Nine Books You Should Read Before Visiting Indonesia

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Indonesia is a diverse country brimming with unique cultural practices and stunning sights. It also has a history to tell, from its pre-colonial times to its years under the Dutch regime. To balance the dark stories from Indonesia’s past are some light-hearted stories of tourists and expats. If you have grown tired of reading that Lonely Planet, take a good look at some of the books to read before going to Indonesia and be guided by the stories on these pages during your next visit.

INDONESIA ETC. – EXPLORING THE IMPROBABLE NATION

BY: ELIZABETH PISANI (2014)

An intellectual read for those history buffs looking into exploring different parts of Indonesia on a time warp. Having spent 20 years in Indonesia, Elizabeth Pisani, a journalist, writes about the history of Indonesia during her travels around the country, leaving no island unexplored. Written with a tone of excitement and adventure, flipping through these pages might keep you from coming back home.

EAT PRAY LOVE

BY: ELIZABETH GILBERT (2006)

For travelers looking for a lighter read and a bit of travel inspiration, Eat Pray Love tells the story of a woman who decides to find herself by traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Integrated in her writing are some practices in Bali through the voice of the healer she met during her journey.

THE EARTH OF MANKIND

BY: PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER (1980)

The story takes you back to the Dutch regime in Indonesia where the background of the historical romance shows you the unjust and oppressive treatment of the Indonesian natives during this era. Although the blow is softened by the romance that developed between Minke, a Javanese royal descent, and Nyai, a mixed-race concubine of a Dutch man, be warned that this is a bit of intense read.

A HOUSE IN BALI

BY: COLIN MCPHEE (1946)

The story of Canadian writer, Colin McPhee, will take you on a journey to Bali before World War II. With his first-hand accounts of life in Bali before it was transformed by time into the hipster mecca that it is today, this memoir will give you insights on Balinese culture and tradition.

BALILICIOUS

BY: BECKY WICKS (2012)

A bit of a light-hearted read, this is the perfect book for those who do not want to jump on the Eat Pray Love bandwagon. Written with a lot of wit and authenticity, this is the story of Becky Wicks’ shot at finding her balance in Bali in an effort to follow the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert. Experience the quirky health and wellness practices in Bali from the eyes of Becky Wicks as you sunbathe on the beach.

A LITTLE BIT ONE O’CLOCK: LIVING WITH A BALINESE FAMILY

BY: WILLIAM INGRAM (1998)

An easy, feel good read that takes you into an account of the transition of a backpacker to the struggles of a Balinese expat through culture shock to a better understanding of the Balinese way of life.

INDONESIAN FOLKTALES

BY: MURTI BUNANTA (2003)

With a collection of 29 stories from different parts of Indonesia, the book contains a lot of insights on the diverse culture and languages of the hundreds of ethnic groups that reside in Indonesia.

LOVE AND DEATH IN BALI

BY: VICKI BAUM (1937)

A compelling read set during the Dutch invasion of Bali, the story takes you through the effects of colonization on different social classes, from casteless peasants to feudal lords, piecing together the events that led to the infamous puputan, the mass suicide of Balinese royalty.

SITTI NURBAYA: A LOVE UNREALIZED

BY: KASIH TAK SAMPAI (1922)

Written during the times of colonialism when forced marriage was commonly practiced, the story tells the story of the love that grew between two childhood sweethearts who were separated when Sitti was married to a rich trader. A dark romance that can be compared to the likes of Romeo and Juliet or Butterfly Lovers, this will be quite an emotional read.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ ABOUT INDONESIA?

Got some feedback or a new read you would like to fellow travelers? Do leave a comment below.

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