The 25 best audiobooks about Thailand
Read on to find your ideal audiobook – the list includes Thai language lessons, hilarious satire, murder-mysteries and fascinating WWII history from around Southeast Asia.
The best audiobooks about Thailand
The following twenty-five audiobooks about Thailand and the surrounding region are guaranteed to teach you something, make errands and workouts more interesting – they might even make you laugh.
Picking up where the Lonely Planet intro leaves off, the book covers the whos, the hows, the whats and the whys of Thai culture in a very readable manner. Whether you’re a first- or second-time visitor to Thailand, this book will help you get a lot more out of your time in Thailand (not to mention avoiding obvious faux pas). Audiobook length: 2 hours and 53 minutes
Tip: If you’re travelling as a couple, a headphone-splitter means you can enjoy your book together – or even learn Thai phrases as a polyglot-powerhouse.
2. The Beach
Raising the literature stakes, The Beach is the novel version of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie you just might be too young to remember. Audiobook length: 11 hours and 12 minutes
A literary thriller set in Bangkok, written by a longtime expat. “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. Audiobook length: 9 hours and 21 minutes
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year. “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) Audiobook length: 11 hours and 24 minutes
Love a fast-paced thriller? Get to know the six-part Royal Thai Detective series, starting with Bangkok 8. All six books follow Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Royal Thai Detective. If you love getting stuck into a series (Cormoran Strike/Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc), these books are fast-paced and take you further into the world of Bangkok corruption than you'd ever want to see first-hand. Audiobook length: 12 hours and 16 minutes (for book 1, Bangkok 8)
This funny beach book winds up – exactly where it should – on a beach in Thailand. If you liked Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, schedule a few guilty hours by the pool. Audiobook length: 11 hours and 20 minutes
SO. GOOD. I loved this book so much that I mailed paperback copies to all favourite family members. The story follows an American family from the 1970s to present day, first during their time as an expat family in Bangkok (where Something Very Bad happens) and later in the States.
It covers mother-daughter and sibling relationships, there’s a mystery, there’s expat snobbery and, best of all, some incredible scenes of Thailand fifty years ago. Read it in a weekend – tell your family to deliver snacks.“A richly imagined page-turner that delivers twists alongside thought-provoking commentary” (Kirkus Reviews). Audiobook length: 15 hours and 35 minutes
A few weeks before your trip, add a beginner Thai language audiobook to your nighttime routine. Even ten or fifteen minutes' attention will offer a net gain. Audiobook length: 7 hours and 36 minutes
Tip: Are you competitive? If you're travelling with a group (and are competitive), undertake this language-learning in TOTAL SECRET. Imagine their astonishment when you order your first beer. In Thai.
Murder mystery: From the same author as Private Dancer (which I thoroughly recommend in Kindle or paperback), "even in the Land of Smiles, people can have murder on their minds." Audiobook length: 6 hours and 43 minutes
Monarchy, War and Resilience: The Fascinating Story of the Gilded Kingdom at the Heart of Asia. Audiobook length: 13 hours and 28 minutes
“Diver Rick Stanton relives the rescue of the century.” ― The Sunday Times (London). Audiobook length: 12 hours and 21 minutes
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) Audiobook length: 12 hours and 4 minutes
13. In the Weeds
Not a Thailand title, but one that covers Southeast Asia travel at length. A wonderful posthumous biography to Anthony Bourdain from his friend and producer Tom Vitale. Audiobook length: 8 hours and 47 minutes
14. Deep Blue Sea
Guilty pleasure: “[A] big juicy holiday read with enough sexual tension - unresolved and otherwise - to keep you gripped”. (Marie-Claire) Audiobook length: 6 hours and 16 minutes
As satisfying as Mean Girls, with even meaner moms (and terrifying aunties). If you live under an actual rock (man or woman – I'm not giving a free pass to anyone) and you haven't read the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy ... rectify your largest character failing right now, please. Get a delicious (and totally satirical) view into the Crazy-Rich lives of Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Shanghai high-society.
