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Two books from australian Pam Scott they are essential reading before any trip to Vietnam: Hanoi Stories and Life In Hanoi. Great books - look for them in your library or local book store.
Bill Hayton, a former BBC reporter in Hanoi, has written a comprehensive account of Vietnam today: Vietnam: Rising Dragon. Ten chapters cover how and why life is changing in cities and villages and give insight into the country's economic and political system. It also has chapters on the media and the environment.
Another recommendation is called Catfish and Mandala-A Vietnamese Odyssey by Andrew pham - he was born in Vietnam but left as a young child, growing up in USA. He returnrf to Vietnam in his early 20s travelling on his bicycle around the country revisiting places and relatives of his youth. A interesting yarn with a few twists.
Another book with more history but explaining what happened over 4 generations from the time of the mandarins through to fall of saigon and the aftermath of communism and the effects on the four generations of vietnamese is called The Sacred Willow - Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family - Elliott, Duong Van Mai
Three Moons in Vietnam by Maria Coffey, and Bound for Vietnam by Lydia Laube are two good books about Vietnam too
Always browse any or all Travel Pictorial books about a country, region or a natural wonder of the world . You will find excellent photography to view at leisure. Check out any bookstore or library ( lending or reference ).
Always glance through any Travel Guide for the region you are planning to visit. You will always find some nuggets of useful information. The layout and content will always vary with the publisher. Every traveller should make it a priority to browse one or all of the guides listed below. It will be a great education to browse the layout and view the excellent photography. You decide which of the travel guide(s) you like the best.
Browse the children's or junior section of your local library for travel and geography guides. You will find a variety of guides to countries, regions or natural wonders of the world. The majority of these guides will be less than fifty pages in length. They will contain an excellent overview of a country etc. They are an excellent introduction to travel for a novice traveller.