Asia is not only the largest and most populous continent on Earth, but also one of the most diverse and dynamic. From ancient civilizations to modern megacities, from spiritual traditions to technological innovations, from artistic expressions to social movements, Asia has a lot to offer to anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating region. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 books that we’re reading now that we think you’ll enjoy too.
These books cover a range of genres, topics, and perspectives, and they all have some connection to Asia, either through the author, the subject, or the setting. We’ve divided our list into two categories: fiction and non-fiction, and we’ve given a brief summary of each book, as well as why we think it’s worth reading.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: This epic saga follows four generations of a Korean family, from their homeland under Japanese colonial rule, to their migration to Japan, where they face discrimination and hardship. Pachinko is a moving and powerful exploration of identity, belonging, and resilience, as well as a fascinating historical portrait of Korea and Japan in the 20th century.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: This Booker Prize-winning novel tells the story of fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, who grow up in a tumultuous and tragic family in Kerala, India. The God of Small Things is a lyrical and haunting tale of love, loss, and the effects of caste, class, and politics on human lives.
- The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin: This Hugo Award-winning novel is the first in a sci-fi trilogy that explores the consequences of humanity’s first contact with an alien civilization. The Three-Body Problem is a mind-blowing and imaginative work of speculative fiction, that also reflects on China’s history, culture, and role in the world.
- The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a spy thriller, a war drama, and a satire, all in one. The narrator is a half-Vietnamese, half-French communist agent, who infiltrates the South Vietnamese army and the Vietnamese refugee community in America, after the fall of Saigon. The Sympathizer is a brilliant and witty critique of imperialism, racism, and ideology, as well as a gripping and emotional story of betrayal, loyalty, and identity.
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: This novel follows the life of Gogol Ganguli, the son of Bengali immigrants in America, who struggles with his name, his culture, and his sense of self. The Namesake is a tender and insightful portrait of the immigrant experience, the clash of generations, and the search for belonging.
- The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan: This ambitious and sweeping book challenges the Eurocentric view of history, and instead focuses on the importance of the Silk Roads, the network of trade routes that connected Asia, Europe, and Africa, for centuries. The Silk Roads is a fascinating and eye-opening account of how the exchange of goods, ideas, religions, and cultures shaped the world we live in today.
- Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: This memoir traces the lives of three generations of women in China, from the author’s grandmother, who was a warlord’s concubine, to her mother, who was a communist revolutionary, to herself, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and later moved to Britain. Wild Swans is a riveting and personal narrative of China’s turbulent and dramatic history, as well as a tribute to the courage and resilience of women.
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid: This novel is a monologue by Changez, a Pakistani man who tells his life story to an American stranger in a Lahore cafe. Changez was a successful Wall Street analyst, who fell in love with an American woman, until the 9/11 attacks changed everything. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a provocative and suspenseful exploration of the post-9/11 world, the clash of civilizations, and the meaning of identity.
- The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler: This book is a result of a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and Howard C. Cutler, a psychiatrist and writer. The Art of Happiness is a practical and inspiring guide to finding happiness and inner peace, based on the wisdom and compassion of the Dalai Lama.
- The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman: This book is a behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional cooking, and the passion, dedication, and creativity of the chefs who pursue excellence in their craft. The Soul of a Chef is a fascinating and mouth-watering journey into the heart of culinary art, that also features some of the best Asian cuisines, such as Japanese, Thai, and Indian.
We hope you liked our editor’s list of 10 books we’re reading right now, and that you’ll find some new and exciting reads to add to your own collection. Happy reading! 📚