While only slim portions of the books take place in Thailand, the 'Bangkok cousins' are discussed at length. Best of all? When you’ve raced through the first book in a single sitting, the series has two more – ready and waiting. Need further convincing that you'll laugh so hard you'll fall off your treadmill? Wait until you meet a character with an extra-special English name: Perineum Wang.In order the books are:
Audiobook length: 13 hours and 53 minutes (book 1)
Another guilty beach book – but that's what audiobooks are for (no one can see the cover). Audiobook length: 5 hours and 59 minutes
17. The Ideal Man
Jim Thompson is a famous figure in Thai history but, while he's well-known for his silk empire, his namesake Bangkok museum covers little of his war years. Little heads-up? They were very interesting. Audiobook length: 8 hours and 16 minutes
"From award-winning ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman, and written using exclusive interviews and information comes the definitive account of the dramatic story that gripped the world: the miracle rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave miles underground for nearly three weeks - a pulse-pounding account by a reporter who was there every step of their journey out." – Amazon. Audiobook length: 9 hours and 52 minutes
19. Elephant Company
An incredible memoir of Jim "Billy" Williams' life in colonial and wartime Burma, particularly his life with working elephants. Thailand? There's a brief foray – it's fascinating. Audiobook length: 9 hours and 43 minutes
If you, as well, spend your time on planes wondering what – really – is keeping that emergency exit door in place (besides a billion pounds of pressure), you'll finally find your answers. (It's good news). Audiobook length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
World War Two buffs, step right up. Animal lovers? You too. While Judy's story doesn't take place in Thailand, it (like Elephant Company, above) offer incredible wartime tales of a dog in Shanghai, Singapore and North Sumatra. Pre-disposed to any dog story, I absolutely fell in love with Judy and cannot stop talking about it. How it hasn't been made into a movie I don't know. Audiobook length: 10 hours and 56 minutes
"After being captured in Singapore and transported to the infamous Burma railway, [Colonel Owtram] was appointed the British Camp Commandant at Chungkai, one of the largest POW camps." – Amazon. Audiobook length: 5 hours and 52 minutes
"Finding George Orwell in Burma is the story of the year Larkin spent traveling across this shuttered police state, using the life and work of Orwell as her guide. Traveling from Mandalay and Rangoon to poor delta backwaters and up to the old hill-station towns in the mountains of Burma's far north, Larkin visits the places Orwell worked and lived and the places his books live still." – Amazon. Audiobook length: 8 hours and 17 minutes
My advice for learning any Thai language before your Thailand trip is (A) do it and (B) make it a game, either together as a couple or with your travel buddy. If you know any words in Thai beyond hello and thank you – let alone Thai slang – you'll be rewarded with a Thai version of Beatlemania. Repeat: Any effort learning any Thai – even counting to ten – is worth it. Audiobook length: 2 hours and 57 minutes
25. All Thirteen
This wonderful book has received five children’s literature awards including 2021 Newbery Honor Book and the 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature. Ideal for kids ages 10+ and available in paperback and Kindle as well as Audible. Audiobook length: 4 hours and 4 minutes
The best audiobooks about Thailand
Which will you pick?
Still can't decide? My top two are Crazy Rich Asians and (for dog-lovers especially) Judy: The Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War.
How and where to enjoy your audiobooks?
Perhaps you'll use the books in your daily life to widen your Thailand expertise and bring your trip a bit closer. An even better plan? Once in Thailand, you have guaranteed entertainment:
- When you're jet-lagged (but don't want to turn on a light or stare at a screen).
- When you're bored on a bus, ferry, train or car ride but will get motion-sickness if you read
- When you don't have WiFi (power cuts happen!)
You can even add an audiobook to a relaxing Thai foot massage (or vice versa) or – with waterproof travel speaker – an especially splendid outdoor bath.
Tip: Bonus suggestion from one reluctant yogi to another? Do ten minutes of Shavasana feel more like fifty to you too? 'Augment' the boring bits of yoga with an audiobook and still technically call it 'a noble meeting of mind/body/soul'.
For more book recommendations, don't miss:
- Novels and non-fiction: The Best Books about Thailand
- Travel guides: The Best Thailand Travel Guides
- Kids: 25 Favourite Children’s Books about Thailand