Books & Films about Sri Lanka

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We recommend watching a film or two before you travel to Sri Lanka to set the scene, and taking a book to read whilst you travel to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of Sri Lanka. Here is our list of recommended books and films which we hope are both informative and entertaining: 

Fiction books:

  • Reef - by Romesh Gunesekera (love novel)
  • The Hamilton Case - by Michelle de Kretser (crime novel)
  • The Village in the Jungle - by Leonard Woolf (British colonial novel)
  • The Fountains of Paradise - by Arthur C Clarke (sci-fi novel)
  • ‘Vanished Trails’ - by R L Spittel (novel)

Non-fiction books:

  • The Sri Lanka Reader - by John Clifford Holt
  • Elephant Complex – by John Gimlette
  • Only Man is Vile - by William McGowan
  • Sri Lanka: Voices from a War Zone - by Nirupama Subramanian
  • The Architecture of an Island: the Living Heritage of Sri Lanka - by Ronald Lewcock, Barbara Sansoni and Laki Senanayake
  • Geoffrey Bawa: The Complete Works - by David Robson
  • A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka - by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Deepal Warakagoda & TSU de Zylva
  • Sri Lankan Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide - by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne


Films and TV shows:

Sri Lanka has thrived as a filming location for many years. You may be surprised to know that several iconic films set in wider Asia were in fact shot in Sri Lanka, most notably Bridge over the River Kwai, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Paradise Road. Films set in or about Sri Lanka are harder to come across, but for those especially keen we recommend…

  • Death on a Full Moon Day (1997) Powerful and much-lauded film from Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage, set against the backdrop of civil war.
  • The Road from Elephant Pass (2008) Film version of award-winning novel of the same name. Another Lankan-made film, again with a civil war setting. 
  • Elephant Walk (1954) Elizabeth Taylor struggles to adapt to tea plantation life in colonial Ceylon. Something of a matinee classic! Can be found on Youtube.
  • Romesh’s Return Ticket (2015) Popular UK comedian Romesh Ranganathan discover’s his Sri Lankan roots in this BBC Three show.
  • Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields (2011) Award-winning Channel 4 documentary about the last days of the Sri Lankan civil war. Harrowing, but key to understanding modern Sri Lanka.
  • Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2008) Sri Lanka edition of the popular food and travel show. Available on Youtube. 
  • Nat Geo Wild: Wild Sri Lanka (2015) Handy primer for those heading on a wildlife-focused tour. Available on Youtube.