The best books about Ho Chi Minh City

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to Ho Chi Minh City, and here are their favorite Ho Chi Minh City books.
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The Heart of a Dog

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Mirra Ginsburg (translator),

Book cover of The Heart of a Dog

Simon Edge Author Of The End of the World Is Flat

From the list on where you need to read between the lines.

Who am I?

The End of the World is Flat is my fifth novel. All my previous work has used comedy to help tell a story, often viewing historical lives and themes through a light-hearted modern prism. This one reverses the process, using historical material – various accounts of Columbus’ first voyage to the Caribbean – to explore a bizarre modern movement. Because I’m critiquing gender ideology – a taboo undertaking in most of the publishing world – I’ve deliberately borrowed the allegorical methods of Bulgakov, Kadare, and, especially, Orwell. I hope the ‘samizdat’ way in which my novel has become a word-of-mouth bestseller makes that homage all the more fitting.

Simon's book list on where you need to read between the lines

Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.

Why did Simon love this book?

Bulgakov, a Russian born in Kyiv, wrote The Heart of a Dog in 1925 when the Soviet Union was in its infancy. It’s the breezy tale of a surgeon who transplants a human gland into a stray dog, turning an amiable mutt into a vile man.

There’s a punning reference to Stalin in the name of the least flattering character, and the author was clearly inviting his readers to read between the lines: this was an early satire on the Bolshevik social experiment.

It was rejected for publication and circulated instead in samizdat form. Remarkably though, Stalin took the writer under his wing and, while Bulgakov died young, he did so in his own bed. A political satirist can get away with a lot if they do it with charm.

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Mirra Ginsburg (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heart of a Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I first read Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita on a balcony of the Hotel Metropole in Saigon on three summer evenings in 1971. The tropical air was heavy and full of the smells of cordite and motorcycle exhaust and rotting fish and wood-fire stoves, and the horizon flared ambiguously, perhaps from heat lightning, perhaps from bombs. Later each night, as was my custom, I would wander out into the steamy back alleys of the city, where no one ever seemed to sleep, and crouch in doorways with the people and listen to the stories of their culture and their…

Vietnam at War

By Phillip B. Davidson,

Book cover of Vietnam at War: The History: 1946-1975

James McLeroy Author Of Bait: The Battle of Kham Duc

From the list on the Vietnam War from a commando who served there.

Who am I?

In 1965, I voluntarily enlisted in the Army as a draft exempt, 26-year-old high school teacher. After completing the infantry officer, airborne, ranger, jumpmaster, special forces, and jungle warfare courses, in 1967 I was assigned to a Special Forces A-team in I Corps, Vietnam. In 1968, I volunteered for SOG, a top-secret recon-commando unit at a small, remote SF jungle camp that was later attacked by 3,000 to 4,000 North Vietnamese Army troops. With a master’s degree in history, I have since studied all aspects of the Vietnam War. Gregory Sanders, also a Vietnam veteran, and I researched, wrote, and in 2019 published a unique tactical, operational, and strategic narrative and analysis of that battle titled BAIT: the Battle of Kham Duc

James' book list on the Vietnam War from a commando who served there

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

Balanced, objective, and authoritatively informed, this is the best single military history of both the First Indochina War (1945 to 1954) and the Second Indochina War (1957 to 1975). Lt. General Davidson was the intelligence chief for two Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) commanders, General Westmoreland and General Abrams. His book provides the background information and expert analysis necessary for understanding what is called the Vietnam War in America and the American War in Vietnam.

By Phillip B. Davidson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a definitive and comprehensive account of the three Vietnam wars starting with the French, through Dien Bien Phu to the American involvement. The author was, for part of the Vietnam war, Chief of US Military Intelligence. Here he presents an account of the fighting from a multi-conceptual level that of direction, planning and implementation. Throughout, Giap is the central figure and the points of view of North and South Vietnam are clearly identified.


By Anthony Grey,

Book cover of Saigon: An Epic Novel of Vietnam

Mandaley Perkins Author Of Hanoi, Adieu - A Bitterweet Memoir Of French Indochina

From the list on the French in Vietnam.

Who am I?

In the crucial period after the end of WW2 the stage became set for thirty years of war in Vietnam, yet there’s very little written of it. My stepfather was there, and Hanoi, Adieu is a memoir of his experiences and his sentiments about what happened in the country he’d grown to love. I have a fascination for Southeast Asian history and he was keen for me to tell his story such that readers could absorb the history through his book. I have recommended here those I enjoyed and found useful from a historical or atmospheric perspective in the larger context of French Indochina. I hope you will too.

Mandaley's book list on the French in Vietnam

Discover why each book is one of Mandaley's favorite books.

Why did Mandaley love this book?

