45 books like Bangkok

By Leela Punyaratabandhu,

Here are 45 books that Bangkok fans have personally recommended if you like Bangkok. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

Felicia Campbell Author Of The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia

From my list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food.

Who am I?

Felicia Campbell is a food writer, editor, and author of The Food of Oman: Stories and Recipes from the Gateway to Arabia, the first English-language cookbook on Omani cuisine. She earned her masters degree in culinary anthropology from New York University with a specialization in Middle Eastern foodways. She has lectured on Omani food and food in zones of conflict at the Smithsonian Institute, Leiden University, New York University, and Arizona State University. She is currently developing a documentary series about endangered cuisines around the world. 

Felicia's book list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food

Felicia Campbell Why did Felicia love this book?

Over the last four years, I have been cooking my way through my mother-in-law’s canon of Persian dishes, from ghormeh sabzi herb and braised meat stew to countless pots of the crispy-bottomed saffron rice called tadiq. When a family recipe is lacking in key details (like measurements or timing), I always refer to Najmieh Batmanglij’s book, which is considered the bible of Iranian cooking. Her recipes offer elevated versions of all the classics, along with a number of more obscure regional specialties, and explanations of Iranian traditions and customs. If you are only going to have one Persian cookbook on your shelf, this should be it.

By Najmieh Batmanglij,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Food of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Completely redesigned for today's generation of cooks and food enthusiasts, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij provides a treasure trove of recipes, along with an immersive cultural experience for those seeking to understand this ancient and timeless cuisine. This edition is a more user-friendly edition of the award-winning and critically acclaimed cookbook series which began in 1986. Food of Life provides 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes as well as an introduction to Persian art, history, and culture. The book's hundreds of full color photographs are intertwined…


Book cover of Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa

Felicia Campbell Author Of The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia

From my list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food.

Who am I?

Felicia Campbell is a food writer, editor, and author of The Food of Oman: Stories and Recipes from the Gateway to Arabia, the first English-language cookbook on Omani cuisine. She earned her masters degree in culinary anthropology from New York University with a specialization in Middle Eastern foodways. She has lectured on Omani food and food in zones of conflict at the Smithsonian Institute, Leiden University, New York University, and Arizona State University. She is currently developing a documentary series about endangered cuisines around the world. 

Felicia's book list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food

Felicia Campbell Why did Felicia love this book?

Long intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients, cooking methods, and, most of all, the fermented dough required to make classic injera bread, it was with trepidation that I opened Yohanis Gebreyesus’ new cookbook. What I found were straightforward and inviting explanations of cooking techniques, ingredients, customs, and flavors alongside incredibly easy-to-follow recipes that made me wonder why I’d waited so long to begin exploring this comforting cuisine. The pumpkin stew, perfumed with a complex, floral spice blend that’s savory, sweet, and slightly spicy, has become a favorite I return to over and over again. If you want a friend to take you by the hand and introduce you to Ethiopian culture and cuisine, Yohanis Gebreyesus is your man.

By Yohanis Gebreyesus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ethiopia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of a 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Award in the International category

Ethiopia stands as a land apart: never colonised, the country celebrates and preserves ancient traditions. The fascinating cuisine is enriched with the different religious influences of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - a combination unique to Africa. The delicious dishes featured are Doro Wat, chicken slowly stewed with berbere spice, Yeassa Alichia, curried fish stew, and Siga Tibs, flashfried beef cubes, as well as a wealth of vegetarian dishes such as Gomen, minced collard greens with ginger and garlic and Azifa, green lentil salad.

Chef Yohanis takes the…


Book cover of Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and History of the Iraqi Cuisine

Felicia Campbell Author Of The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia

From my list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food.

Who am I?

Felicia Campbell is a food writer, editor, and author of The Food of Oman: Stories and Recipes from the Gateway to Arabia, the first English-language cookbook on Omani cuisine. She earned her masters degree in culinary anthropology from New York University with a specialization in Middle Eastern foodways. She has lectured on Omani food and food in zones of conflict at the Smithsonian Institute, Leiden University, New York University, and Arizona State University. She is currently developing a documentary series about endangered cuisines around the world. 

Felicia's book list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food

Felicia Campbell Why did Felicia love this book?

