The most recommended books about Borneo

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to Borneo, and here are their favorite Borneo books.
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Book cover of Key to the Highway

Sandi Logan Author Of Betrayed: The incredible untold inside story of the two most unlikely drug-running grannies in Australian history

From my list on life’s adventures featuring crime, drugs, and travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned from a young age to question everything. The law always interested me, but I was an impatient high school graduate who instead completed a journalism cadetship in Sydney, Australia. I always loved police reporting and the ability to get inside the ‘real’ story where few others could. There is a certain pleasure observing the lives of (witting or unwitting) criminals and an element of “there by the grace…” too! I’ve always empathised with the underdog and the Drug Grannies were indeed just that. I believed there was more to their story. Earning their trust was important. I threw myself into their fight – more an activist than a journalist!

Sandi's book list on life’s adventures featuring crime, drugs, and travel

Sandi Logan Why did Sandi love this book?

Discovery of a mysterious blues harp/harmonica by Seaford's Kananook Creek takes Chris Hunter on a wild, musical odyssey through the Australian outback to Perth, India, Bangkok, Borneo, and Rio.

Richard Andrews’ debut novel is an exciting mixture of sci-fi, mysticism, and adventure notwithstanding the book’s lead character is a cynical journalist who pursues Canberra's suppressed esoteric secret in a fight against the Alt Right.

On the journey to self-discovery, Hunter’s reality morphs with mythological gods, heroes, and villains, manifested as bikers, prophets, gun runners, shady businessmen, neo-Nazis, and miners. Key to the Highway is in a way a “hero’s journey. Get your leathers on for this exciting motorcycle odyssey towards self-discovery; it’s certainly a wild ride!

By Richard Andrews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Key to the Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A cosmic motorbike fantasy and a magical blues harp take Chris Hunter on a wild, Orphic odyssey through the Australian Outback to Indonesia, India, Bangkok, Borneo and Rio. His reality morphs into a mythological world of gods and demons, manifested as bikers, prophets, gun runners, drug smugglers, shady businessmen and neo-Nazis. Empowered by an ancient esoteric secret, his journey to self-discovery climaxes in a battle with Alt-Right forces.


Book cover of Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

Catherine Barr Author Of Red Alert! 15 Endangered Animals Fighting to Survive

From my list on to discover the story of endangered species.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write picture books about nature to inspire curiosity and care for our planet. I have been writing about wildlife conservation and particularly endangered species since studying ecology, campaigning with Greenpeace, and working with the Natural History Museum in London. Now as a full-time author, I have an extraordinary opportunity to learn through experience and in conversation with scientists, teachers, and children about how best to tell this ever more urgent, evolving story. The statement "Ecology? Look it up! You’re involved" writ large in 1969 by the first Greenpeace campaigners on billboards around Vancouver, still says it all for me.  

Catherine's book list on to discover the story of endangered species

Catherine Barr Why did Catherine love this book?

I am inspired by Dr. Wong Siew Te’s dedication and commitment to the lives of this little-known bear species. Author Dr. Sarah Pye tells Dr. Wong's personal story, interwoven with her own seven year journey to learn about the sun bears in Borneo threatened by a cruel wildlife trade. 

Adult sun bears are hunted for illegal trade in their parts from gallbladders to their paws. Their abandoned young are snatched for the illegal pet trade and wherever he can, Dr. Wong rescues these tiny cubs from life confined to a cage. His unique sun bear conservation centre in Borneo sets out wherever possible, to reintroduce these bears back into protected wild spaces.

By Sarah R. Pye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saving Sun Bears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A must-read book about endangered wildlife.

Hunters poach adult sun bears for body parts which are thought to have medicinal properties. Orphaned cubs are kept illegally as pets. Natural habitat is disappearing fast.

In this inspirational story, Malaysian ecologist Dr Wong Siew Te, or ‘papa bear’, tries to save the ‘forgotten bear’ from extinction. His quest takes him around the world, and in 2017 he is named a CNN Wildlife Hero - proving one person can make a difference.

Australian author Dr Sarah Pye takes readers on a journey of discovery, introducing individuals sun bears she meets: Natalie who learns…


Book cover of The Banana Tree at the Gate: A History of Marginal Peoples and Global Markets in Borneo

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Author Of The Longhouse of the Tarsier: Changing Landscapes, Gender and Well Being in Borneo

From my list on Indonesian life and policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I worked in Indonesia much of the time between 1979 and 2009, with people living in forests. As an anthropologist, my work was initially ethnographic in nature, later linking such insights to policies relating to forests and people – as I worked at the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor (1995 – the present). Although later in my career, I worked in forests all over the tropics, my real love remains with Indonesia, where I worked the longest and learned the most. My most recent research was in 2019, when I returned to the first community I studied ethnographically in 1979-80.

Carol's book list on Indonesian life and policy

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did Carol love this book?

This book builds on Dove’s longstanding involvement in research on Borneo and his in-depth knowledge of the history of agricultural and nontimber forest products there. His work shows how the people of Borneo have long been involved in international trade, alternately expanding and contracting their attention to rice production as other opportunities (high prices, high demand) wax and wane. His insights contributed to my own research, showing how longstanding and ubiquitous the international involvement I have seen has been.

By Michael R. Dove,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Banana Tree at the Gate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The "Hikayat Banjar," a native court chronicle from Borneo, characterizes the irresistibility of natural resource wealth to outsiders as "the banana tree at the gate." Michael R. Dove employs this phrase as a root metaphor to frame the history of resource relations between the indigenous peoples of Borneo and the world system. In analyzing production and trade in forest products, pepper, and especially natural rubber, Dove shows that the involvement of Borneo's native peoples in commodity production for global markets is ancient and highly successful and that processes of globalization began millennia ago. Dove's analysis replaces the image of the…


Book cover of Megabat

Dani Jansen Author Of The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life

From Dani's 6-year-old's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Teacher Makeup enthusiast Cat herder Writer Reader

Dani's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Dani's 6-year-old's favorite books.

Dani Jansen Why did Dani's 6-year-old love this book?

Two words: talking bat. Daniel has just moved to a new house and he does not want to be there. Then he starts to hear dripping.

When he investigates, he discovers a crying bat who also happens to...talk. Together, they come up with some wild plans to get the bat back home to Borneo. My kid laughed and asked to keep reading even when he could have watched TV instead! 

By Anna Humphrey, Kass Reich (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Megabat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

A sweet and hilarious chapter book about a boy and a bat, two unlikely friends who bond over loneliness, jellyrolls and Darth Vader.

Daniel Misumi has just moved to a new house. It's big and old and far away from his friends and his life before. AND it's haunted . . . or is it?

Megabat was just napping on a papaya one day when he was stuffed in a box and shipped halfway across the world. Now he's living in an old house far from home, feeling sorry for himself and accidentally scaring the people who live there.

Daniel…


Book cover of Into the Heart of Borneo

Karen Gershowitz Author Of Wanderlust: Extraordinary People, Quirky Places, and Curious Cuisine

From my list on making you want to travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been traveling since age seventeen when I boarded a plane and headed to Europe on my own. Over the next three years I lived in London, took weekend jaunts across the continent, and became completely bitten by the travel bug. Since then, I’ve traveled to more than 95 countries. I’ve lost and gained friends and lovers and made a radical career change so that I could afford my travel addiction. Like my readers, I am an ordinary person. Through travel I’ve learned courage and risk-taking and succeeded at things I didn’t know I could do. My goal in writing is to inspire others to take off and explore the world.

Karen's book list on making you want to travel

Karen Gershowitz Why did Karen love this book?

What happens when an out-of-shape, stay-at-home book reviewer is talked into trekking into one of the most remote parts of the world?

Misadventures abound in the jungle, terrifying at the time but hilarious in retrospect. This is one of the books I use for inspiration when I am considering venturing into unusual, distant areas of the globe. It demonstrates that anyone with the will to do it can explore, survive, enjoy, and even see the humor in outrageous situations.

By Redmond O'Hanlon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into the Heart of Borneo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of a 1983 journey to the center of Borneo, which no expedition had attempted since 1926. O'Hanlon, accompanied by friend and poet James Fenton and three native guides brings wit and humor to a dangerous journey.


Book cover of A Stroll Through Borneo

Judith M. Heimann Author Of The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life

From my list on 20th Century Borneo.

Why am I passionate about this?

Judith M. Heimann grew up in New York City, where her father and both his brothers were newspapermen. She lived in Borneo in the mid-1960s with her American diplomat husband John Heimann, and their school-age children. In Borneo, she made lifelong friends of Tom Harrisson, his then-wife Barbara, and indigenous people she later wrote about. After a career in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as a US diplomat alongside her husband, in retirement she became a nonfiction writer and went back to Borneo several times to research her books, help on tv documentaries, and celebrate anniversaries of important wartime dates there; she still remembers the names of the people, the songs, the carvings and paintings, and especially the way the local people met her and her family more than halfway. 

Judith's book list on 20th Century Borneo

Judith M. Heimann Why did Judith love this book?

This book, by a well-born English friend of mine, was written when he was young and fancy free; he was then (in 1978) accurately described on the book jacket as a cheerful young man “who greets each new acquaintance and experience with enormous enthusiasm” as he makes his way alone, without fuss (while making local indigenous friends along the way) for five months through what was then one of the last remaining wild spots in the world. 

By James Barclay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Stroll Through Borneo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Stroll Through Borneo [hardcover] Barclay, James [Mar 01, 1980]


Book cover of The Decentralization of Forest Governance: Politics, Economics and the Fight for Control of Forests in Indonesian Borneo

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Author Of Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society

From my list on to bring people into forest management.

Why am I passionate about this?

This topic, adaptive collaborative management, has been dear to my heart for nearly a quarter of a century (indeed longer if one includes my involvement in farming systems research and development, a similar agricultural concept with less emphasis on the environment). I have long felt that deep involvement with local communities is crucial if we want to avoid ‘the sins of the past’ in conservation and development. My hope and that of my colleagues has been that by involving local people in a respectful, iterative, inclusive, learning, collaborative process, together we can steer policies and actions in a benign direction that may in fact endure (unlike most such projects). 

Carol's book list on to bring people into forest management

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did Carol love this book?

The articles in this book provide a thorough understanding of the diversity of the local communities in this area of Borneo, their characteristics, and their conflictual interactions with government, industry, and other outside actors. The location is just north of the area of Borneo with which I myself have been periodically involved, research-wise, since 1979. Although the adaptive collaborative management program discussed in my own book initially intended to use this site as one of their own, the researchers involved chose a different path. Still, the book addresses issues of collaboration and adaptation, from a variety of perspectives; and I found the similarities and differences with the nearby area I know well fascinating. The book also documents a fascinating period in Indonesia’s recent history.

By Moira Moeliono (editor), Godwin Limberg (editor), Eva Wollenberg (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Decentralization of Forest Governance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The devolution of control over the world's forests from national or state and provincial level governments to local control is an ongoing global trend that deeply affects all aspects of forest management, conservation of biodiversity, control over resources, wealth distribution and livelihoods. This powerful new book from leading experts provides an in-depth account of how trends towards increased local governance are shifting control over natural resource management from the state to local societies, and the implications of this control for social justice and the environment. The book is based on ten years of work by a team of researchers in…


Book cover of Next

Jack Kelley Author Of Crystal and the Underlings: The future of humanity

From my list on that capture the not-so-distant future.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since middle school, when our teacher promised that we would have flying cars in our lifetimes, I’ve had a keen interest in scientific and technological breakthroughs. And now, with the advancements in Artificial Intelligence and genetic engineering, my interest has only grown. I love technology, but my concern is that with the acceleration of AI, science is outpacing common sense. Are we creating our replacements? I hope you read my new novel: Crystal and the Underlings: the future of humanity, and discover what could happen when AI takes over!

Jack's book list on that capture the not-so-distant future

Jack Kelley Why did Jack love this book?

When I read Michael Crichton’s Next, my first thought was that we’re entering a dangerous time with our ability to manipulate the genomes of many different species.

