50 Book Recommendations for Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019

50 Asian books recommended by top Asian book bloggers to make your TBR more diverse | Nandini @ Unputdownable Books

As every good Asian blogger is wont to do, I squealed with excitement when the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge was announced by the wonderful hosts – Vicky, Shealea, CW and Lily. I also started Stars and Sorcery, a book club on Twitter, with the express wish to read more sci-fi and fantasy by authors of colour. My co-hosts Shruti, Charvi and Aditi are hatching plans with me to bring back Indian Lit Readathon around the same time this year too. 2019 will definitely turn out to be the Year of the Asian for me because of these three reasons but if you’re also looking forward to doing that, I wanted to give you a little nudge in the right direction by putting together a list of recommendations. I’d mentioned in my post about reading challenges a few weeks back that I’d do recommendations for all the challenges and here is the first one in the series. I have teamed up with 9 amazing Asian book bloggers to help you achieve the highest attainable level in this reading challenge – the Bengali Tiger. Please note that I’ve mentioned the rep wherever possible – I’ve only mentioned the main character’s Asian identity, and in some cases, the author is Asian but hasn’t written about Asian characters, so I have left those intentionally blank.

50 Asian books to make your TBR more diverse (post image graphic)

Bianca Recommends

1. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoneix by Julie C. Dao (East-Asian)

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Find the full review by Bianca here.

2. Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi (Iranian-American)

Arvin Ahmadi has truly delivered a must-read for young adults and basically anyone who has felt lost and out of the zone.

Find the full review by Bianca here.

3. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (Korean)

It’s a beautiful story that lovingly highlights family, friendships, summer love, and food.

Find the full review by Bianca here.

4. If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman (Filipino)

If you don’t feel anything when it comes to Martha and Max’s cuteness, I will presume that you are a rock.

Find the full review by Bianca here.

5. Jade City by Fonda Lee (East-Asian)

The story managed to latch itself onto what promised to be an epic saga that revolved around family, honor, and power.

Find the full review by Bianca here.

5 Asian books recommended by Bianca @ The Ultimate Fangirl (collage)

Camillea Recommends

6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Afghani)

Unimaginably tragic, Hosseini’s magnificent second novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength. Readers who lost themselves in The Kite Runner will not want to miss this unforgettable follow-up.

– Kristine Huntley, American Library Association (Starred review)

7. Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (Indian)

The aspect I enjoyed the most was the world-building. The Ambhan culture drew from the Mughal era, especially the power dymanics and political structure.

Find the full review by me here.

8. The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong (Korean)

Translated novels rarely make into the English-language commercial mainstream. If a Korean novel finally does, it might just be this one.

– Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books

9. Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida (Japanese)

The story – Kaneki’s struggle with his new state of being along with the brutality of ghoul society – is what pulls the story into deep, dark waters full of sharks.

– Che Gilson, Otaku Magazine USA

10. The Ancient Magus’ Bride by Kore Yamazaki (East-Asian)

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a generous work, full of magic and mystery.

– Anime News Network

5 Asian books recommended by Camillea @ Camillea Reads (collage)

Charvi Recommends

11. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (Iranian)

I absolutely loved that we got a deep insight into Persian culture and traditions. I mean my mouth was watering at every other page because the amount of delicious Persian food that was described was insane.

Find the full review by Charvi here.

12. Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (Japanese)

Excellent explanation of the fantasy creatures and myths and overall world building without any info dump. Every character had had a purpose that fuelled them forward.

Find the full review by Charvi here.

13. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Pakistani)

I love the various themes this book picked up and did justice to almost all of them. And it was all packed into such a small book and such an easy to read story.

Find the full review by Charvi here.

14. Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi (Indian)

If you love history and contemporary fiction, then Chanakya’s Chant is ideal for you. The two subjects are poles apart and, to combine them and make the outcome interesting is a mountainous task. But, Ashwin Sanghi makes it look effortless and does a perfect job.

– Book Geeks India

15. Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty by Nikita Gill

A set of short poems that explore femininity, transcendence of love, wild revolution, and self-empowerment. From tales of heroines of lore, goddesses of wisdom, and larger than life figures, the core of most stories deals with our oneness in the universe.

– BuzzFeed

5 Asian books recommended by Charvi @ Not Just Fiction (collage)

Dany Recommends

16. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (Indian)

Teerdhala’s debut, immersed in Indian fantasy, features two compelling protagonists who must question their loyalties and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for the chance at a new future. Fast-paced action and a budding romance between emotionally layered characters make this a promising start to a gripping new series.