When I want a truly traditional recipe for an Iraqi dish, or any classic Middle Eastern food, I reach for Nawal Nasrallah’s tome. As a culinary historian, she spares no detail when describing the origins of the food of her homeland, and interspersed with recipes are folkloric tales, cultural tidbits, and bite-sized histories. What you come away with is a deep appreciation of the complex, ancient culinary traditions of the fertile crescent, as well as recipes for the best falafels you’ve ever made (spoiler: use both fava beans and chickpeas for heartier flavor).

By Nawal Nasrallah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Delights from the Garden of Eden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a concise version of the award-winning and highly acclaimed second edition published in 2013. It is luxuriously illustrated throughout with colour photos, paintings, medieval miniatures and sketches and displays the diversity of the region's traditional culinary practices, delicious and enduring. This edition book contains 300 of the original 400 recipes, all tested and easy to follow, and covers all food categories with ample choice for both vegetarians and meat lovers, and many that will satisfy a sweet tooth. Ingredients and cooking techniques indigenous to the region are fully explained.

Unlike the majority of cookbooks, the book uniquely traces…


Book cover of Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking

Felicia Campbell Author Of The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia

From my list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food.

Who am I?

Felicia Campbell is a food writer, editor, and author of The Food of Oman: Stories and Recipes from the Gateway to Arabia, the first English-language cookbook on Omani cuisine. She earned her masters degree in culinary anthropology from New York University with a specialization in Middle Eastern foodways. She has lectured on Omani food and food in zones of conflict at the Smithsonian Institute, Leiden University, New York University, and Arizona State University. She is currently developing a documentary series about endangered cuisines around the world. 

Felicia's book list on best international cookbooks for both culture and food

Felicia Campbell Why did Felicia love this book?

Want a visual primer to all things Russian from the items found at the cured meat and fish counter to helpful phrases when grocery shopping? How about recipes for infused vodkas ranging from tarragon to cranberry and an entire chapter devoted to dishes wrapped in dough? Kachka is a cookbook that will not only teach you to cook Russian food, it will teach you how to eat, drink, and entertain like a Russian in a way that’s quirky, highly visual, and as fun as it is authoritative.

By Bonnie Frumkin Morales, Deena Prichep,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kachka as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrated Portland chef Bonnie Frumkin Morales brings her acclaimed Portland restaurant Kachka into your home kitchen with a debut cookbook enlivening Russian cuisine with an emphasis on vibrant, locally sourced ingredients.

"With Kachka, Bonnie Morales has done something amazing: thoroughly update and modernize Russian cuisine while steadfastly holding to its traditions and spirit. Thank you comrade!"
-Alton Brown

From bright pickles to pillowy dumplings, ingenious vodka infusions to traditional homestyle dishes, and varied zakuski to satisfying sweets, Kachka the cookbook covers the vivid world of Russian cuisine. More than 100 recipes show how easy it is to eat, drink, and…


Book cover of Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef's Isan Thai & Lao Roots

Natacha Du Pont de Bie Author Of Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures Of A Food Tourist In Laos

From my list on Lao cuisine and food culture.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by Lao Food for more than two decades. When I first went to Laos, the communist regime had closed the country for years but the isolation had kept the food culture in stasis, uncontaminated by outside influences. It was virtually unknown outside the regional area and deserved to be better known and celebrated. Lao cuisine is a remarkable synthesis of a thousand years of history, culture, and, as the French would say ‘terroir’, that unique context of land and farming practice that results in regional flavour. I love that authentic food, and I admire the beautiful country, and the friends I have made in my exploration of both. 

Natacha's book list on Lao cuisine and food culture

Natacha Du Pont de Bie Why did Natacha love this book?

Many children of Lao refugees, who fled the communist take-over in the ’70s, are now coming of age and sharing their take on Lao cooking across the globe. Hawkers Fare details the story of James Syhabout who earned his spurs as a chef at hallowed restaurants such as The Fat Duck and El Bulli before opening his own Commis in Oakland and gaining two Michelin stars of his own.

