Books to Read
I was recently reading back through a book called Thai Ways, which I found here in the library at our language center. My first encounter with the book was when the head cook at Baan Thai, a restaurant near Glenbrook mall in Ft. Wayne, IN, offered to lend his copy to Brook and I. We frequented this restaurant when preparing for our first stint in Thailand about 6 years ago. After a few visits, we spoke with the Hostess of Baan Thai about our plans to live in Thailand for 6 months as part of our studies in school. We did this so we could perhaps build a relationship in which we could gain valuable insight into the culture before even arriving in the country. We also hoped to have someone to come back to share with when our term in Thailand was finished. She was so excited about our plans, that she went and got the cook (as she and him were the only Thais, all servers were either Burmese or Cambodian) so he could speak with us. He gave us a few connections for language study, as well as this book, to help prepare us for what lay ahead for us. Nice, huh?
Anyways, a client of my mother’s has been to Thailand, and offered a couple of books to her for more insight into the culture in which my husband and I now live. To my delight and surprise, one of the books was Thai Ways, by Denis Segaller. Upon hearing that my mother was now reading through this book, I decided it was time for me to pick it back up as well. Denis Segaller is an Englishman, born in 1915, who travelled all throughout Europe as a child with his parents, and attended school in Switzerland. Having grown up to be a documentary film maker, he continued his travels throughout the world doing his work. In 1965, he visited Asia for the first time, and it just so happened to be in Thailand. He loved the country, married a Thai woman, became a news writer, and remained in Thailand. As a news writer, he developed his own weekly column “Thai Ways” in the Bangkok World (no longer in print) newspaper from 1975-1985. When the column reached its end, each of his articles on the Thai culture and Thai form of Buddhism were complied into this book, forming a unique commentary on why things are they way they are in this foreign culture – all through the eyes of a foreigner who had to dig deep to figure out the why’s and what’s for himself.
Another good book, if you are one who likes pictures to go along with what you are learning, is called Very Thai. While Segaller’s book, Thai Ways, conveys more of the meanings and nuances that go along with Thai traditional culture, this book captures Thai pop culture and modern phenomena. Only published in December of 2004, Very Thai is a more modern take on the Thai culture, written by an Englishman who came to the city of Bangkok as an editor. Little did he know, he would remain in Bangkok for more than a decade, organizing the Bangkok Metro magazine, film festivals, and publishing several other books on Thai and Southeast Asian culture. In the book Very Thai, he focuses on the little things you see everyday, those things that foreigners will notice right away as being either very strange or very different from their own culture. Why are all table napkins pink? What’s with all the flowers hanging from the taxi’s rear-view mirror? Is that person really drinking a soda from a small plastic grocery bag with a straw? Very Thai is a fun read, has TONS of pictures (which is something I always look for in a book!), and will fill you in on a lot of interesting differences between the Thai culture and your own, things that you would see everyday if you were to visit or live in this country.
You can click on the underlined words within this post to follow links to the books and Baan Thai restaurant, as well as Brook’s website. If you want to know more about where it is that we are living, check them out. Enjoy!