Simply put, there’s no place on earth like Bali. Aptly described as the ‘Island of the Gods’, the culture and community here is rich with spirit and spirituality. From the daily temple offerings to the gods (banana leaves filled with flowers, rice and sweets) to the endless ceremonies celebrated with music, prayer and dance, the Balinese culture is one of immense beauty. If you want to delve deeper to understand the life of the Balinese, then here are five books recommended by Philip Blackwell, to read before your next trip to the island.
1. The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata
Ikal attends the poorest village school on the island of Belitong, where graduating from sixth grade is considered remarkable. Ikal and his friends- -a group nicknamed the Rainbow Troops–face threats from every angle: sceptical government officials, greedy corporations, deepening poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and their own low self-confidence. This is an intimate examination of Indonesian life in its finest detail.
2. Indonesia Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani
In 1945, Indonesia’s declaration of independence promised: ‘the details of
the transfer of power etc. will be worked out as soon as possible.’ Still working on the ‘etc.’ seven decades later, the world’s fourth most populous nation is now enthusiastically democratic and riotously diverse – rich and enchanting but riddled with ineptitude and corruption. Fearless and funny, Pisani sets out to paint a deeply informed portrait of a nation.
3. Fragrant Rice by Janet De Neefe
When Janet De Neefe stepped off a plane in Indonesia in 1974, she was immediately seduced by the beauty of the island paradise that abounded. Initially curious by the culture and cuisine of Bali, she had never imagined she might end up falling in love, but after meeting her Balinese husband, she made the island her home. This is a moving and subtle memoir about her life there and about the food culture that extended her love affair.
4. A Little Bit One O’Clock by William Ingram
William Ingram, co-founder and co-director of Bali-based Threads of Life – an organization dedicated to the preservation of traditional Indonesian weaving–offers an intimate account of his own introduction to life on the Indonesian island of Bali. The intimate moments that he shares help to sketch out the intricate lives of a Balinese family, that is both illuminating and tugs on your heartstrings.
5. A House in Bali by Colin McPhee
As a young Northern American composer, Colin McPhee’s life was
changed forever when he chanced upon a recording of some traditional Balinese music. Going on a voyage of discovery to research gamelan as much as possible, he found himself on the island, immersed in its rich culture and history. This book presents an amusing and insightful journey into Balinese music, showing us its importance to the way of Balinese life.