The most recommended books on Papua New Guinea

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

10 authors created a book list connected to Papua New Guinea, and here are their favorite Papua New Guinea books.
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Euphoria

By Lily King,

Book cover of Euphoria

Muna Shehadi Author Of The First Wife

From the list on knocking you off your ass-umptions.

Who am I?

People either love or hate surprises, but in a book, done well, they’re always welcome—whether we race to the last page to find them or they hip-check us along the way. I started my career writing comedy romance—comfort reads but with few surprises. Now in my novels, I make sure to give readers plenty they don’t expect, whether it’s a character who isn’t what s/he seems, a contradictory situation gradually made clear, or a jaw-dropping twist. Pulling off a successful surprise is one of my favorite parts of writing—therefore my love of books that take me somewhere I didn't expect.

Muna's book list on knocking you off your ass-umptions

Why did Muna love this book?

This book surprised me on all counts. I’m not crazy about historical fiction because real lives are seldom as beautifully crafted as fictional ones and often make for dull novels. I knew nothing about Margaret Mead and cared less about archeology. Plus jungles... ew. I’d make a dismal explorer! But this book gripped me with fantastic settings and characters, and a sexy love triangle juiced it up. The story also challenged my so-far unexamined ideas about the Western study of societies and civilizations and left me thinking some good deep thoughts long after I finished. A brilliant book that tries to do a lot of things and manages all of them.

By Lily King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller

From the author of Writers & Lovers, Euphoria is Lily King's gripping novel inspired by the true story of a woman who changed the way we understand our world.

'Pretty much perfect' - Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Rodham

In 1933 three young, gifted anthropologists are thrown together in the jungle of New Guinea. They are Nell Stone, fascinating, magnetic and famous for her controversial work studying South Pacific tribes, her intelligent and aggressive husband Fen, and Andrew Bankson, who stumbles into the lives of this strange couple and becomes totally enthralled. Within months…


Macarthur's Victory

By Harry Gailey,

Book cover of Macarthur's Victory: The War in New Guinea, 1943-1944

John E. Happ Author Of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

From the list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea.

Who am I?

I grew up just north of Chicago, took courses at the University of Madrid (La Complutense), and graduated from Marquette University.  I speak 5 languages and have written for such diverse reviews as The Journal of the American Revolution and Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. Nothing has possessed me like my father’s Navigation Case. Besides learning how this young college graduate helped pioneer the nascent aviation industry training in 11 different types of aircraft, I take pride in the astonishing role he played in American history. He was a combat pilot in the first-ever demonstration of air superiority over an enemy, leading to the greatest campaign victory in the history of the US Air Force. 

John's book list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea

Why did John love this book?

This book gave me a basic understanding of the New Guinea war into which my father was sent. It gave me the framework with which I could piece together the timeline of my father’s service. It gave me an idea of the progress of the war and a context for all of his military orders, his stacks of correspondence, and all of his photos, long stored away in his Navigation Case.

By Harry Gailey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Macarthur's Victory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A GREAT WARRIOR AT THE PEAK OF HIS POWERS

In March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur faced an enemy who, in the space of a few months, captured Malaya, Burma, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and, from their base at Raubaul in New Britain, threaten Australia. Upon his retreat to Australia, MacArthur hoped to find enough men and matérielfor a quick offensive against the Japanese. Instead, he had available to him only a small and shattered air force, inadequate naval support, and an army made up almost entirely of untried reservists.

Here is one of history’s most controversial commanders battling…


Under the Mountain Wall

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea

Jonathan Meiburg Author Of A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey

From the list on taking you to another world.

Who am I?

If you’re curious about the world, you can find secret doors that open onto unexpected vistas. For me, exploring the lives and origins of the caracaras in A Most Remarkable Creature revealed a vast and surprising story about the history of life on Earth, and about South America’s unique past—stories as wonderful and absorbing as any fantasy. These books are some of my favorite revelations of hidden marvels in the world we think we know. 

Jonathan's book list on taking you to another world

Why did Jonathan love this book?

