The Jakarta Post
Read one (or several) of these books as a way of celebrating this year's Independence Day. (Shutterstock/-)
Since selfies with the Merah Putih flag are too mainstream, we recommend you read a book to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day. Added bonus: You can act all smart and nationalist at the same time. And hey, you might learn a thing or two about the country too.
Author: Elizabeth Pisani
Based on the author’s experiences traveling across Indonesia, this book is a narrative about the daily lives of Indonesians living on the edges of the vast archipelago. Whether you’re an Indonesian, expat staying here, or casual reader, Pisani can make you fall in love with the country even if your friends warn you that he’s “a bad boyfriend”.
Author: Adrian Vickers
As the name suggests, this book is a straight-up history book of modern Indonesia (at least more modern than Adam Swartz’s A Nation In Waiting: Indonesia In The 1990s). Worry not, Vickers’ writing is readable, light, and far from boring. With less than 300 pages, this is a history book you can actually finish (and later boast about).
Catatan Seorang Demonstran
Author: Soe Hok Gie
Before the activists behind 1998’s reformasi struggle were born, Soe Hok Gie was a prominent member of Indonesia’s youth movement. The book, whose title translates as A Protester's Diary, is the diary of an idealist, who grew cynical after suffering many disappointments during the Old Order regime. The book gives readers a firm grasp on what was happening in Indonesia just before the transition to the New Order period.
Author: Y.B. Mangunwijaya
Y.B. Mangunwijaya explores the other side of history. The Weaverbirds is told through the eyes of Teto, who fought for the Dutch during Indonesia’s war of independence and was considered an enemy by the new Republic and its people. The book is the “show don’t tell” version of the phrase, “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”.
Nyanyian Akar Rumput
Author: Wiji Thukul
If Chairil Anwar reminds you too much of Rangga and Cinta from Ada Apa Dengan Cinta, then Wiji Thukul is perfect for you. Wiji was a poet and activist during the New Order whose words invoked the wrath of generals and politicians. He disappeared two decades ago.
Author: Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Pramoedya Ananta Toer is a writer every Indonesian must read at least once in their lifetime. But if his Buru Quartet is too intimidating for you, Calon Arang is perfect gateway to his works to prepare you for This Earth of Mankind (Bumi Manusia). This is a simple tale of the good and the wicked, as retold by Indonesia’s most celebrated author. It’s a short book that you can finish in one sitting, so that you too can say you have read Pram. (kes)