There isn't much in the way of Thai literature in Thailand. Books are more the novel route written by foreigners.
Some of the hits are THAI GIRL by Andrew Hicks, THE BEACH by Alex Garland, THE KING NEVER SMILES by Paul Handley, ESCAPE by David McMillan.
"If you like to read and you
like Thailand, there's a decent chance you'll like to read books about
Those wishing to find out about the cultures of the United States,
England, Germany or Russia can find classic works of literature written
by native authors and read them in translation in one's own language.
Not so for Thailand and plenty of other Asian nations.
are a plethora of books about Thailand or stories set in
Thailand, but these are typically written by non-Thais about a
foreigner's trials and tribulations in the Kingdom. There are
not a notable number of Thai equivalents to Tom Sawyer, Great
Expectations, or Crime and Punishment that have been
translated into dozens of languages and read by citizens abroad. The
most famous Thai-based story probably remains The English Governess
At The Siam Court, Anna Leonowens' heavily embellished account of
her 5-years teaching English. You might say she started the
underpaid trend of teaching English in the Kingdom. Her accounts
later became the movies THE KING AND I (1956) and ANNA AND THE KING
(1999). These 'memoirs' and the movies based on them are so
altered from real history, they may as well be taken as fiction.
It's completely understandable the Leonowens' movies are banned in
Thailand. It'd be as if a Thai wrote an "autobiography" about her
life as a maid in Abraham Lincoln's White House in which Lincoln fell in
love with her. Later, the Thais make a movie about the book
casting Thais in the roles of Americans and feature a completely bald
and infantile Abraham Lincoln.
Maybe it's that Thai cinema, television, and, for purposes of this
discussion, prose doesn't export -- that the topics Thais find
interesting don't resonate with outsiders. Hence, outsiders write
their own books about Thailand for outsiders. More often than not,
it's foreign works that are imported and translated into Thai.
Thailand's national epic is the Ramakien, but this is just a version of
the Indian Ramayana.
typically the outsider looking in
Thailand Book List
This is not Doug's version of The New York Times
bestseller list. Books have been
recommended that lend some insight into Thailand, the Thai
character, or the foreign scene in Thailand, all of which
should have some interest to those coming to the country.
We have refrained from listing books that are flavors of the
month and will quickly fade out of favor and print, dating
our site, ruining the reputation of Doug's Republic and
probably getting us sued.
THE S.E.A. WRITE ANTHOLOGY OF THAI SHORT STORIES &
short stories and poems of 11 current Thai writers,
each of whom has been awarded the prestigious
Southeast Asian Writers Award, popular referred to
as the S.E.A. Write, the Pulitzer Prize of the area.
It's great the contributing authors won awards because the title
isn't award-winning, but then, the direct to-the-point title does reach
its intended audience: readers of English interested in Thai literature.
MODERN THAI LITERATURE: WITH AN ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERPRETATION
Another electrifying title, this book features thirty-four translated texts and
introductory essays. The translations cover texts written between 1960-75. The book is divided into sections like
Politics and Family, and the author pens an essay introducing each topic.
LETTERS FROM THAILAND
This is probably the most famous work of Thai literature,
originally published in 1969, to get translated into other languages. At the time, it won the SEATO Prize
For Thai Literature, an award that sounds impressive but which may equate to the same honor as winning an
honorable mention in the local science fair. A Chinese man journeys to Thailand after World War II and writes
letters home to his dear Chinese mama about his new wife, his successful business, and his life in Thailand.
This 18,000+ copy
seller in Thailand, self published initially by the
author, shows that you don't need to sell
many copies to earn the title of "one of the
biggest-selling English-language novels ever
published in Thailand." A young
conventional British couple split up in Thailand,
she to go off treading previously ravaged
backpacker, he to attempt to seduce a young Thai
masseuse on the island of Koh Samet.
The author walks the walk and talks the talk,
seducing and then marrying a Thai woman half his age
and setting up shop in the Isaan town of Surin.
NESCAPE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE ONLY WESTERNER EVER
TO BREAK OUT OF THAILAND'S BANGKOK HILTON
The true story of
a British-Australian drug smuggler who was the only
one to have ever escaped from the infamous Bangkok
Hilton and then gets to reap the additional profits
of writing a book about it. We're not
talking about the 5-star Hilton hotels, where many a
tourist would love to be imprisoned.
This 'Hilton' is the Klong Prem prison in Bangkok --
many a drug smuggling foreigner checks in but never
An example of Thai expat fiction - written by a Thai
who moved to England at 6 months of age and learned
English as his mother tongue. This novel, set
in 1963, is a semi-autobiographical account of his
life filled with satire and sex, a combo anyone
interested in Thailand is sure to devour.
THE KING NEVER SMILES
No book list
would be complete without a book or two about the
Thai king, the person most embodying Thailand as a
nation. This book, banned for sale in
Thailand because it does not always portray the King
as a demi-god, is heavily researched and draws a
three-dimensional picture of King Rama IX as a man,
warts and all. The resultant image is
still a flattering one.
THE REVOLUTIONARY KING
The 'other' book about the King, this one preceded
the publication of The King Never Smiles.
This book was written with full cooperation of
the Thai palace and should be considered as more of
an authorized biography, which is to say, it can't
be considered accurate in any sense of the word.
No authorized biography ever is. In fact, the
book has been ridiculed by scholars and reviewers
for its many inaccuracies and fawning tone.
A must-own for
all those foreigners
seducing, involved with, or planning to cohabit
with Thais. Translation: a must-own for 80% of
the foreign males coming to Thailand.
The book is written in both English, addressed to
the foreign male, and in Thai, for the bedded Thai
female. It explains the difference in
perspectives between Western and Thai (or indeed,
many Asians) on independence, money, parents, and
HOW TO ESTABLISH A SUCCESSFUL
BUSINESS IN THAILAND
For those with an
entrepreneurial bent intent on moving to Thailand.
Thailand is not just the
Land of Smiles. For foreigners, it's also
the Land of Bureaucracy, which this British-written
guide does some help plowing through.
A classic of the
Gringo banana-pancake trail. Every backpacker
traveling the same trodden paths, doing the same
by-the-guidebook activities, fits this one onto his
reading list. A British backpacker
seeking the next big thrill comes across a map to a
utopian Thai island. The terrible 2000
Leonardo DiCaprio movie, seen by many, probably hurt
this book's chances of getting read. A pity.
The book outshines the movie.
Thailand has books and more books, though not in the much of Thai literature translated. Are you really going to read some Thai literature or
books in Thailand? Consider Andrew Hicks' THAI GIRL, Alex Garland's THE BEACH, Paul Handley's THE KING NEVER SMILES, or David McMillan's ESCAPE.