I love to read. Books present different aspects of a topic that you won’t necessarily find in other medium. We watch the fights; follow social media accounts; and train at different gyms. But even with the most physical and experiential activities, I find that Muay Thai books offer additional insights that I may not get during training.
The majority of Thai fighters are born into the sport due to poverty. With very limited access to education, Muay Thai fighters are often not the most literary people.
There is a very limited range of literary selection on Muay Thai even in the Thai language. Other than weekly Muay Thai magazines (e.g. Muay Siam), you can hardly find any biographical books detailing the lives of native Thai fighters whose stories are often dramatic and fascinating.
As the sport becomes increasingly global, there are now more Western fighters who blog and write about their experience training Muay Thai. This is a blessing for practitioners around the world who may not have the luxury of training in Thailand or under experienced-qualified trainers.
Best Muay Thai Books
If you are a book lover like me or just looking to expand your knowledge of the sport, check out my list of the best Muay Thai books below:
Muay Thai Basics by Christopher Delp
Instructional books are the most common genre that you will find on Muay Thai. I have gone through quite a number of them at my local library and found the trilogy of books by German Nak Muay, Christoph Delp to be the most comprehensive.
As the title suggests, the book covers basic techniques but also good topics on Thai culture and Muay Thai rituals.
It is a comprehensive book on basic Thai boxing techniques explained in a way that a beginner can easily understand. This is a great supplement to training, covering details of techniques that might not be covered in class.
Although written by a foreigner, the books are no McDojo martial arts masquerading under the guise of Muay Thai. The author has actually spent a number of years training and competing in Thailand. He has also roped in several top fighters of the time as models in the book.
Muay Thai Basics appeal to beginners to the sport while Delp’s subsequent 2 books in the series go in depth on how to train and get the most of your training.
They are not to be taken as the bible of Muay Thai training and it’s best to learn through actual practice in the gym under a qualified trainer. However, for home study to supplement the training at the gym, these are truly the best in the market.
NOTE: Delp has a Udemy video course based on the books. Check out my review here.
Muay Thai, Peace At Last by Michael Goodison
With more foreigners coming to Thailand to train and compete, there is now a small selection of books that offer a western perspective on Muay Thai. This right here, is my favorite.
Muay Thai, Peace at Last is a real-life account of the author’s one-month stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand, training Muay Thai that culminated with a fight at the Loi Kroh Stadium.
Part fight literature, part travel story; part spiritual, part humor; it is an exhilarating ride to live the Muay Thai experience vicariously through Goodison’s writing.
For me, what I find most captivating about Goodison’s writing is his candidness and genuineness that really comes through as he openly shares his thoughts. The book also gives offers insights and tips for fighters interested to travel and train Muay Thai in the Motherland.
This is not an exploration into the sport nor does it share any deep insights but it is an absolute page-turner that I just can’t recommend enough.
The Boxer’s Soliloquy by Matt Lucas
Another book that is set against the backdrop of Thailand Muay Thai is “The Boxer’s Soliloquy” by American fighter/journalist/sports commentator, Matt Lucas.
The book is a collection of fifteen interrelated short stories based around Muay Thai featuring characters that are likely inspired by real-life friends of the author or even himself.
Soliloquy features a poetic writing style that is somewhat reminiscent of Murakami. The pace can be somewhat slow in parts of the book with not a lot of plot development that casual book readers may look for.
What I truly enjoy about the book and what it excels in is its authenticity and acutely accurate depiction of the sport.
Soliloquy is the type of book that could only be written by someone who has actually lived the life of a Nak Muay in Thailand. This book is highly recommended for anyone planning on making the trip to train in Thailand.
Muay Thai Fighter by Paul Garrigan
Paul Garrigan’s novel depicts his time in Thailand training Muay Thai with the end-goal of competing. What sets the book apart from the previous two books is that Garrigan is not a typical fighter and Muay Thai Fighter is more travel literature than it is about Thai boxing.
The setup for the book was promising: an ex-drunk takes up Muay Thai and prepares for the fight of his life. It was a scenario that could have been epic and inspiring but Garrigan ultimately sabotages his story by focusing on everything else but the sport.
Garrigan also doesn’t really share much details of his training at Sitsongpeenong Gym (Bangkok) where he spent months at.
The overt humour could also have been renounced for more emphasis on the beauty of Muay Thai and Thailand. Overall, an entertaining and easy read for the casual reader.
If you are looking to read a novel with a Muay Thai and Thailand setting, this is an option. You might enjoy the self-deprecating humor more than I did.
A Prayer Before Dawn: A Nightmare in Thailand by Billy Moore
You’ve probably seen the movie or heard about it. Prayer before Dawn was one of 2018’s most talked-about topics in the Muay Thai community.
The movie is based on the true story of Billy Moore’s real-life account of his time inside Bangkok’s notorious Klong Prem Prison – one of the worst prisons in the world.
“Moore battles drug addiction in the prison and eventually seeks out and joins the prison Muay Thai team. There, he embarks on the next phase of his arduous journey in confinement, leading up to the climactic fight for freedom and redemption.”
Even though Muay Thai takes a second seat in the story, this is an incredible tale of hope written with a raw and sincere honesty. My gripe about the book is that it lacks in-depth views of Moore’s inner turmoil.
If you are looking for a highly entertaining Thai prison story, Prayer before Dawn is for you.
I picked up the book after watching the movie and I really appreciate the background story of the central character. For those who have seen the movie, it is worth tracking down the memoir which offers understanding of Moore’s incarceration which enhances appreciation of the film. (Read my review of the film here)
“Billy Moore’s tale of redemption doubles fittingly as a cautionary tale against the dangers of drugs. Stay clean in Thailand – Yaba is a hell of a drug.”
123 All-Time Greatest Muay Thai Fighters of Thailand
I’ve saved the best for last – this is the holy grail of Muay Thai books. 123 is one of the most prized and sought-after literature on Muay Thai. Published in 2014, the hardcover is only sold in Thailand at selected shops.
As its title suggests, the book details 123 of the best Thai fighters in history from 1940s when the Rajadamnern stadium was built up until the turn of the millennium with modern global icons such as Buakaw and Saenchai.
Much of the text is in Thai with statistics rundown of each featured fighter in English including belts won, fighting nickname, purse and his present endeavor. While it is not definitive by some accounts, this coffee table book is as good as it gets.
Printed on high-quality glossy pages, this is a heavy, hard-cover color classic that warrants a place in every Muay Thai fan’s collection. Unfortunately, 123 is not available on Amazon.com and is a hard-to-find book even in Thailand.
Lucky for you, there is a small quantity of the book that will soon be available at our online select store (subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of our store launch or email me at email@example.com for more information).