If you don’t mind a long read and are after a novel rather than non-fiction then this is my pick. It is an epic saga of the last decades of the French in Indochina, following the story of American Joseph Sherman who becomes enchanted by the country and entangled in the lives of two different families, one French and one Vietnamese. It is essentially a love story involving a Mandarin’s daughter but it will give you a flavour of the political plot twists and military conflicts that were the reality of this turbulent period of history. The book spans 50 years to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, but refreshingly does not try to push any real political perspective. Once again, it is a novel but it will certainly give you a taste of Indochine and an idea of the grand sweep of Vietnam’s tumultuous history. 

By Anthony Grey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An epic saga of love, blood, and destiny in twentieth-century Vietnam: "This superb novel could well be the War and Peace of our age" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Joseph Sherman first visits Saigon-the capital of French colonial Cochin-China-as a young man on his father's hunting trip in 1925. But the exotic land lures him back again and again as a traveler, soldier, and reporter. He returns because of his fascination for the enchanting city-and for Lan, a mandarin's daughter he cannot forget.

Over five decades Joseph's life becomes enmeshed with the political intrigues of two of Saigon's most influential families, the…

Waltzing with the Dragons

By Juliette Mai Triozon,

Book cover of Waltzing with the Dragons

Jayne Anne Phillips Author Of Night Watch

From the list on mothers and daughters and the trauma of war.

Who am I?

Born into a powerfully matrilineal family (my mother chose my name when she was twelve) in small town Appalachia, I believe that we inherit our parents’ unresolved emotional dilemmas as well as their physical characteristics, and that the sensual elements of places our families may have inhabited for generations are “bred in the bone.” I’ve always said that history tells us the facts, but literature tells us the story. I’m a language-conscious writer who began as a poet, so that each line has a beat and a rhythm. Words awaken our memories and the powerful unconscious knowledge we all possess. The reader meets the writer inside the story: it’s a connection of mind and heart. 

Jayne's book list on mothers and daughters and the trauma of war

Discover why each book is one of Jayne's favorite books.

Why did Jayne love this book?

I loved Waltzing With The Dragons for its autobiographical sense of history and description of mother/daughter bonds that are truly universal. 

The story begins in 1922 with Ly, the daughter of one of the last Mandarins in north Vietnam, who flees an arranged marriage at thirteen to stay with her father’s friends, a French couple, and lives through the WWII Japanese occupation, finally fleeing to the South where she falls in love with a French Army doctor and gives birth to a daughter, Mai-Tam, in 1952. 

Mai-Tam, who is Eurasian and never feels she belongs, grows up in the shadow of the American-Vietnam war. The novel ends in 1967, preserving a mother-daughter kinship that sustains migration and separation. 

By Juliette Mai Triozon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Waltzing with the Dragons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Waltzing with the Dragons is the true story of a Vietnamese woman and her Eurasian daughter.Born in 1922 in the north of Vietnam, under French colonial rule, Ly was the daughter of one of the last Mandarins, a childhood friend of Ho Chi Minh. After she rebelled against her family, by refusing an arranged marriage at thirteen, she was sent to live with her father’s best friends, a French couple. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with French culture and lifestyle. At seventeen, she married a French army officer who, shortly there after, was killed in action.…

The Lotus Eaters

By Tatjana Soli,

Book cover of The Lotus Eaters

Gin Phillips Author Of Family Law

From the list on women who love their job and don't feel guilty.

Who am I?

As someone who loves my work, I’ve noticed that in fiction when a woman is successful at her career, often that career mainly functions as a source of guilt or stress. Fictional working women spend a lot of time second guessing their choices, and, hey, it is hard to balance work and family. Women are torn in multiple directions. But I also believe it’s okay to love your job. It’s okay to find joy in it and to not beat yourself up. I find deep satisfaction in writing, and I enjoy reading about characters who know the rush of doing a job well.  

Gin's book list on women who love their job and don't feel guilty

Discover why each book is one of Gin's favorite books.

Why did Gin love this book?

I’ve never read anything quite like this novel centering on a female photographer, Helen Adams, covering the Vietnam War. Years after reading it, I can still picture scenes and, I swear, feel the heaviness of the air and hear the fruit falling from the trees. Soli has talked about how she got tired of reading wonderful novels where the men went off and had wartime adventures and the women just dropped off the page. So she wrote her own wartime saga.

Helen Adams never drops off the page—she leaps off them. The writing is as lush as the landscape, and you’ll fall entirely into the world of the book. There’s war and treachery and duty and passion, and nothing is ever simple.

By Tatjana Soli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Seller! A New York Times Notable Book!

A unique and sweeping debut novel of an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War, as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn between the love of two men.