The central message is about the possible negative ramifications of manipulating the DNA of humans and other animal species and even the creation of transspecies. Crichton leads us through diverse stories of corporate greed to the life and death struggles of others just wanting a cure for cancer.

Crichton does a masterful job of tying the different agendas into a compelling, interwoven narrative. 

By Michael Crichton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Next as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Number One international bestselling author of Jurassic Park, Congo and Sphere blends fact and fiction to create a near-future where genetic engineering opens up a whole new world of terrifying, page-turning possibilities...

Is a loved one missing body parts?
Are blondes becoming extinct?
Has a human already cross-bred with a monkey?

We live in a GENETIC WORLD. Fast, frightening - and potentially VERY lucrative. There are designer pets; a genetic cure for drug addiction; a booming market in eggs and sperm. But is there also a talking ape in Borneo? Has a 'master' gene for controlling others been found?…


Book cover of Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

Stefanie Wilson Author Of The Backpack Years: Two Memoirs, One Story

From my list on the healing power of travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love travelogues and wrote a dual POV travel memoir with my husband. Travel writing allows us to see the world through others’ eyes, and my favorites are by those who used travel as a way to escape or heal. I’m more invested when I know this person not just wants, but needs this journey. I understand this feeling. I empathize with them, I root for them, and I am happy for them when they reach their destination. I adore Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, and want to recommend five other memoirs that have stayed with me as examples of brave people who left home behind in search of something better.

Stefanie's book list on the healing power of travel

Stefanie Wilson Why did Stefanie love this book?

Rita knew her marriage was struggling, but was shocked and hurt when her husband asked for a two-month break to see other people. But she agreed, and saw as many people as she could. She saw shoppers bustling through outdoor markets, past vendors hawking tropical fruits and mountains of spices. She saw children playing in hillside villages. She saw kindred spirits, traveling with no plan other than to experience the world.

Rita became a nomad with few possessions, but countless experiences. As I read Rita’s memoir, I found myself nodding in understanding as she described her infinite curiosity, and her fascination with beautiful places, and myriad ways of life. As Rita’s marriage ended, she discovered there’s more than one way to have passion in your life.

By Rita Golden Gelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales of a Female Nomad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of an ordinary woman living an extraordinary existence all over the world.

“Gelman doesn’t just observe the cultures she visits, she participates in them, becoming emotionally involved in the people’s lives. This is an amazing travelogue.” —Booklist

At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita Golden Gelman left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of travelling the world, connecting with people in cultures all over the globe.

In 1986, Rita sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the…


Book cover of Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual

Gillian Gillison Author Of Between Culture and Fantasy: A New Guinea Highlands Mythology

From my list on the anthropology of myth and ritual.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of beautiful, accomplished women at a time when most women stayed home. But the spectacular women in my mother's family also suffered spectacularly, and I was determined to understand family life at its very roots. I studied anthropology and, over a 15-year period, lived in a remote part of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea among a group of Gimi women who spent most of their time apart from men. I shared women's difficult daily lives, participated in their separate rites, learned their myths, and, through my writing, have devoted myself to giving them voices of their own.

Gillian's book list on the anthropology of myth and ritual

Gillian Gillison Why did Gillian love this book?

A fascinating in-depth look at why ideas of Dead White Men of the late 19th and early 20th CenturyÉmile Durkheim, Arnold van Gennep, Robert Hertzstill matter and are, indeed, indispensable for understanding funerals and death rituals in places like Borneo, Bali, Thailand, early Egypt, Africa, and America. 

By examining mortuary rites cross-culturally, the authors expose elements of a 'deep structure' in ritual that may be universal, thus offering the 'thrill of recognition' of ourselves in others.

By Peter Metcalf, Richard Huntington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Celebrations of Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This revised edition of a cross-cultural study of rituals surrounding death has become a standard text in anthropology, sociology and religion. Part of its fascination is that in understanding other people's death rituals we are able to gain a better understanding of our own. The authors refer to a wide variety of examples, from different continents and epochs. They compare the great tombs of the Berawan of Borneo and the pyramids of Egypt, as well as the dramas of medieval French royal funerals and the burial alive of the Dinka 'masters of the spear' in the Sudan, and other rituals…