– American Library Association Booklist

17. Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra (Indian)

Well-developed characters and intriguing worldbuilding will keep readers engrossed in this fast-paced, enchanting postapocalyptic fantasy debut.

– Library Journal (Starred review)

18. The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (Indian: Bengali)

The plot had the perfect mix of adventure and respite, especially as the mythological aspect was tightly woven in. It also contained scientific titbits, which blended seamlessly with the fantastical nature of the story.

Find the full review by me here.

19. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes thrusts its readers into a world marred by violence and oppression, yet does so with simple prose that can offer moments of loveliness in its clarity. This complexity makes Ember a worthy novel—and one as brave as its characters.

– The New York Times book review

20. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (Chinese)

Descendant of the Crane might be the book for you if you like political intrigue, twists, complex family dynamics, a roller-coaster type plot with a slow-build to the summit, and questions of morality in your fantasy.

– From the author

5 Asian books recommended by Dany @ Ambivert Words (collage)

Fanna Recommends

21. Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (South-Asian)

The queer hate-to-love story you need in your life.

– Bustle

22. A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai (Indian)

For fans of When Dimple Met Rishi comes a lighthearted novel about tradition, high school social hierarchy, matchmaking, and swiping right (or left!).

– From the blurb

23. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Bangladeshi)

With an up-close depiction of the intersection of the LGBTQIA+ community with Bengali culture, this hard-hitting and hopeful story is a must-purchase for any YA collection.

– School Library Journal (Starred review)

24. Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker (Indian)

From international sensation, Ashok K. Banker, pioneer of the fantasy genre in India, comes the first book in a ground-breaking, epic fantasy series inspired by the ancient Indian classic, The Mahabharata.

– From the blurb

Check out Fanna’s full list of 2019 books with South Asian rep here.

25. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea)

It’s almost rare when you come across a book that doesn’t kill you with emotions, instead it slowly roasts you for being a part of the world that’s unfortunately downed with the saddening thoughts and stupid mindsets, without pointing a finger at you.

Find the full review by Fanna here.

5 Asian books recommended by Fanna @ Fannatality (collage)

Kate Recommends

26. Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz (Filipino)

It covers such a serious and painful topic with respect, and tells the story of a young girl struggling against the hand life has dealt her with a relatability and gravity that all of us could use.

Find the full review by Kate here.

27. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Various)

If you want to read about thrilling heists, the impact of colonialism, and fantasy embedded in real life history, pick up Roshani Chokshi’s latest book!

Find the full review by Kate here.

28. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Malaysian)

The setting provides a ripe situation with which to explore not just Melati’s illness, giving us a raw, vulnerable look into what having OCD really means, but also racial tensions and relations in Malaysia.

Find the full review by Kate here.

29. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (Various)

Reading all about the eight kingdoms, the asha, the Deathseekers, and the daeva was almost like having someone in the room with me, physically weaving the story for me to watch and listen to.

Find the full review by Kate here.

30. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (Chinese)

Even if grimdark is not your thing, I exhort you to read this. This is an Important Book, in the truest sense of the phrase.

Find the full review by Kate here.

5 Asian books recommended by Kate @ Your Tita Kate (collage)

Nandini Recommends

31. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan (Taiwanese)

The plot was one of the most unique ones I’ve ever come across and I’m positive I’ll never pick up a book quite like this one.

Find the full review by me here.

32. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (Various)

I would recommend this collection to everyone but more so to the readers who will find their identities represented in the stories.

Find the full review by me here.

33. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Korean)

Jenny Han expertly packs in an amazing family dynamic, complicated friendships, the feeling of being a teenager, the struggles of an introverted teen and Korean-American representation along with all the fluffy moments.

Find the full review by me here.

34. American Panda by Gloria Chao (Taiwanese)

It is hopeful, positive and, at the same time, not the perfect, unrealistic ending one might expect. I read it at the right time where it made a huge impact on me and was exactly what I needed to reassure myself that there is a way out of the seemingly impossible situation that I’m stuck in.

Find the full review by me here.

35. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (Indian: Kannadiga)

The characters stole the show for me. They were unflinchingly realistic with their own strengths and flaws, and all of them reflected the sort of people I interact with on a daily basis.

Find the full review by me here.

5 Asian books recommended by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books (collage)

Sahitya Recommends

36. Magic Square by Salini Vineeth (Indian)

As a reader, I wasn’t sure how much the author would be able to tell in a story that is just over 60 pages but as each page unfolded, I got caught up in the mystery and it was such a great feeling.

Find the full review by Sahitya here.

37. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (Pakistani)

The whole book is full of social commentary about the class and societal prejudice that felt all too real.

Find the full review by Sahitya here.