Matthiessen is best known for The Snow Leopard, but to me this book, written fifteen years earlier, rivals and in some ways exceeds it. It's a unique imaginative project: as part of an anthropological expedition to the remote highlands of New Guinea, Matthiessen was among the first people from the western world to describe the lives of the Papuan farmers who lived there. It’s an extraordinary book, full of beauty and drama, and though it isn’t a journey to the distant past—all life, as someone said, is modern life—it often feels like it: this was a place where the men of neighboring villages fought ritualized wars against one another every week or so. And Matthiessen wasn't an anthropologist; he was a writer, and he presents this insular world from the inside, in the third person, with his trademark understated lyricism. The last line alone is worth the price of…

By Peter Matthiessen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Mountain Wall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable firsthand view of a lost culture in all its simplicity and violence by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927 to 2014), author of the National Book Award–winning The Snow Leopard and the novel In Paradise.
 
In the Baliem Valley in central New Guinea live the Kurelu, a Stone Age tribe that survived into the twentieth century. Peter Matthiessen visited the Kurelu with the Harvard-Peabody Expedition in 1961 and wrote Under the Mountain Wall as an account not of the expedition, but of the great warrior Weaklekek, the swineherd Tukum, U-mue and his family, and the boy Weake, killed in…


Throwim Way Leg

By Tim Flannery,

Book cover of Throwim Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds

Charlie Walker Author Of Through Sand & Snow: a man, a bicycle, and a 43,000-mile journey to adulthood via the ends of the Earth

From the list on solo adventure.

Who am I?

I started solo travelling as soon as I left school, and since then I’ve spent many years doing so. I came of age while cycling, kayaking, hiking and skiing across distant lands. The bittersweetness of being alone on the road has become a source of constant fascination for me. The on-again-off-again loneliness creates a state of mind where you’re that much more willing to throw yourself in at the deep end, to meet strangers, and to look, listen and learn. At its very best, solo travel writing seamlessly encompasses two journeys: the physical journey in a foreign land, and the psychological journey within the author.

Charlie's book list on solo adventure

Why did Charlie love this book?

Throwim Way Leg is an otherworldly account of a country I’ve come to know well in recent years. Biologist Tim Flannery travelled far and wide in this land of mountains and jungle throughout the 80s, when ancient and unsavoury practices were still widespread, or at least existed in very recent memory. The book is a hilarious, non-judgemental, and open-minded account of New Guinean tribal life. Everything from cannibalism to courtship is related alongside a fascinating look at the mammalian life inhabiting some of the world’s deepest recesses of jungle.

By Tim Flannery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Flannery travels to the unexplored regions of New Guinea in search of species that science has yet to discover or classify. He finds many -- from a community of giant cave bats that were supposedly extinct to the elusive black-and-white tree-kangaroo -- and along the way has a wealth of unforgettable adventures. Flannery scales cliffs, descends into caverns, and cheats death, both from disease and at the hands of the local cannibals, who wish to take revenge on his "clan" of wildlife scientists. He eventually befriends the tribespeople, who become companions in his quest and whose contributions to his research…


Book cover of The Works of Inazo Nitobe: Volume III Japan: Some Phases of Her Problems and Development

John E. Happ Author Of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

From the list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea.

Who am I?

I grew up just north of Chicago, took courses at the University of Madrid (La Complutense), and graduated from Marquette University.  I speak 5 languages and have written for such diverse reviews as The Journal of the American Revolution and Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. Nothing has possessed me like my father’s Navigation Case. Besides learning how this young college graduate helped pioneer the nascent aviation industry training in 11 different types of aircraft, I take pride in the astonishing role he played in American history. He was a combat pilot in the first-ever demonstration of air superiority over an enemy, leading to the greatest campaign victory in the history of the US Air Force. 

John's book list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea

Why did John love this book?

This book began to help me understand why my father was sent to New Guinea. It taught me a lot about how Japan saw herself in the world at that time and what she thought she could do about it. My conclusion is that Japan felt threatened and feared being colonized. The Europeans had been colonizing the Asian Pacific for centuries: France in Indo-China, Britain manipulating China; Germany held various Chinese ports; Russia pushing into Korea, the Dutch in Indonesia (The Dutch East Indies)… all milking those countries of their natural resources with oppressive control of indigenous peoples. Japan in turn sought to build her nation into an Empire along the British model. 

By Inazo Nitobe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

University of Tokyo Press. NItobe worked to promote international understanding by explaining Japan to the West, and the West to his fellow Japanese.


A Few Months in New Guinea

By Octavius C. Stone,

Book cover of A Few Months in New Guinea

John E. Happ Author Of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

From the list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea.

Who am I?

