There are a lot of books on Bhutan, written by Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese alike. And while some books capture the Bhutanese way of life in bits and pieces, somehow, they don’t do justice to a kingdom that has but only recently come out of its self imposed isolation. Below is our list of books that you will surely enjoy if you want to appraise, expand or deepen your understanding of Bhutan.
Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan
By Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck
Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck’s portrait of Bhutan is a combination of personal memoir, history, folklore and travelogue. It provides unique and intimate insights into Bhutanese culture and society, with its vivid glimpses of life in Bhutan’s villages and hamlets, monasteries and palaces. Her engaging account of her childhood, growing up in a village in western Bhutan and the changes she witnessed when the country decided to end its isolation also tells a larger story—that of Bhutan’s rapid transition from a medieval kingdom to a modern democratic nation within the space of a decade.
This book, with its specially commissioned illustrations by young Bhutanese artists, and photographs from the author’s family album, is essential reading both for those who plan to visit the Kingdom of Bhutan and for armchair travelers who yearn to experience the magic of Bhutan through their imaginations.
Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti
By Kunzang Choden
Kunzang Choden needs no introduction as she is the first writer/novelist of Bhutan. Since she began her writing career, she has brought out a number of books – all brilliant and all wonderfully written. But, Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti is dear to every Bhutanese because the writer in her collection of twenty-two stories attempts to document a vital tradition before it is wiped out entirely.
Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti is a good, easy read if you like to indulge in some Bhutanese folklore. All the stories have origins in Bhutan and apart from the stories about yetis, Kunzang Choden lets you in on the people, their customs and traditions, and their way of life.
History of Bhutan
By Dr. Karma Phuntsho
As a historian, Karma Phuntsho’s book is detailed, well written and thoroughly researched. It cuts through the mystery and enchantment of the ‘Last Shangri-la’ and talks about how a people struggling for centuries against invasion, religious wars, oppressive taxes, slavery and ruthless strongmen, emerged in the late 20th Century as an island of good governance with unparalleled environmental ethics while surrounded on all sides by nations swamped in corruption, dysfunction and environmental disaster. This book is a must read for anybody willing to expand and deepen their knowledge about Bhutan, its history and its people.
Within the Realm of Happiness
By Kinley Dorji
Written by one of Bhutan’s first journalists, Within the Realm of Happiness offers readers a glance into Bhutan – the birthplace of Gross National Happiness. Having obtained his degree from Australia and his Master’s in Journalism from the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism in the U.S., Dasho Kinley Dorji is today the Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication in Bhutan.
His book – Within the Realm of Happiness – is a collection of 13 stories that are a captivating blend of memoirs and essays that represent a mix of childhood memories, travel tales, and contemporary reflections on a rapidly changing populace. As Bhutan joins the modern world, Kinley Dorji provides sensitive insights into the dilemmas that the people and society confront every day.
Beyond the Silk Route – Travels of a Bhutanese Prince
By Afroze Bukht
Beyond the Silk Route – Travels of a Bhutanese Prince, transports the reader in quick succession, sometimes into the ancient days of Alexander the Great and Constantinople, and sometimes, into the medieval era of Genghis Khan and his Golden Hordes. Afroze Bukht, the author, has managed to provide the reader with a curious mixture of frivolous banality and historic events which are interwoven together in a fabric revealing the mandala of life of His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck.
The long and arduous journey undertaken by His Royal Highness through different continents by rail and road over 30,000 kilometers with historical backdrops, anecdotes and encounters has been brilliantly captured by the author with erudition and humor. What makes this travel book a great collectible is the narration that is spiced with His Royal Highness’ charm and grace which never fails to win the hearts and minds of all those who come in contact with him.
Beyond the Silk Route is an account of one of His Royal Highness’ many travels abroad, where the affable Prince is seen as a keen and observant traveler, seeing way beyond the eyes of a casual tourist. The book is an enjoyable read in that it takes the reader on an overland journey in which the landscape keeps changing with every step. And, with every change, one begins to see the world in a different light, never once leaving the delightful company of His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck.