When we packed up our things to come to Nepal, we had to leave about a dozen boxes of books in our parents’ attic (thanks Lynn & Alice!), but we still managed to somehow fit a whopping 33 books into our four suitcases.
Those who know what massive nerds we are asked us as we prepared to leave–How will you guys find books over there? Well, though we’ve been well-outfitted with our Kindles and our parents’ digital library access (thanks Susan!), we’ve actually found a ton of great books in print in both Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Thanks to the rapidly rising literacy rate in Nepal, the great Nepali tradition of storytelling, affordable book presses out of Western India, and the practice of book-swapping among trekkers, there are now many wonderful bookshops that carry books on just about any subject relating to Nepal/the Himalayan region, as well as most everything on the international bestseller lists–at a mere fraction of the US cost.
Here’s a little bit of what we’ve been reading lately, with some links to where you can find these Nepal-related books yourself:
All of Us in Our Own Lives by Manjushree Thapa (Amazon Link)
[Caroline]: A fictional account of a Canadian aid worker, a young Nepali woman living in a village, and a brother who has moved abroad to support his family. This easy “beach read” is an interesting account of aid workers in Nepal and demonstrates the necessity of multiple perspectives in order to enrich each of our own lives.
The Royal Ghosts by Samrat Upadhyay (Amazon Link)
[Andrew]: Upadhyay seems to be a pretty well-known Nepali author writing in English, and he has a talent for precisely capturing complex emotions and relationships without falling into unrealistic melodrama. This collection of short stories is a great fictional window into the complexity of how Nepal’s development and democratization has affected everything from religion to relationships.
The Vanishing Act by Prawin Adhikari (Amazon Link)
[Andrew]: This collection of short stories has a post-colonial bent to it and several of the story arcs cross the world from Kathmandu all the way to Southern California. “The Boy from Banauti,” “The Vanishing Act” and “Fortune” were my favorite stories in this volume.
While the Gods Were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin (Amazon Link)
[Caroline]: This is the best book from this list and I haven’t even read the ones Andrew recommends! An anthropologist from California marries a high-caste Nepali and ends up having a baby in a rural Nepali village whilst finishing up her doctorate degree on women’s movements. Incredibly insightful, funny, and endearing- this is a must read if you’re interested in Nepali culture or cross-cultural relationships.
Tents in the Clouds: The First Women’s Himalayan Expedition by Monica Jackson and Elizabeth Stark (Amazon Link)
[Andrew]: I picked up this book at a leave-one-take-one shelf in a local coffee shop, and I have not been sorry for it. This book, originally published in 1956, chronicles the first female expedition in the Himalaya soon after Nepal first opened to climbers in the early 1950s. The writing is beautifully detailed and emanates British exploratory spirit (colonialism, too, at times), feminism, and in-depth knowledge of mountaineering. *I’m also going to insert a plug here for one of the best books on mountains/nature/life I’ve ever read, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd (who also happened to be a Scottish female novelist, poet, professor, & mountaineer around the turn of the 19th century).
Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal by Prashant Jha (Amazon Link)
[Both]: This telling of Nepal’s more recent history (post-1951 up through the Civil War) is provided in the voice of one of the nation’s most prominent journalists, who had personal relationships with leaders of the many different factions involved in Nepal’s civil conflict. It’s nicely readable and a more dramatic companion to some of the more staunchly academic histories available out there.
Nepal in Transition edited by David M. Malone, Sebastian von Einsiedel, Suman Pradhan (Amazon Link)
[Andrew]: This is a great resource for anyone looking to better understand the many facets of Nepal’s complex road to democratic state building and peacebuilding. Most of the chapters are written by Nepali researchers, which is both helpful and appreciated.
Fatalism and Development by Dor Bahadur Bista (Amazon Link)
[Caroline]: Although a bit old, this book provides poignant insights in how development work corresponds or competes with cultural values. Even beyond the context of Nepal, this is a quick, more academic account of how aid can function in highly relational or hierarchical societies. It’d make a good companion book to When Helping Hurts.
Jack and Betty & the Yak and Yeti by Simon Arthy (Link)
[Both]: We ran across this book while babysitting our friends’ kids one night and immediately fell in love. It’s quirky, fun and easy to memorize—the kids quoted nearly the entire book to us! It’s also a nice picture of what life in Kathmandu looks like.
Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine and Judith Gueyfier (Link)
[Both]: This is a really fantastic introduction to Nepal (and international development) for kids from the awesome people over at Barefoot Books. If you’re looking for children’s books that celebrate diversity, inclusion, and help kids learn more about the wide, wide world they live in, check out their other books!