Summary and Info
I've been reading a lot lately on Burma (Myanmar) and found this book to be a good, highly readable introduction to that troubled nation and its conditions, history and culture. I found it quite good and was pleased that a book on this issue was able to make it into bookstores, not just on Amazon.com. I recommend it highly for people seeking such an introduction or with gaps in their knowledge.
Why, then, four stars instead of five? Although Steinberg is a respected scholar of this nation, and I assume therefore a reliable reporter, he doesn't footnote as much as I'd like. Instead he just supplies a list of recommended readings at the end. When reading about a nation with a government this strange, reliable facts, distinct from propaganda, are important. Therefore when Steinberg says, for instance, that the government moved the capital in part due to astrological considerations (page 18) I would like to see a source and he does not provide one. This was especially the case when reading about bizarre economic policies and the ruling junta's constant fears of a highly implausible US invasion. In other words, although Steinberg is respected and may not feel he needs to cite sources, at times when reading about this nation and its ruling junta I felt like I was reading about something so irrational and so out of the ordinary that I needed to know where I could confirm his statements, if for no other reason if someone were to ask me to do so. Although I have read slightly over a dozen books on this nation (many reviewed on this site) and talked to many people from this nation, making me more knowledgeable than most Americans, I am afraid I have a long way to go before I am able to take everything I read in context. Therefore I wish Steinberg had footnoted and cited sources more carefully.
Secondly, I wish he had covered the role of minorities in more depth. He most certainly clarified many things and he does touch on the subject, but the bulk of people I know from Burma are not Burmans but tend to be refugees from other groups. (Burma/ Myanmare has more than 100 languages spoken within its border.) In this context, at least I really enjoyed his brief section, "Why is learning about Burma/Myanmar so difficult?" (pages 8-10) I know the feeling and agree completely.
All in all, this book is a good introduction and a welcome all-round good book on Burma/ Myanmar today. I recommend it highly. On the other hand, it's not perfect and therefore we still await the perfect introductory work on this troubled nation.
More About the Author
David A. Steinberg (born 1970) is the founder and chief executive officer of Zeta Global, formerly Zeta Interactive and XL Marketing Corporation before that, one of several companies that he started.
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