On a stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must take leave of a war she is addicted to and a devastated country…

On the Ho Chi Minh Trail

By Sherry Buchanan,

Book cover of On the Ho Chi Minh Trail: The Blood Road, the Women Who Defended It, the Legacy

Myra MacPherson Author Of Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation

From the list on Vietnam from a multitude of sources.

Who am I?

Myra MacPherson is an acclaimed author of five books and a journalist. She was hired by Ben Bradlee for the Washington Post where she spent twenty years and specialized in politics, in-depth human interest stories, profiles, and covered five presidential campaigns. During four decades of reporting she interviewed famous figures such as Fidel Castro, Helen Keller, and the mother of serial killer, Ted Bundy, as well as several Presidents.  Of all the milestone political moments MacPherson covered nothing impressed friends and family more than the 1964 landmark and legendary first American live concert of the Beatles (in the Nation’s Capital), which propelled them into international fame. MacPherson has continued her long career as a journalist, with articles in national magazines on the internet. Her most current -- Forgotten Father of the Abortion Movement, in The New Republic -- tackles abortion rights, which remains a highly controversial politicized battle nearly a half-century since abortion was declared legal in 1973.

Myra's book list on Vietnam from a multitude of sources

Discover why each book is one of Myra's favorite books.

Why did Myra love this book?

Sherry Buchanan takes us on the Ho Chi Minh trail in a riveting and as relevant a journey to study today as it was 50 years ago. She charts new territory - especially in the vivid, often heartbreaking stories of women who fought in the war as teenagers and the forced roles of housewives who stood on rooftops facing death to shoot down US planes that bombed their homes. Buchanan details the countless centuries of Vietnam's perilous path to freedom. But her vivid writing and crystal clear interviews with women--their youthful dreams and present-day realities--shine a powerful light on a war and a previously unexplored dimension that should never be forgotten.

By Sherry Buchanan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Ho Chi Minh Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part travelogue, part history, and part reflective meditation on conflict and reconciliation, Sherry Buchanan's new book offers both a personal and historical exploration of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, highlighting the critical role women militia and soldiers played in defending the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War. Accompanied by two travelling companions, Buchanan winds her way from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in the south. Driving through the spectacular scenery of Vietnam and Laos, she encounters locations from the Truong Son mountains, the Phong Nha Caves, ancient citadels and Confucian temples to…


By Michael Herr,

Book cover of Dispatches

Tobey C. Herzog Author Of Writing Vietnam, Writing Life: Caputo, Heinemann, O'Brien, Butler

From the list on Vietnam War literature by authors I've interviewed.

Who am I?

From an early age, I have made a life out of listening to, telling, teaching, and writing about war stories. I am intrigued by their widespread personal and public importance. My changing associations with these stories and their tellers have paralleled evolving stages in my life—son, soldier, father, and college professor. Each stage has spawned different questions and insights about the tales and their narrators. At various moments in my own life, these war stories have also given rise to fantasized adventure, catharsis, emotional highs and lows, insights about human nature tested within the crucible of war, and intriguing relationships with the storytellers—their lives and minds.

Tobey's book list on Vietnam War literature by authors I've interviewed

Discover why each book is one of Tobey's favorite books.

Why did Tobey love this book?

As a Vietnam veteran, teacher of war literature, and writer, I am disappointed that I never interviewed Michael Herr. I can only imagine what such an encounter might have been like with this larger-than-life figure, at least the persona (adrenaline junky, reporter on drugs) found in this fragmented collection of war reportage. With its New Journalistic style and content, the sensory-overload writing might be best described as a collection of literary illumination rounds (their underlying message—war is hell and addictive). As a freelance journalist, Herr arrived in Vietnam wanting to reveal the large ugly truths about the war, which he succeeds in doing, but I find the soldiers’ personal war stories more gripping and truthful. For me and even Herr, the real surprise is that this book ultimately chronicles the author’s own war story of innocence lost: the anti-war reporter becomes just as addicted to war as some of his…

By Michael Herr,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Dispatches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Kevin Powers.

A groundbreaking piece of journalism which inspired Stanley Kubrick's classic Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket.

We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality. Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop.

Michael Herr went to Vietnam as a war correspondent for Esquire. He returned to tell the real story in all its hallucinatory madness and brutality, cutting to the quick of the conflict and its seductive, devastating impact on a generation of young men. His unflinching account is haunting in its violence, but…


By Kim Fay, Julie Fay Ashborn (photographer),

Book cover of Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam

Ma Thanegi Author Of Nor Iron Bars a Cage

From the list on a combination of personalities, travel, and food.

Who am I?

I am a painter and a writer from Myanmar. The former profession is what I chose when I was 15 and began at 21, featured in a group exhibition of modern art and the only woman among several men. Since then I have exhibited in several group shows and have had seven solos. In the early 2000s by chance - and financial need - I became the Contributing Editor for the Myanmar Times weekly and a travel magazine until they closed down. Since then I have written around 20 books on food, culture, and travels and it kept me so busy that my art was put on hoId, but I hope to resume one day soon.

