Reading

Reading: Books on the Mergui Archipelago and the Moken People

There are some great books on Myanmar and on the region we are sailing in. Below is a short list of reading recommendations for books on the Mergui Archipelago and its indigenous Moken people. You will also find most of the books on this list in our small board library. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our library.

For our complete list of reading recommendations, please  have a look here 

 

“A Journey Through the Mergui Archipelago”, by Jacques Ivanoff and Thierry Lejard, 2002

Jacques Ivanoff is the foremost anthropologist expert on the Moken sea nomads and the Mergui Archipelago. Right after the region was first opened to foreign visitors in the late 90s, Ivanoff set off on the first of his many expeditions and established a scientific project to promote the local heritage and culture. This book is the result of many years of fieldwork and research and allows the reader to learn about the archipelago’s history and its inhabitants’ culture and way of life.

“Rings of Coral: Moken Folktales”, Jacques Ivanoff, 2002

This is the first compilation of the oral literature of the Moken, the sea nomads of the Mergui Archipelago. The 44 stories presented here were revealed to Jacques Ivanoff by the Moken themselves. In this book, he retells and analyses stories dealing with the Moken's historical roots, the creation of Moken society and its flourishing. These folk tales, myths and spirit songs are essential to understanding Moken society and its survival until now, in its ecological and cultural niche.

"The Sea Gypsies of Malaya; an Account of the Nomadic Mawken People of the Mergui Archipelago With a Description of Their Ways of Living, Customs, Habits, Boats, Occupations, Etc.", by Walter Grainge White, 1922

This is a reprint of the anthropological monograph written by the author in the early part of the 20th century while making a census of the Moken. White did his research at a time when this people were first beginning to adapt to change, making a plea for them to "develop on their own lines." His survey of the lives of the Moken was extensive and included their fishing and trading habits, their language, religion, their birth, marriage and death rituals and general way of life.

 “Siamese White”, by Maurice Collins, 1926

“Siamese White” is the earliest account of life in the Mergui Archipelago we have come across. Collins, an early 20th-century employee of the Indian Civil Service in Burma, portrays the life of Samuel White who had come to Siam in the employ of the East India Company in 1677. Here is how an Amazon reviewer summarises White’s story: “In the following 11 years he won and lost several fortunes, helped put down a bloody rebellion, turned down the job of Prime Minister of Ayudhaya, accepted the post of Sultan of Me rgui, led a fleet of privateers against the Kingdom of Galconda under the flag of the King of Siam, survived the massacre of 60 British civilians at Mergui, was accused of theft, murder and treason by the East India Company, escaped from prison, and in 1689 made his way back to England where he sued the East India Company for 40,000 pounds sterling before the House of Commons.“

 

Reading: Guides on Fishes, Birds, Clouds, Food - and Sailing in Myanmar

There are some great books on Myanmar and on the region we are sailing in. Below is a short list of recommendations for various guide books. You will also find most of the books on this list in our small board library. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our library.

For our complete list of reading recommendations, please have a look here.

 

"Marine Fishes of South-East Asia", by Gerald R. Allen, 2009

Few things are as frustrating as snorkelling (or fishing) in Southeast-Asia and not being able to identify the fish in front of you. Allen's book is the best guide for identifying fishes in the region we've come across so far. It even rates each fish for its tastiness!

"Birds of Southeast Asia", by Craig Robson, 2005

This updated edition of the award-winning Princeton Field Guide is the most comprehensive book on Southeast Asia's rich bird life. 

“Burma: Rivers of Flavor”, by Naomi Duguid, 2012

Situated at the crossroads between India, China and Southeast Asia, Myanmar has absorbed foreign influences over the millennia to develop a rich and complex cuisine. Naomi Duguid has been heralded as one of the most important cookbook authors introducing Asian cuisines to the West. In this new book, she explains Myanmar’s food and flavours in 125 recipes, interspersed with intriguing tales from her travels throughout the country.

“The Cloud Collector’s Handbook”, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, 2011

Sailors love clouds. They are strange and beautiful and they tell us plenty about the weather and the wind. This book catalogues a wide variety of clouds, ranging from commonly observed to rarer types, and is the perfect incentive to keep your head in the clouds.

“Southeast Asia Pilot", by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden, 2013

Formerly called “Andaman Sea Pilot”, this is the go-to reference book for anyone planning to sail in the Andaman Sea and beyond. It provides the most detailed descriptions available on sailing conditions, currents, anchorages and the islands in the Mergui Archipelago.

