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BOOK‹ REVIEW
Hundred Best Thai Books in the Past Hundred Years Project
(B.E. 2419-2519)
 
Supported by : Thailand Research Fund (TRE)
Project Diredtor : Witthayakorn Chiangkul
Launched by : Cholthira Satyawadhna
Translated by : Gessanee Maneerutt
 
Having spent more than a year looking for outstanding literary
works which deserve to be read, a group of experts have finally
identified what they believe to be the "Top 100" among the entire
Thai books.
 
Back in 1836, a team of American missionaries opened Thailand's first
printing house, revolutionalising the literary culture of Kingdom
of Siam and publicizing many more books. For about 162 years,
Thai readers have continued enjoying the evergrowing list of books
published on many diverse topics. However, the wealth and breadth of
Thai literature is so huge that if you ask many Thai what books
they would consider as "a must" to read, the will be at a loss
to come up with a definitive list.
 
The above is one of the major reasons why Mr. Witthayakorn Chiangkul,
a writer, thinker, social critic and, Director of Social Science Research
Institute, Rangsit University,embarked on the mammoth task of
identifying the 100 must-read Thai books. The uimate aim is to give
Thai readers some guidance on the best of their country's various
fields of literary heritage.
 
In late 1996, after securing around one millon baht from the
Thailand Research Fund, Witthayakorn Chiangkul brought together
a team of academics to work on the "One Hundred Books" Thais
should read project. On this matter, he said,
"We do net aim at awarding or honouring particular books,
but promoting the reading habits of Thai people, and introducing
them many excellent but largely forgotten ones."
 
He also mentioned that in the west , institutes like universities
and literary societies regularly drew up recommended reading lists
from various fields. However, through the past time, Thai readers
have not shown any enjoyment for guidance. In addition, he said
the last time an official nation book selection list drawn up by
the Wannakhadii Samoonsaun, a literure club, was during the reign
of King Rama VI in 1910-1925. Included on the "must-read" books list
were Lilit Phra Lau in the poetic travelogue section, I-naw (dramatic
literature) and Saam Kok (Chinese historical fiction).
 
In the intervening decades, many thousands more books have been
written with different tastes and styles and only "annual book awards"
are what bookworms have relied on to help them discover new of even
old literary works.
 
The project was not without controversy, Witthayakorn Chiangkul
recalled,
"Some of those in the literary circle questioned and asked
if we could manage such a sophisticated task of screening so many
books while some doubted the value of making book selections.
However, we believe in our objective and we, no matter how,
would be on the move."
 
Accorkingly, despite its doubters, after the project was started,
it has received support from many otherbook lovers, who recommended
good reads as well as offered access to such "hard-to-get " from
their personal coolections.
 
Witthayakorn Chiangkul invited a group of experts, which included
scholars, editors, librarians and writers, to join the project.
The experts were divided into two teams; one was responsible
for reading and screening the books and the othe guided the first
teamwork and made comments on it. Both groups met on a monthly
basis to discuss the recommended ones. About this, Witthayakorn,
"We'd like to offer a guide, so if anybody was interested
in the Thai society, generally of specifically, especially from
an evolutionary perspective, the list could lead them to the
right direction."
 
Moreover, thehigh quality of many non-fiction books were placed
on the list as what Witthayakorn said,
"Many non-fiction and academic writers of the past were just
as competent at writing as authors of literary works. Accordingly,
the list covered some good examples of the great non-fictions."
 
The book list was classified into two categories; literary and
non-literary sections. Each category, itself, was broken down
into sections. The literary selection included sections for poetry,
plays, novels, short stories, and compilations, and the non-literary
covered sections of history, religion and philosophy, language and
literary criticism, sociology and anthropology, politics and economics,
and, science and natural science. He explained the process,
"First, we screened them by evaluating their significance
under the rough framework of categories and categorized them
afterwards. As it turned out, our list consisted of 55 books in literary,
and 45 in non-literary,"
 
For qualified books on the list, they had to be written in the Thai
language during A.D.1867 to A.D.1976. The dates were significant;
1867 was the year King Rama V ascended the throne - a turning point
during the modernized period of the Thai society and 1976 was the year
of a political blookshed - another crucial date in the Thai history.
 
