The 14 Best Books About Laos In 2023 For Digital Nomads

Laos is the least traveled country in Indochina and as you can see from our country review, this may be with good reason. That means that it’s quite challenging to write the best books about Laos list.

Fewer people have written about Laos than the other countries in our “best books” series and thus, we’ve had to be a bit more lenient about our criteria than we have been for the other lists – so our best books about Cambodia and our best books about Thailand lists are more comprehensive, for example.

We’ve also included a lot more fiction on this list than on other lists because of the scarcity of available Laos History Books and Laos Literature.

Even if we could read Lao, there aren’t many books in Lao Language or books by Lao Authors either and we can’t, sadly, read Lao.

Our Best Books About Laos

The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

I really liked these books when I started reading them and I’ve read the first 8 or 9 books in the Dr Siri Paiboun series and this is the first of that series.

They are an entertaining romp in a communist era and later in a post-“opening up” Laos. They are also among the best Colin Cotterill books.

Dr. Siri’s first adventure takes place as he turns 72 in the Laos of 1978. He is the national coroner of the new regime and has to balance politics with his duties at every turn.

He has a murder to investigate, a ton of government problems, hill tribes to deal with, and more.

At the time of writing, there are 14 books in this series – which means I need to catch up somewhat. Which I may well do this week.

You can check out The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill on Amazon along with the rest of the series, here.

Escaping The Tiger by Laura Manivong

This is a children’s book but it’s a pretty good one. You won’t find that it takes too much time to read and it is full of genuinely accurate historical detail and it’s a gripping tale too.

It’s the story of “Skeleton Boy” who needs to flee the new communist regime of Laos and make it to the other bank of the Mekong and reach the refugee camps of Thailand, where maybe, he and his family will be safe.

Of course, life’s not that simple and this tale is based in the grim reality of 1970s Indochinese politics.

You can check out Escaping The Tiger by Laura Manivong on Amazon here.

Crescent Moon Over Laos by Mark Boyter

Our third entry on the list is a genuine travel tale! Mark was one of the first foreigners to visit Laos after it opened up following the strictest communist period.

He’d been teaching English in Japan up to that point.

Life in Laos would prove to be more challenging than he’d ever have believed.

The crescent moon of the title comes from a song by Glenn Chatten, Crescent Moon over Laos. It’s a touch on the affected side as books go but it’s one of the few accounts of the opening up era and as such, it’s a priceless insight into Laos.

You can check out Crescent Moon Over Laos by Mark Boyter on Amazon here.

Another Quiet American: Stories of life In Laos by Brett Dakin

It’s a much better book than the work above but Brett was 10 years later to Laos when things were much settled and he seems to have missed the fact that The Quiet American by Graham Greene (a truly excellent novel and the film’s worth watching too) was set in Vietnam and not in Laos. (Which is why it’s on our best books in Vietnam list).

This doesn’t stop the story of this Princeton grad’s arrival and 2 years in Laos from being well-told and genuinely interesting.

Dakin appears to have a very strong affection for the people he encountered on his journey.

You can check out Another Quiet American: Stories of life In Laos by Brett Dakin on Amazon here.

Love Began in Laos: The Story of an Extraordinary Life by Penelope Khounta

This isn’t a dreadful book, but it is designed to appeal to a fairly narrow field of readers.

Penelope Khounta was a middle-class American until she fell in love with and married a Laos man on a visit to Laos.

The whole thing feels like an overly romanticized account of lonely would-be Thai/Lao brides.

We’re not sure most people would have the endurance to take on 30 years of total failure to communicate across cultural divides but if that sounds inspiring to you – you might want to read this book.

You can check out Love Began in Laos: The Story of an Extraordinary Life by Penelope Khounta on Amazon here.

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

We thoroughly approve of people wandering through Southeast Asian cooking cultures and then finding the dishes on offer mind-bogglingly different from those served back home.

We confess we’re not huge fans of Lao food ourselves – it’s like a down-market Thai and we’d rather gorge ourselves on the amazing French food available in Vientiane anyway.

However. Natacha Du Pont De Bie (a ridiculously hard name to type at the end of a long day) threw herself in completely. Ant egg soup and raw turkey blood chasers were soon on her personal menu.

This is a thoroughly entertaining book that is as likely to put you off your dinner as it is to make you hungry.

You can check out Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos by Natacha Du Pont De Bie on Amazon here.

I Little Slave: A Prison Memoir from Communist Laos by Bounsang Khamkeo

If you ever wondered why Lao people got on board cheerfully with a communist uprising (and why it worked so well when compared to say, Cambodia next door) – it can be found in the fact that the traditional way to say “I” was, in fact, to say, “I little slave”.

