Thailand
February 3, 2024

The best books about Thailand

The following books include ‘best book of your life’ literature, memoirs and non-fiction books about Thailand – even some guilty-secret beach junk.

This post may contain affiliate links, from which I receive a small commission on any resulting purchases at no cost to the customer. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It keeps The Koh Samui Guide ad-free, never sponsored and 100% independent. See privacy policy for more details.

The best books about Thailand: novels, memoirs and more

Want a Thailand reading list? Treat yourself to these wonderful books about Thailand. Use them to set the scene before your trip, or 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…

Travel guidebooks about Thailand

1. Lonely Planet Thailand

The Best Books about Thailand: Lonely Planet Thailand (2022)
Lonely Planet Thailand

Is this still the bible? While I prefer the cultural and background detail you’ll find in DK Eyewitness, Lonely Planet is the book you want in your backpack if you’re doing Thailand from top to bottom – especially when on a budget. Eager to check out this new-for-2022 edition, an update from the immensely popular 2018 guidebook.

2. DK Eyewitness Thailand

The Best Books about Thailand: DK Eyewitness Thailand (2022)
DK Eyewitness Thailand

Besides The Koh Samui Guide, DK Eyewitness is my favourite ‘species’ of travel guide – their 3D maps and diagrams are helpful to anyone “navigationally challenged” and they’re so utterly packed with fascinating trivia that you’ll live the rest of your days peppering your family with facts gleaned from this book. If you’re curious and want to know “what’s that and that and that” – THIS is the book for you.

3. Thailand - Culture Smart!

The Best Books about Thailand: Thailand - Culture Smart!
Thailand - Culture Smart!

I’ve long recommended this book after being a famously bad tourist on my first visit to Thailand. (Spoiler alert: don’t wear cut-off jean shorts to a temple… I cringe to think of it). A fresh cover and some helpful updates mean Thailand – Culture Smart! stays right at the top of your must-read.

Favourite Thai cookbooks

4. Thailand: The Cookbook

The Best Books about Thailand: Thailand: The Cookbook
Thailand: The Cookbook

Dragon fruit frappe, anyone? Featuring 500 recipes from every region in Thailand, this is a beautiful book and an ideal birthday present for your favourite home cook.

5. Maenam

The Best Books about Thailand: Maenam
Maenam

I cooked my way through this book during lockdown and recommend it to anyone who's a novice cook in a greedy person's body.

6. Simple Thai Food

The Best Books about Thailand: Simple Thai Food
Simple Thai Food

"I have generally found "Quick," "Easy," and "Simple" to be disingenuous labels when it comes to Thai cookbooks [...] But Punyaratabandhu seems to pull it off, coming up with recipes that are weeknight-doable" – NPR

Novels about Thailand

7. Sightseeing

The Best Books about Thailand: Sightseeing
Sightseeing

Also available in German. 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)

8. Private Dancer

The Best Books about Thailand: Private Dancer
Private Dancer

Must-read. No pretence of high-brow literature here, but Private Dancer should be required reading for anyone, of any gender, intending to set foot in a Bangkok bar. It's a fairly tongue-in-cheek thriller novel and I highly recommend it. (Incidentally, Bangkok Bob and the Missing Mormon is by the same author and – I think – deserves your time for its title alone). Seriously boys, (and girls!), you need to read this book before going to Thailand. Superb for a day at the beach or pool.

9. The Beach

The Best Books about Thailand: The Beach
The Beach

Free with an Audible trial. 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).

10. The Glass Kingdom: A Novel

The Best Books about Thailand: The Glass Kingdom: A Novel
The Glass Kingdom: A Novel

Free with an Audible trial. A literary thriller set in Bangkok. "Exceptional descriptive skills fuel an overwhelming sense of menace: It is no mean feat to make the ending of a novel truly shocking. . . . The next day you will still be thinking of Sarah’s fate with horror.” —The New York Times Book Review

11. Bangkok Wakes to Rain

The Best Books about Thailand: Bangkok Wakes to Rain
Bangkok Wakes to Rain

Free with an Audible trial. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year.‍

Tip! You get a free book when you sign up for an Audible trial with Amazon. This book is 11 and a half hours in audiobook format so it will last you ages –  it's a great use for your freebie.

12. Comrade Aeon's Field Guide to Bangkok

The Best Books about Thailand: Comrade Aeon's Field Guide to Bangkok
Comrade Aeon's Field Guide to Bangkok

A newly released book about Thailand, published in May 2021. The author grew up in Bangkok and previously wrote Finding George Orwell in Burma.

13. The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Best Books about Thailand: The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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)

14. Bangkok 8

The Best Books about Thailand: Bangkok 8
Bangkok 8

Free with an Audible trial. A 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! Love a series? Bangkok 8 is the first book in a six-part series: The Royal Thai Detective Novels. If you love addictive books or read quickly, start here and race through the rest.

15. Four Reigns

The Best Books about Thailand: Four Reigns
Four Reigns

A work of historical fiction spanning the late 19th Century through to WWII.

16. Are We Nearly There Yet?

The Best Books about Thailand: Are We Nearly There Yet?
Are We Nearly There Yet?

Free with an Audible trial. This deeply funny beach book winds up – exactly where it should – on a beach in Thailand. Early press reviews compare it to Bridget Jones (with a little more “FML”), so schedule a few guilty hours by the pool.

Non-fiction about Thailand

17. Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

The Best Books about Thailand: Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

My favourite. 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: Don't judge this one by its cover. 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. Noodle Trails

The Best Books about Thailand: Noodle Trails
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".

19. Aquanaut

The Best Books about Thailand: Aquanaut
Aquanaut

Free with an Audible trial. "Diver Rick Stanton relives the rescue of the century.” ― The Sunday Times (London)

Thai Language books

20. Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary

The Best Books about Thailand: Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary
Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary

21. Lonely Planet Fast Talk Thai

The Best Books about Thailand: Lonely Planet Fast Talk Thai
Lonely Planet Fast Talk Thai

22. 1001 Easy to Learn Thai Phrases

The Best Books about Thailand: 1001 Easy to Learn Thai Phrases
1001 Easy to Learn Thai Phrases

Free with an Audible trial.

Kids’ books about Thailand

23. All About Thailand

The Best Books about Thailand: All About Thailand
All About Thailand

Ideal for kids ages 8-12.

24. Thai Children's Favorite Stories

The Best Books about Thailand: Thai Children's Favorite Stories
Thai Children's Favorite Stories

25. Aya & Bobby Discover Thailand

The Best Books about Thailand: Aya & Bobby Discover Thailand
Aya & Bobby Discover Thailand

Ideal for kids aged 4+ and, at 28 pages, the perfect length for a bedtime story. "[A] terrific primer for children traveling to Thailand." – The Children's Book Review

Books about Thailand

Love nothing more than book-shopping? Don’t miss these superb books, from travel guides to Thai cookbooks.

P.S. You can find every tip for Thailand books and resources in the archive, or subscribe by email and get all the details straight to your inbox. Enjoy!