The Best Bookshops in Bangkok
It may be hard for many of the younger generations to believe that before the occurrence of the Internet there existed a channel of information known as books. This medium spread across continents and travelled through time via the shelves of both new and second-hand bookstores…
It may be true though that Bangkok is not necessarily renowned for its bookshops, especially in a nation largely averse to the benefits of literary delights.
And yet, once you start doing a bit of digging, it becomes apparent that not only is there a bunch of well-stocked, modern bookshops containing all the latest titles, often along with magazines and comics in a variety of languages, but there are also some pretty cool and quirky stores selling both new and used items.
These can be tucked away inside huge malls, markets, or side streets, along with a few other unexpected spots.
Any bookworm who has travelled to Bangkok outside of the last ten years or so knows that it used to be somewhat difficult, not to mention expensive, trying to locate and buy English language books in the city.
Certainly bookstores were few and far between, but that seems not to be the case anymore. This is aside from the fact that the majority of Thais, by their own admission, are indeed averse to buying or reading books.
But someone in Bangkok must be doing just that. These days if you’re looking for English books along the lines of fiction, non-fiction, art, history, business, health, biographies, personal development, spirituality, religion or children’s books – anything you want, in other words — there are at least a couple of major names with several branches in the city that can accommodate you.
There has also been something of a rise of independent bookstores, especially ones specialising in sourcing rare and antique books. These are often mixed in with shelves full of contemporary titles.
So whether you’re an avid bookworm spending some time in Thailand or a traveller seeking a light read, Bangkok actually has its fair share of decent bookstores to choose from. In these shops you should be able to find anything from translated meditation manuals to literary classics and modern Thai politics.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the best bookshops in Bangkok.
The Dasa Book Café holds a special place in many a reader’s heart who has happened across the place. This is a two-storey shop located along of one of the better stretches of the Sukhumvit Road, and is Bangkok’s self-proclaimed ‘best second-hand bookshop’.
Actually Dasa has been around for nearly two decades, proving something of a life-saver for many an expat before the days of some of the huge, modern, recent additions to the city’s list of English language bookstores.
The store continues to attract local bookworms along with occasional newcomers and by-passers once they latch on to its stash of fiction and non-fiction in several languages. The shop is not too far from the Phrom Phong BTS station between Sukhumvit sois 26 and 28.
It stocks somewhere in the region of 20,000 used books covering any topic you care to mention. The majority of the books are in English, with occasional titles in other languages like German and Swedish.
One of the owners is American, and initially collected the books himself, although he also buys books from customers who frequent the shop or contact him.
Typically, the pricing is based on both the popularity and the condition of the books, but the prices are very reasonable, usually half of the original cover prices. Of course hardcover and rarer books will fetch higher prices.
The shop is an atmospheric, well-decorated and air-conditioned store. The books are neatly shelved in alphabetical order and there is a cosy coffee corner, along with chairs for comfy browsing.
Certainly this is something of a niche market in a city where so many consumers seem to spend their time and money on computerised items. But there is obviously some demand, which this shop meets very nicely, for a place where book lovers can go and not have to pay th admittedly expensive full price for foreign-language books.
Dasa is only a 5-minute walk from the Emporium shopping centre and the BTS Phrom Phong Skytrain station, and you can even go online and check their current available list of books here.
Address: 714/4 Sukhumvit Road (between 26 and 28), Klongton, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110
Opening Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily
Asia Books Co., Ltd. is the original English bookstore chain in Thailand and was actually the first. It has long been widely recognized as possibly the best English book and magazine distributor in the country although it has faced some serious competition in recent years from Kinokuniya.
Asia Books was founded as far back as 1969, and is the name that most people have always been likely to associate with English books on Thailand and South East Asia. The number of shops has decreased somewhat in recent years due to increased competition but the chain still has something like 70 stores nationwide, including in the airports.
There are around 10 stores throughout the city in all the major shopping malls that hold a wide variety of books in both English and Thai. The flagship outlet is in Central World, but similarly sized stores are found in Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon. Asia Books runs countless smaller stores in addition to the newsstand-style outlets dotted around the city.
This is a good place to pick up bestsellers and browse a decent range of content, and the titles cover anything from international fiction and non-fiction to design and architecture, business and management, lifestyle, languages, travel, children’s books, and much more, including stationary and magazines. You can also get an Asia Books card, which will give you 10% off every purchase for a year.
Address: 14th Floor, Berli Jucker House, 99 Soi Rubia, Sukhumvit 42 Road, Prakanong, Klongtoey, Bangkok, 10110
Tel: (+66) 02-715-9000
This name is a Japanese-based retailer known for its expansive collection of Western and Asian literature, and is now Thailand’s largest international bookshop stocking the widest selection of new books in Bangkok. They can also order anything they don’t already have in stock.
The titles are mainly in English but also come in Japanese, Thai and Chinese, and the store also stocks magazines, newspapers, comics, stationary and toys. The titles cover everything from bestsellers to fantasy fiction, religion, spirituality, personal development, romance and crime, art, architecture, and business.