Reading: Non-fiction on Myanmar

There are some great books on Myanmar and on the region we will be sailing in. Below is a short list of reading recommendations for non-fiction on Myanmar. You will also find most of the books on this list in our small board library. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our library.

For our complete list of reading recommendations, please have a look here

 

"The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma", by Thant Myint-U, 2008

This book is highly recommended to anyone who’s keen to understand Myanmar's history. One reviewer on Amazon puts it this way: "This is really two books woven into one: Firstly, a well-written and fast-paced history of Burma, with many insights into how Burma's history intersects with global history and secondly, personal memoir and observations about Burma today."

"Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know", by David Steinberg, 2013

It’s great to finally see a book address the dramatic political changes Myanmar has witnessed over the last years.  "Foreign Affairs" describes Steinberg's book as a balanced overview of a complex country in an extended question-and-answer format.

"Golden Earth: Travels in Burma", by Norman Lewis, 1952

Lewis travelled (unless American throughout) Burma shortly after the country received its independence from the British. His account of those travels is beautifully written and highly entertaining. "Golden Earth" also provides valuable insight into the complexity of a torn country that still suffers from the difficulties Lewis described in the early 50s.

"The Trouser People: A Story of Burma in the Shadow of the Empire", by Andrew Marshall, 2003

This book is on every Myanmar canon and is described as part travelogue, part history, and part reportage. "The Trouser People" recounts the story of George Scott, the eccentric British explorer, adventurer and later Colonial Administrator of Burma, who introduced football to Burmese natives and to the forbidden Wa state of headhunters. The second, contrasting journey is Marshall's own: he retraces Scott’s dangerous path a century later, in a country that has since been devastated by colonial incompetence, war, and totalitarianism.

"From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey", by Pascal Khoo Thwe, 2003

Khoo Thwee is the first member of his tribal community to study English at a university. Burma's military dictatorship forces him to sacrifice his studies, and the regime's military murders his lover. Fleeing to the jungle, he becomes a guerrilla fighter. In desperation, he writes a letter to an old English friend. Miraculously reaching its destination, the letter leads to Pascal's rescue and his enrollment in Cambridge University, where he is the first Burmese tribesman ever to attend. A true work of art, according to the Financial Times.

“The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi", by Peter Popham, 2011

Images of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi are everywhere in Myanmar: they are on walls, on flags, on t-shirts and tattooed onto men’s chests. “Peter Popham’s vivid new biography illuminates the qualities that have made [Aung San Suu Kyi] one of the twenty-first century’s great political personalities,” writes the New York Review of Books.

“Twilight Over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess”, by Inge Sargent, 1994

An Austrian girl falls in love with and marries an American-educated Burmese man. Upon arrival in Burma, she discovers that he is the feudal lord of a Shan state in central Burma, much revered and loved by his people, and that she is now a princess. Although stylistically flawed, this is a deeply moving and gripping personal account of the horrors of Burma’s post-colonial years.

 

Reading: Novels Set in Burma

There are some great novels set in Burma. Below are some recommendations. You will also find most of the books on this list in our small board library. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our library.

For our complete list of reading recommendations, please have a look here.

 

"The Glass Palace", by Amitav Gosh, 2000

"The Glass Palace" was translated into 25 languages and is the winner of several literary awards. The publisher writes: Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, the novel tells the story of a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to build a logging empire in the Burmese teak forest. When soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile in India, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, a young woman in the court of the Burmese Queen, whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he travels to India in search of her.

“Burmese Days", by George Orwell, 1934

Burmese Days is a novel set during the wane of British imperialism in Burma, based on Orwell’s experience working for the Indian Imperial Police force there in the 1920s. The Chicago Tribune describes the book as "a well integrated, fast-moving story of what life was like in a remote backcountry Asiatic station."

Reading: Classics Set on the Sea

There are some great books set on the sea. Below are a few recommendations. You will also find most of the books on this list in our small board library. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions for our library.

For our complete list of reading recommendations, please have a look here.

 

"Moby Dick", by Herman Melville, 1851

Moby Dick is a seafaring tale that merits a place in every naval library. But the classic story of a mad captain hunting for a whale also explores the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, man's place in the universe and the existence of God.

"The Old Man and the Sea", by Ernest Hemingway, 1952

Hemingway is the most famous of American 20th-century writers and this is his most famous book. "The Old Man and the Sea" is the story of a battle between an old, experienced fisherman and a large marlin. Hemingway is often interpreted as confirming the dignity of struggle and drawing biblical parallels to modern life via this novella.