Bookstores in Bangkok : Kinokuniya, Asia Books, Bookazine
Video of Kinokuniya Bookstore at Siam Paragon at bottom of this page.
Reading a book still beats most other 'entertainment' in our opinion. If you forgot about it, it is never too late to get started again!
There are three main bookstore chains in Bangkok (there are many more if one would include stores that sell Thai language publications) : Kinokuniya, Asia Books and Bookazine. For cultural and historical books, we can also recommendRiver Books.
Kinokuniya has few, but large bookstores. You would not easily find them on your own, unless you know where to look for them. Their 'Bangkok' branch is at Isetan 6h floor, at the Central World Plaza (former World Trade Center). There is another larger branch at Emporium, Sukhumvit Road. Both feature a large collection of Japanese- and English-language books.
However, the largest bookstore (certainly for foreign language books) is located at Siam Paragon (connected to Siam Square skytrain station). Besides English- and Japanese- language books, there is also a collection of German and French language publications.
We reviewed prices at Kinokuniya, Asia Books and Bookazine recently, and have to clearly conclude that Kinukuniya offers the best deals for recent hardcover and softcover books. New books also are sold at a 20% discount, and you may save a few hundred bahts actually when buying your books here.
Kinokuniya has also more 'literature' available than the other bookstores in Bangkok, that mainly have only the more popular works for sale. However, literature comes not particularly cheap and generally is sold at a higher price than even recent bestsellers.
Just recently we noticed that a whole set of books by Stephen Leather (one of our locally-based favorite authors) has been republished in paperback. We found them at Asia Books at 395 baht a piece, but later on we noticed the lot at Kinokuniya at 295 baht a piece. Percentage wise a huge difference.
[In any case, we can recommend Stephen Leather's books, even those that are ten years old.
'Private Dancer', a book the author (or his publisher) does not acknowledge on the inside of his book covers, centers on Bangkok's nightlife scene. Both 'The Solitary Man' and 'The Tunnel Rats' are partly situated in Bangkok, while a recent book 'Live Fire' plays out for a great part in Pattaya. While especially the later books suffer from poorly chosen titles, these books are action-packed and most entertaining].
The Kinokuniya bookstore at Siam Paragon is huge, and offers books in Thai, English, Japanese, Chinese, French and German languages.
A good selection of English-language books can be found at Asia Books shops that are squattered around Bangkok, mostly along Sukhumvit Road. Both recent publications, as well as paperbacks and classics are available. Asia Books has a wide selection of books on architecture, interiior design and the like, as well as books on business related topics. Among other locations you can find branches here : The original branch close to Robinson Sukhumvit ; Siam Discovery Center ; Landmark ; Times Square ; Emporium ; Siam Paragon.
While we maintain that the best deals for books are often found at Kinokuniya Stores, Asia Books offers a discount card at a price of 200 baht. Once you own the card, you get a discount on books of 10% and on magazines of 5% (not applicable at airport shops). So if you are like us, and can't resists buying a new book of a favored author when you see it (instead of waiting and buying it cheaper elsewhere), this softens the financial blow. The cards remain valid. You get your money back after buying just 3 or 4 books. We think you can also get the Asia Books discount card (which has no proper name of its own) for free when you purchase goods worth 2000 baht or more. The Asia Books discount card can also be used at Bookazine shops (see below).
The original branch of Asia Books (still with the most 'character' on Sukhumvit Road, close to the Robinson Department Store.
Asia Books and Bookazine (see below) have 'merged' since the end of 2007. They still operate under different brandnames, so we will continue treating them as separate entities.
Bookazine has smaller outlets in Bangkok and around Thailand. They have a wide selection of international magazines and recently published English-language books. Branches of the chain can be found in Bangkok :
Patpong (CP Tower) ; Ploenchit (Sogo Department Store) ; Silom Complex ; Silom (Dusit Thani) ; Siam Center ; Sukhumvit soi 49 ; All Season Place at Wireless Road. A very conveniently located branch is at Noi Lert Building, close to soi 5 Sukhumvit Road. It is connected (you can walk in from) to a Starbucks outlet.
There are also branches outside Bangkok in Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.
For awhile, we asserted that prices for hardcover and softcover books were higher at Bookazine than at either Kinokuniya or Asia Books. Paperbacks seem to have the same price in all 3 bookstore chains. Usually around 325-350 baht.
However sometimes Bookazine offers discounts on selected new books. We never can know whether discounts are available at all branches (we can not possible start visiting every single bookshop in Bangkok).
Bookazine at Nai Lert Building (close to Nana skytrain station, and adjacent to soi 5), is conveniently located and connected to a Starbucks outlet.
If you are remotely interested in books about Thai or Khmer art, architecture, history and culture, you may consider visiting River Books. They can be found at the Museum Shop of the Bangkok National Museum. There main office is located close to the Chao Phraya River. We did not visit the place there ourselves, but noticed it has the same address as the Chakrabongse House Villas accommodation, at 396 Maharaj Road, Tatien, Bangkok. It should be within easy walking distance from Wat Pho (and a bit further when coming from Wat Phrakaew or the Grand Palace). It is worth noting (visit the website of River Books, ordering online may actually be the easiest way to obtain books, if you do not fancy going to the old city) that the various marvelously illustrated books (a lot about the Khmer Empire and Angkor) will costs you much less than similar books on sale in Europe. Books printed in Thailand seem to have much lower production costs, while offering very good print and picture qualities.
When in Bangkok, we can suggest some of the many locally based writers. Bangkok seems to have one of the highest concentrations of English-language expatriate 'authors'. Some works published are not really worth reading, but we can recommend the following authors : Tim Hallinan with his Poke Rafferty series, Colin Cotterill with his humorous detective series situated in Laos and Thailand. If you know Bangkok well, it is also interesting to read some books by C.G. Moore, which take you along Bangkok's streets and venues.
Recent years saw the emergence of the 'Bangkok novel'. It has become almost impossible to keep track of all the material published by various mostly amateur writers. Classically it are crime novels, that often will include some adventures in the famous entertainment venues of Bangkok. The usual plot involves a foreigner trying to solve a crime or 'mysterious happening'. Invariably he will be allowed to wander the streets in Bangkok, questioning people (in reality hardly likely to be to happen), while having close contacts with various Thai police officers and/or with ample outside country resources. The stories sometimes are entertaining and well written, but there is also a lot of poor material. But somehow it is often fun to read books that describe places and venues one has visited or knows. The stories and plots are often unlikely (as actually is the case with also a lot of mainstream crime novels).
Inside Dasa Book Cafe, located a little further down the road from Emporium Shopping Complex, on Sukhumvit Road.
Second hand books can be purchased in a pleasant environment at Dasa Book Cafe, close to Emporium Bangkok. Most paperbacks are priced around 150-170 baht. [original new paperbacks in Bangkok are around 350 baht]. Dasa Book Cafe has a comfortable coffee corner.
There are also a number of second-hand bookshops along Khao San Road.