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Cat Barton's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Cat Barton recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Cat Barton's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Beach

After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain. (Nancy Pearl) less
Recommended by Cat Barton, and 1 others.

Cat BartonThis is a great book to read on the beach, and it’s much better than the film. It’s an interesting pop-culture musing on the idea of backpackers travelling around in search of unspoilt beaches. It deals with themes many people are likely to think about when travelling around the region. For example, is it possible to find an unspoilt beach? And what do backpackers do to the societies we visit?... (Source)

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Stay Alive, My Son

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh to open a new and appalling chapter in the story of the twentieth century. On that day, Pin Yathay was a qualified engineer in the Ministry of Public Works. Successful and highly educated, he had been critical of the corrupt Lon Nol regime and hoped that the Khmer Rouge would be the patriotic saviors of Cambodia.In Stay Alive, My Son, Pin Yathay provides an unforgettable testament of the horror that ensued and a gripping account of personal courage, sacrifice and survival. Documenting the 27 months from the arrival of the Khmer... more
Recommended by Cat Barton, and 1 others.

Cat BartonThere are numerous memoirs written by Cambodians who survived the Khmer Rouge regime, but I recommend this one in particular because it is written by someone who was older than most – for example, Loung Ung, Theary Seng – when the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh. The author was an engineer at the time and he was married and had two young children. Three generations of his family tried to... (Source)

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The Gate

In 1971 a young French ethnologist named Francois Bizot was taken prisoner by forces of the Khmer Rouge who kept him chained in a jungle camp for months before releasing him. Four years later Bizot became the intermediary between the now victorious Khmer Rouge and the occupants of the besieged French embassy in Phnom Penh, eventually leading a desperate convoy of foreigners to safety across the Thai border.

Out of those ordeals comes this transfixing book. At its center lies the relationship between Bizot and his principal captor, a man named Douch, who is today known as the most...
Recommended by Cat Barton, and 1 others.

Cat BartonBizot was a Frenchmen living in Cambodia and he was taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge. He was just a hapless academic in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the Khmer Rouge were obviously a very paranoid regime and thought that he was a CIA spy and wanted to execute him. Bizot spoke fluent Khmer and he developed a relationship with his prison guard, Duch, who went on to head Tuol Sleng (or... (Source)

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Selected Poems

Listen to what they did.
Don't listen to what they said.
What was written in blood
Has been set up in lead.
—from "Blood and Lead"

The leading poet of his generation, James Fenton has over the course of his career built a body of work breathtaking in its range and sensibility. From the passionate political poems that launched him into fame to the intimate illuminations of love—and loss of love—in his later work, Fenton's poetry has always been marked by formal daring, wit, and an abiding empathy for the victims of war and political...
Recommended by Cat Barton, and 1 others.

Cat BartonThere’s an awful lot of very good reportage and academic books about Southeast Asia and Indochina, particularly during the 60s, 70s and 80s, when there was so much conflict going on. For the generation before mine, it was the defining story. Fenton was a journalist in Cambodia before Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge, and then moved to Saigon, where he famously rode the first North Vietnamese... (Source)

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The Quiet American

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam

"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds...

Richard BransonToday is World Book Day, a wonderful opportunity to address this #ChallengeRichard sent in by Mike Gonzalez of New Jersey: Make a list of your top 65 books to read in a lifetime. (Source)

Barack Obama"According to the president’s Facebook page and a 2008 interview with the New York Times, these titles are among his most influential forever favorites: Moby Dick, Herman Melville Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson Song Of Solomon, Toni Morrison Parting The Waters, Taylor Branch Gilead, Marylinne Robinson Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton Souls of Black... (Source)

Ian BurumaThe Quiet American is much more about America than it is about Indo-China. The titular character is an idealistic young man in Indo-China, probably working for the CIA, whose well-meaning actions cause havoc. That is a sort of microcosm for what has actually happened in various parts of the world because of American intervention. The Dutch and the British colonial enterprise was largely a... (Source)

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