Other criteria for book selection included good use of language,
cretivity, social reflection non-bias, popularity, and public recognition
of writer within Thai culture. Regarding to this,
Witthayakorn Chiangkul said,
"We tried to consider the "one-writer-one-book" as a guideline,
but there were such exceptions as Jitr Phumisak because three of
his books, Kawii Kaanmuang (Political Poetry), Choom Naa Sakdina
Thai (The Real Face of Thai Feudalism), Khwaam Pen Maa Khaung Kham
Siam, Thai, Lao, Lae? Khom, Lae? Laksana Thaang Sangkhom Khaung
Chueue Chon-Chaat (History of Terms: Siam, Thai, Lao and Khom,
and the Societal Characteristics of Their Ethnonyms), were chosen
due to his versatility. Moreover, a place had also been found on
the list for the traditional folk tales which had been survived for
many centuries through story-telling and had only been set down
on paper in more recent times. Such good example is Srithanonchai,
the famous folk tale about a tricky guy, appearing in many written
and folk versions and we choose it because it reflects the wisdom
of rural Thai."
 
In addition, he introduced some more interesting selected books,
such as,
"Books by multiple writers were also included, for example,
Kaamanit, the romantic novel with a Buddhist theme by Sathiankooseet
and Naakhaprathiip, Although it is a translated version from Karl
adolph Gjellerup's Karmanit novel, the book enjoys such popularity
and influence that you shoud not miss it. There are other interesting
selections written by non-Thai writer, such as artist/educator
who founded Silpakorn University. We also listed Prawat Kotmaay
Thai (thai Sculpture) by a Belgian lawyer, R. Langart, both of which
were written in Thai. The selected non-literary works, whose authors
are anonymous, include Phrayaa Suriyaanuwat's Saphayasaat, the first
Thai economics text, and Phaethayasaat Songkhrau?, an early
traditional medical science text."
 
The selective list drew a lot of comments from those in the literary
field when it was publicized at the end of last year, "Comments
questioning the selections are inevitable," said Witthayakorn,
"however, we won't alter the list as we've already made
our decisions based on the reason that changing the list to please
everyone would be an endless task. However, we would include
interesting comments people made in our research paper."
 
Witthayakorn Chiangkul expects to undertak a similar project
in the future to indentify the must-read books for children and
young elite. However, he acknowledges that amidst the current
economic climate, to get financial support for it would be difficult.
Aside from the relief of accomplishing such a huge commitment,
he seems to be delighted in the task on a personal level. "The project
drove me to read old books, which had been ignored for a long time.
Books which describe the evolution of Thai society," he said
 
On the other hand, he said, the project had also highlighted Thailand's
poor archiving system. "Some of the books, even those just twenty
years old, were hard to come by as many, not available in governmental
libraries, had to be borrowed from private collections," he said
and added,
"Ironically, none of the committee members have all 100 selected
books. I've got about 40 titles. No one or no institution has the entire
collection in hand."
Witthayakorn Chiangkul and his team discussed the project on
March 29, 1998, at the Nation Book Fair, in Bangkok. A Conference
for launching the project was officially held in June, in collaboration
with Thammasart University Library. The event will coincide with
the opening of Thammasart's new Pridi Phanomyong Library Building.
 
As a result of the project, an anthology of must-read books is to be
published. The 500-page-anthology will feature a brief background
on the selected works and their authors and an overview of literary
development in Thailand in the last 162 years.
 
The complete list of "Hundred Best Thai Books of the Past Hundred
Years" is as follows:
 
POETRY&PLAYS
 
1. Prachum Khlong Lookaniti (1917) - Krom Phrayaa Deechaadisaun
2. Seephaa Srii Thaonchai Chiangmiang - [Anonymous]
3. Niraat Naung Khaay - Luang Phatthanaphongphakdii
4. Saamakkhipheet Khamchan (1907) - Chit Burathat
5. Matthana-phaathaa (1923) - King Rama VI
6. Khlong Klaun Khaung Khruu Theep (1942)
- Chaophrayaa Thammasakmontrii
7. Bot La? Khaun Rueang Phra? Lau (1953)
- Krom Pra Naraathip-Praphanphong
8. Khaup Faa Klip Thaung (1956) - 'Utcheenii'
9. Rao Cha?na? Laew Mae Jaa (1974) - 'Naay Phii'
10. Bot Kawii Khaung Plueang Wannasrii - Plueang Wannasrii
11. Kawii Kaan Mueang (1974) - Jitr Phuumisak
12. Kaviiniphon khaung Angkhaan Kallayaanaphong (1964)
- Angkhaan Kallayaanaphong
13. Jong Pen Aathit Muea Uthai - 'Taweep Waun'
14.Khaup Krung (1971) - Raat Rang-raung
15. Phiang Khwaam Khluean Wai (1974) - Naowarat Phongphaibuun
 
