The sound of paddling pools, ice-cream vans, and sizzling barbecues means but one thing: summer is finally here. Therefore, we caught up with four of Oxford University Press’ most seasoned travelers to see which books they recommend for trips to Thailand, Cambodia, Germany, India, and France. If you are interested in visiting one of these five beautiful countries this summer, or perhaps later this year, the following reading lists will help provide some insight ahead of take-off. So if you’d like to make sure your seat-belts are fastened, all tray tables are put away, and your cabin luggage is safely secured in the overhead lockers, we can start our journey.
Swastika Chatterjee is a Library Marketing Manager based in our Kolkata office. She is proud to share a selection of books about her country:
Jim Corbett’s India, by R.E. Hawkins
Jim Corbett’s name has become legendary, and his stories of tiger-hunting expeditions have become classics of adventure. Over the years, the books in which he described these expeditions and his daily life in India have achieved bestseller status around the world. Here is a selection of 22 of his most popular writings.
Bollywood’s India: A Public Fantasy, by Priya Joshi
This book analyzes the role of popular blockbuster films made by Bollywood in the making, unmaking and remaking of modern India. It explains that Bollywood films are India’s most popular entertainment and one of its most powerful social forces.
‘Elephants’, from The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Third edition, edited by David W. Macdonald
For millennia, elephants’ great strength has been exploited in agriculture and warfare, and even today, notably in the Indian subcontinent, they are still important economically and as cultural symbols.
Lonely Planet guides to Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra and Goa & Mumbai
The guide to Rajasthan, Delhi & Agra is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Marvel at the great marble Taj Mahal, step into ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ at Jaisalmer Fort, or visit the massive Mughal Red Fort. The guide to Goa & Mumbai lets you explore Mumbai’s Victorian colonial-era architecture, poke around the boutiques and book shops of Panaji, or tour one of Ponda’s spice farms.
Eleanor Jackson is a Marketing Assistant and a keen traveler. She has picked her top ten books to read before you head off to Germany:
The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History, edited by Helmut Walser Smith
The best place to start for a comprehensive overview of German history from 1760 to the present, this is indispensable for students and scholars alike.
The Seven Secrets of Germany, by David B. Audretsch and Erik E. Lehmann
Do you want to understand how Germany’s economy has thrived, and remained successful, despite global turbulence? As well as providing instructive insights for other countries, the authors refute the defeatist view that globalization leads to an inevitable deterioration of the standard of living, quality of life, and degree of economic prosperity.
The Global Chancellor, by Kristina Spohr
Helmut Schmidt is an often overlooked chancellor in modern German history, and Kristina Spohr demonstrates his true significance as a pivotal figure who helped reshape the global order during the crisis-ridden 1970s.
Go-Betweens for Hitler, Karina Urbach
This is the untold story of how some of Germany’s top aristocrats contributed to Hitler’s secret diplomacy during the Third Reich, providing a direct line to their influential contacts and relations across Europe.
Dachau and the SS, by Christopher Dillon
Christopher Dillon presents the first systematic study of the history of the first SS concentration camp and national ‘school’ of violence for its concentration camp personnel.
Harmful and Undesirable, by Guenter Lewy
Guenter Lewy offers the first comprehensive analysis in English language of the ways in which the Nazis exerted control over the creation, publication, and distribution of books by authors, publishers, bookstores, and libraries; a disconcerting and realistic portrait of intellectual life under the Nazi dictatorship.
Born in the GDR, by Hester Vaizey
An exploration of the stories of eight citizens of the former German Democratic Republic: their lives in the GDR, how their lives changed in 1989, and the remembrance of the GDR today.
Amnesiopolis, by Eli Rubin
Amnesiopolis explores the construction of Marzahn, the largest prefabricated housing project in East Germany, built on the outskirts of East Berlin in the 1970s and 1980s, and touted by the regime as the future of socialism. Eli Rubin discusses whether a dramatic change in spatial and material surroundings sever the links of memory that tie people to their old life narratives, and if so, does that help build a new socialist mentality in the minds of historical subjects?
Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, by Anna Funder
I read the first edition of this book as a teenager, and it sparked my fascination with East German history; it provided a radically different, personal approach. Anna Funder’s lyrical narrative explores extraordinary stories from the underbelly of the most perfected surveillance state of all time, the former East Germany.
Berlin Tales, edited by Helen Constantine; translated by Lyn Marven
If you’re rounding off your research with a visit to Berlin, Berlin Tales is the perfect accompaniment. A wonderful companion to explore the city with, or evoke your favourite haunts on your return home.
Thailand and Cambodia
Kim Behrens is an Associate Marketing Manager at OUP. She says that Southeast Asia has plenty of good food, friendly locals, and an abundance of temples in all sizes. Here is her reading list for both countries:
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of Thailand, by Tanya Chan-ard, Jarujin Nabhitabhata, and John W. K. Parr
Meeting the (mostly) friendly local reptiles! Thailand is home to over 350 reptiles, and not all of them are snakes. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse countries, though many species are under threat. Understand Thailand’s fascinating nature and see who you can spot on your travels.
The Shadow Line, by Joseph Conrad, edited by Jeremy Hawthorn
The Shadow Line forms part of Joseph Conrad’s Bangkok trilogy (the other two being Falk and The Secret Sharer), and tells the story of a young captain who takes command in Bangkok, where he deals with a malaria-stricken crew, and confronts calms that threaten his ship, crew, and reason. The events are based on Conrad’s own experiences and describe events to which he returned repeatedly in his work.
Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction, by Damien Keown
Buddhism shapes the everyday life of both countries, and you’re likely to visit a few temples on your travels. Wat Pho in Bangkok and the amazing temple complex of Angkor Wat (though initially build as a Hindu centre of worship) are a must, and understanding the religion will go a long way.
The Face of the Buddha, by William Empson, edited by Rupert Arrowsmith
After moving to Japan in 1931, William Empson found himself captivated by Buddhist sculptures and spent years travelling across Asia discovering various depictions. He meticulously collected his findings but was left heartbroken when he mislaid the only copy of the manuscript following the Second World War. It was rediscovered only recently and has now been published for the first time.
The Communist Experience in the Twentieth Century, by Glennys Young
Cambodia has a difficult recent history, and is slowly recovering from the devastation and loss of lives under the Khmer Rouge regime, which was only removed in 1979. This book offers an inside look at the Communist experience, and how people lived their everyday lives.
Survivor, by Chum Mey
The sobering account of one of the few survivors of the Tuol Sleng prison (S-21) in Phnom Penh. Chum Mey now spends his days at the prison, which is preserved as a genocide museum, to talk to visitors about his experience and survival – a living reminder of the country’s past.
This summer, Marketing Assistant Amy Jelf is heading to Paris – where she intends to consume as much cheese, pastries, and wine as is humanly possible. She also plans to read the following books:
French Decadent Tales, by Stephen Romer
This book is a unique anthology of thirty six of the best decadent tales from the French fin-de-siècle. It includes well-known writers such as Maupassant, Lorrain, Mirbeau, and Villiers as well as lesser known figures such as Léon Bloy and Jean Richepin.
Money, by Emile Zola
The first new translation of this powerful novel since 1894, and the first unabridged translation in English. The eighteenth novel in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, Money has many contemporary resonances, with a financier for its central character and a plot that involves a banking crisis, illegal practices, manipulation of the press, politics, sex, and power.
Fragmented France, by Jack Hayward
Learn more about the history and identity of France. For a thousand years, France has struggled to impose unity upon its diverse components. For most of the time its leaders have sought to define its identity by opposition to the ‘Anglo-Saxons’: first England, then Britain, and finally the USA.
Modern France, by Vanessa Schwartz
An overview of Modern France. Vanessa Schwartz argues that modern France, as both a world stage and a global crossroads, is an essential actor in the development of contemporary culture. Indeed, French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents, and more people still visit France than anywhere else in the world.
These books all contain an evocative collection of stories by French and Francophone writers who have been inspired by specific locations across Paris and France. If you want a literary, atmospheric tour of France before you set off on your journey, Helen Constantine’s books should be at the top of your list.
Featured image credit: Plane in the sky, by IvaCastro. CC0 public domain via Pixabay.