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50+ Novels That Explore the Wonders of Asia

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 7th September 2020

The continent of Asia is of course a HUGE area containing some stunningly beautiful and diverse countries. We know there are numerous books that we could have included, these are just some of our favourites. Oh, and just to let you know, this collection doesn’t cover books set in Russia or the Middle East.

The books you will find here have been written by authors from around the globe, a few may not have been born or reside in the country they are writing about but all have an undeniable connection. These books contain at least a mention of Asia, they could just be passing through, or they may be set in their entirety in the country concerned. Some take place in a bygone time, or revolve around a crime or mystery… while in others you could even find yourself exploring a very curious world indeed. 

One thing is for sure, these are books that entice and intrigue, seduce and challenge, and they contain a siren call to read them.

If you want to travel to Japan then we recommend trying Murakami, and if you are a lover of all things books then there’s no better place to start than The Strange Library. It is indeed a wonderfully strange yet charming little novel which also contains some vibrant photos, drawings and photos. Sheep and doughnuts have been known to crop up in his books! Murakami has won numerous awards around the world and he is highly regarded, we adore his books at LoveReading, you may just need to set reality aside on occasion though (which can be deliciously entertaining).

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee is set in Hong Kong, the mix of East and West sit as a vibrant backdrop to the story of three expatriate women. There is a balance to this fascinating story, and it has been developed into a television series, which is set to premiere on Amazon.

If you enjoy crime novels, then Abir Mukherjee’s Wyndham & Banerjee novels come highly recommend by our team. Starting with A Rising Man set in 1919, Captain Wyndham arrives from England for a post in Calcutta’s police force and works with a certain Sergeant Banerjee. This was the winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Endeavour Dagger for Best Historical Novel in 2017. 

An intimate yet sweeping tale that details some turbulent times in Taiwan’s history is The Stolen Bicycle, a very special book indeed. A bicycle sits centre stage in this novel by award winning novelist Wu Ming-Yi. He has the ability to transport you through time and space and we love the way he paints with words.

If you enjoy historical relationship tales then we just adore Dinah Jeffries. She has written various novels set in Asia, and you can start anywhere. A couple of books do contain characters from other novels, so you might want to read in publication order. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is set in 1950’s Vietnam and as usual Dinah encourages you to feel, smell, touch and taste the words as she brings her vibrant world to life.

We hope you see some old favourites here and meet some new friends within this list. Do let us know what novels you would have included.

The Strange Library

The Strange Library

Author: Haruki Murakami Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/12/2014

This is a strange little book indeed; soulful, sorrowful and yet curiously engaging and charming. Translated from Japanese and including wonderful illustrations, drawings and photos, this quirky tale draws you into it’s deep dark secrets from the moment you turn the very first page. The illustrations have been beautifully considered and hold hands with the tale as it slinks and skulks along. Even though this is narrated by a schoolboy, with fairly simple language, this is anything but simplistic and childish. Sheep and doughnuts have appeared before in this author’s works - make of that what you will! As a word of warning, reading this may leave you wanting to run in the opposite direction from any little old men who happen to approach you in the library, especially if it has a basement, but it’s well worth that particular affliction.

ebook of the month
River of Stars

River of Stars

Author: Guy Gavriel Kay Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/07/2014

Breathtaking in it’s intensity and exquisitely written, find yourself transported to a reimagined China during the decline of the Song Dynasty. The way the author writes is unmistakable, yet again he’s delivered a masterpiece combining lyrical subtlety and heartrending beauty. The purposeful principal cast, with their faults, their flaws, are sometimes outshone by the splendid secondary characters and the vivid yet small inconsequential stories that highlight the choices, decisions, pathways that pepper and alter lives. You will find yourself wanting to race ahead to discover what’s around the next corner, and simultaneously take a slow stroll through the poetic pages to enable you to savour every delicious word.

ebook of the month
Before the Rains

Before the Rains

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/02/2017

A gorgeously expressive and captivating novel, set in 1930’s India at the height of the struggle for independence against British rule. 28 year old photographer Eliza agrees to document the royal family and subjects of one of the princely states. Eliza spends time with Jay, brother of the prince, and as they become closer they open their minds to new ideas, however their relationship comes under scrutiny. Dinah Jefferies always transports thoughts, feelings, and senses, not only to the place, but also the time, so completely, it’s a shock when you look up from page and come back to reality. For me, there was an additional quality to this novel, the land is important, the descriptions are striking, and the history of this time absolutely fascinating; yet the relationship here feels vital, pronounced, and completely essential to the storyline. It is the relationship, with the different customs and cultures, and how it affects the people surrounding Eliza and Jay, that really provoked my feelings. With the issues affecting women taking centre stage, ‘Before the Rains’ is a beautiful novel, subtle yet striking, full of impact, and full of love.

ebook of the month

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