NOVELS
 
16. Lakhaun Haeng Chiiwit (1929)
- Maum Jao Aa-Kaatdamkeung Raphiiiphat
17. Kaamanit (1930) - Sathisakoseet- Naakhaprathiip
18. Dammrong Pratheet (1931) - Wee-thaang
19. Phuu Chana? Sip Thit (1939) - 'Yaa-khaup'
20. Nueng Nai Rauy (1934) - Daukmaisot
21. Baang-Ra?jan (1936) - Mai Mueangdeum
22. Ying Khon Chua (1946) - 'K. Suraangkhanang'
23. Phon Nikaun Kim Nguan - 'P. Intharapaalit'
24. Peking-Nakhaun Haeng Khwaam Lang (1943) - Sot Kuuramaloohit
25. Rau Likhit-Bon Lum Sop Vaasithii - R. Janthaphimpha?
26. Mueang Nimit (1948) - M.R. Nimitmongkhol Nawarat
27. Maesaay Sa-uen (1971) - 'A. Chaiwaurasin'
28. Pattayaa (1951) ' - Daaw-haang'
29. Phaen Din Nii Khaung Khrai (1952) - Sirirat Sathaapanawat
30. Mahaabandit Haeng Mithilaanakhaun (1964) - Yaem Praphathaung
31. Piisaat (1957) - Seenii Saowaphong
32. Sii Phaen Din (1954) - M.R. Khuek-rit Praamoot
33. Thung Mahaaraat (1964) - Maalai Chuuphitnit
34. Lae Pai Khaang Naa (1955) - 'Sriibuuraphaa'
35. See-phlee Boy Chaaw Rai (1969) - Rong Wongsawan
36. Jotmaay Jaak Muaeng Thai (1970) - 'Boo-Taan'
37. Khao Chue Kaan (1971) - Suwannee Sukhonthaa
38. Saang Chiiwit - Luang Wijit-waathakaan
39. Tawan Tok Din (1972) - Kritsana A-sooksin
40. Sauy-Thaung (1974) - Nimit Phoomthaavaun
41. Piraap Daeng (1974) - Suwat Wauradilok
42. Luuk Isaan (1976) - Khamphuun Buunthawii
 
SHORT STORIES
 
43. Nithaan Weetaan - 'N.M.S.'
44. Jap Taay - Manat Janyong
45. Ruam Rueang San Khaung P. Buuranapakaun - P. Buuranapakaun
46. Ruam Rueang San Khaung S. Thammayot - S. Thammayot
47. Phlaay Maliwan [and other short stories] - Thanaum Mahaapaoraya?
48. Phuu Dap Duang Aathit [and otherscience fictions]
- Jantrii Siribunraut
49. Yuk Thamin [and other short stories] - Isaraa Amantakun
50. Rueang San Chut Mueang Rae [and other short stories]
- Aa-jin Panjaphan
51. Faa Bau Kan [and other stories] - Laaw Kham Haum
52. Phuean Kao - Saneu Intharasuksrii
53. Chan Jueng Maa Haa Khwaam Maay - Witthayyaakaun Chiangkuun
54. Ruam Rueang San Humourist - Humourist
55. Khon Bon Tonmai [and other short stories] - Nikhom Raayawaa
 
HISTORY
 
56. Prawat Khotmaay Thai - R. Langart
57. Nithaan Booraanakhadii
- Somdet Krom Phrayaa Damrong-Rachaanuphaap
58. Choom Naa Sakdina Thai - Jit Phuumisak
59. Kabot R.S 130 [A.D.1809-1910] - Rian Sriijan & Neet Phoonwiwat
60. Jao Chiiwit - Phra-ong-jao Julajakraphong
61. Saan Thai Nai Adiit - Prayut Sitthiphan
62. Prawatsaat Thai Samai P.S. 2352-2453 [A.D. 1809-1910]
- Chai Rueangsin
63. angkhom Thai Nai Samai Ton Ratnakosin [A.D. 1782-1873] - A-khin Raphiiphat
POLITICS/CONTEMPORARY HISTORY/ECONOMICS
 
