15 Best Books to Read Before Travelling South East Asia

Megsy Travel Tips



8. The Beach
Author: Alex Garland

Books Travelling South East Asia


Made famous by the movie of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This book is about one man’s mysterious and perilous journey to find a secret beach, a Garden of Eden, within the scattered islands of Thailand’s marine park. Full of excitement and danger this is a great read for a first-time traveller to Thailand.






Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for The Beach


9. The Damage Done
Author: Warren Fellows

Books Travelling South East Asia


The true story of Australian, Warren Fellows. Convicted of drug smuggling and spent 12 long years as a prisoner of Bangkok’s infamous Bang Kwang prison. Fellows tells of his life inside the prison walls enduring terrifying conditions, humans rights violations by both prisoners and guards, frequent beatings, torture and even witnessing executions of fellow inmates.

An engrossing and true story of filth, brutality, hopelessness, and survival inside a Thai prison.




Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for Damage Done



10. Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos
Author: Brett Dakin

Books Travelling South East Asia


An American man’s tale of his life changing time living for 2 years in Laos, and the fascinating people he meets along the way. A look at the separation of the nation where the rich are very rich, and the poor are very, very poor. The book also explores Laos’ communist past and America’s influence on the country. As Laos is such a rapidly developing and changing country views may be outdated but still a good read.





Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for Another Quiet American



11. Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos
Author: Natacha Du Pont De Bie

Books Travelling South East Asia


Ant Egg Soup is a look at one woman’s foodie experiences in Laos  – the people she met the places she visited and the food she ate which ranges from delicious to disgusting. This book is about her obsession with food: the more obscure the better. Her interest is so great that she willing to get lost in local markets, cycle mountains, visit tribal villages and grill locals to find the best indigenous restaurants.

A book for foodies written by a self-proclaimed food tourist.




Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for Ant Egg Soup


Myanmar – Burma

12. Burmese Days
Author: George Orwell

Books Travelling South East Asia


A book that looks at Burma (now Myanmar) during the end of British Colonial Rule. Orwell’s book looks at the corruption and imperial bigotry of the era, described as “a portrait of the dark side of the British Raj.” Although a fictitious novel, publishers were concerned that story was described to realistically, and many felt he had let the side down (British Empire). Orwell replied, “I dare say it’s unfair in some ways and inaccurate in some details, but much of it is simply reporting what I have seen.” (Wiki)

Our Comments (Tommo):

It’s a book where, at times, you come to hate every main character. Where are their saving graces? Do they have any? I’ve experienced the hot season in Burma for myself and it’s easy to see why tensions rise so quickly. You can feel that heat and sweat rising from the pages as Orwell captures the everyday monotony of living without modern civilization in a small British outpost in Northern Burma.

Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for Burmese Days

13. The River of Lost Footsteps
Author: Thant Myint-U

Books Travelling South East Asia


Thant Myint-U uses stories of his family to bring together a narrative of the history of Burma. Through their stories he portrays Burmas many rises and falls of history, from the invasion of Portuguese pirates through to British colonialism, and the bitter civil war that still tears apart Burma and its people today.

Myint-U was named by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the “100 Global Thinkers” of 2013 and by Prospect Magazine as one of “50 World Thinkers” of 2014 (Wiki)




Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for River of Lost Footsteps

14. Letters From Burma 
Author: Aung San Suu Ky

Books Travelling South East Asia


A fascinating collection of writings by Aung San Suu Kyi, human rights activist and formerly imprisoned leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy. This is a book of one woman’s vision and commitment to her nation and the people who risked their careers, reputations, and lives to support her and her party. Written during her house arrest these writings give us an amazing insight into Burma and its struggles for freedom.





Read the full Amazon blurb and reviews for Letters From Burma

15. Finding George Orwell in Burma
Author: Emma Larkin

Books Travelling South East Asia


The memoir of Emma Larkin and her time in Burma following the footsteps of George Orwell. Larkin spent a year visiting places where Orwell worked and lived and looks at the “colonial ghosts” which are still apparent throughout Burma today. An interesting look a one woman’s discovery of the world that heavily influenced many of the George Orwell novels we know today and the lasting influence of the time on the country itself.





Read the full blurb and reviews of Finding George Orwell


Are there any books we missed?

Leave us a comment below if you have read any of the books listed or if you have any suggestions of other Must Read books.