Short Book Review: A History of Cambodia by David P. Chandler

A History of Cambodia by David P. ChandlerSBR: My luck with reading histories continued as I started reading A History of Cambodia by David P. Chandler. Like A Brief History of France by Cecil Jenkins that I read earlier, this book about Cambodia was just suitable for my purpose. The purpose was to get an overall introduction to the history of the country in a readable language and within a reasonable length of the text. I should have read it before our Cambodia trip a year and a half ago. But we acquired this book only in Cambodia and after returning back, it kept getting pushed down the to-read pile. But it resurfaced finally, and I am glad it did. Like other books of this type, this also devotes a large amount of space to modern history. But in Cambodia’s case, I am not complaining, because it is a history that is still playing out and it helped put a lot of what we saw there in context.
To read or not to read: Yes – as a good starting point for or as a quick overview of Cambodian history.

Short Book Review: Watching Cambodia: Ten Paths to Enter the Cambodian Tangle by Serge Thion

SBR: This book was picked up, not surprisingly, during our trip to Cambodia last year and I read it soon after coming back. Don’t be fooled by the tourist friendly cleanliness and maintenance of Angkor Wat, modern Cambodia is a mess and how it became so is a sad and pathetic, almost unbelievable, story. If all you know about Cambodian politics is that Khmer Rouge were the bad guys, then you need to read more. This book, a collection of ten articles written over time, is a good way to get a peek into the how it came to be, what factors were at play, and how utterly incompetent everyone has been in fixing things. But it does need a basic understanding of the modern history of Indo-china and some of the pieces are very academic in nature because of which I had to give up on a couple of them.

To read or not to read: Not for the beginners. If you know something about the tumultuous modern History of Cambodia and are in a mood to go deeper, then you can pick up this book.