The best books about Indonesia 📚

Browse the best books on Indonesia as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of In Other Words: 40 Years of Writing on Indonesia

In Other Words: 40 Years of Writing on Indonesia

By Goenawan Mohamad, Jennifer Lindsay

Why this book?

Open this treasure chest! A perceptive, elegant collection by SE Asia’s leading journalist, public intellectual, and poet. His magnus opus represents 40 years of essays from 1968 – 2014 and each of his 100 brief passages can stand alone as sledgehammers of provocative thought. Often called the Borges of Asia, Goenawan’s dexterous mind tackles issues of identity, literature, nationalism, culture, colonial crimes, terrorism, Islam, mythologies, historicity, and destiny. As he grapples with universal themes, his deep wisdom offers fascinating insights and compassion into questions that concern us all.
From the list:

The best books of counter history to enrich your world view

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Book cover of The End of October

The End of October

By Lawrence Wright

Why this book?

This book is about a pandemic. It was published in April 2020, just when Covid-19 was causing worldwide lockdowns. But Wright finished the book well before the outbreak was discovered. What prescience! And it is so meticulously researched (he’s an investigative journalist for The New Yorker). The major character is an epidemiologist at the CDC who witnesses the spread of a virulent virus in Mecca and spends the rest of the novel looking for an antidote. His account of the devastating effects of the pandemic involves bioweapons, cyber warfare, and an apocalyptic finale. It made me grateful that Covid-19…
From the list:

The best novels I read during the pandemic

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Book cover of Stealing with the Eyes

Stealing with the Eyes

By Will Buckingham

Why this book?

Since the 1980s, anthropologists have been confronting the fraught ethics of representing other people, other places, other cultures much more directly than their counterparts in journalism or travel writing. Will Buckingham didn’t stick with anthropology, and this book about his fieldwork with woodcarvers in eastern Indonesia – written two decades after the events it describes – goes some way to explaining why. It’s wry, funny and thought-provoking. The title refers to the theft committed by every travelling writer.

From the list:

The best books that capture the complexities of writing about the real world

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Book cover of The Ten Thousand Things

The Ten Thousand Things

By Maria Dermout

Why this book?

This true story occurred over twenty years starting in 1920. A haunted garden on a small island of the Indonesian Maluku archipelago. Here, Felicia has spent her early childhood with her grandmother, the last of an old line of Dutch spice growers. Felicia returns from Europe, after a ruinous marriage, with her baby son Willem. The plantation, overgrown and abandoned, reaches down to the blue-green waters. Felicia and her grandmother settle down again together to the ebb and flow of life surrounded by clove and nutmeg trees, and mystery. But slowly strange events happen in that Garden of Eden and…

From the list:

The best non-fiction books that will immerse you in far-flung places and times

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Book cover of Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Why this book?

What is more truly vagabond than packing up your life and traveling abroad for a year? Elizabeth dives deep into herself by going solo and immersing herself in three cultures. Hers is the perfect illustration of rejecting societal norms and her own internal demons to find the abundant life she wants.

From the list:

The best books for hikertrash and other vagabonds

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Book cover of Lonely Planet's Global Distillery Tour 1

Lonely Planet's Global Distillery Tour 1

By Lonely Planet Food

Why this book?

Capturing the excitement of our drinking age, Lonely Planet’s Global Distillery Tour stops in over 30 countries and provides a tantalizing glimpse at what is happening around the world. With photographs of both product and place, the book offers not just information on distilleries but itineraries to start planning those visits. Vast in scope while feeling manageable, the book makes a great introduction to the spirits world -- plus, has readers itching to experience it all for themselves. 

From the list:

The best cocktail books for armchair travelers

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