64. Sap-phaya-saat (1911) - Phrayaa Suriyaanuwat
65. Bueang Lang Kaan Patiwat 2475 (1941) - Kulaap Saaypradit
66. Khwaam Pen Anijjang Khaung Sangkhom - Priidii Phanomyong
67. Thaan Priidii-Ratthaburut Aavusoo (1974) - Duean Bunnaak
68. Oo-waa Aa-naa Prachaaraat - Sanit Jareunrat 69. Thai Kap Songkhraam Look Khrangthii Saung (1966)
- Di-reek Chaiya-naam
70. Santi-prachaatham (1973) - Puay Ng-phaakaun 71. Haa Pii Parithat (1973) - Sulak Sivarak
72. Wan Mahaa-pii (1973) - Thammasart University Student Union
 
ARTS/LANGUAGE & LITERATURE/LITERARY CRITICISM
 
73. Wannakhadii Lae? Wannakhadii Wijaan ‹ (1943) - Wit Siwasiriyaanon
74. Pratimaakam Thai (1947) - Silpa Phiirasrii
75. Witthayaa Wannakam (1963) - Krom Muen Naraathip-phongpraphan
76. Wannasaan Samnuek - Suphaa Sirimaanon
77. Khwaam-ngaam Khaung Silapa Thai (1967) - N.Na Paaknaam
78. Phaasaa Kotmaay Thai (1968) - Thaanin Kraiwichian
79. Wanwaithayaakaun Chabap Wannakhadii (1971)
- M.L. Boonluea Thephayasuwan & Jeetanaa Naakkhawatchara
80. Saeng Arun 2 (1979) - Saeng-Arun Ratakasikaun
 
SOCIOLOGY/ANTHROPOLOGY/SOCIAL HISTORY
 
81. Phra? Raatchaphithii Sip-saung Duean - King Rama V
82. Saan Somdet - Prince Damrong-Raachaanuphaap
83. Saansip Chaat Nai Chaing Raay (1950) - Bunchuay Sriisawat
84. Thianwan (1952) - Sa-ngop Suriyin
85. Kaalee Maan Tai (1961) - Banjop Phanthumethaa
86. Nithaan Chaaw Rai (1972) - Sawat Jantanii
87. Phaarata Witthayaa (1967) - Karunaa and Rueang-urai Kutsalaasai
88. Fuen Khwaam Lang (1968) - Phra?yaa Anumaan-Raatchathon
89. Khwaam Pen Maa Khaung Kham Sa-yaam, Thai, Laaw, Lae?
Khaum, Lae? Laksana? Thaang Sangkhom Khaung Chue
Chon-Chaat (1976) - Jit Phuumisak
90. Attachiiwaprawat Khaung Maum Sriiphrommaa Kritdaakaun (1979) - Maum Sriiphrommaa Kritdaakaun
91. Paet-sip Pii Nai Chiiwit Khaa-pha-jao - Kaanjanaakkhaphan
 
RELIGION/PHILOSOPHY
 
92. Phra? Prawat Trat Lao (1924)
- Supreme Patriarch Prince Wajirayaan Waroorot
93. Phra? Trai Pidok Chabap Prachaachon (1958)
- Suchiip Punyaanuphaap
94. Panyaa-Wiwat (1952) - Samak Buraawaat 95. Buddha-dharma (1971) - Phra? Thammapidok
96. Idappajjayataa (1973) - Buddhadaasa Bhikkhu
 
NATURAL SCIENCE/SCIENCE
 
97. Nang-sue Sadaeng Kijjanukij (1867)
- Jao Phrayaa Thiphaakarawong
98. Phaethayasaat Songkhrauh (1907)
- Khana? Phaet-Luang Ratchakaan Thii Haa
99. Thammachaat Naanaa Sat (1961) - Bunsong Leekhakun
100. Khabuan-kaan Kae Jon (1976) - Prayuun Janyaawong
 
Three among the "100 Must-Read Books" are selected by the Editor
to suit the Thematical Special Issue: "Thai Social and Cultural
History", i.e.,
 
1. Saam-sip Chaat Nai Chiang Raay [30 Ethnic Groups in Chiang Rai],
2. Kaalee Maan Tai [A Visit to Ban Tai], and
3. Khwaam Pen Maa Khaung Kham Sa-yaam, Thai, Laaw, Lae? Khaum,
Lae? Laksana? Thaang Sangkhom Khaung Chue Chon-chaat
[History of Terms: Siam, Thai, Lao, Khom, and the Societal
Characteristics of These Ethnoyms]
 
The follwing commentary of the three selected books
above-mentioned are the excerpts from the research reviewed
by researchers of the Project:
 
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