Educated overseas, Bounsang Khamkeo, was not a natural fit for the revolution but he played his part for years until he was finally thrown in jail when the new regime decided he could no longer be trusted.

Then he fled the country for the United States following years in jail. This is his story.

You can check out I Little Slave: A Prison Memoir from Communist Laos by Bounsang Khamkeo on Amazon here.

One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy (Not one of the best books about Laos, really)

This is not Ms. Murphy’s finest hour.

She may be one of the world’s most recognizable brands in travel writing but One Foot in Laos is a patronizing account of trekking in the country in 1997.

All Lao are amazing, all Americans evil, it borders on the completely insane at times.

There were important points raised during the book which get lost amidst Derval Murphy’s own very clear prejudices.

It has bad reviews on Amazon and a bad review from us – it’s only on our list because of the shortage of alternatives.

You can check out One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy on Amazon here.

Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America’s Clandestine War in Laos by Roger Warner

This is sadly out of print because it may be the most important book on our list.

Did you know that during the Vietnam War, the Americans dropped more bombs in Laos than had been dropped by all the combined powers in World War 2?! Well, they did and yet, they were never officially “at war” with Laos.

This is the story of the CIA insanity which waged a quiet and cruel campaign on Laos for the best part of a decade just because really.

You can check out Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America’s Clandestine War in Laos by Roger Warner on Amazon here.

The Edge of Tomorrow by Tom Dooley

Tom Dooley’s “The Edge of Tomorrow” has nothing to do with the Tom Cruise movie.

It’s a story of an American doctor in Lao during the 1950s and the challenges he faced in providing medical and humanitarian aid in the country. It’s something of a specialist work and it’s one of three books Dooley penned outlining his contributions to human rights across many countries.

He won the Congressional Gold Medal after his death too.

You can check out The Edge of Tomorrow by Tom Dooley on Amazon here.

Stalking the Elephant Kings: In Search of Laos by Christopher Kremmer

Once the Indochinese wars had ended and Laos had opened up again, Kremmer went in search of the Lao royal family “the Elephant Kings”.

His tale takes us through Laos as well as Vietnam and Cambodia border zones and explores the impact of the Vietnam War and the rise of communism in Indochina.

Sadly, if you want to read it – secondhand copies are quite expensive and there’s no e-version (as yet).

You can check out Stalking the Elephant Kings: In Search of Laos by Christopher Kremmer on Amazon here.

A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis

This book also appears on our lists of best books for Vietnam and Cambodia as it’s a chronicle of a journey among all three nations.

Sadly, Laos is the poor cousin in this work and there’s not as much in-depth coverage as there is with the two other countries.

However, as always, Lewis’ writing is charming and evocative and it’s an interesting insight into a now-lost world of days gone by Laos.

You can find A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis on Amazon here.

Mother’s Beloved: Stories From Laos by Outhine Bounyavong

This is a charming collection of short stories from one of Laos’ most celebrated authors.

It’s probably the best insight you can get into the character of the people of Lao, though whether the overall tone is to your taste isn’t a guarantee.

You can find Mother’s Beloved: Stories From Laos by Outhine Bounyavong on Amazon here.

A Short History of Laos: The Land In Between by Grant Evans

Best Books About Laos - Grant Evans

This is a very good history but mainly because it’s the only accessible history of the nation.

It’s quite dry in tone (though it does have the joy of a foreword by one of my favorite experts on the region Milton Osbourne) but despite this and the academic language, it’s readable enough for you to get a good gist of what’s taken place in Laos over the years.

Don’t forget that it’s a relatively new country (formed from many countries by French colonists) and thus, there’s not quite as much depth to the history as there is with other Southeast Asian nations.

You can find A Short History of Laos: The Land In Between by Grant Evans on Amazon here.

Final Thoughts On The Best Books About Laos

These are the 14 best books about Laos (more if you count the whole Dr. Siri series) but we have to be honest, we’re still waiting for the defining work on Laos.

We’d like to think that it would come from a modern Lao author but it’s a great place for anyone to spend some time writing their first novel and if the success of the Coroner’s Lunch is anything to go by? It appears there’s a commercial demand for books set in this region.

In the meantime, you might want to check out our digital nomad travel guide to Laos.

We suspect there’s a story really worth telling in this country if ever someone decides to tell it. Would-be novelists might want to skip Vientiane and head to Luang Prabang if they want to carve out a name for themselves with the reading public.

Finally, we didn’t include The Spirit Catches You and You All Fall Down on this list, because it’s about Lao refugees in America. We try to focus on books set in the countries that the list takes place in.

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail to nick at You can learn more about him here - About Us

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