Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand

Want a Thailand reading list? Treat yourself to these thirty-one 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, children’s books, Thai colouring books and some guilty-secret beach-book junk. Fire up your Kindle and let’s go…

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The top 20 books about Thailand

1. Must-read

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Private Dancer, by Stephen Leather

“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.

2. Stories of today’s Thailand

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Sightseeing, by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

“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)

3. Man Booker Prize winner

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan + audiobook

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)

4. Period Fiction

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

The Orchid House, by Lucinda Riley

One for Downton Abbey fans! A period novel that’s “[a]tmospheric, heart-rending, and multilayered.” (Grazia UK)

5. Thailand 101 (non-fiction)

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Thailand Confidential, by Jerry Hopkins

“After over a decade in the country, Hopkins knows and loves his subject dearly — that much is obvious — and his vivid portrait projects that love from every page.” (Rolling Stone)

6. Facts and Fascination

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

A Geek in Thailand, by Jody Houton

“Jody Houton’s pleasant and insightful book surfs through the quirky, the profound and the plainly inexplicable culture hot points of Thailand.” (Bangkok Post)

7. Thailand travel memoir

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Noodle Trails, by Eileen Kay

“Fair Trade, Dung Trade and Travels in Thailand and beyond”. The author’s self-described memoir of “life in a jungle hut”.

8. Non-fiction

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Touch the Dragon, by Karen Connelly

“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)

9 – #14. Bangkok crime/thriller series

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (#1), by John Burdett + audiobook

“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)

Bangkok 8 is the first book in a six-part series. If you love addictive books or read quickly, the series comprises:

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

#15. My favourite

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind, by Carol Hollinger

1960s expat 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.”

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!

16. Mostly fiction

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Fieldwork: A Novel, by Mischa Berlinski + audiobook

“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)

17. Memoir + Mystery

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery, by William Warren

“Explores the double legend of Thompson’s silk company and the unsolved case [of his disappearance].” (The New Yorker)

Bangkok sightseeing: Plan your visit to Thompson’s former home in Bangkok – a beautiful spot with incredible gardens, art and artefacts.

18. You’ve seen the movie

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

The Beach by Alex Garland + audiobook

“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).

The Beach in real life: Plan your day at Ang Thong Marine Park, where scenes of the movie were filmed.

19. Murder mystery

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Bangkok Bob and The Missing Mormon, by Stephen Leather + audiobook

From the same author as Private Dancer (above), “even in the Land of Smiles, people can have murder on their minds.”

20. Chick lit

Books About Thailand: What to Read Before Going to Thailand – The 20 best books for your total Thailand reading list, plus super children's books about Thailand. Novels, murder-mysteries, beach books, memoirs and more. | www.kohsamuisunset.com

Deep Blue Sea, by Tasmina Perry + audiobook

“[A] big juicy holiday read with enough sexual tension – unresolved and otherwise – to keep you gripped”. (Marie-Claire)

More Thailand questions?


Colouring books about Thailand

1. Thailand Escape

Thailand colouring book: Thailand Escape: My Colorful Trip Through Exotic Lands

Thailand Escape: My Colorful Trip Through Exotic Lands

2. Thailand: Adult Coloring Book

The Best Books about Thailand: Thailand colouring books

Thailand: Adult Coloring Book

3. A Bangkok Coloring Adventure

The Best Books about Thailand: Thailand colouring books

A Bangkok Coloring Adventure


Children’s books about Thailand

If bedtime stories are part of your daily routine, consider any of the following kids’ books about Thailand…

1. Children’s Thailand travel guide

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Kids’ Travel Guides – Thailand, by Sarah-Jane Williams

“No matter where you visit in Thailand – kids enjoy fascinating facts, fun activities, useful tips, quizzes and Leonardo (your child’s tour guide)!” Available in Kindle and paperback.

2. Thai language for kids

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Thai For Kids Pictionary, by Naam Sanannok Sheakley

3. Children’s story book

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

The Umbrella Queen, by Shirin Bridges

A sweet and inspiring story set in the hills of Thailand, with beautiful illustrations. Ages 4-8.

4. Bedtime story set in Thailand

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Hush! A Thai Lullaby, by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade

Caldecott Honor Book: A lullaby bed-time story for young children set in a sleepy Thai village.

5. A child’s day in Bangkok

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

B is for Bangkok, by Janet Brown

Explore a typical day of a child living in Bangkok. Bilingual English/Thai book for children ages 5-8.

6. For kids who love animals

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Tua and the Elephant, by R.P. Harris

“Pure adventure” (The New York Times). A bedtime story for children ages 3-7, ideal for animal-loving kids in particular. Available as a ‘real’ book and also for Kindle.

7. Children’s English-Thai picture book

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Am I small? Chan taw lek hrux?, by Philipp Winterberg

A bilingual English-Thai children’s picture book in Kindle and paperback.

8. A fun introduction to Thailand

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

All About Thailand: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids, by Elaine Russell

Part children’s encyclopedia, part activity book, this hardcover book is a wonderful and engaging way to introduce children to future Thailand travel. 2017 Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year Award Winner.

9. Adventure series

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Mystery of the Golden Temple: Thailand, by Lisa Travis

Winner of 2017’s Literary Classics Gold (Best Series – Young Reader) and a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Winner (Best Chapter Book Series). If your child has an inner Nancy Drew, they’ll love this Thailand-based adventure. Ages 6-9. Available in Kindle and paperback.

10. Children’s intro to Thai culture

Children’s books About Thailand: 11 kids’ books to read before Thailand

Toy is from Thailand, by Whitney Badgett

A delightful way to introduce children to Thai culture – as described by ‘Toy’, a young boy of their age. Ages 4-12.

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