays and poetry using Singapore’s Changi airport as either their focus or launchpad. Zhang Ruihe and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow have edited a collection of snappy and intriguing pieces, from the whimsical, to the heart-wrenching, to the grim. Who knew an airport could be so ripe as a backdrop for stories? Writers in the collection tease out wide-ranging issues relating to identity, nationalism, class and relationships. Through the airpo ...

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Book Review: The Art of Travel

Posted by somtam2000 on 6/12/2016 at 05:41

Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel is a wonderfully wise and reassuring book. Whether you fear being disappointed when you travel, you’re looking for a reason to travel, or, in fact, you’re looking for an excuse to stay home, this little collection of essays should provide the solace you need. By sharing his own experiences on the road — yearning to stay in bed rather than exploring Madrid, arguing with his partner over sharing desserts in Barbados, seeing Provence through the eyes of ...

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Book Review: Black Water

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/11/2016 at 06:15

Black Water by Louise Doughty is a beautiful novel tracing the life of "John Harper", a name chosen by the son of an Indonesian-Dutch couple when he becomes an “operative” for the Amsterdam-based Institute. The novel moves backwards and forwards in time as it traverses the life of Harper following the downfall of Suharto in 1998. Harper was born to his Dutch mother, Anika, in an internment camp in Java, and his father is killed by the Japanese. Anika—who becomes an alcoholic — ...

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Viewed 373 times, with 1 reply. Last reply by violets on 29/11/2016 at 16:06

Book Review: Destination Cambodia: Adventures in the Kingdom

Posted by somtam2000 on 21/11/2016 at 00:33

Walter Mason’s Destination Cambodia: Adventures in the Kingdom is a gentle, intimate look at Cambodia today. Mason eschews writing both the usual political treatise and typical cliched travelogue you might otherwise typically find on the shelves about Cambodia, in favour of the highly personal memoir. He paints a detailed portrait of the kingdom through a series of quietly thoughtful vignettes of his relationships with her people. As in Mason’s earlier Destination Saigon, nothing particular ...

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Book Review: The Coroner's Lunch: A Dr Siri Murder Mystery

Posted by somtam2000 on 14/11/2016 at 01:45

The Coroner’s Lunch is an intelligently fun and readable murder mystery set in Laos. This is the first book we’ve read by prolific author Colin Cotterill, and it won’t be the last. In 1976, the Lao monarchy has just been deposed by the Communists. Dr Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old, Paris-trained doctor has been appointed state coroner by the new government, despite having no experience or interest in the job. While the sassy doctor has settled into the job, using old text books and occasiona ...

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Review: Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table

Posted by somtam2000 on 8/11/2016 at 03:29

Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table is a memoir of avid street-food-diner-turned-blogger Graham Holliday. It’s not a guide to Vietnamese cuisine or where to eat — though the more enthusiastic reader might take some notes and be well rewarded — but rather it’s a bit of a potted history of street food in both Hanoi and Saigon, from when it reappeared during the “doi moi” or economic renovation period of the late 1990s, and into the 2000s. Holliday’s love of eat ...

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Book Review: Many Lives

Posted by somtam2000 on 31/10/2016 at 01:00

The late M.R Kukrit Pramoj was a celebrated statesman, journalist, classical dancer, writer and “one of the most imposing and impressive personalities of modern Thai history”, according to scholar and translator, Meredith Borthwick. One of his most captivating literary works is Lai Chiwit, published in 1954 and later translated by Borthwick under the English title, Many Lives. The inspiration came dramatically. After Pramoj witnessed a bus accident that killed most of the passengers, he con ...

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Book Review: Singapore Noir

Posted by somtam2000 on 24/10/2016 at 20:58

Singapore Noir is a collection of 14 moody, totally enthralling short stories edited by Cheryl Lu-Tien Tan, each set in a recognisable neighbourhood in the titular city-state. If you’re looking to lift the city’s underbelly for a glimpse of what really goes on beyond the headlines of “Caning. Fines. Chewing gum” — as Tan writes in the introduction — these compelling stories are the best spot in modern literature to start. Crisp, colourful, shocking and, well, informative, the storie ...

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Book Review: From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965 to 2000

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/10/2016 at 05:58

If you’re interested in Singapore and want to know more, why not go straight to, pretty much, the source? The late Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore’s first prime minister, and he controversially led the 1965-founded city state for 31 years, shepherding it from the Third World (his description) to First. Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t argue with the fact he was largely responsible for the development of the tiny country that was once just a British colonial trading post to a world ec ...

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Book Review: The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic

Posted by somtam2000 on 10/10/2016 at 04:36

Erudite, colourful and packed with intriguing anecdotes, Jamie James’ Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic is a romp through a bygone era, studying the lives of six artists who left their homelands to pursue creativity elsewhere. While it’s not specifically Southeast Asian focused, a few figures from the region feature: chiefly Walter Spies (1895-1942), the German painter who settled in Bali after a period in Java, and also Raden Saleh (1811-80), a Javanese painter ...