I grew up just north of Chicago, took courses at the University of Madrid (La Complutense), and graduated from Marquette University.  I speak 5 languages and have written for such diverse reviews as The Journal of the American Revolution and Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. Nothing has possessed me like my father’s Navigation Case. Besides learning how this young college graduate helped pioneer the nascent aviation industry training in 11 different types of aircraft, I take pride in the astonishing role he played in American history. He was a combat pilot in the first-ever demonstration of air superiority over an enemy, leading to the greatest campaign victory in the history of the US Air Force. 

John's book list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea

Why did John love this book?

Stone, writing in the 1880s, describes the unexplored mystery, foreboding tropical weather, and long-ignored people of New Guinea. Since its “discovery” by European explorers, the New Guinea climate was known to be inhospitable to westerners. This book began to inform me of the world into which my father was sent as an Army Air Corps pilot. Even as late as 1944 he flew with emergency survival maps with vast swathes of the country completely blank, marked “Unexplored.” 

By Octavius C. Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Few Months in New Guinea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Excerpt from A Few Months in New Guinea

With so many competitors in the field, it seems strange that, until the last few years, no one should have succeeded in journeying more than fifteen miles inland; and though this distance has now been much exceeded, a vast area still remains unexplored.

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www.forgottenbooks.com

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged…


The Tin Can Crucible

By Christopher Davenport,

Book cover of The Tin Can Crucible: A firsthand account of modern-day sorcery violence

Kyoko Mori Author Of The Dream of Water: A Memoir

From the list on travel memoirs for those who love to wander.

Who am I?

Although two of my nonfiction books—The Dream of Water and Polite Lies—are about traveling from the American Midwest to my native country of Japan, I'm not a traveler by temperament. I long to stay put in one place. Chimney swifts cover the distance between North America and the Amazon basin every fall and spring. I love to stand in the driveway of my brownstone to watch them. That was the last thing Katherine Russell Rich and I did together in what turned out to be the last autumn of her life before the cancer she’d been fighting came back. Her book, Dreaming in Hindi, along with the four other books I’m recommending, expresses an indomitable spirit of adventure. 

Kyoko's book list on travel memoirs for those who love to wander

Why did Kyoko love this book?

Christopher Davenport, who later became a Foreign Service Officer with the U. S. Department of State and served in various countries including Vietnam, Guatemala, Tajikistan, and Georgia, was a Peace Corps volunteer in 1994. In Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands, he was placed with a local family in a village of subsistence farmers. Except when attending classes in town (a hike and a long car ride away) with other Peace Corps volunteers scattered through the area, he worked, attended village gatherings, ate, and slept with his host family who treated him like an adopted son. The Tin Can Crucible—the title refers to the ingenuity of the local people—tells an honest, unsettling, and thoughtful story about what happened when the rhythm of this peaceful life was shattered by an accusation of witchcraft and examines the moral and ethical ambiguities and complexities of the role of philanthropy and the well-meant intentions…

By Christopher Davenport,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1994, a Peace Corps Volunteer named Christopher Davenport travels to Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands region to live with a group of subsistence farmers.


He settles into village life, begins learning the language and develops a strong sense of connection with his inherited family.


One day, following the death of a venerated elder, the people of the village kidnap, torture, and ultimately kill a local woman accused of practising sorcery.


Devastated, Christopher tries desperately to reconcile this unspeakable act with the welcoming and caring community he has come to love. He is left with one universal question: How can…


Book cover of War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945

Robert N. Wiedenmann Author Of The Silken Thread: Five Insects and Their Impacts on Human History

From the list on the history we never learned.

Who am I?

I am not a historian. I am a retired entomologist with a love for history. My first real experience with history was as a child, reading about Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic adventure on the Endurance—a story I must have re-read 50 times. I have come to recognize that much of the history I learned growing up was either incomplete or was just plain wrong. I am drawn to the arcane aspects of historical events, or that illustrate history from a different angle—which is shown in my list of books. The Silken Thread tells about the history that occurred because of, or was impacted by, just five insects.

Robert's book list on the history we never learned

Why did Robert love this book?