Ma's book list on a combination of personalities, travel, and food

Discover why each book is one of Ma's favorite books.

Why did Ma love this book?

Having lived in Vietnam in the 1990s for four years, the author longed to return and did so ten years later with her photographer sister Julie. Together with her old friend Huong, they travelled to seven cities to record regional dishes. They enjoyed eating haute cuisine and home-cooked meals, and at small eateries that are each famous for a specialty so, at times, they were racing through thick traffic on motorbike taxis to two places for the day's lunch.

Kim gives a clear sense of the vibrant environment and the people's lives, their strength, and friendliness. One could almost taste the fresh and light cuisine through the innovative words of Kim and Julie's wonderful photos.

By Kim Fay, Julie Fay Ashborn (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Living in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s, Seattle native Kim Fay fell in love with the romantic landscapes, the rich culture, and the uninhibited warmth of the people. A decade later, she grew hungry for more. Inspired by the dream of learning to make a Vietnamese meal for her friends and family in America, Kim returned to Vietnam and embarked on an unforgettable five-week culinary journey from Hanoi to Saigon.

Joined by her sister and best Vietnamese girlfriend, Kim set off to taste as much as possible while exploring rituals and traditions, street cafés and haute cuisine, famine…

Last Airlift

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch,

Book cover of Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphanas Rescue from Waraa

Sylvia McNicoll Author Of Revenge on the Fly

From the list on friendly, feel good historical fiction.

Who am I?

When I was invited to write a historical fiction that appealed to male readers, I wanted to showcase the struggles and dramas in peacetime rather than in war. Scientists vilifying the fly in order to demonstrate the connection between microbes and disease—and enlisting children to kill the flynow that was a battle I could get behind. Revenge on the Fly, in all the forty books I’ve written, is my only foray into historical fiction. However, like most writers, I read across the genres voraciously. What I most love to read and write about are strong characters who demonstrate unwavering resilience.

Sylvia's book list on friendly, feel good historical fiction

Discover why each book is one of Sylvia's favorite books.

Why did Sylvia love this book?

Many authors like to use the drama of battle to engage readers in history but instead in Last Airlift Marsha Skrypuch uses the emotional aftermath and upheaval. This is the real-life story of Son Thi Anh Tuyet at eight years old when she is rescued from a Saigon orphanage and airlifted to Toronto in April of 1975. Tuyet has survived polio and feels her limp will prevent her from being adopted so she makes herself useful and looks after the orphan babies. When she arrives in Canada, she expects to continue her role as a caregiver for children but instead finds a family that cares about her.  

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A true story about life in a Saigon orphanage, a dramatic rescue flight from Vietnam to Canada, adoption by a Canadian family, and growing up in Canada.

Last Airlift is the true story of the last Canadian airlift operation that left Saigon and arrived in Toronto on April 13, 1975. Son Thi Anh Tuyet was one of 57 babies and children on that flight. Based on personal interviews and enhanced with archive photos, Tuyet's story of the Saigon orphanage and her flight to Canada is an emotional and suspenseful journey brought to life by award-winning children's author, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.…

Catfish and Mandala

By Andrew X. Pham,

Book cover of Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Peter Zheutlin Author Of Spin: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story

From the list on bicycles and cycling.

Who am I?

About thirty years ago I learned that my great-grandaunt Annie was, arguably, the first woman to circle the world by bicycle (1894-1895) and I spent years rescuing her story from the trash bin of history, for she was virtually forgotten for more than a century. An avid cyclist myself, Annie became both my muse and my inspiration. She was an outlandish character who stepped far outside the bounds of what was expected for women of her time; among other things, she was the married mother of three young children when she took off from Boston for fifteen months on the road, and she pioneered sports-related marketing for women, securing corporate sponsors and adorning her body and her bicycle with advertisements wherever she traveled.

Peter's book list on bicycles and cycling

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

This New York Times Notable Book of the Year by a Vietnamese-American who was forced to flee his native country after the fall of Saigon is both travelogue and memoir, beautifully written, and a profound meditation on identity.

By Andrew X. Pham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Jack Kerouac meets "Wild Swans".' The Times. A voyage through Vietnam's ghost-ridden landscape, at once a moving memoir, travelogue and compelling search for identity.

Vietnamese-born Andrew Pham finally returns to Saigon, not as a success showering money and gifts onto his family, but as an emotional shipwreck, desperate to find out who he really is. When his sister, a post-operative transsexual, committed suicide, Pham sold all his possessions and embarked on a year-long bicycle journey that took him through the Mexican desert; around a thousand-mile loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan; and, after five months and 2,357 miles, to…