Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Across the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
by Andrew X. Pham
Long-term travelers know the perils of book exchanges. Unless you read German, for instance, half of them will be verboten by sake of language. Most of the others are dog-eared Stephen King novels or out-of-date travel books. Worst of all are the thousands of copies of Twilight that now litter hostels and lodges around the world.
Every once in a while, though, an exceptional book finds its way through. We found one in Ko Samui, Thailand, that is almost the perfect travel book–Catfish and Madala. Pham’s prose is read-aloud excellent, the story full of adventure, pathos, and discovery, and the back story is expertly woven into the narrative. I’d go so far as to say that I haven’t read a better piece of travel writing. It comes with the highest possible recommendation.