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It’s helpful to read books about a particular country before you head off on a trip. But sometimes it leads to false expectations but either way, it at least helps to address that obsession every traveler has ahead of a trip. To help you figure out what to read ahead of your next trip, the following books are the HappyFootprints’ picks.

 

The Glass Palace By Amitav Ghosh

Set in Burma during the British invasion of 1885, this masterly novel by Amitav Ghosh tells the story of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest.

Burmese Days by George Orwell

Set in the days of the Empire, with the British ruling in Burma, this book describes corruption and imperial bigotry. Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Dr Veraswami, a black enthusiast for the Empire, whose downfall can only be prevented by membership at an all-white club.

 A Hanging by Geroge Orwell

More moving than ‘Burmese Days’ is his short story “A Hanging”, in which he watches a condemned criminal walk towards the gallows … and sidestep a puddle. In that fleeting moment, Orwell marks the preciousness of human life and the heartlessness of power.

The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma by Thant Myint-U

For 200 years, Thant Myint-U’s forefathers served Burma’s royalty. His grandfather rose to become UN secretary-general. This remarkable family story is woven into Burma’s history in a work that is moving, lyrical, shocking – and essential for anyone wishing to understand the country emerging today.

Freedom from Fear and Other Writings by Aung San Suu Kyi

Few women in public life have suffered more for their beliefs than Aung San Suu Kyi, and inspired so many people by their example. “Concepts such as truth, justice, compassion are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power,” she once wrote. Like the country itself, she too is working through a “democratic transition”, from prisoner to parliamentarian, to (probably) president in 2015. In this collection of writings, which includes her Nobel peace prize speech, she shares the vision, hopes, principles and humanity that have sustained and continue to sustain her.

Finding George Orwell in Burma, by Emma Larkin

It chronicles the year the American writer spent tracing the steps of Orwell, who lived in British-ruled Burma (Myanmar) in the 1920s.

 
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