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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.

Books On/About Thailand

"If you like to read and you like Thailand, there's a decent chance you'll like to read books about Thailand."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

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.

There are a plethora of books about Thailand or stories set in Thailand, but these are typically written by non-ThaisAbraham Lincoln bald 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.

Thailand books

It's 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. 

  Title Summary
S.E.A. Write THE S.E.A. WRITE ANTHOLOGY OF THAI SHORT STORIES & POEMS Collection of 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 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 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.
Thai Girl THAI GIRL  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. 
Escape Bangkok Hilton 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 checks out. 
Jasmine Nights JASMINE NIGHTS 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.
King Never Smiles 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. 
Revolutionary King 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. 
Thailand Fever THAILAND FEVER  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 environment.
How To Establish A Successful Business In Thailand  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. 
The Beach THE BEACH  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. 


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The Harry Dandruff Universe

 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.