Coming to Bangkok? Get your book fix at some of the great book shops, libraries and book fairs that the city has to offer.
Reading is a pleasure that is universal around the world. From the ancient libraries of Timbuktu to second hand book shops of Hay-on-Wye, books (and other reading materials) have immense value. While the joy of reading might be universal, it would be remiss not to recognise that reading cultures and opportunities vary all over the world.
As a Brit living in Thailand, the difference in reading culture between the UK and the land of smiles was readily apparent. The limited (but steadily improving) investment in and use of public libraries and the dearth of book shops compared to the UK was particularly strange for me to comprehend when I first moved here back in 2010. The longer I’ve lived here, however, the more I’ve learned and discovered.
Since being chosen as the World Book Reading Capital of 2013, there has been a marked increase in the number of bookshops, libraries, and reading spaces around the city (Even the condominium being built next door to my apartment is going to have a small library in it). This is great news, not just for the resident bibliophiles of Bangkok, but also for the millions of tourists who visit each year. So here is a list of some of Bangkok’s best reading spaces, book shops, and book events for if you ever find yourself visiting The Big Mango!
With three branches around the city, Japan’s largest chain of bookshops has been helping the citizens of Bangkok with their reading needs long before I first arrived almost a decade ago. Each branch is HUGE and has all kinds of books, from the latest bestselling novels to obscure books on holistic arts. You can find almost anything here. And if they don’t have it, speak to someone at the information counter and they’ll order it in for you. Because of Thailand’s high import taxes, new books are a little bit pricier than back in Europe or North America, so the prices may take you by surprise at first, but they’re not outrageous or anything. You can also find the latest news and magazine publications from around the world.
3rd Floor Siam Paragon,
991 Rama I Road,
Tel: +662 610 9500
Opening hours: Daily – 10am to 10pm
Dasa Book Café
Any expat with even a vague interest in reading will tell you that Dasa Book Café is THE place in Bangkok for second hand books. Located in a three-storey town house, this cozy hideaway has a really wide selection of second hand books and music CDs available. The books are predominantly in English, however there are decent sections of books in many European languages as well. The members of staff are friendly, knowledgeable and are always happy to help you with any enquiries. If you buy any books from there, you can return them later and receive 50% of what you paid for it in store credit, a REAL plus that keeps me and my friends returning again and again. They also keep an excel spread sheet (updated each week) which lists every single book available to buy in the store. It’s available to view and download on their website and is a great tool if you’re searching for a particular book. It also has a small but comfortable café on the ground floor. I can’t recommend this place enough.
714/4 Sukhumvit Road, Klong Tan, Klong Toei Bangkok 10110 Tel: +662 661 2993
Opening hours: Daily – 10am to 8pm
Friend: Do you know where I can find _______?
Me: Have you tried Chatuchak Market?
I’ve no idea how many times I’ve had the mini conversation above, but it’s A LOT, and for books, the answer is no different. Chatuchak Market (also known as JJ Market) is an outdoor market with around 15,000 stalls, plenty of which are dedicated to books and reading. Now JJ market can be quite overwhelming at times, with the huge crowds of people that pack into the hot and sticky market alleys, but it really is worth a visit for what you can find.
Compared to the organised shelves of Kinokuniya and Dasa, the stalls at JJ might be confusing at first. Sometimes it can be hard to discern how the books are organised, but fret not. The excellent vendors will be able to tell you where to look if there is something in particular you are after. The variety of books available here is also quite amazing. I really was surprised on my first few visits. Also, if you’re thinking about buying a few books from one vendor, don’t be afraid to try and haggle for a small discount. It’s always good fun and, who knows, you might save yourself a few Baht.
The book stalls are in section one of the market. So when you arrive at the market you can consult one of the maps and just ask around and people will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Of all the vendors, I would recommend you visit ‘Dilok Book’. They have the best and broadest selection including many hard to find older publications.
Open Wed – Sun Hours vary.
Bangkok City Library
The largest public library in the city of Bangkok, Bangkok City Library is a relatively new venture that came into being as a result of Bangkok’s nomination as the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2013. The majority of the books here are in Thai, but there is a section of foreign language books on the second floor. The library also has over 1,000 e-books available that can be accessed either from the library computers or using your own device and the free wifi that is available. The library was definitely designed with the comfort of its patrons in mind. There is plenty of seating (including some comfy sofas), ample lighting, and power outlets for those wanting to get some work done.
Entry is free, but you will need to bring your passport with you. To check books out of the library, you will need to become a member, which as of writing is only available to citizens or residents of Thailand (for an annual fee of 50 Baht, around £1.25 or $1.70).
39 Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200 Tel: +662 282 0680
Opening hours: Tue-Sun, 8am – 9pm
The Reading Room
Found on the fourth floor of a converted town house, The Reading Room is so many different things in one space. It is both a library and an archive of art resources from both Thailand and around the world, as well as a work space for individual or group projects that need access to their collection and database. As a non-profit organisation, The Reading Room also hosts talks, screenings, and workshops related to art, film, and, of course, literature!! For those of you who might find yourselves in Bangkok medium-to-long term, there is also a reading group that re-examines classical texts from different sociocultural fields. You can get information on everything going on at The Reading Room on their very informative website.
Entry to The Reading Room is free, as is joining any of the many events that they host there. As such there is no membership system that you might find at other libraries.
4th Floor, 2 Silom soi 19 Bangkok 10500
Tel: +662 635 3674
Opening hours: Wed-Sun, 1pm – 7pm
Book festivals / events
National Book Fair and International Book Fair
Held at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, The National & International Book Fair has been going, in its current form, for 17 years. It is organised by The Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand and has around 1,000 booths dedicated to all manner of books, magazines, book themed memorabilia and clothes, and even toys and board games. Although the majority of what’s on offer is Thai, there is still a LARGE selection of English language books to be found, often at discounted prices. Be sure to bring a bag with you cause there’s no way you’ll come away empty-handed.
47th National Book Fair & 17th International Book Fair @Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, 28th March – 7th April (10am -9pm)
Bangkok Art Book Fair
Entering its third year in 2019, the Bangkok Art Book Fair is an opportunity for people in the art book industry to show off all their excellent work. You can find work by individual artists as well as small independent publishers on display, some of which actually has its initial launch as part of the proceedings. There are also talks, lectures, workshops for people to get involved in – the atmosphere is very friendly and inclusive so there’s no excuse not to. Entry to the fair was just 60 Baht/day last year so it is absolutely worth checking out!
3rd Edition of the Bangkok Art Book Fair @Bangkok CityCity Gallery 5th-8th September
If there’s any place or event that you think belongs on this list, please comment below. Even after so many years here I’m sure there is still plenty for me to discover.