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Your Next Travel Read: The Very Best Books About Bali

From books that invite you on a journey through Bali’s landscapes and culture to those that venture on a design-led exploration of its architecture and both modern and traditional design principles, books about Bali really are a varied and vibrant affair. What better way to immerse yourself in the Island of the Gods than by flipping through pages brimming with beautiful words and engaging imagery that give you a real sense of Bali. Encounter the very best books about Bali.

Balinese Dance, Drama And Music: A Guide to the Performing Arts of Bali

Wayan Dibia & Barbara Anello

Take a deep dive into Bali’s creative and artistic past with a detailed overview of Bali’s myriad performing art forms. Within the pages of Balinese Dance, Drama And Music: A Guide to the Performing Arts of Bali, Dibia transports readers to the world of Balinese dance and theatre, from gamelan music to shadow puppetry. Delving into each dance’s origin, including its function and the process of learning, this book invites readers on a journey from the traditional to the contemporary. Authentically detailed illustrations depicting dance moves and form interweave with visually striking photography portraying the dances, including costume and mythical gods that are brought to life in modern day performances.

“Dance, drama and music are much more than mere performances. They are spectacles of color and sound, but their main purpose is to please the deities and ancestral spirits. Art, if not a ritual in itself, is a part of the ritual. The arts express the values that the Balinese hold dear, such as balance and harmony. Taksu, or spiritual charisma, is the pinnacle of energy which every Balinese performer strives for to mesmerize both the human and divine audience”

At Home in Bali

Made Wijaya & Isabella Ginanneschi

One thing connects all the 24 beautiful homes that feature within the pages of this classic, design-led book, At Home in Bali—the beautiful and lush tropical surroundings only possible on the ‘island of the gods’. 

Traditional and modern combine throughout interiors that make you yearn for the varying landscapes of Bali to be yours—in this book, it is “the next best thing to being there”. Photographer Isabella Ginanneschi, resident of Bali since 1973, takes readers on a beautifully visual journey, depicting lavish houses where individuals have made their home. From gorgeous bamboo and coconut wood barn houses and traditional rice storage bungalows to estate grounds, expansive plunge pools and modern beachfront hideaways, Wijaya’s words and Ginanneschi’s photography takes you through the mountains, beaches, rice fields, villages, palaces and temples of Bali. Bringing to life an array of interior styles and personalities, this book is a real photographic delight.

Bali Mystique

Elora Hardy

Forming part of Assouline’s classic collection of ‘Travel From Home’ books, Bali Mystique is the Bali coffee table book with a vibrant personality and front-page cover to match. Described by one reader as the “closest you’ll come to actually being there”, author Elora Hardy, Director of architecture and design studio, IBUKU, captures the very essence of Bali in this wonderfully illustrated, aesthetically pleasing book. A multi-sensory journey, the character of Bali comes to the fore through each and every page, featuring immersive imagery that transports the reader from their sofa to the archipelago, alongside words that make you feel as though you can hear, see, smell and taste what it is like to be in Bali.


Describing the elements of Bali, Hardy ignites the imagination like no other. On Earth:

“Stimulants grow on the slopes: artisanal coffees, chocolates, kombucha, beer.

A view of the fields while sipping on green at Rüsters:

an almond matcha latte, or a cocktail made with leaves.

Hands turn blue picking and dipping indigo

in the mountains at Tian Taru, while Kalpa Taru designs fine, carved teak.

Every homestead has a back garden, an abundance of mysterious plants

coloring the cloth at Cinta Bumi and woven into Threads of Life.

Tableware and artworks at Gaya Caramie are earth turned by fire into stone,

then coated with metallic glaze and the memory of burnt-off rice husks.

Terra shows us that a simple clay pot can safely filter water for everyone.

Tales of priestly initiation rites, navigating from the mountain to the sea 

through tunnels in the bedrock.

Volcanic earth, coral cliffs, stone crumbling into sand.”

Ayu and the Perfect Moon

David Cox

A beautifully illustrated and authored children’s book by award-winning David Cox, depicting the traditional Legong dance of Bali. Ayu and the Perfect Moon is a visually decadent piece, telling the story of a young girl in Indonesia who performs the traditional Legong dance for her Balinese village. Told from the perspective of Ayu as an elderly dance instructor, Cox’s illustrative expertise weaves into pages that instantly transport the reader to realistic yet awe-inspiring ‘childlike wonder’ scenes of Balinese life. Colourful costumes portray the sheer beauty of the traditional Balinese dance and the joviality that any young person of Bali would feel as they danced amongst their family and friends to the sounds of thudding drums, banging gongs, tinkling gamelan and the bamboo flute.

