Great Bali writers past & present

A visit to a reputable book store in Bali, such as one of the Periplus outlets, is a journey into the past. Books written by famous Bali expats, that tell their story of what Bali meant to them are stacked side by side in a kind of ‘Bali Hall Of Fame’.

To newcomers in Bali many of the names mean nothing, but the longer you live here the more familiar they become, each associated with a certain period in history and type of experience. Here is a list of some of the well known authors one can find in the book shops in Bali.


William Ingram (A Little Bit One o’Clock: Living with a Balinese Family)
Account of his time spent living with a Balinese familiy in Ubud in the 1990’s. William Ingram is involved in the Threads of Life fiber arts center in Ubud.

Louise G. Koke (Our Hotel in Bali)
The story of how she moved to Kuta Bali with her husband Bob (the founder of surfing in Bali) in 1936. Setting up a small tourist hotel on Kuta Beach, her book also contains photos of the time.

Anna Mathews (Night of Purnama)
Village life in the early 1960’s is described. The focus of this book is the events surrounding the eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963, at the village of Iseh.

Hickman Powell (The Last Paradise)
This is one of the books that tantalized the western world and helped start the trickle of famous tourists.

K’tut Tantri (Revolt in Paradise)
A woman of many identities, K’tut Tantri (aka Muriel Perason) came from Britain and after a spell in Hollywood spent 15 years in Bali and Java. During that period she built a hotel on Kuta Beach, and was actively involved in the Indonesian Independence movement, broadcasting from an underground radio station. After being imprisoned by the Japanese army for 2 years, her book covers the time between 1932 and 1947.

Miguel Covarrubias (Island of Bali)
Known around the world more for his study of pre-Colombian art of Mesoamerica than Bali, Covarrubias wrote Island Of Bali in 1937. The book which accounts his arrival and daily life, living in close proximity to a Balinese family stands th test of time and is still relevant today.

Fred B. Eiseman Jr. (Bali: Sekala and Niskala Vols 1 & 2)
American anthropologist who has lived in Bali for many years. An expert analysis of the local culture.

Michel Picard (Bali: Cultural Tourism & Touristic Culture)
Modern analysis of how tourism has affected Bali and its culture.

Colin McPhee (A House in Bali)
This Canadian writer was a musician interested in bringing the gamelan music to the west. Arriving in Bali in the 1930’s his is an account of building his house and exploring the music of Bali.


Robert Pringle (A Short History of Bali)
The history of Bali from ancient times to the Kuta Bombing, focusing on social, cultural issues.

Garret Kam (Perceptions of Paradise: Images of Bali in the Arts)
A great intro to Balinese art, focusing on the works in the Neka Museum Ubud

Natural History:

Victor Mason (Bali Bird Walks)
A great guide to the flora and fauna of the Ubuid area.
Victor Mason is a long time resident and still give guides walks.


Diana Darling (The Painted Alphabet)
Modern version of a Balinese tale, including supernatural elements.

This list merely scratches the surface and there are other great books and writers who have spent their life in Bali, documenting life in their own way.