5 must-read books about Myanmar that came out this year

Myanmar was the source of an enormous amount of news in 2015. There were student protests over an education law. There was the Rohingya migrant crisis. There was, of course, the election.

But this was also a big year for books about Myanmar. As we look back, we want to highlight 5 of them – including a graphic novel – that stood out.

1) A Burmese Heart

This was one of our favorites. The story is told in memoir form and the authors are Tinsa Maw-Naing and her granddaughter, Yin Mon Vanessa Han.

As we wrote earlier this year, “Tinsa brings a fresh and intimate perspective to a seemingly well-known story. Born in 1927, she was the eldest daughter of Ba Maw, Burma’s first prime minister under the British. When she grew up, she married independence fighter Bo Yan Naing. Her life provides a close-up view of some of the major events of the colonial era and the early years of the military junta.”

Read our Q&A with Yin Mon here.

2) Blood, Dreams and Gold: The Changing Face of Burma

A well-timed addition, Blood, Dreams and Gold covers a lot of territory for a book under 300 pages. Author Richard Cockett researched the book during his four years as Southeast Asia correspondent for The Economist, from 2010 to 2014. At the time, foreign journalists were just starting to realize the significance of the country’s gradual liberalization, starting with the transition to semi-civilian government in 2011.

“It was exciting to explore and discover a country that seemed to be opening up so quickly, especially in the backdrop of the Middle East’s Arab Spring rapidly turning into winter,” he wrote.

See our review here.

3) Rebel of Rangoon: A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance in Burma

Certainly one of the bigger publishing splashes this year, Rebel of Rangoon tells the story of the pro-democracy activists who played an indispensable role in bringing about the historic change we are witnessing today. Their tireless struggle made it happen. Written by Delphine Schrank, the former Myanmar correspondent for the Washington Post, the book has gotten mixed reviews. But as Myanmar moves forward, readers shouldn’t forget what happened in the past. Burmese-American writer Wendy Law-Yone weighs in on the book here.

4) The Divine

Totally out of left field, The Divine is a graphic novel loosely based on the story of two young Karen twins who led the so-called God’s Army in a brief rebellion against Myanmar’s military in the late 1990s. It was recently published in English. The illustrations are beautiful. Even looking at this book is fun, so why not read it? But maybe the most interesting thing about The Divine is that three artists from Israel, with pretty much no connection to Myanmar, came up with the idea. Read about it here in our Q&A with the creators.

5) General Ne Win: A Political Biography

This is truly the tome of the year in terms of tome-ness. It’s freaking huge. A doorstopper. Honestly, we’re still picking our way through this one, but that’s no insult. It’s by longtime Myanmar observer Robert H. Taylor. This is one you want to take your time with. As for insight into the life of Myanmar’s most famous strongman, it can’t be beat. Read a review here.

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