38. My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma (Indian)

What makes this book so wonderful is that for the first time ever, I saw a part of myself on the page.

Find the full review by Sahitya here.

39. Part Star Part Dust by L. M. Valiram (Indian)

The strength of the book is its prose – it’s lyrical and beautiful and so full of meaning that I had to reread certain lines to imbibe them better.

Find the full review by Sahitya here.

40. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Indian)

Based on Indian families in America whose kids feel conflicted about being both Indian and American, every single character here was someone I knew or they felt similar to me.

Find the full review by Sahitya here.

5 Asian books recommended by Sahitya @ My World of Books (collage)

Shruti Recommends

41. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Indian)

In between the pages of this brilliantly written, moving memoir of a dying, young man I learned more about life than I ever could from anywhere else.

Find the full review by Shruti here.

42. One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan (Indian: Tamilian)

One Part Woman is an excellent story that holds a mirror up to Indian society’s obsession with having children.

Find the full review by Shruti here.

43. Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy by Manjusha Pawagi (Indian)

Manjusha Pawagi writes her story with a brilliant sense of humor, and I would recommend this book to everyone.

Find the full review by Shruti here.

44. Yarn by Pragya Bhagat (Indian)

Filled with stories that’ll make you fall in love with someone else’s grandmother, this is one memoir you definitely don’t want to miss out on!

Find the full review by Shruti here.

45. Malice by Keigo Higashino (Japanese)

A thriller of subtle sort, written with an extreme sense of ease, flow and sensitivity.

– Asian Age

5 Asian books recommended by Shruti @ This is Lit (collage)

Simant Recommends

46. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Vietnamese)

There is not even a single dull moment during the whole journey. I was so invested in the story that I kept flipping the pages one after the another.

Find the full review by Simant here.

47. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Indian: Punjabi)

It is not just about romance and erotica but is a story of female empowerment depicting the feminism current.

Find the full review by Simant here.

48. When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy (Indian)

This story is not just the author’s own story. This is a story of many Indian women.

Find the full review by Simant here.

49. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Japanese)

This book was about friendship, love, family and more than that, is about discovering yourself. This book gives you hope that actually you can fulfill your dreams and can overcome your fear and struggles.

Find the full review by Simant here.

50. The Poison of Love by K. R. Meera (Indian)

The Poison of Love is an intense and dramatic novel which clearly explains what a corrosive love can do. It is a strange story of emotion and betrayal which turns out to be dark.

Find the full review by Simant here.


5 Asian books recommended by Simant @ Flipping Through the Pages (collage)


Let's discuss (blog graphic)

Are you taking part in YARC 2019? If so, what book are you most excited to get to on your TBR? Do you have more Asian book recommendations to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.

34 thoughts on “50 Book Recommendations for Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019

  1. This is such a great list! Thank you for putting so many great books together on this list. My So-Called Bollywood Life, The Weight of Our Sky and The Kiss Quotient are very very high on my list. They sound so so good, not to mention great novels to meet the YARC2019 challenge. Also, if I could add, The Bride Test also sounds really great — it’s set in Vietnam and in America and also has autism-spectrum rep (or so I have heard)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post must have taken so much of prep Dini…. thank you for putting it together… It’s an amazing list of books and though it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to read them all, I atleast know that there are so many wonderful books to read 😊😊😊
    Great job 👍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually took 2 days and I’d published only a unfinished draft because I just had to go to sleep. 🙈 I published it on Saturday night and finished it up by Sunday afternoon. It’s okay, Sahi, add them all to your TBR and cry with the rest of us that you can’t finish them all. 😂 Thank you so much for contributing and making this a wonderful post! ♥️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. YES, add them all! 😍 Honestly, each and every recommendation is so good and I’m so happy that we have such quality literature that represent our culture. 😊
      I couldn’t finish it in time on posting day, so I had to edit it again on Sunday. 🙈 But comments like this make it all worth it. Thank you, Shruti! ♥️😭

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. ReaderBeaver

    This is brilliant. One of my biggest reading pleasures is exploring other cultures, especially when it comes to cultures I don’t know a lot about. Only Asian book I’ve read recently is Wild Swans which is more non-fiction / autobiographical really. Can’t promise to read them all this year though. With a toddler, my main fodder is picture books :). It’s nice to have the page as a reference point though. I’ll be sure to come back and plunder the list. Bookmarked!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. I’m so sorry I’m late! BUT THIS POST IS GIVING ME so many books to add to my TBR, I’m so thankful ❤ And eeep, there are books I recommended? Wow, feels nice, hehe 😀 This post honestly feels like Asians promoting Asians and wow, that has a nice ring to it XD

    Liked by 1 person

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