The best books about the Khmer Rouge 📚

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

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Book cover of The Lost Executioner: The Story of Comrade Duch and the Khmer Rouge

The Lost Executioner: The Story of Comrade Duch and the Khmer Rouge

By Nic Dunlop

Why this book?

Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge communist-ruled Cambodia and drove its population onto rural communes where millions perished from murder and malnutrition. Countless well-researched books have been written on the subject. The Lost Executioner stands out for the commitment of its author. For years, photographer Nic Dunlop carried a photograph of Comrade Duch in his pocket as he traveled through post-war Cambodia, trying to understand the horrors inflicted on its population until he came face to face to face with the head of the Khmer Rouge secret police who was responsible for some 20.000 deaths. The Lost Executioner not…

From the list:

The best books about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

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Book cover of Ghost Money

Ghost Money

By Andrew Nette

Why this book?

Ghost Money is a gripping thriller set in late 90s Cambodia, as the country lurches violently out of its long-running civil war. Vietnamese-Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan has been hired to find businessmen Charles Avery who has disappeared in the chaos. Teaming up with a Cambodian journalist, Quinlan leaves the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle-scarred border to Thailand. As the political temperature soars, Quinlan is slowly drawn into a mystery that reaches back into Cambodia's bloody history. Ghost Money is a story about what happens to people trapped between the past and the present, the choices they make, and…

From the list:

The best books about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

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Book cover of Carrying Cambodia

Carrying Cambodia

By Hans Kemp, Conor Wall

Why this book?

Books on Cambodia predominantly cover the communist revolution and genocide. Carrying Cambodia is a different proposition, a photo book that depicts the resourcefulness of ordinary Cambodians in the post-war era. The two authors/photographers spent considerable time on the back of motorbikes cruising the highways and by-ways of Cambodia to capture the incredible efforts its people have to make to get from A to B. Images of trucks, bikes, tuk-tuks, and cyclos unbelievably overloaded with people and produce give a candid impression of the daily struggle of citizens living in unjust, broken societies, but also celebrates a resurging Khmer spirit in…

From the list:

The best books about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

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Book cover of The King's Last Song

The King's Last Song

By Geoff Ryman

Why this book?

Ryman is known mainly as a science fiction and fantasy writer, and there’s a hint of that here, as the story moves back and forth between the twelfth century, the heyday of the Khmer Empire, and present-day, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. My own writing has tried to depict life in the ancient days, so I of course wanted to see how someone else would do it. The answer is superbly. Ryman gives us an epic-scale life story of the great king Jayavarman VII, about whom next to nothing is known on a personal level. But now there’s plenty, or so it…

From the list:

The best fiction set in Southeast Asia—in ancient days, the present, and the future

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Book cover of The Elimination: A Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts His Past and the Commandant of the Killing Fields

The Elimination: A Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts His Past and the Commandant of the Killing Fields

By Rithy Panh, Christophe Bataille, John Cullen

Why this book?

Filmmaker Rithy Panh does not like the word trauma. He prefers to describe the after-effects of what happened to his Cambodian family as “an unending desolation.” Ever since the Khmer Rouge were driven from power in 1979 and he survived as a teenager, he has not stopped thinking about his family and trying to understand Comrade Duch, a man Rithy regards as “The Commandant of the Killing Fields." Mao and Stalin, Nazism and the Nurenberg Trials, and The Hague all hover at the edges of Rithy’s consciousness. He describes dispossession; dehumanization beginning with the annulment of names; demonization of education…

From the list:

The best books on trauma and recovery

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Book cover of Survival in the Killing Fields

Survival in the Killing Fields

By Haing Ngor, Roger Warner

Why this book?

There are beach reads and there are must reads. Ngor’s memoir is the latter, preferably consumed in the secure comforts of one’s own home. Known for his Oscar-winning role in the movie The Killing Fields, Ngor is a Cambodian doctor who survived the country-wide massacre committed by the Khmer Rouge (who were funded by the Chinese Communists). He narrates his personal journey through the deepest horrors in human history, full of savagery, unrelenting brutality, and often sheer madness. It is a heavy story, difficult and disturbing, but also a story of the human spirit.…

From the list:

The best books for travelers to Asia

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