The Papua Blog

What to read

before going to Papua

Words and photos by Papua Explorer and friends

If you are planning a trip to New Guinea and want to learn more about Papuan culture, here is a small selection of books about Papua. This list is of course not complete, but only a small selection of books that you could read before a trip to Papua. Reading a few books before a trip to Papua will certainly help you learn more about the culture and rituals of the tribes and allow you to SEE more while you are there.

New Guinea has piqued the curiosity of historians, anthropologists, as well as explorers who recount their adventures in books. So, as a future visitor, it is nice to know that some famous explorers went the same way many years ago.

The following list has been divided into 2 categories: Books, either fiction or non-fiction, and Articles.

Books about Papua

Islands in the clouds: Travels in the Highlands of New Guinea by Isabella Tree
A historical, cultural, and social immersion in the highlands of New Guinea, cleverly described by Isabella Tree in 250 pages. She recounts her journey to the remote island and gives her journalistic perspective.

The Asmat of New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller by Michael Clark Rockefeller
This rare book is Michael Rockefeller’s personal diary of his two expeditions to West Papua in 1961, first to the Baliem Valley and then to the Asmat. It is illustrated with his personal photographs, and you have access to a catalog documenting the objects he collected of Asmat primitive art. If you have the opportunity to purchase the book, it is a collector’s item in itself.

Savage harvest by Carl Hoffman
Carl Hoffman investigates the mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller. He flies to Papua twice, stays in the Asmat area for months and tries to solve the case. This book gives exciting insights into the life and culture of the Asmat – then and now.

The world until yesterday by Jared Diamond
What can we learn from traditional societies? Jared Diamond answers this question using examples mainly from the tribes in West Papua. He talks about boundaries, friendship, death, justice, but also about aging and nutrition. Not an easy read but very worth reading.

I come from a stone age/ Ich komme aus der Steinzeit by Heinrich Harrer
The famous explorer Heinrich Harrer tells about his journey to West Papua, from the Carstensz Pyramid to the Baliem Valley and his encounter with the tribes. He almost died on this journey, which he himself described as “the hardest expedition of his life”.

Jungle child by Sabine Kuegler
Sabine Kuegler writes her childhood biography. As the daughter of a German missionary couple, she grows up between New Guinea and Germany. In this book, she romanticizes her experiences and recounts the culture clash. An entertaining introduction to the topic.

Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age by Charles Miske
Author Charles Miske tells the story of his ascent of the Carstensz Pyramid in 2013, when he suffered a serious injury while trekking through the jungle. Nevertheless, he decided to continue hiking until he reached the Carstensz summit.

Indonesien by Stefan Loose guide books
This travel guide book is only available in German language. But since Marc has been responsible for the chapter on Papua, we proudly post it here as well.


Headhunting Practices of the Asmat of Netherlands New Guinea
Article written by Rev. Gerard A. Zegwaard
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Old report written by one of the very first missionaries in the Asmat area. Very interesting insight into the former conditions.

What really happened to Michael Rockefeller?
Article written by Carl Hoffman for Smithsonian Magazine in 2014
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A nice article that gives an overview of who Michael Rockefeller was, and crosses the official story of his disappearance with unspoken secrets.

The discovery of Papua by The Papua Blog
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Of course, there is more to read on our blog as well. For example, our article on the history of the discovery of New Guinea, with a summary of the most exciting stories of discovery.

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