The 25 best books about Bangkok
If you're looking for a Bangkok travel guide or just want to fill in your knowledge with some history, expat expertise (or a superb cookbook), these are my 25 recommendations.
The 25 best books about Bangkok
Below, find the travel guides that will suit any Bangkok itinerary (whether a few days or a total city-wide exploration), including some new-for-2023 releases. Enjoy!
Learn exactly how to dig into Thai street food safely, and with confidence. You’ll learn where to eat, and exactly what (and how) to order (see my full review). This updated 2022 guidebook covers Bangkok primarily, with sections on Phuket and Chiang Mai as well.
The 2023 edition of Top 10 Bangkok is available for pre-order (exact publication date seems to differ by country), but the 2019 version remains a great starting point if you’re raring to go. This straightforward guide will help you to plan a superb trip to Bangkok – especially if you’re tight on time.
Brand new for 2022. Do you try to avoid tourist traps? This is the Bangkok guide for you. “This book will lead you to the place where people offer bacon and eggs to tiger temple guardians, and a temple with elaborate effigies of David Beckham, Donald Duck and Popeye.”
Life in 1960s expat Bangkok. Perfectly imagine what life was like back then for Bangkok expats. A wonderful memoir by an American expat – ‘Mai Pen Rai Means Nevermind’ offers an honest and hilarious insight into this period of Bangkok expat life and quite what Thailand was like in Thompson’s day. Amazon will only have secondhand copies with ugly covers – read it anyway!!
Another cookbook from Leela Punyaratabandhu, author of Simple Thai Food (above). “From one of the most respected authorities on Thai cooking comes this beautiful and deeply personal ode to Bangkok, the top-ranked travel destination in the world.” Available in hardback and for Kindle.*Also available in a German language edition: Bangkok: Rezepte und Geschichten aus dem Herzen Thailands
Free with Audible trial. The book cover for Private Dancer looks racy indeed – but don’t be dissuaded. This work of fiction offers a must-read insight into Thailand’s bar industry (Bangkok’s bars and bar girls especially). It’s by no means high-brow literature but is an interesting peek into what goes on behind smiles and shiny lights. If going the audiobook route, pair with headphones (Bangkok’s bar scene is, unsurprisingly, NSFW).
Free with an Audible trial. “Recreates the experience of living in Thailand’s aqueous climate so viscerally that you can feel the water rising around your ankles” (Ron Charles, Washington Post). A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
"Written with a tender compassion for Bangkok's people and customs, Comrade Aeon's Field Guide to Bangkok is a masterful, propulsive debut which introduces a fresh new talent in fiction" – Amazon. Available in hardback, paperback and for Kindle.
9. Bangkok 8
Free with an Audible trial. “A thriller with attitude to spare, Bangkok 8 is a sexy, razor-edged, often darkly hilarious novel set in one of the world’s most exotic cities. Witnessed by a throng of gaping spectators, a charismatic Marine sergeant is murdered under a Bangkok bridge inside a bolted-shut Mercedes Benz. Among the witnesses are the only two cops in the city not on the take, but within moments one is murdered and his partner, Sonchai Jitpleecheep – a devout Buddhist and the son of a Thai bar girl and a long-gone Vietnam War G.I. – is hell-bent on wreaking revenge.” – Audible
10. Bangkok Thai
“Bangkok Thai: The Busaba Cookbook takes everything the restaurants legions of fans love about Thai cookery and makes it available to the amateur chef. The book offers 100 recipes ranging from salads and soups to stir-fries, wok noodles, curries and chargrills, as well as Asian-inspired cocktails and desserts.” Available in hardback.
11. B is for Bangkok
A child’s day in Bangkok: Explore a typical day of a child living in Bangkok. Bilingual English/Thai book for children ages 5-8. Available in hardback.
Depending on your location, this book will be published in May 2022 or early 2023. If you’d rather not pre-order the update, the 2018 version remains a great starting point. With 288 pages of nothing but Bangkok, this guide book will get you from Chinatown to Chatuchak. Nineteen neighbourhood maps and updated content from Austin Bush (see The Food of Northern Thailand).
