All reviews and features are listed in full chronologically below the 'Select Review Quotes'. For individual reviews click on a quote or a media listing on the right.
Select Review Quotes
- ‘This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.’
— Alex Kerr, author of ‘Lost Japan’
- ‘A unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture. Future social historians will thank Cornwel-Smith.’
— Andrew Marshall, Time magazine
- ‘An entertaining and provocative look at Thai culture.’
— John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8
- ‘Philip Cornwel-Smith is writing in a way that I like, with an electric eye for the streets.’
— Lawrence Osborne, author of ‘Bangkok Days’
- ‘A thrilling, trail-blazing book of cultural history… A work of astounding breadth and erudition. Very Thai has few, if any, English-language equals.’
— Nick Grossman, Bangkok Post
- ‘A more sophisticated guide to the country’s contemporary culture’
– Conde Nast Traveller
- ‘A brilliant book-length photo-essay… Cornwel-Smith writes with astute animation.’
— Donald Richie, Top 3 Books on Asia 2005, Japan Times
- ‘Required reading for visitors, residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand tick.’
— Jennifer Gampell, Asian Wall Street Journal
- ‘With a wit that suits the Thai spirit, Very Thai explains with delicateness things that Thais regard as indelicate. An important source that reflects modern Thai consciousness.”
— Pracha Suweeranont, Matichon Weekly
- ‘It was about time that somebody wrote something worth reading about the Thai culture. Philip Cornwel-Smith does that, and does it well. Read Very Thai. You’ll be glad you did.
— Bertil Lintner, The Irrawaddy
- ‘It is truly so much better than any other “guide”.’
— Paul Dorsey, The Nation
- ‘Very Thai is the first in-depth examination of Thai popular culture.’
— Jason Gagliardi, South China Morning Post
- ‘Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.’
— Lucy Ridout, Rough Guide to Thailand
- ‘Very Thai shines a loving light on the minutiae of everyday life. The book is equally fun and authoritative.’
— Andrew Marshall, The Australian
- ‘Pick of the Picture Books. Very Thai is an attempt to capture the complex realities of Thai culture, a blend of finesse and fun which fuses folk tradition with hi-tech and bling. Here are fascinating glimpses of high life, low life, street life and, er, Honda life.”
— The Independent newspaper (UK)
- ‘The publishing sensation of 2004. This book is a revelation of all those things we thought we’d never understand.’
— Vaudine England, Dateline, Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
- ‘A delightful read and a wonderful roadmap to diverse elements of Thai Popular Culture.’
— Gerald W Fry, Historical Dictionary of Thailand
- ‘No other author has delved so deeply into the subconscious of Thai popular culture in such an intriguing, eye-opening way. You’ll love the insights gained from reading this best-seller. Wonderful photography too!’
— Nancy Chandler Map of Bangkok
Reviews in Full
Book Review: Very Thai
by Lang Reid
Another guide to life in Thailand, but not the usual “which bus to catch” and “don’t mess with the servants”, but a hard-cover guide to the everyday, but oft unfathomable, life and times in Thailand. Written by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a writer with much experience in this country, and photographed by John Goss, Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture (ISBN 974-9863-00-3) was published this year by River Books in Bangkok.
In Alex Kerr’s preface to the book, he writes, “A hundred things which had intrigued me for decades became clear on reading it (the book). Such as where the statue of the beckoning lady came from, or why the alphabet always appears with pictures.” That introduction alone was, for me, the ‘beckoning lady’ to look further! read more »
What Makes Thais Tick?
Cornwel-Smith provides some entertaining insights
By Bertil Lintner
A crash course in cultural orientation is the first introduction to Thailand that American Peace Corps volunteers get when they arrive in the kingdom. High-society ladies of noble standing teach them that Thai girls are very shy and conservative.
They spend their entire adolescence cooking food, cleaning their houses, and, for relaxation, painting umbrellas. Every young woman is a virgin until she gets married to a hardworking man, who is deeply devoted to traditional Asian family values. The reality confronting the young Americans when they arrive in a small village in the Northeast, therefore, comes as a shock. Half the teenage girls are either single mothers or pregnant, and their boyfriends have escaped their responsibilities and fled to Bangkok. Every married adult, man or woman, seems to be having an affair with somebody else. Family relations in rural Thailand can, in fact, be even more confused and bewildering than in America’s inner cities.
New book about Thailand behind the façade
by Bertil Lintner
Superficially, Thailand may appear more Westernised than most other countries in Asia. Jeans, T-shirts, Coca-Cola and hamburger joints belong to the youth culture here, like English football and American pop music. But there’s something very Thai behind the façade not only in the indigenous culture but also in the way in which the Thais absorb outside influences. All those phenomena are explained splendidly in a new book, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Thai Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a Bangkok-based English journalist. Beauty contests, astrology, taxi altars, belief in ghosts and spirits are all put in their proper context in this very readable book.
Svenska Dagbladet is a Swedish newspaper
Bertil Lintner is the author of Blood Brothers: Crime, Business and Politics in Asia;Burma in Revolt; Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea Under the Kim ClanPosted in: Reviews
Visions of Thailand
British author Philip Cornwel-Smith talks to John Ramsay about his journey from Time Out London to Bangkok’s first city listings magazine and his new book Very Thai, an in-depth celebration of Thai popular culture.
By John Ramsay
Eleven years ago, on his way home to the UK, author Philip Cornwel-Smith landed in Thailand on a three-day stop-over little knowing it would change his life. In those three days he had an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become the founding editor of Metro, Bangkok’s first city listings magazine. He’s been here ever since.
“I’d previously worked on Time Out guidebooks in London,” he says. “And for a listings agency that supplied newspapers such as the Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph.
“The Time Out London guide was the first publication I worked on, so things have come full circle, because I‘m now editing the Time Out Bangkok guidebook.” read more »Posted in: Reviews
Thank you, your Thai-ness
Mysteries of the Siamese landscape marvellously revealed, with all due affection – and affectation
By Paul Dorsey
Alex Kerr, earning his accreditation herein as an “Asia pundit”, says it best in the foreword to Very Thai: “This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.” It is truly so much better than any other “guide” (once you’ve got all the maps and hotel listings in your pocket).
A pair of aliens who upon landing fell in love with Thailand, Bangkok Metro magazine’s former British editor Philip Cornwel-Smith and American artist -photographer John Goss have, with genuine affection, put together 256 pages of endearing text with 494 colour photos of instantly recognisable social signatures. read more »Posted in: Reviews