For a first time visitor to Bali there are a number of books and guides available to help you understand and appreciate your Bali experience. Bill Dalton, the well known author of the Indonesia Handbook, the 1000+ page travel guide suggests simply reading a few books on the culture, history as well as some good novels, to understand the island and its people.
Among the popular titles one may enjoy are Island Of Bali by Miguel Covarrabias, A House in Bali by Colin McPhee and A Short History of Bali by Robert Pringle.
The 3 most well known guides to Bali are Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok, Rough Guides Bali & Lombok and The Natural Guide. Here is a rundwon on what you can expect from each book.
Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok is a well researched, slim volumn. The information contained in it is relevant and accurate. LP really nails down the nuts and bolts info you need when visiting Bali, such as accommodation, getting around and cultural info. People often comment positively on the LP guide to Bali / Lombok. Price $21 in most bookstores.
The Natural Guide to Bali is an alternative style guidebook that attempts to show a more personal side of Bali. A co-publication of Bumi Kita Foundation and Equinox Publishing, Jakarta, The Natural Guide to Bali makes extra effort to point out businesses that make an effort to be enjoyable for tourists attracted by nature and authenticity, Nature-friendly and community-friendly. In its own words “Enjoy nature, meet the people, make a difference.”
The Natural Guide to Bali is written by local teams, telling the hidden life behind the landscapes, guiding travellers to responsible hotels, restaurants, dive shops or trekking guides. They also
conduct capacity building activities with local enterprises, NGOS and communities to help them find practical ways of developing tourism in a way which is enjoyable and profitable for everyone, while preserving our beautiful planet for the coming generations.
Responsible Tourism is key to guide book’s style. Tourism is among the largest and fastest growing industries in the world, providing jobs to more than 200 millions of people worldwide. Yet in most cases, 80% of the income from tourism is made far from the travel destination – by foreign tour operators, international hotel chains, and the providers of imported products consumed by tourists. The local people are left with low-paid jobs, a higher cost of living, and degraded natural resources. This book has some great photos, good ideas for people wanting to get in touch with the island’s people, culture and nature and genuinely tries to steer people away from mass tourism. Accommodation info is offered also. You can find The Natural Guide to Bali in most good book shops in Bali including the Periplus shops.
The best guide book to Bali & Lombok is by Rough Guides. Of the many books on the market this one seems the best researched with a good deal of historical data as well as great attention to detail. The book makes the effort to include details of bemo stations and drop off points, which may of been more useful 20 years ago. Most visitors to Bali will never use a bemo, car and motorbike rental info would be more useful, but RG is still the most complete guide to Bali / Lombok.
You may not be planning a long trip to Bali and feel that you have everything planned but the book makes fascinating reading. On many occasions I have been excited to discover a new Hidden Gem, only to find Rough Guides has already covered it.
Rough Guides: Bali & Lombok has 586 pages, considerably more than some of the other Johnny-come-lately guidebooks that skip over or ignore relevant information. The book is written in a respectful style too that informs and is absolutely loaded with facts. The book is broken down into a Photo Section, Basics, Guide, Contents (History, Religion, Arts), Language and Index. The 4th edition costs $17.95 and can be found in Periplus bookstores in Bali.
Kuta / Legian / Seminyak has a wealth of second hand booksellers and the LP book, is the one most commonly sold. Prices are variable.