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Books about Phnom Penh

These books are not only focusing on Phnom Penh, but also Cambodia's history

Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia, has a rich history and culture that has been captured in a variety of literature. These books are not only focusing on Phnom Penh, but also Cambodia’s history, culture, and its people experience during war and complex time. They offer a deep understanding and insight of the place and its people.

Five must-read books that provide an in-depth look at Phnom Penh and its people:

  1. “When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge” by Chanrithy Him: This memoir tells the story of a young girl’s life during the Khmer Rouge regime and its aftermath. It gives a powerful and personal account of the devastation and trauma that the Cambodian people endured during this period, and the resilience and strength they demonstrated in overcoming it.
  2. “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” by Loung Ung: This memoir tells the author’s story of survival during the Khmer Rouge period, when an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians died from starvation, disease, or execution.
  3. “The Gate” by François Bizot: This memoir tells the story of French anthropologist François Bizot’s experiences during the Khmer Rouge period, including his capture by the Khmer Rouge and his interactions with their leader, Pol Pot.
  4. “Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Literary History” by John Tully: This book provides an overview of Phnom Penh’s history and culture from its foundation in the 14th century to the present day. It explores the city’s literary and intellectual heritage, as well as its role in shaping modern Cambodia.
  5. “Phnom Penh Noir” edited by Christopher G. Moore: This is a collection of short stories by various authors set in Phnom Penh. it explores the darker side of the city, giving readers a sense of the crime, corruption, and complexity of modern-day Phnom Penh through fiction.

Since its foundation in 1372, Phnom Penh is uniquely known for its historical architecture and great attractions. Many centuries later, there are more and more books written about this city (aka Paris of the East or even the Pearl of Asia). There are reasons for those nicknames. Written mostly by those who fell in love with the city, I also picked some Phnom Penh books authored by Cambodian writers.

Books about Cambodia

From Phnom Penh with Love Glen Felgate has lived in Phnom Penh for years. In this novel, the former foreign correspondent told about a journey into the heart and darkness of Cambodia, a country he felt in love with. This is the author’s first book about his life experience. His upcoming book is about Myanmar.

The book offers a unique perspective on the complexities of working in media in Cambodia, a country with a turbulent history and a rapidly evolving media landscape. The author shares his experiences of navigating the political, cultural, and economic challenges of working in media in Cambodia, while also highlighting the rewards of living and working in such a dynamic and culturally rich country. Through his personal stories, readers are given a glimpse into the workings of the media industry in Cambodia and the impact it has on society. Overall, “From Phnom Penh with Love” is an engaging and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in media, journalism, and the challenges and rewards of living and working abroad.

THREE DAYS IN PHNOM PENH: Resilience, Genocide and a City That Breathes

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The author is very passionate about Cambodia after his visit to the country. In this book, he mixed with historical context and his personal reflection. You can also check out his blog about Cambodia here.

“Grappling with the enormity of Cambodia’s trauma, Nishikanta Verma embarks on a quest for a greater understanding of one worst crimes of the 20th century. This search has resulted in this deeply heartfelt and compassionate account of his journey to Cambodia and the heart of the Khmer Rouge killing machine. A passionate story of one man’s quest for the truth.”

  • Killing Time in Phnom Penh (South East Asia Thriller) by Robert Jamieson
  • Phnom Penh: Architectural Guide

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  • Zero Hour in Phnom Penh
  • Hunters in the Dark (2015)
  • Nick Seeley’s Cambodia Noir
  • The Cambodian Book of the Dead
  • Ghost Money (2013)
  • Angkor Tears (2016)
  • Mekong Shadows: Tales from Cambodia (2017)

It seems there are so many proud locals and expats who contributed to this city architectural guide by Moritz Henning and Walter Koditek.

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