Though known for fine dining this book is a homage to his Lao roots and his journey of discovery into his origins as the son of refugees who came to the US with nothing but their ability to work hard. He tells their story and returns to Laos himself where he picks up the flavours of his mother’s homeland with the scrupulous nose of a super-chef. It includes recipes that are both authentic but, unusually, measured out with pinpoint accuracy in…

By James Syhabout, John Birdsall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hawker Fare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From chef James Syhabout of two–Michelin-star restaurant Commis, an Asian-American cookbook like no other—simple recipes for cooking home-style Thai and Lao dishes

James Syhabout’s hugely popular Hawker Fare restaurant in San Francisco is the product of his unique family history and diverse career experience. Born into two distinct but related Asian cultures—from his mother’s ancestral village in Isan, Thailand’s northeast region, and his father’s home in Pakse, Laos—he and his family landed in Oakland in 1981 in a community of other refugees from the Vietnam War. Syhabout at first turned away from the food of his heritage to work in…


Book cover of Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen

Didi Emmons Author Of Vegetarian Planet

From my list on Southeast Asian cookbooks from a Chef who uses them daily.

Who am I?

Thirty-two years ago, I got my start as a chef by cooking in a shoebox cafe in Boston that played with curious Asian ingredients. Ten years later, after using lots of Asian cookbooks, I was incorporating Thai and Vietnamese cooking into my menus at the restaurant I was running. A few years after that, I opened and ran a Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge (unfortunately, after major success, it burned down after a year). After this, the tourism board of Malaysia sent me on a four-week trip to write about the street food for FoodArts magazine. It is these experiences that greatly influenced my interest in Southeast Asian cooking.

Didi's book list on Southeast Asian cookbooks from a Chef who uses them daily

Didi Emmons Why did Didi love this book?

Written 35 years ago by a UCLA professor and a Bangkok-born female chef who owned a highly lauded restaurant near LA, this photo-less book explains Thai cuisine well, as well as the culture of food in Thailand, and its recipes never miss the mark and generally are short. This book is in no small part responsible for the success of Veggie Planet, a pizza restaurant I owned in Harvard Square, Cambridge, for 6 years. One of the most popular pizzas was called “Red Curry” pizza and was layered with coconut rice, broccoli, pan-fried tofu, and this book’s Red Curry Peanut Sauce. Never again will you use a curry sauce from a can. It’s been through 9 printings, and you’ll have to buy a used copy.

By William Crawford, Kamolmal Pootaraksa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thai Home Cooking from Kamolmal's Kitchen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rich, unusual flavors and hot and spicy combinations have made Thai cooking the newest exotic cuisine that is sweeping the country. Now 157 classic dishes from the authentic Thai restaurant Kamolmal have been collected and re-created into easy-to-follow recipes for American cooks.


Book cover of Mercy's Heroes: The Fight for Human Dignity in the Bangkok Slums

Dian Seidel Author Of Kindergarten at 60: A Memoir of Teaching in Thailand

From my list on helping “farangs” understand what makes Thailand tick.

Who am I?

After retiring from a career in climate science, I reinvented myself as an English teacher, a yoga instructor, and a writer. I write personal essays about my life experiences, in particular my time teaching in Thailand. Before I traveled to Thailand, while I was there, and when I returned home to the US, I devoured every book I could find that could help me make sense of Thai culture and manage as a farang (foreigner, Westerner) in the Land of Smiles. Here are my five picks for helping other farangs understand Thailand.

Dian's book list on helping “farangs” understand what makes Thailand tick

Dian Seidel Why did Dian love this book?

Tom Crowley is an American writer who has experienced Thailand from many perspectives over many decades: as a soldier during the Vietnam War, as a corporate executive, as a US foreign service officer, and as a volunteer at Mercy Centre, a Catholic charitable organization.

This poignant memoir is a series of vignettes that focus on Crowley’s traumatic wartime experiences and the healing he found years later working with desperate children in one of Bangkok’s poorest slums. I picked this book because it shows a part of Thailand that most farangs never see.

By Tom Crowley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mercy's Heroes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Mercy's Heroes, a Vietnam veteran battling with PTSD turns from the business world to life as a volunteer, helping to rescue and protect street kids in Bangkok's biggest slum.

Here Tom Crowley details the children's efforts to survive abuse and the struggle for dignity waged by the poorest of families. Interwoven throughout, the author's combat experiences and pain highlight the question of how to find personal reconciliation amid the struggles of abused children in the slums. In his efforts to help others, he gains a spiritual understanding worth much more than his financial loss. At the same time, he…


Book cover of Many Lives

Dian Seidel Author Of Kindergarten at 60: A Memoir of Teaching in Thailand

From my list on helping “farangs” understand what makes Thailand tick.

Who am I?

