It is said that a good book gives you better company than thousand friends and true book lovers live this statement. Besides offering quality entertainment and tons of knowledge, reading a book is a perfect way of knowing any new culture. If you want to know Myanmar as a culture and country, then visiting it is a great idea, but, if you are not that big a fan of travelling, then you can ‘literally visit’ the place by reading one of the best Myanmar books on the culture and traditions of the country. Other than cultural, knowledge, a good book based on Burmese past and present conditions will also acquaint you with the country’s political, economic and social conditions that are responsible for shaping it in the present state.
Best Myanmar Books
If you are also one of the people that like to have ‘virtual’ visit of a place, then we have the perfect collection for you. Following are 5 of the top and best Myanmar books, that will accustom you with this mysterious land. You can buy these books from any recommended bookshop or you can also buy from these online stores in Myanmar.
1. Burmese Days
The book is written by a renowned English and political writer, George Orwell, and is a personal record of his stay in Burma. While the book is not considered as fine as a specimen of Orwell’s later works, but it is essentially an important boom in building his political understanding and making him a better political writer. While in Burma, Orwell observed the faulty and corrupted rule of the British Raj and its role in keeping the country in a constant state of turmoil, the reason why the country is so backward in every regards.
The book is part fictional and states the writer’s narrative account of the British ‘colonizing mission’, exploitation and racial conquest, which was all directed and managed by the impotent regal administration. As mentioned earlier, the novel cannot be considered as premium as his other works, it is definitely a must read if you want to know about the country’s conditions when it was ruled by the British.
2. From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
Pascal Khoo Thwe was born into a lower class tribal minority in Burma’s remote area, being a minority and, most importantly, being a part of one of the most chaotic nations in the world, Thwe has first hand experience of seeing and witnessing the ferocious end of Myanmar’s long held dictatorship. In the hopes of starting a new life, Pascal Khoo Thwe escapes to the UK and, afterwards, wrote is a story that came straight from the remote jungles of Burma.
While in Myanmar, he spent his life as a freedom fighter, fighting against the brutal law and the rule of his country. On reaching the UK, he studied literature from the Cambridge University; his novel is a perfectly inspiring account of survival and the conditions in which Burmese minorities spend their lives. Thwe has come from a little secular part of Myanmar where minority groups of Catholics and some other religions who never heard of the country’s conditions or approaching modernization. Starting from the Burmese secular jungles, being a freedom fighter and then reaching the UK, From the Land of Green Ghosts is no less than a plausible account of a 20th century Myanmar.
3. Freedom from Fear and Other Writings
Aung San Suu Kyi is one of such valorous women who have the charisma and courage to stand for what she believes and staying firmly in the face of challenges. Being the very first prominent Burmese woman to ever stand against the country’s prevalent and violent rule, Aung San Suu Kyi has had her share of challenges and hardships.
From being a parliamentarian prisoner, a 15-year house arrest and a president of the state in the year 2015, she has gone through a lot and is still working hard to make her vision of hopes, prosperity, humanity and peace, a sheer reality. Interestingly, besides the country, its president has also gone through a major democratic changeover. The writings are Aung San Suu Kyi’s firsthand account of her struggles, hopes and beliefs that she fought for.
4. Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Prisoner of Conscience
Another account of Myanmar’s ‘woman of substance and valour’, Justin Wintle has stated a riveting account and introduction of the mind of Aung San Suu Kyi. The book, Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Prisoner of Conscience, presents a perspective and subtle description of Burma’s most prolific nonconformist. Wintle joins the threads of Aung San’s rebellion and fight against the established political monarch for her father’s upbringing, who was an independent hero and was assassinated when Aung San was two years of age.
The book also states about her life in England, her academics at Oxford University and her marriage to the scholar Michael Aris, all of which further intensify her struggles for Burmese democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi played a vital role in Myanmar’s freedom and this book states it in a captivating and penetrating manner.
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5. The Glass Palace
Written by Amitav Ghosh, The Glass Palace, is an intriguing tale of the downfall of the royal monarchy of Burma, Konbaung Dynasty in Mandalay, and the rise of British rule. Moving forward, the book further encircles the account and events of the approaching of the Second World War in the remote and lost jungles of Burma. Ghosh’s book presents the little known incidences of Burmese history and the downfall of the royal rule from a century old narrative of facts.
Besides Burma, the writer has included Burma’s neighboring countries in the book and has portrayed how the conditions and fate of Burma, India, Bengal and Malaysia are interwoven together for nearly the whole of the 20th century. Usually, the type of novels presenting historical accounts is known for their over complicated plot and effect, but it is quite praiseworthy that Amitav Ghosh’s book is far from it. Once you start reading it, you will not be able to stop until the last page.
Literature is considered as an infallible way of acquainting yourself with the actual events of a state or particular era, therefore, if you want to delve into Myanmar’s history then one or all of these books should be on your reading list. You can buy these books from one of the recommended Myanmar book shop as well.
When it comes to the best Myanmar books, which is your favourite? Do let us know in your comments below.