Want a Thailand reading list? Treat yourself to these wonderful books about Thailand. They’ll either (A) set the scene before your trip, or (B) enjoy them while travelling. The following books include ‘best book of your life’ literature, memoirs and non-fiction books about Thailand – even some guilty-secret beach-book junk. Fire up your Kindle and let’s go…
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The best books about Thailand
The best novels about Thailand
Tip! You get a free book when you sign up for an Audible trial with Amazon. This book is over 15 hours in audiobook format so it will last you ages – it’s a great use for your freebie.
2. Bangkok 8
Bangkok crime/thriller series: “This thriller abounds with sensational elements-from homicidal vipers on speed to jade smuggling and the Thai sex trade-but listeners would be wise to follow the lead of Buddhist narrator Sonchai, who is more interested in the graceful acceptance of life’s puzzles than in their resolution.” (Publishers Weekly)
Tip! Bangkok 8 is the first book in a six-part series: The Sonchai Jitpleecheep Book Series. If you love addictive books or read quickly, start here.
Stories of today’s Thailand: While all of the books on this list are set in Thailand, this is one of few novels from a Thai author. From tourists riding elephants in bikinis to tougher societal problems – addiction, refugees, family dynamics – you’ll devour this collection of short stories in a single sitting and emerge the wiser for it. “The Thailand of Westerners’ dreams shares space with a Thailand plagued by social and economic inequality in this auspicious debut collection of seven plaintive and luminous stories.” (Publishers Weekly)
4. Four Reigns
A work of historical fiction spanning the late 19th Century through to WWII.
Must-read: “Because of all of its local wisdom, Private Dancer ought to be made available to every tourist at port of entry.” (Bangkok Post) Seriously boys, (and girls!), you need to read this book before going to Thailand.
Guilty pleasure: “[A] big juicy holiday read with enough sexual tension – unresolved and otherwise – to keep you gripped”. (Marie-Claire)
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
8. The Beach
You’ve seen the movie: “On the surface it’s a fast-paced adventure novel; at another level it explores why we search for these utopias, be they mysterious lost continents or small island communes”. (Amazon) If you like a book to come to life before your very eyes, The Beach will be a well-timed read (particularly if you plan to visit the parts of Thailand where the movie was filmed).
Man Booker Prize winner: 2014 Man Booker Prize winner: “Captivating . . . This is a classic work of war fiction from a world-class writer . . . Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has shaken me like this.” (Washington Post)
Murder mystery: From the same author as Private Dancer (above), “even in the Land of Smiles, people can have murder on their minds.”
12. The Orchid House
Period Fiction: One for
Downton Abbey Bridgerton fans. A period novel that’s “[a]tmospheric, heart-rending, and multilayered.” (Grazia UK)
Memoirs about Thailand
16. Field Work
Mostly fiction: “Mischa Berlinski originally intended to write an account of the real-life Lisu tribe of Thailand, but held scant interest in the project until he decided to fictionalize the natives and turned his research into a novel.” (Bookmarks Magazine)
My favourite: “Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind. An American Housewife’s Honest Love Affair with the Irrepressible People of Thailand”. 1960s ex-pat Bangkok comes to life – and it’s insane. First published in 1965, this is a fascinating, biographical account of “[a]n American housewife’s honest love affair with the irrepressible people of Thailand.”
Tip! Amazon tends to have only secondhand copies of Mai Pen Rai (and the cover is pretty dated), but don’t let this dissuade you. It’s a wonderful book without equal. Really – you’ll thank me!
18. Leaving Thailand
19. Noodle Trails
Thailand travel memoir: “Fair Trade, Dung Trade and Travels in Thailand and beyond”. The author’s self-described memoir of “life in a jungle hut”.
20. Touch the Dragon
Non-fiction: “Through vivid imagery, humour and careful observation of the families, school friends and Buddhist rituals around her, Connelly brings to life the small village in northern Thailand where she stayed for a year.” (Amazon)
Non-fiction books about Thailand
21. The Ideal Man
The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War
A Captivating Guide to the Thai People and Their History – published in February 2021
Monarchy, War and Resilience: The Fascinating Story of the Gilded Kingdom at the Heart of Asia
Memoir + Mystery: “Explores the double legend of Thompson’s silk company and the unsolved case [of his disappearance].” (The New Yorker)
Favourite Thai cookbooks
I cooked my way through this book during lockdown and recommend it for anyone who’s a novice cook in a greedy person’s body.
Featuring 500 recipes from every region in Thailand.
28. Pok Pok
Over 50 recipes from Portland’s best-known Thai restaurant, Pok Pok.
29. Simple Thai Food
Travel guidebooks about Thailand
Updated and re-released in 2021
October 2021 edition
February 2022 edition
Kids’ books about Thailand
Ideal for kids aged 4+
Ideal for kids ages 8-12.
Ideal for kids aged 3+
Thai Language books
More books about Thailand
Love nothing more than book-shopping? Don’t miss these superb books, from travel guides to Thai cookbooks.
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- Audiobooks: The 33 best audiobooks about Thailand