Sunday, May 21, 2017

Five top books on Southeast Asian travel literature

Cat Barton is a correspondent for the Agence France Presse in Hong Kong. At Five Books she tagged five top titles on Southeast Asian travel literature, including:
The Beach by Alex Garland.

This is a great book to read on the beach, and it’s much better than the film. It’s an interesting pop-culture musing on the idea of backpackers travelling around in search of unspoilt beaches. It deals with themes many people are likely to think about when travelling around the region. For example, is it possible to find an unspoilt beach? And what do backpackers do to the societies we visit? For example, how much good has it done the locals to have areas with thriving sex industries? Yes, the money flowing in is good, but how much has it really benefited the area?

The Beach deals with what happens if backpackers go militantly in the other direction. This particular group of travellers find a secluded cove and set up a kind of kibbutz. But the book suggests that the idea of trying to find a perfect, secluded island is pretty stupid. The group experiences a Lord of the Flies style meltdown – they all start turning on each other and I think it’s quite dystopian. That said, it is of course nice to get off the beaten track – but this novel deals with how far you can really do that as a backpacker.
Read about another entry from the Five Books list.

The Beach also appears on Kate Kellaway's ten best list of fictional holidays, Eleanor Muffitt top 12 list of books that make you want to pack your bags and trot the globe, Anna Wilson's top ten list of books set on the seaside, the Guardian editors' list of the 50 best summer reads ever, John Mullan's list of ten of the best swimming scenes in literature, and Sloane Crosley's list of five depressing beach reads.

--Marshal Zeringue