Free with an Audible trial. Set partially in 1970s Bangkok. Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed, What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal, and the beauty that can exist even in the midst of brokenness" – Amazon. Available in hardback, paperback and for Kindle and Audible.
"Fodor's 25 Best Guides offer highlights of major city destinations in a compact package that includes a sturdy, detailed street map you can bring along with you to help you navigate when cell service is not available. By focusing only on top sights―all divided by neighborhood―we make planning your days easy" – Fodor's. Published November 2019. Available in paperback.
"Lonely Planet's Pocket Bangkok is our colourful, easy to use, handy guide that literally fits in your pocket, providing on-the-go assistance for those seeking the best sights and experiences on a short visit" – Lonely Planet. Published October 2018. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
Free with an Audible trial. From the same author as Private Dancer, above, and – I think – deserves your time for its title alone. A tongue-in-cheek murder mystery that rampages across Bangkok and back again.
"This user-friendly Thailand travel guide helps you discover hidden gems found throughout the city by presenting each neighborhood as a distinct village--explaining how it evolved, and describing its historical landmarks in detail. Travel book author Ken Barrett is a long-time Bangkok resident and experienced journalist, and he introduces the noteworthy temples, churches, shrines, and mosques in loving detail, sketching their history and distinctive features. The reader is skillfully guided through the old neighborhoods of Bangkok from the center to the periphery, along narrow lanes and byways rarely seen by foreigners" – Amazon. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
"Delve a little deeper to discover a different side to the city - venture beyond the downtown gloss on a cycling tour, watch a theatrical khon performance, take part in a traditional Thai cookery class, or join a day-trip to the spectacular Muang Boran Ancient City. Whatever you choose to do, this Rough Guide will help you make the most of Thailand's vibrant capital." – Rough Guides. Published March 2019. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
19. Another Bangkok
Brand new! "Another Bangkok will delight both those who think they know the city well and those visiting for the first time. Kerr is a uniquely wry and eloquent guide to everything from ceramics to puppetry, from flower patterns to old houses" – Amazon. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
"Over the course of this novel, Lav presents an ambitious tale about overstepping cultural boundaries and losing one's autonomy within a marriage. . . . an unusual glimpse of life in Thailand in the aftermath of the Vietnam War" – Kirkus Reviews. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
I love this book. The cover folds out to reveal a sturdy map inside, which is really useful. If you prefer to travel light, your purchase includes both the hard copy and its ebook equivalent.
You could spend the rest of your life shopping in Bangkok, no joke. As such, nothing I say could come close to the extreme level of expertise available in Bangkok Shopping Made Easy. Available for Kindle only.
23. Bangkok Local
How to fulfill all your foodie dreams. Bangkok Local’s unique take is its dawn to dusk schedule. For breakfast perhaps “some fried taro cakes (kanom pak gad) or an egg in tamarind sauce (kai luk keuy) or rice soup with barramundi (kao tom pla kra pong)”. Snack options abound for the afternoon section, with “late-night stir-fried crab with black pepper (pu pad prik thai dum) and bananas in coconut cream (gluay buat chee)” to finish the day. Available in hardback.
Do you have a particularly obsessive love of Thai food? If so, let's rejoice together at this book's release. It promises to guide us through eating tours, food markets, bars and foodie gift-shopping. "Bangkok In 12 Dishes is structured around iconic dishes you should try at least once while in town. Our guide also dives deep into Bangkok's myriad desserts and curries, guides you to the city's best food markets and follows a food trail around the city's scenic waterways." Everyone to their Pelotons! We must prepare for The Eating. Available in paperback.
25. A Day in Bangkok
Brand new! A Young Explorer Travel Guide to Bangkok. 36 pages. Available in paperback and for Kindle.
The 25 best books about Bangkok
A good travel guide can make or break your trip. Whether you’re a Thailand expat or hope to visit Asia for the very first time, these are the travel guides and resources I recommend above all (bias confession – I wrote one them).
- Travel guides: The Best Thailand Travel Guides
- Cookbooks: The 33 Best Thai Cookbooks
- Novels: The Best Books about Thailand
- Audiobooks: The Best Audiobooks about Thailand
- Kids: Favourite Children’s Books about Thailand