The Best Travel Books About Bali

Thinking about planning a trip to Bali or simply hoping to bone up on your knowledge about the Indonesian island province?

Pick up one of these insightful books, recommended by travel literature expert Don George:

  • A House in Bali (1947) is Canadian musician Colin McPhee’s classic account of Balinese music and dance and their central role in Balinese life during the 1930s; it remains one of the most penetrating and illuminating books on the island’s elusive, alluring culture.
  • In Fragrant Rice: My Continuing Love Affair With Bali (2004), Australian Janet De Neefe recounts how she fell in love with Bali—and with a Balinese man. De Neefe, co-founder of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and owner of two restaurants, a guesthouse, and a cooking school in Ubud, has been a resident of Bali since the mid-1980s, and her book–part autobiography, part cultural narrative, and part cookbook–is an insightful introduction to Balinese culture and cuisine.
  • In A Little Bit One O’clock: Living With a Balinese Family (1998), William Ingram, co-founder and co-director of Bali-based Threads of Life–an organization dedicated to the preservation and promulgation of traditional Indonesian weaving–offers an intimate account of his own introduction to life on the Indonesian island.
  • Bali Soul Journals (2013), a great read written by Bali resident Clare McAlaney with photographs by Trish McNeill, presents a sumptuous exploration and evocation of the heart and soul of contemporary Bali.

Don George is an editor at large at Traveler and the author of The Way of Wanderlust and Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel WritingHe has also edited award-winning travel writing anthologies, including An Innocent Abroad. Follow Don on Twitter @don_george.

> You might also like:


  1. paulus wibowo
    April 25, 2016, 11:54 pm

    South Kuta Beach is the best family holiday destination in Bali where everything is within short strolling distance: the friendly locals, great shopping malls with air-conditioners, the exciting waterbom park, many restaurants and family-friendly hotels in the area from budget to luxury.

    Safety & security are also reliable in view of the close neighborhood watch among the locals, village security team and police who are always seen on stand by.

  2. Sasha
    March 14, 2016, 11:55 am

    Bali is truly a very special place in our world. I’m definitely adding some of these to my book shelf

    March 2, 2016, 11:39 pm

    Indonesia is one of the friendliest places in south east asia .I’ve been to bali a couple of times and have discovered something new every time.A must visit for every back packer and budget traveller.

  4. Jane Bailey
    March 2, 2016, 11:21 am

    As well as the books already mentioned Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World by Jonathan Copeland and Ni Wayan Murni is the best and most comprehensive explanation of Bali’s history and culture – very readable. Murni’s Bali Tours, Where to Go, What to do and How to do it has just been published as an ebook and is wonderful. Great review in the current edition of Bali Advertiser. Both available on Amazon and

  5. Thebooktrail
    February 28, 2016, 4:06 pm

    This is the perfect way to travel whether you go for real or are just relaxing in your armchair! There are some great reads in that list

    Have to say a personal favourite is A House in Bali by Colin McPhee as you mention in the list but another one if you fancy a cheeky read is Balilicious by Becky Wicks. One to read on location if you can is the fun but also a crime story set on Bali – Bali Conspiracy Most Foul, Investor Singh investigates by Shamini Flint for a cosy crime caper. Just goes to show there are books for everywhere set everywhere!

  6. TripFiction
    February 26, 2016, 2:19 pm

    Choosing top reads to discover more about a destination is such a good way to learn unique and unusual aspects. What a great selection of books, thank you. I have personally enjoyed The Paradise Guesthouse by Ellen Sussman and Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler was entertaining…

  7. Garry Devellerez
    February 25, 2016, 10:23 am

    My favourite holiday destination for nearly 20 years for it’s tranquility and simplicity. Warm climate with beautiful people to match. Certainly will have a read before the next trip. Thanks Don.