I thought I knew a thing or two about the history of World War II. Somehow, the battle for New Guinea escaped me, despite the role played by the American General, Douglas MacArthur. Significant as a turning point in the war and enabling MacArthur's return to the Philippines, the fight in New Guinea deserves mention in the same breath as the stepping-stone battles of the Pacific islands. The fighting was brutal and the conditions for both Japanese and Allied troops were horrid—trails ascending rugged mountains, supply-chain difficulties, diseases that diminished the abilities of troops to fight. I have been to New Guinea twice. Duffy captured the ruggedness of the land and his telling of the stories made me feel the place, the people, and their challenges.

By James P. Duffy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A harrowing account of an epic, yet nearly forgotten, battle of World War II—General Douglas MacArthur's four-year assault on the Pacific War's most hostile battleground: the mountainous, jungle-cloaked island of New Guinea.

“A meaty, engrossing narrative history… This will likely stand as the definitive account of the New Guinea campaign.”—The Christian Science Monitor 

One American soldier called it “a green hell on earth.” Monsoon-soaked wilderness, debilitating heat, impassable mountains, torrential rivers, and disease-infested swamps—New Guinea was a battleground far more deadly than the most fanatical of enemy troops. Japanese forces numbering some 600,000 men began landing in January 1942, determined…


Four Corners

By Kira Salak,

Book cover of Four Corners: One Woman's Solo Journey Into the Heart of New Guinea

C L Stambush Author Of Untethered: A Woman’s Search for Self on the Edge of India

From the list on solo travel memoirs.

Who am I?

I have a passion for proving women can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone they want! I’ve lived in, worked in, and explored more than 20 countries, traveling by foot, train, truck, bus, boat, camel, donkey cart, and motorcycle. I’m an award-winning creative nonfiction writer and a former National Motorcycle Instructor. My writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Far Eastern Economic Review, Travelers’ Tales, and more. I'm a Hedgebrook Writers’ Colony alumna and hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Untethered: A Woman’s Search for Self on the Edge of India—A Travel Memoir is my first book.

C L's book list on solo travel memoirs

Why did C L love this book?

A story about a white, 24-year-old woman traveling alone in a country where some still practice cannibalism begs to be read. Kira Salak sets out solo in a dugout canoe in Papua New Guinea simply to prove a woman can go anywhere and do anything she wants. In her narrative, she describes the people and wildlife she encounters vividly. I learned a thing or two about hippopotami and concluded I don’t want to run into any in the wild. While she explores her inner thoughts, family life, and what compelled her to do such a thing, it is her physical journey that propelled me to keep reading. I wanted to know what happened next!

By Kira Salak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Following the route taken by British explorer Ivan Champion in 1927, and amid breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, Salak traveled across this remote Pacific island-often called the last frontier of adventure travel--by dugout canoe and on foot. Along the way, she stayed in a village where cannibalism was still practiced behind the backs of the missionaries, met the leader of the OPM--the separatist guerrilla movement opposing the Indonesian occupation of Western New Guinea--and undertook an epic trek through the jungle.

The New York Times said "Kira Salak is tough, a real-life Lara Croft." And Edward Marriott, proclaimed Four Corners to be…


Air Combat at 20 Feet

By Garrett Middlebrook,

Book cover of Air Combat at 20 Feet: Selected Missions from a Strafer Pilot's Diary

John E. Happ Author Of The Navigation Case: Training, Flying and Fighting the 1942 to 1945 New Guinea War

From the list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea.

Who am I?

I grew up just north of Chicago, took courses at the University of Madrid (La Complutense), and graduated from Marquette University.  I speak 5 languages and have written for such diverse reviews as The Journal of the American Revolution and Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. Nothing has possessed me like my father’s Navigation Case. Besides learning how this young college graduate helped pioneer the nascent aviation industry training in 11 different types of aircraft, I take pride in the astonishing role he played in American history. He was a combat pilot in the first-ever demonstration of air superiority over an enemy, leading to the greatest campaign victory in the history of the US Air Force. 

John's book list on why the Pacific War was waged & fought in New Guinea

Why did John love this book?

I consider Garrett Middlebrook to be the Wilfred Owens (poet) of WWII. He is a man with a conscience and a moral code who explains what it meant to be a combat pilot in New Guinea. He describes various life-threatening mission against a superior enemy. But on the other hand, struggles with the fact that he is killing other men, in other uniforms, who like himself are just doing their jobs. He chafes at orders to kill civilian contractors (conscripted Chinese) working for the Japanese in New Guinea. He recoils from celebrations after the battle of the Bismarck Sea because he felt no joy after witnessing the vivid destruction of enemy men and equipment.