Books to Read Before Visiting Cambodia

A Woman of Angkor by John Burgess

This book, set in the 12thcentury, focuses on a Cambodian woman named Sray. Sray is a stunning woman who is reluctantly called to a life of prominence in the royal court. Featuring the construction of Angkor Wat and the sordid details of Cambodia’s history, A Woman of Angkor is perfect for readers who love learning about history.

First, They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

Despite reading this book four times to date, the impact never gets lighter. This true story is written by Loung Ung, a Khmer Rouge survivor, in the voice of her five-year-old self. It covers her life before the Khmer Rouge assumed power over Cambodia in 1975 and her four years under the brutal regime. Although there are many biographies written by survivors of the Khmer Rouge, this one is the best.

Cambodia’s Curse by Joel Brinkley 

This detailed book was written by the late Joel Brinkley, a talented journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Cambodia on the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. The close-up reporting in this book illuminates the country, its people and the deep historical roots of its modern-day behaviour. Reading this book gave me such clarity on what is happening in Cambodia and why people behave the way they do. 

When Clouds Fell from the Sky by Robert Carmichael     

‘When Clouds Fell from the Sky’ recounts the lives of five key people over five decades of Cambodia’s history. It covers the 1960’s (before the Khmer Rouge gained power), the 1970-1975 civil war, and the stronghold of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 – 1979. It then moves to the 2000’s to examine the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which has been said to have failed in seeking justice for the two million people who lost their lives.

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