“And I danced, said Ayu, as the full moon rose above the palms. I danced with my feet and my hands and my eyes. I danced the dance of the angry bird. I danced with the other dancers under a perfect moon. Then, it was over.”

The Lost Bali Stories: Volume I & II

Leslie Anne Franklin

Having lived in Bali for 33 years, author Leslie Anne Franklin dedicates this book to her first-hand experience of many social and environmental developments throughout the archipelago, but specifically Bali. Founding the Lost Bali Facebook group over a decade ago which currently has as many as 40,000 members, Franklin encouraged the group to share memories and photographs that captured Bali before 1990. It is these collective stories and images that form the basis for The Lost Bali Stories

Within these pages is a heartfelt collection of true tales directly from an eclectic mix of expatriates, who saw Bali in a bygone era, from 1970 to 1985 and in Volume II, from 1985 into the 1990s. Described as “youthful vagabonds, rainbow gypsies, artists, giddy optimists, cosmic healers, and colorful misfits”, each writer takes the reader on a unique journey, showing the true transformative power of storytelling and unveiling a Bali few of us may have ever seen or experienced. The overarching theme throughout all of the stories is one that shines a light on the warmth of the resilient Balinese people. Concluding each piece, the reader gains a piece of invaluable advice from each writer ahead of visiting the Bali of today. 

“Bali had a way of teaching me a myriad of lessons—these being mainly freedom, joy, reverence and patience, and creativity… “ 

“Bali had, and still has, a hold on my spirit and the soul like no other place I have known. Bali nurtured me. Bali embraced me as though I was a long-lost child finally finding its mother. In Bali, I felt whole and loved.”

Island of Bali

Miguel Covarrubias & Adrian Vickers

Initially published in 1937, Island of Bali is widely regarded as the most authoritative text on Bali and its people. Daily life, art, customs and religion all feature in this magical portrayal of Bali’s unrelenting beauty. Miguel Covarrubias was a painter and caricature artist and his portrayal of the island resonates as much today as it did when the book was first published. Today, Adrian Vickers’ foreword puts the book into context for a modern audience. Vickers himself is a Professor of Southeast Asian Studies and is prolific in writing about the archipelago, from A History of Modern Indonesia to Bali: A Paradise Created.

Island of Bali isn’t simply another travel guide, it’s a truly informative read about rich Balinese culture almost one hundred years ago. Anecdotal content from Covarrubias and his wife’s visits to Bali, bring to life the people, places, costumes and traditions of the island, underpinned by the author’s anthropological and cultural research. The result is a read that flourishes with vibrant words akin to those of an adventure book about Bali.

“Like a continual undersea ballet, the pulse of life in Bali moves with a measured rhythm reminiscent of the sway of marine plants and the flowing motion of octopus and jellyfish under the sweep of a submarine current. There is a similar correlation of the elegant and decorative people with the clear-cut, extravagant vegetation; of their simple and sensitive temperament with the fertile land.”

Bali Home: Inspirational Design Ideas

Kim Inglis & Luca Invernizzi Tettoni

For lovers of gorgeous photography and design enthusiasts, this beautiful book instantly helps add distinctive flair to your own interior endeavours. From homes and garden estates to hotels and restaurants, author Kim Inglis and photographer Luca Invernizzi Tettoni, showcase decorative details and architectural concepts in Bali Home: Inspirational Design Ideas, offering an insight into modern design trends and principles in Bali. Designed as a coffee table book, it’s great to flip through every now and then to get some warm, tropical feelings and inspire you to freshen your decor or an area within your home.

Architecture of Bali: A Sourcebook of Traditional and Modern Forms

Made Wijaya

Drawing from his photographic archives curated over thirty years, renowned architect and landscape designer, Wijaya, presents a visual read, detailing the fundamentals of Balinese architecture, while delving into detail about its adaptation in modern private houses and boutique hotel architecture. It features photography from acclaimed photographers, Tim Street-Porter, Luca Invernizzi Tettoni, Guide Alberto Rossi and Rio Helmi, as well as drawings by Chang Huai-Yan, Deni Chung and Bruce Granquist. Within Architecture of Bali are the origins, elements, variations and vagaries of Balinese architecture depicted through accurate imagery and illustrations.

“During Bali’s golden age in the 16th-19th centuries, Bali’s rajas built pleasure gardens which were actually walled courts, like the Moroccan riyads, and Mogul-Indian fragrant gardens, where prices entertained guests.”

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