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Book Review: Beauty is a Wound

Posted by somtam2000 on 27/9/2016 at 01:32

Beauty is a Wound, the debut novel by Eka Kurniawan, is a rollicking, colourful, wild ride through Indonesian history, seen mostly from the perspective of Dewi Ayu, the mixed-race granddaughter of Dutch colonialists, and her four daughters to various fathers. In what feels like a quintessentially Indonesian (or at least, Javanese) beginning, the book opens with her mysteriously rising from the dead to return to the world of the living in May 1997, after 21 years in the ground. The narrative lea ...

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Book Review: Finding George Orwell

Posted by somtam2000 on 19/9/2016 at 23:03

Emma Larkin’s Finding George Orwell in Burma is a fascinating account of her year in Burma (Myanmar) tracking down the places George Orwell served his time as a British police officer when the country was ruled from Delhi as part of British India. Orwell spent the five years until 1927 in Burma, first in Mandalay, then a series of location including Myaungmya, Twante, Insein, Mawlamyine and eventually Kathar, the setting of his novel Burmese Days. This is a travel memoir in only the loosest ...

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Book Review: When the War Was Over

Posted by somtam2000 on 12/9/2016 at 03:00

When the War Was Over by Elizabeth Becker is one of the most compelling, unputdown-able books on the modern history of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. Elizabeth Becker was a correspondent for the Washington Post in Cambodia from 1973, but left when the regime swept to power in April 1975. Invited back in 1978 just before the Vietnamese invaded, she was given a tour of the country with two other Westerners, an academic and another American journalist who was killed by a gunman in unexplained circ ...

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Book Review: Dogs at the Perimeter

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/9/2016 at 23:18

Dogs at the Perimeter, by Canadian author Madeleine Thien, traverses the life of Janie, a medical researcher who settled in Canada as a child after fleeing the horror of the Cambodian genocide. Her adult life unspools when her colleague, a Japanese-Canadian neurologist Hiroji Matsui, disappears. Hiroji and Janie had a special connection as Hiroji’s brother James had disappeared in 1975 after working as a doctor in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border and then in Phnom Penh . Jani ...

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Book Review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Posted by somtam2000 on 29/8/2016 at 20:34

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman is a multi-layered, stunning and heartbreaking book about the lives of a Hmong refugee family from Laos in Merced, California. One of their daughters, Lia Lee, suffers from severe epilepsy, and Fadiman covers the terrible struggles the family endures in dealing with her illness in the American medical system of the 1980s. Much of the provision of care was free, but the cultural barriers were enormous. A friend who read this book years ago ...

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Viewed 570 times, with 1 reply. Last reply by savorygal on 30/8/2016 at 19:27

Book Review: Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

Posted by somtam2000 on 23/8/2016 at 00:34

Memoirs of expatriates aren’t our favourite genre when it comes to Southeast Asian reading, but Carol Hollinger’s Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind is the best of its kind to come out of Thailand. A quick and easy read, it nevertheless delves deep into the psyche of a nation that really hasn’t changed all that much since it was written back in the 1960s (the psyche, not the nation). This is an easy introduction to the kingdom that travellers could devour it in a sitting on their flight here (pr ...

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Book Review: The Quiet American

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/8/2016 at 02:40

The Quiet American by Graham Greene is a classic not just about Vietnam — it portrays the nation at a crucial and intriguing juncture in its history — but about American foreign policy, and folly, as well. The multi-layered, sparsely written novel set in the early 1950s remains a searing critique of the US meddling in the internal affairs of a nation and people it knows nothing about. Like Norman Lewis’ travel memoir Dragon Apparent, Greene eschews sentimentalisation, for the most part, a ...

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Book Review: In the Time of Madness

Posted by somtam2000 on 8/8/2016 at 04:33

In the Time of Madness is arguably the most compelling book written about Indonesia in the late 20th century. British correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry brings the roiling turmoil of the era to life with his snappy but sensitive reportage. The action begins in Kalimantan in 1997, where he covers vicious fighting between the indigenous Dayaks and migrant Madurese (yes, decapitated heads feature) that erupted as Suharto's grip on power in Jakarta wavered. Thousands are estimated to have died in ...

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Book Review: Hot Sour Salty Sweet - a culinary journey through southeast asia

Posted by SoManyMiles on 2/8/2016 at 09:18

Hot Sour Salty Sweet combines cookbook with travelogue and when it was published in 2000, it became an instant classic, the definitive introduction to foods of Southeast Asia, the go-to for recipes. Though now somewhat dated and not as flashy or glossy as today's cookbooks, it's withstood the test of time and it is a pleasure to leaf through the pages, be inspired, sigh and drool. It covers the Mekong region - China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. Some recipes are easy-peasy if you can get t ...

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