Thomas Bell


Thomas Bell


A book about an ancient city, its architecture, history, politics, society, and life



‘Thank you for all the pleasure your fascinating book gave me.’

- Jan Morris

‘A narrative of an enchanting and troubling complexity. Tom Bell has thought through the history and contemporary reality of Kathmandu, and has written a great, subtle book, one as shadowed as Kathmandu’s alleys and as brilliant as its midday squares’ 

– Teju Cole

‘A wonderfully discursive account of the personal discovery of a great city. Looping through centuries and slaloming between journalism and history, memoir, mythology and gossip, Tom Bell has written a portrait of Kathmandu like no other, taking us from Manjushree to the Maoists via witches, colonial Orientalists, LSD cults, spies wars and old Serge Gainsbourg movies. A splendidly eccentric and enjoyable first book’ 

– William Dalrymple

‘Kathmandu, like the country of which it is the capital, is much visited but much misunderstood. Few make the effort to look beyond the mountains and stupas, the forests and elephants. In this lucid, clever, thorough and beautifully written book, Tom Bell does this for us, recounting the gripping history of the fascinating city with equal measures of verve and care. Kings, Maoist guerillas, mountaineers, demonstrators, poets, psychopathic princes and politicians all make for a tale as colourful as a local market. A genuine must-read for any visitor to the city, to Nepal, or indeed to the sub-continent.’ 

– Jason Burke, The Guardian South Asia correspondent

‘[A] sprawling history and memoir of Nepal and its fast-growing capital’

 – New York Review of Books

‘An Englishman who arrived in the country in 2002 as a freelance journalist and married a Nepali, Bell is an engaging guide with the dry sense of humour, patience and empathy essential for those working in the corrupt and crowded cities of south Asia. . . Bell, who studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art, trenchantly and colourfully describes how foreigners stripped Nepal of its cultural treasures in the latter decades of the last century. And the book is rich in anecdotes about Kathmandu’s inhabitants, their superstitions and their attitudes towards caste, class, religion and region.

- The Financial Times


A wonderful book that speaks to a wide audience. Situating the city within its larger political and historical contexts, Thomas Bell has produced a book that comes as close as any to capturing the spirit of the intriguing, dynamic, troubled, and endlessly confounding Kathmandu.” 

- Studies in Nepali History and Society

South Asia edition

Rest of the World edition