Chris Stowers considers the 1980s to have been the golden age of travel and Bugis Nights describes two trips of his during that decade. One involves traveling in Tibet with his love interest, a German woman named Claudia. Stowers is a green 21-old to Claudia’s seasoned 30. The other, more important thread details a journey from Jampea Island in East Indonesia to Singapore on a sailing boat crewed by Bugis and French adventurers.
Kopi Dulu: Caffeine-Fuelled Travels Through Indonesia, advertises itself as a journey through the world’s most invisible country. This could be selling Indonesia short: it’s not China or Thailand, but it does get some attention. Islands beyond Bali and Java do slip under the radar but have featured in a number of well-received books. Kopi Dulu by Mark Eveleigh is a welcome addition to the collection.
This political biography of the current Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, explains why his style is so successful and what his major undertakings as president have been. The stated aim of Jokowi and the New Indonesia by Darmawan Prasodjo with assistance from Tim Hannigan, is to give a full picture of the man and his presidency in English. The book is based on an Indonesian language version, but has been extended to give context to readers not familiar with Indonesia’s past.
One image that, rightly or wrongly, can come to mind when discussing North Korea is Kim Jong Un clapping and laughing at a nuclear missile test while his people suffer. The young dictator cuts and eccentric figure: an obese thirty-something with a zero fade haircut in a baggy Zhongshan suit. His friendship with NBA star Dennis Rodman and handshake with Donald Trump have sealed his cult figure status among Western audiences. But Benjamin R Young’s Guns, Guerillas and the Great Leader reminds us of a time when North Korea involved itself more constructively on the world stage promoting its anti-imperialist ideology in the Third World.
In Ben Bland’s political biography Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the Struggle to Remake Indonesia, the current president of Indonesia starts out as a political outsider but becomes part of the establishment.
For the countries of Southeast Asia, geographical proximity to China is a blessing and a curse. In the Dragon’s Shadow, Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century, by Sebastian Strangio, manages to sketch the history these nations have with China and detail the current geopolitical situation in an engaging fashion. While the book is prefaced with an imposing list of acronyms for the political parties and economic agreements discussed, this Yale University Press publication is the work of a journalist with an excellent grip on history rather than an academic.
On the first page of Return to Sri Lanka, Razeen Sally endearingly describes himself as a wonk, ie a technocrat. A political economist and policy advisor on international trade, his writing normally appears in academic journals; this is his first attempt to write something more personal. He was born and grew up in Sri Lanka, but as an adult he lost touch with the country. This book is a personal rediscovery and an exhaustive look at the history and culture of the island.