In 2013, Bangkok took on the title of UNESCO’s World Book Capital, awarded to cities for the presence of a vibrant literary culture accessible to widely varied demographics, interests, ages, and philosophies. The rise of independent bookstores buoyed this title, breaking the chain-store model by specialising in sourcing rare and antique books mixed in with collections of contemporary titles. These are the most distinctive shops flocked to by book lovers of all kinds.
Dasa Book Café
“Book lovers are slaves to print.” This is the slogan of Dasa Books – which itself translates to “slave” – and its concept echoes through its multi-level collection. The quirky shop houses more than 22,000 books, carefully organised in a thrice-weekly updated “Dasa-Base” that lists the books in stock by category, author, title, and price. The owners seek out rare and unusual finds, as well as storied favourites, treating visitors to hours of browsing and thumbing through pages in a number of languages, with the help of very friendly staff.
Right in the middle of one of Bangkok’s biggest nightlife hotspots is the late-night book café, Zombie Books. The owner, a published author himself, carefully curates the books on the shelves, from older novels to recent bestsellers. The upstairs floor also operates as a co-working space, gallery, and café.
Open House Bookshop by Hardcover
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre’s flagship bookshop now has another location in Central Embassy called Open House. Keeping with Hardcover’s foundation, Open House specialises in books relating to the visual and performing arts, design, fashion, cooking, travel, and culture. It also boasts an impressive collection of rare and out-of-print finds. The entire operation of the store – from the décor to workshops hosted – echoes its founding philosophy of celebrating print culture.
The world’s largest market, home to more than 8,000 stalls over 35 acres, has a staggering amount and variety of books ranging from every genre and style imaginable. Shoppers can find brand-new titles from popular authors mixed in with rare finds that are decades old – and all for such incredibly cheap prices, bargaining is hardly necessary. While browsing the massive selection may not be for the faint of heart, stall owners are frequently aware of where titles are, and can direct you appropriately.
Siam Rare Books & Collectibles
This specialty store celebrates all things Siam and Southeast Asia. Operated by a knowledgeable and welcoming dealer, entering Siam Rare Books & Collectibles is like gaining a rare insight into Thai history. Authentic antique opium weights bookend rare books, old maps and prints, with collections of antique trade cards and traditional Khon masks on display as well.
This wooden house is an oasis situated in the midst of the bustling city. Named after Voltaire’s classic, this one’s owner – Duangruethai Esanasatang – has long had a passion for every aspect of literature: writing; editing; translation. What’s more, the combination of hardwood chairs, glass tables and deep leather sofas makes for a peaceful environment for readers to indulge in.
Neilson Hays Library
Housed in a white, antique and European-style building amidst pleasant bushy gardens, this library offers one of the widest collections of English titles in Bangkok. Literary lovers will be excited by the impressive range of contemporary novels and the amazing array of magazines and newspapers. The library is adjoined to a glass house where the relaxing Garden Café and Gallery are located, offering quality coffee and holding inspiring exhibitions to boot.
The Reading Room
A non-profit contemporary art resource centre, The Reading Room is a modern, chic concept library housing a collection of art and culture books from all over the world. While not for sale, the lounge has more than 1,000 titles for book lovers to peruse and enjoy, ranging from a contemporary Thai art archive to art history and theory books, exhibition catalogs, art magazines, and more. The space also hosts regular events, talks, screenings, and workshops for Bangkok’s illustrious creative crowd.
The Book Fairies Bangkok
While not a physical store, The Book Fairies is an international movement that gained traction in Bangkok in 2017. It’s like being a part of the world’s largest book club, with some geocaching elements thrown into the mix. Participants leave copies of books in public places for other literary lovers to discover, like BTS stations, cafes, or tucked away in parks and plazas. Once lucky readers finish their find, they pass it along through the city. Get started by checking out their Facebook page to see where the latest treasures are hidden!
This article was originally written by Wingyan Chan and has since been updated.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.