After retiring from a career in climate science, I reinvented myself as an English teacher, a yoga instructor, and a writer. I write personal essays about my life experiences, in particular my time teaching in Thailand. Before I traveled to Thailand, while I was there, and when I returned home to the US, I devoured every book I could find that could help me make sense of Thai culture and manage as a farang (foreigner, Westerner) in the Land of Smiles. Here are my five picks for helping other farangs understand Thailand.

Dian's book list on helping “farangs” understand what makes Thailand tick

Dian Seidel Why did Dian love this book?

The “many lives” in this series of linked short stories are those of eleven passengers who perish when a Bangkok-bound boat capsizes in a fierce storm.

I relished each story of each life, both as a literary gem and as an insight into something fundamental about Thai society, such as the importance of social class, the role of urban migration in altering provincial life, the potentially stifling aspects of intergenerational family obligations, and the overriding role of karma in Thai conceptions of life and death.

To me, Many Lives is to Thai culture what Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town is to American culture.

By M. R. Kukrit Pramoj, Meredith Borthwick (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Many Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"That night, the rain poured and wind howled, raindrops crashing like solid objects onto the ground and water. A passenger boat from Ban Phaen to Bangkok, packed with people, pressed on through the current amidst the rising clamor of the rain and storm. . . ." The boat capsizes in the torrent, and washed up on the shore the next morning are the sodden bodies of the many passengers who lost their lives.

Thus begins M. R. Kukrit Pramoj's classic novel set in the Thailand of the early 1950s and first published in 1954. The life of each passenger who…


Book cover of Reliable in Bangkok

Philippe Espinasse Author Of Hard Underwriting

From my list on thrillers set in Asia.

Who am I?

I've lived in Asia for more than 22 years and have extensively traveled around the region, both for work and pleasure, from the Middle East and central Asia to Japan, and Australia, New Zealand, and every country in between. Asia is the perfect setting for a thriller, as a region that’s deeply rooted in traditions, but where modernity and growth are also breathless. There can be political instability at times, and even corruption, unsurpassed wealth and shocking poverty, bankers, and prostitutes. I worked for many years as an investment banker and my experiences inspired me to write my debut thriller, Hard Underwriting, in Hong Kong, and uncover the dark side of Asia’s financial capital. 

Philippe's book list on thrillers set in Asia

Philippe Espinasse Why did Philippe love this book?

This is the first book in Valerie Goldsilk’s extensive ‘Reliable man’ series about former Royal Hong Kong Police inspector-turned assassin Bill Jedburgh, who plies his trade across Asia – and beyond, and who is known to those who use his services only as (you would have guessed it), “the reliable man”.

This thriller is set in Pattaya, Thailand, and involves a high-octane chase between Jedburgh, triad devotees, and European mafiosos, amid the exotic scenery of Southeast Asia. Nothing is missing, including bar girls, massage parlours, and sophisticated shoot outs.

Goldsilk herself has lived in Hong Kong for more than 30 years and is married to a former Hong Kong policeman. The story feels authentic (if not politically correct!) and is well written, as are the other books in the series.

Highly recommended!

Book cover of Nexus

S.B. Divya Author Of Machinehood

From my list on realistic near-future science fiction.

Who am I?

Back in college, I switched from being an astrophysics major to computational neuroscience. The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say that I found the human brain to be as big of a mystery as black holes. I’ve worked as an engineer for two decades on applications ranging from medical devices, to digital music recognition, to high speed chip design. Writing science fiction is the second act of my life, and I love drawing on my science background to inform my stories. I especially love taking cutting-edge technology and thinking about how it could impact future society, from the global to the individual.

S.B.'s book list on realistic near-future science fiction

S.B. Divya Why did S.B. love this book?

Nexus explores the idea of collective consciousness via technology in a way that has similarities to my own writing and ideas. For one, people use drugs to modify their brains, which I find is the most likely way to get people to accept biotech. Surgery is fraught with perils, but pills are easy to swallow.

The plot features plenty of action, geeks, and technology, all of which I love, and the story incorporates elements of Eastern philosophy that crop up in my own work, as well.

By Ramez Naam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nexus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he's thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage - for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Bangkok, Thailand, and Southeast Asia?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Bangkok, Thailand, and Southeast Asia.

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Thailand Explore 36 books about Thailand
Southeast Asia Explore 34 books about Southeast Asia