They also easily have the best children’s English bookstore in Bangkok, and some stores have a cafe and a huge magazine section. With something like 150,000 titles covering such a broad range of subjects, Kinokuniya is comparable to Western chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, although it is by no means the cheapest option.
But most of the clientele don’t seem to notice or mind that much. Even the briefest browse around any of the Kinokuniya stores in Bangkok is enough to captivate and excite even the more passive bibliophiles. It’s actually very easy to lose a few hours browsing the neatly partitioned sections where you’ll find all of the latest bestsellers, coffee table books, calendars, maps, and all manner of other things.
The flagship store is located in Siam Paragon but Kinokuniya also has locations in Central World, Emporium and Emquartier.
Address: 3rd Level Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Road, Pathumwan Bangkok 10330
Tel: +662 610 9500
Opening hours: Daily – 10am to 10pm
Hardcover: The Art Book Shop
This is as trendy as it gets for arty and creative book-lovers in Bangkok. Located in the hi-so mall Central Embassy, the store contains an impressive selection of titles with a design bent, ad specialises in content related to Art, Architecture, Photography, Textiles, Ceramics, and Jewellery, including hard-to-find Art titles.
The Art Book Shop is owned and operated by Serindia Gallery, and it also covers other categories and titles in English as well by way of biography, history, music, leisure, travel, lifestyle, food, home furnishings, children’s books, cookbooks, and fiction, plus rare, out-of-print, collector’s and limited editions.
The store was first established in in 2012 after initially operating out of the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre (BACC) and opening the store at Central Embassy store in 2014. The store also includes an art space, and in 2017 it was incorporated into Open House on Level 6 at the Central Embassy mall.
Address: OPEN HOUSE, Level 6, CENTRAL EMBASSY
Hours: Daily 10am – 10pm
Tel: +66 2160 5949
Right in the middle of a somewhat unexpected location for a bookstore by way of one of Bangkok’s nightlife hot spots, RCA, is the late-night book café, Zombie Books.
The owner is an author and a musician interested in encouraging reading among the younger generations. He curates the books on the shelves himself, which range from older novels to recent bestsellers.
This is a somewhat a unique bookstore that comes with a 70s style bar, and the upstairs, second floor of the three in total also operates as a co-working space, gallery, and café. You’ll even get live music here on a weekend on the third floor.
As this rather well-hidden bookshop is located along RCA’s nightlife strip, it provides late-night access to a variety maze of titles and topics in both Thai and English.
If you take the MRT subway train to the Phetchaburi Station, you won’t be too far away from this spot, where you can mix up a bit of reading and dancing if you are in the mood.
Address: Zombie Books, RCA Block D, 21/118 9, Khwaeng Bang Kapi, Khet Huai Khwang, Rama 9 Road,Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10310
Opening Hours: 10:30 am to midnight
Tel: (+66) 084-654-3954
Siam Rare Books & Collectables
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the type of place where you can find all kinds of curiosities if you are on the lookout, including a speciality bookstore.
The Siam Rare Book Store has a range of items that feature and celebrate all things Siam and Southeast Asia. The owner is a knowledgeable and welcoming dealer, and when you browse through this place you can soon begin to get a few rare insights into Thai history.
You’ll find all manner of interesting items scattered around the store as well as books, including some authentic-looking antique opium weights, the very Thai-looking Khon masks, rare books, old maps and prints, and even collections of antique trade cards.
Address: Siam Rare Books & Collectibles, 151 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Khwaeng Chatuchak, Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, 10900
The Passport Bookshop is another slightly unique and atmospheric shop in which to browse some interesting titles.
The shop was formerly located near the river, but is now to be found on the ground floor of an old shop house not too far from Ratchadamnoen Avenue in the region of Khaosarn road. The shop is located just east of the famous local temple Wat Bovorniwet.
What you’ll find here is a bunch of new and used English-language titles. They are largely geared towards Thai and Asian studies and topics, but there is also a decent amount of used fiction to go with the English-Thai phrasebooks and other language study guides, and a good few travel guidebooks. The owner serves coffee and tea onto a few wooden tables, encouraging shoppers to browse at their own pace.
Address: 523 Phra Sumen Road
Tel: (02) 629 0694
Open: Daily except Sunday 10:00am – 20:00pm
Mahamakut Buddhist University Bookstore
A lot of people who visit Thailand like to dig out books on Thai Buddhism to try and get an angle on this integral aspect of the culture.
And while it’s true that you’ll easily find such books in the larger stores covered in this post, what better place to look into the teachings of the Buddha than Mahamakut University’s bookstore? This is located across from Wat Bovorniwet near Khao San Road, close to the Passport Bookshop, and along with a wall of Buddhist scriptures in English, Thai and Pali, you’ll find historical works on the Buddha’s life.
You can also advance any academic study you may be undertaking on the finer points of Theravada philosophy with the store’s range of meditation manuals and biographies of famous Thai monks. It goes without saying that the prices are very reasonable compared to the high-street stores.