The Sri Lanka Reading List
Are you the type to read all about a place you are about to visit? Regardless of whether you’ll be traveling anytime soon, here are some great selections of reads you could order online and dive right into on Sri Lanka’s rich history, culture, heritage, community and wildlife.
Be prepared to discover our teardrop island!
Books Set in Sri Lanka
- Mosquito by Roma Tearne – A recently widowed Sri Lankan returns to the isle, seeking new life and love against the backdrop of the conflict.
- Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai – The coming of age story of a young boy who comes to terms with his homosexuality and racism of the society he lives in.
- On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman – The story follows the lives of a group of families who live on Sal Mal Lane in Colombo, highlighting the complexity and diversity of local communities.
- Reef by Romesh Gunesekera – Set in the 1960’s, based on the life of a lone servant of a marine biologist.
- Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel – A mystery novel set in the hill country of Sri Lanka.
- Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka – This book uses cricket as a roadway to highlight Sri Lankan society.
- Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera – Exploring the fate of two families as they straddle opposite sides of Sri Lanka’s conflict that ended in the 2009 Civil War.
Book with Historical & Colonial Settings
- The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics by John Clifford Holt – A wide-ranging anthology on the history, culture and politics of Sri Lanka, featuring 90 classic and contemporary texts written by Sri Lankans and foreigners.
- The Flower Boy by Karen Roberts – The novel follows the tender friendship of two children who live together but are separated by economic status and class divisions.
- River of Ink by Paul M. M. Cooper – Following the life of a humble poet to the king, the story highlights that true power lies at the tip of the pen.
- The Village in the Jungle by Leonard Woolf – Set in 1904 when the author was in the civil service on the island, this book explores how the colonial material world oppressed and indebted the Lankans.
- The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies – The tale is set in the 1920’s that highlights the life of a young Englishwoman who marries a tea plantation owner with an intriguing past.
- The Jam Fruit Tree by Carl Muller – A read based on the story of Burghers on the island.
- The Ramayana – A tale that is part of local culture and history.
Books Based on Memoirs or Life Stories
- A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks by Rory Spowers – Explores the life and adventures of BBC journalist and environmentalist who set out to create a model organic tea farm with his family.
- The Teardrop Island: Following Victorian Footsteps Across Sri Lanka by Cherry Biggs – The author retraces the travels of Irishman, Sir James Emerson Tennent around the island.
- Woolf in Sri Lanka by Christopher Ondaatje – Exploring the story of Woolf’s life and time in the Sri Lankan jungle.
- Serendipity by Ashok Ferrey – A collection of contemporary stories of modern Sri Lanka.
- Upon a Sleepless Isle by Andrew Fidel Fernando – Featuring a collection of adventurous narratives based on the author’s travel across the isle.
- Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka by Ameena Hussein – A combination of the history, travels and adventure of Ibn Battuta on the island.
Books Set as Travel Guides and Travelogues
- Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux – Not entirely based on the island; however, this includes the author’s thrilling account of a train ride from Kandy to Ella.
- Elephant Complex by John Gimlette – Based on the author’s encounters with the islanders, its culture and wildlife.
- Lonely Planet Guide to Sri Lanka – Makes planning a trip to the island easy!
- Cinnamon and Elephants – A collection of illustrations and images from the Rijksmuseum collection that tell the story of what happened during the Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka.
- Return to Sri Lanka by Razeen Sally – Part memoir, part history and also part travelogue.