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

May 1, 2014

Fah Thai

Bangkok’s Evolving Pop Culture

Fah Thai is the inflight magazine of the boutique carrier Bangkok Airways. This feature appeared in its section called The guide: Thailand in the May/June 2014 issue.

FahThai_May_June_2014

A twenty-year veteran of Thailand, Philip Cornwel-Smith recently released the second edition of Very Thai, a celebration of Thai pop, retro, street and folk culture. The re-release covers the many cultural changes that have swept through Thailand since the first book hit store shelves to considerable success nearly a decade ago.

Through vivid photographs, sharply rendered illustrations and insightful observations, the author pinpoints some of the biggest changes he’s witnessed over the years. One of the most dramatic changes, Cornwel-Smith notes, is the way politics has come to infuse daily life in Thailand, from fashion to soap operas.

The new edition features more than 200 striking images and four original chapters, including a fascinating exploration of the rise and global popularity of the retro ‘Thai Thai’ culture. “Magical tattoos, herbal whisky, Morlam folk music and street food have evolved from low-status taboo into mainstream trends with export appeal,” the author says. What’s more, Cornwel-Smith notes, is that Thai pop culture itself, long dismissed by traditionalists as urban trivia, has acquired social legitimacy and is regularly celebrated int eh media, at museums and at galleries in Thailand and elsewhere.

Most intriguing is his in-depth exploration and explication of quirky Thai icons, historical events and traditions, including the Japanese motor-rickshaw’s transformation into the tuk-tuk, rock’s morphing into festive farm music, the colour-coding of weekdays, floral truck bolts, taxi altars and drinks in bags.

And yet it’s the youth of Thailand that continues to astound the author: “Thais have become the world’s leading users of social media, intensifying their culture of personal networks and relishing online freedom.”

 

Fah Thai is the Bangkok Airways inflight magazine

Posted in: Blog
April 7, 2014

John Burdett: A Greater Sense of Thailand

Our Thailand Top Ten. Books specially selected by John Burdett

Very Thai – Philip Cornwel-Smith

ULtimate Library A GREATER SENSE OF THAILAND.doc 1ULtimate Library A GREATER SENSE OF THAILAND.doc 2

A colourful, entertaining and surprisingly well-researched work which explains exactly what you are seeing on the streets of Bangkok in a serious of short, pithy and informative chapters. For a visitor who wants to know more but does not have much time, this is the best choice I have come across.

— John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo.

 

Posted in: Reviews
March 5, 2014

Business Insider

15 Books That Will Make You Want To Visit Thailand

List includes Very Thai.

Very This is among the 15 books rated must-reads by Business Insider

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/books-about-thailand-2014-1#very-thai-everyday-popular-culture-by-philip-cornwel-smith-with-photography-by-john-goss-15

Posted in: Blog
February 5, 2014

John Burdett (review)

(Thailand) Book Bag: Bangkok

http://www.travelcuriousoften.com/october11-book-bag.php

John Burdett’s gripping characterization set against Bangkok’s edgy, seductive cityscapes make his series a thriller in every sense of the word. John Burdett was originally a lawyer with practices in London and Hong Kong. He has lived in France, Spain, Hong Kong, and the U.K. but currently makes his home in both Bangkok and Southwest France.

One of John Burdett’s favorite books about Bangkok is: “very Thai by Philip Cornwel-Smith 
An entertaining and provocative look at Thai culture.”

Posted in: ReviewsReviews & Features