Travel Books: Vietnam

Rose and I catch a ton of tips, bits, and ideas about where we’re currently travelling and where we’re heading thanks to the widest web in the world and even real people! (Amazing, I know. Don’t believe it? It’s vrai.)

One of these things we’ve both accumulated are books. Not physically, thankfully, because we’d never pass the weight restrictions on airplanes.

Instead we’ve each read a bit on the places we’ve gone or are heading, aside from just run of the mill travel guides. Though, to be fair, Rose’s approach may be more indirect through an aside in a Robert Ludlum novel, a single mention in a Scandinavian crime novel or when Jack Reacher says anything about the Vietnam War.

Nevertheless, the point still stands.

From fiction to non and beyond, I thought I’d add a section related to some of the books about the countries we’ve visited which either one of us found insightful, handy, hilarious, or a comforting read on the toilet.

As we meet people along the way, I find I ask what they’re reading as much for conversation as a recommendation, and thought, well, why not pass along my own.

I recognize all of this is probably delusional, considering my family and Rose’s are our main fanbase, on this thing – but who knows, someone three steps removed from family might crack out of the woodwork, and instead of kind encouragements like: “I’m reading your blog!”- might find something actually helpful.

Also, since most of our posts are about US, US, US, I thought too, it might be nice for a change to lead you to some professional writing that could offer more sustenance. Rather than observations here like: “Hah. We saw a monkey today, and I think it was circumsized!.”

So, with that in mind:

Good books I read about Vietnam on this trip:

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Pho,pho,pho. Plot follows a pho vendor who secretly operates his pho stand outside of Communist vendor bureaucracy. Nice insights into cultural change after the Vietnam War and openings for entrepreneurship after 80s economic reforms. Plus tasty descriptions of Pho inspired us to make it even more imperative to order it wherever we went in Vietnam. And for bonus marks the author is Canadian. Rose suggested I may have given her an easier pass, because of that. Could be. But still a good one.

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Historical background on both Indochina wars, plus insights into why the U.S. carried on from the French when the odds of victory looked dim. Really good- def recommend for background on the Vietnam War and prior colonialism of the region.

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Author was a soldier in Vietnam. He relays stories about his time and impressions of  his platoon. Book is broken up into different stories, relating to a single event he remembers – written in a way that’s almost an elegy. Found it interesting, and of course, sad to get an understanding of how it looked to someone who at first was on his way to Canada to protest the war, then decided to opt back in. (I know more Canada. I’m making up for lack of CBC coverage here.).

Books I’ve read a while ago that I want to reread after visiting:

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Journalist who covered the War, and wrote this book in 1977, which a lot of authors give high praise. I remember it being an interesting account, but now that I’ve seen some of Vietnam I want to have another crack at it.

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This book was for sale all over the place in Vietnam, including tons of bootleg copies. Plus Graham Greene had huge references in the Embers of War book I also read. Read it before and liked the noir feel of the thing, the fatalism of the older main character, and the idealism of the younger American. Now, time for an encore, I think.

Books I haven’t read but heard good things

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Recommended by someone we met travelling. Based on a Vietnamese guy who left and came back, and finds he doesn’t fit in.

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Only know this is written by a former Vietnamese soldier. Haven’t got to it yet, but hope to at some point when I’m not reading about the next place we’re going. Based on that, the odds don’t look good for me right now. How about you? Are summer blockbusters, going to the cottage, friends, excitement, latin named frothy drinks, swimming and drinking beer poolside and general hopefulness after a brutal winter getting you down? This book might be just what you need.

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And, there you go. The start of my book club.

Good thing you quit yours Oprah, and are safe and sound with a magazine (I think she did, didn’t she?). There’s a new chief in town, and if our 15 viewers a day have anything to say about it, I think we may…we just may have 16 viewers by end of summer.

Believe that.

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4 comments

  1. Will definitely pick up one of these – thanks for the insight – I too have a wierd, childhood fascination with the Vietnam war – partially fuelled by movies and partially by you, I now think!

  2. The Graham Greene novel is brilliant and another great Vietnam novel is The Lover by Marguerite Duras, set in Saigon in 1929. It’s an autobiographical story and beautifully written.
    Thanks for the list, I love reading in my spare time.

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