5 Inspiring Books About Burma

Here we share our favourite books that have been inspired by travels to this beautiful country

5 Jan 2017 • Jules Verne

5 Inspiring Books About Burma

Burma’s borders only opened up to tourists relatively recently, meaning that few have had the chance to experience the mystery and majesty that lies between its borders.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has rich and varied history, culture and landscape, which have long been an inspiration to writers. Here we share our favourite books that have been inspired by travels to this beautiful country:

The Pandaw Story: On the Rivers of Burma and Beyond by Paul Strachan

The Irrawaddy Flotilla company was founded in 1995 by Paul Strachan following the success of the first trip made by foreign tourists up the Irrawaddy River since the Second World War. This book follows the business, which is now known as Pandaw, and Strachan himself, through the trials and tribulations of doing business in Burma. It also tells of the adventures the company facilitated, both in Burma and throughout South-East Asia, in a delightfully readable style that includes humorous anecdotal stories, as well as a glimpse into the darker side of doing business in Burma. 

Burma’s Spring: Real Lives in Turbulent Times by Rosalind Russell

Burma’s Spring captures the largely untold story of this mysterious country through the lens of the people the author Rosalind Russell met while living there. The colourful characters crowd the pages of this carefully wrought book and bring the history of this troubled country to life. Through Russell’s deft descriptions we meet the serene democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, excitable girl band members, and legendary palm readers. Her descriptive and often touching stories lead us through the tangle of Burma’s history in an engaging and journalistic style, which is sure to capture the imagination and the heart.

Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi

Throughout her two-decade-long house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s most celebrated political leader, wrote beautiful, poignant letters that were sent out far beyond Burma’s near impenetrable border. They tell not only the story of a woman’s peaceful battle for control of her homeland, but also that of the country itself and Suu Kyi’s love for its scenery, culture and customs. The letters tell the moving story of individual dissidents’ courageous sacrifices in the name of democracy and Suu Kyi’s heartbreak on their behalf, as well as for their children. This book is unlike anything else you will ever read.

Burmese Days by George Orwell

George Orwell’s first novel is inspired by the time he spent working for the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. In a style that will be familiar to fans of Orwell’s later works, criticism is poured on the corrupt and bigoted Imperialist system. This caustic, fast-paced novel tells the story of Flory, a white timber merchant, who befriends the Indian doctor Vereswami and attempts to save him from falling prey to the local magistrate by gaining him access to the Club. The novel vividly describes the dying days of the British Empire and the collapse of the social structures that supported it, but also the shimmering beauty of Burma and the scenery within its borders.

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Acclaimed author Amy Tan is best known for her novels The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter - books rich in imagination and description - and this story follows that same vein. The novel tells the story of eleven tourists visiting Burma on an art expedition who disappear from their resort. Through a series of adventures and misadventures they find themselves deep in the Burmese jungle, where they meet a tribe looking for a leader and discover a mythical book that will protect them from the Myanmar military regime. Tan carefully balances comedy, the absurd, and delicately drawn sketches of the Burmese landscape to weave together this gripping story of adventure, responsibility and morality.

Discover Burma for yourself with VJV on one of our tours through this beautiful country, or find more travel inspiration through other posts in our Jules Verne Reads series