If, ahem, you had a lofty resolution to read fifty books this year – don’t worry – there’s still time.
The following thirty-three audiobooks about Thailand are guaranteed to teach you something, make errands and workouts more interesting – they might even make you laugh. 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.
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Thai phrasebooks and language lessons
My advice for learning any Thai language before your Thailand trip is (A) do it and (B) learn it 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.
A few weeks before your trip, just add a beginner Thai language audiobook to your morning commute. Even ten or fifteen minutes’ attention will offer a net gain.
Novels set in Thailand
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).
Raising the literature stakes, The Beach is the novel version of the Leonardo DiCaprio you just might be too young to remember. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is amongst the longer audiobooks on the list (nearly fifteen hours) and indeed the only Man Booker Prize winner.
Crazy Rich Asians series
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. While only slim portions of the books take place in Thailand, the ‘Bangkok cousins’ are discussed at length. 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.
Royal Thai Detective series
All six books follow Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Royal Thai Detective. If you love getting stuck into a series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Cuckoo’s Calling, 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.
Buddhism and Thai culture
Any of these audiobooks will enhance your visits to temples in Thailand, as well as give you a wider understanding of Theravada Buddhism.
Regional WWII history
World War Two buffs, step right up. Animal lovers? You too. 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. While neither Elephant Company nor Judy occurs in Thailand, they both offer incredible wartime tales of animals in India (Elephant Company) and Shanghai, Singapore and North Sumatra (Judy). 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.
Travel books (and elephants!)
If your travel days require travel books, look no further than Cockpit Confidential. 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).
A final word on the last book on the list, An African Love Story. African elephants, you ask? Yep. While Thailand has elephant opportunities galore, there are no comparable audiobooks on the subject and this by the late Dame Daphne Sheldrick is an all-time favourite.
How and where to enjoy your audiobooks
Running time for the audiobooks above varies from about three hours for Thai language audiobooks to nearly fifteen hours for the longest novel. Perhaps you’ll use the books in your daily life to widen your Thailand expertise and bring your trip a bit closer. Or, demolish a long flight or series of flights with a novel or two. 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.
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
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.
To get through all thirty-three books by New Year you’ll need to start soon but – with an average running time of three to four hours – it’s easy to enjoy the few that particularly appeal over the course of just a week or two. 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. Enjoy!