A Shadow Falls: In The Heart Of Java by Andrew Beatty

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Andrew Beatty gives us what no Western writer has been able to do: an intimate picture of how Islamic fundamentalism can displace older and more easygoing forms of belief. He has also written an unforgettably human story set in a beautiful place. Andrew Beatty lived with his family for two and a half years in a village in East Java. When he arrived, he was entranced by a strange and sensual way of life, an unusual tolerance of diversity. Mysticism, Islamic piety and animism coexisted peacefully; the ancient traditions of the shadow play, of spirit beliefs and were-tigers seemed set to endure. Java appeared a model for our strife-ridden world, a recipe for multiculturalism. But a harsh and puritanical Islamism, fed by modern uncertainties, was driving young women to wear the veil and young men to renounce the old rituals. The mosque loudspeakers grew strident, cultural boundaries sharpened. As a wave of witch-killings shook the countryside, Beatty and his family began to feel like vulnerable outsiders. Set among Java’s rice fields and volcanoes, this is the story of how one of the biggest issues of our time plays out in ordinary lives.
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Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded by Simon Winchester

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Simon Winchester’s brilliant chronicle of the destruction of the Indonesian island of Krakatoa in 1883 charts the birth of our modern world. He tells the story of the unrecognized genius who beat Darwin to the discovery of evolution; of Samuel Morse, his code and how rubber allowed the world to talk; of Alfred Wegener, the crack-pot German explorer and father of geology. In breathtaking detail he describes how one island and its inhabitants were blasted out of existence and how colonial society was turned upside-down in a cataclysm whose echoes are still felt to this day.
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