Whether you’re planning a trip to Thailand or just want to learn more about this Southeast Asian country, this list of books about Thailand has you set!
When you think of Thailand, maybe you think of the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, or maybe the tropical paradise of Phuket’s beaches. But Thailand of course has a much more complicated history than the tourist brochures can contain. And these books set in Thailand tell stories about political uprisings, the tensions between Thais and tourists, and even the more recent news story of the Thai boys’ soccer team cave rescue.
So, if you’re ready to travel to Thailand via a great book, let’s go!
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Fiction Set in Thailand
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad
In this book of interconnected short stories, a variety of characters from different time periods live in an ever-changing Thailand. You get the perspective of everyone from a doctor in 1800s Siam to a teenagers living in a flooded future Thailand. For fans of literary fiction.
The Glass Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne
Sarah Mullins is on the run, and she chooses Thailand as a place to escape to. There, she moves into an apartment complex with glass walls and begins to make friends. But when political turmoil starts to seep into her haven, who can she really trust? For fans of literary fiction and psychological suspense.
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
In 2019, Laura Preston can’t believe that her long-lost brother, who disappeared when the family lived in Thailand decades ago, suddenly shows up. In a second timeline, we see her family, her parents living in Thailand while her father works for US Intelligence while the danger of what happened to Laura’s brother Robert lurks through the pages. This is for fans of family stories and domestic suspense.
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
When Mischa (the character, not the author, because this is fiction) moves to Thailand with his girlfriend, he expects to fill his time with nothing much but relaxing. But then he learns about an American anthropologist who has been found dead in a Thai prison, and he becomes wrapped up in solving the mystery of what happened. For fans of literary fiction and suspense.
Sightseeing by Ruttawut Lapcharoensap
This book of short stories set in Thailand focuses on relationships in conflict, whether it is between Thais and tourists or parents and children. The stories ask the reader to consider different perspectives, as they drop you into a changing Thailand. For fans of literary fiction and short stories.
A Good True Thai by Sunisa Manning
In 1970s Thailand, Det and his best friend Chang go to college, Det reeling from the loss of his mother. While there, Det becomes enraptured with a new friend, Lek, and his radical political ideas. This is a story about three friends and the choices that changes their lives. But it’s also about the political uprisings Thailand saw in the 1970s. For fans of literary and political fiction.
Bright by Duanwad Pimwana, Translated by Mui Poopoksakul
When Kampol is five years old, he abandoned by his father on the streets. The local community adopts him though, and he comes of age amid the shopkeepers and kids of the neighborhood where is father left him. This is the first novel by a Thai woman to ever be translated to English! For fans of literary fiction and coming of age stories.
The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha, Translated by Kong Rithdee
This novel is about Chareeya and her family, as drama swirls around them and Chareeya and her sister grow up in a hazy world of myths and dreams. But the reality of growing up does not match the fantasy world of their childhood. This novel won the S.E.A. Award in 2015, a renowned literary prize in Southeast Asia. For fans of literary fiction and coming of age stories.
Arid Dreams: Stories by Duanwad Pimwana, Translated by Mui Poopoksakul
This short story collection centers around the lives of everyday working-class Thais. They are characters who want something different for their future, and hope a momentous event will come along to change it. But meanwhile, they seem to be stuck, just dreaming of something different. For fans of literary fiction, short stories, and books from small presses.
The Beach by Alex Garland
Richard is one of many travelers in Thailand, and on his first night there, another traveler leaves Richard a map to “the Beach.” It’s supposedly a paradise hidden away, but as Richard sets out to find it, can it really be the utopia it promises? For fans of suspense.
Four Reigns by Kikrit Pramoj, English version by Tulachandra
This novel tells the story of Thailand’s history from the 1890s through WWII through the eyes on one woman who lived through the reign of four different royals. This is a great book to read for background on Thailand’s history and culture, and is for fans of historical fiction and modern classics.
Non-Fiction Books About Thailand
Bangkok Days: A Sojourn in the Capital of Pleasure by Lawrence Osborne
When Lawrence Osborne comes to Thailand for a cheap dental procedure, he realizes how little money he has to have to live in Thailand and decides to stay. This book delves into the lives of expats and tourists and Thailand, and all they get in to, including all the nightlife. For fans of travel memoirs and expat memoirs.
Aquanaut – The Inside Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Rick Stanton
In July 2018, when a boys soccer team became trapped in a cave in Thailand, Rick Stanton ended up being the person called upon to formulate a rescue. He had decades of cave diving experience, and here he tells the story of how the remarkable rescue really went down. For fans of unbelievable true stories.
Children’s Books About Thailand
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho, Illustrated by Holly Meade
As a mother is trying to put her baby to sleep, nearby animals are making all kinds of noise and she tells them to be quiet. A great bedtime book! Recommended ages: 0-4 years.
Bodhi Sees the World: Thailand by Marisa Aragón Ware
Bodhi is traveling to Thailand for the first time, but when she arrives she feels overwhelmed by the bustling city of Bangkok. Slowly though, she starts to find the similarities between home and Bangkok. This is a great book for kids who might deal with culture shock and homesickness when traveling to a new place. Recommended ages: 3-7 years.
The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Bridges, Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
In a village in Thailand, Noot can’t wait do join in the family tradition of painting umbrellas. But when her designs stray off course, her family is concerned because they need the traditional umbrellas to sell. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, Illustrated by Ziyue Chen
When Mela is lost in the jungle, she encounters animal after animal that promise to help her find her way home in return for a prize, but then abandon her after they have their reward. That is, until Mela meets a kind elephant. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
Thai Children’s Favorite Stories: Fables, Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales by Marian D. Toth, Illustrated by Patcharee Meesukhon
This book of traditional stories from Thailand has bright and fun illustrations. The collection includes stories like “How the Bay of Bangkok Came to Be” and “How the Tiger Got its Stripes.” Recommended ages: 6-10 years.
Middle Grade & YA Books Set in Thailand
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
This middle grade novel is set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world. Pong was born in prison, and when he escapes he realizes how unjust the world is. Meanwhile, Nok, the prison warden’s daughter, is determined to find Pong and bring him back to the prison. But as she searches for him, she realizes that maybe everything she’s been taught about justice may not be true. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
In this fantasy novel, Sai is a mapmaker’s assistant, but her father is a conman. And her poor ancestry could mean poor things for her future. So she jumps at the chance to join a charting expedition. But everyone has secrets on board…including her. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat
This Newbery Honor Books tells the story of the Thai boys’ soccer team that became trapped in a cave in Thailand in 2018 and their incredible rescue. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
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