Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books to buy for a reader who enjoys East Asian-inspired tales

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish, and this weeks theme is:

November 29: Holiday Gift Guide freebie (ten books to buy the YA lover in your life, 10 books to buy for your dad, etc.)

For this week’s theme, I decided to go for ten books that you should buy for a friend/family member/random stranger who likes Asian-inspired stories. Be it fantasy, contemporary or even 11th century literature, I tried to include a variety of books on this list to suit readers of different tastes. (Totally influenced by the fact that I’m in Japan but what can you do.) Some of these books I’ve read and some I’ve heard great things about and am desperate to pick up!

1.  The Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn

I’ve only read the first two books in this series, but I definitely want to continue to at some point. Tales of the Otori is inspired by feudal Japanese history and revolves around Takeo, who must train to become an assassin after a terrible event befalls his family. I remember being captivated by the books, as they were some of the first I read that were set in East Asia.

2. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xaiolu Guo


This book is about a young Chinese woman, who calls herself Z, arriving in London for the first time and trying to improve her English. As the story progresses, we see her English improve, showing an interesting take on character development. I read this story a few years ago and enjoyed its original style and voice. (Also can we talk about how pretty both the title and cover are?)

3. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang


OK, confession time: this book has been on my TBR for about eight years. No joke. I’ve wanted to read it for such a long time, but have yet to pick it up for some reason. Which is a shame because it sounds incredible. The book is about three generations of women living in China, and has been translated into more than 30 languages. At nearly 600 pages, it’s no quick read, but is apparently supremely gripping. (And it’s the only non-fiction on this list).

4. The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata


This book is one I only discovered recently, but I added it to my TBR straight away because it’s about the Japanese board game Go (which I’ve seen people play in Osaka and it looks amazing). The book revolves around a game of Go played in reverse between a master and a young student, exploring the collision of past and present, young and old.

5. The Lotus War series

This series is my achilles heel at the moment because I’ve been wanting so desperately to read it (and was meant to buddy read it with a friend), but couldn’t get hold of a copy before I left for Japan (and I’m keen for a physical copy rather than an e-book). Inspired by Japanese history, Jay Kristoff (of Illuminae fame) weaves together a story of warriors, shoguns and unlikely friendship. The perfect gift for Japanophiles (like me). (Also that is an actual word, believe it or not!)

6. The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang


I just finished reading this book (you can find my full review here) so it’s still very fresh in my mind. The story is about a Chinese immigrant family, who lose their fortune and have to make a road trip across America as a result. The trip allows them to reconnect with one another, and the novel really explores intimate human relationships and how we construct our identities.

7.  The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami


This book is sitting on my TBR pile at home, and I honestly wish I’d brought it with me. Tsukuru, the main character, had three friends in school who all had colours in their names (hence the colours on the front of the book). He was the colourless one in their friendship, but this never stopped them from forming close relations, until one day the other three cut ties with him completely, offering no explanation for why. The novel has been praised for its rich in characterisation, and being set in Japan, it’s ideal for anyone wanting to read more about Asia.

8. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu


This book is perfect for any Asia enthusiasts because it’s basically the foremother (it was written by a woman so I’m not going to call it the forefather) of modern story-telling. It was written in the 11th century and is widely acknowledged as the world’s first novel. The Tale of Genji is set in medival Japan and describes court life during the Heian period. I have a beautiful hardback cover on my shelf (that I managed to get for £3!) and I’m eager to delve into it.

9. The Vegetarian by Han Kang


This book came out last year and won the Booker Prize, so I’ve been desperate to read it for a while. The story is about Yeong-hye who decides to become a vegetarian in a Korean society where doing so is an act of subvertion. It’s told from three different perspectives, that of her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister. The book was originally in Korean and has been translated.

10. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 


I couldn’t write a list about Asian-inspired literature without including one of the most famous novels out there. Memoirs of a Geisha is a classic piece of work, that recounts the (fictional) life of a Kyoto geisha before and after WWII. I’m sad to say, I got half way though this novel and then took a break while I read some other books and never picked it back up again. But after having been to Kyoto in person, I’m definitely going to continue it when I get home.

OK, there seem to be quite a few more books about Japan on this list! But what can I say? The bias is strong. There are also quite a few that I’ve yet to read, but I wanted to discuss a few of them regardless because they sound like excellent gift books.

I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the books above, or if you’re considering picking them up! As usual, link me to your TTT posts too!


11 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books to buy for a reader who enjoys East Asian-inspired tales

  1. This list is beyond fantastic! I was actually on Twitter going on about how I don’t ever read books based in Asia and now I have a ton of recommendations. Thanks so much for sharing. I can’t wait to pick some of these up.

    1. Aww thanks so much Jacquie! I’m really happy you could get some ideas from it! And as you can see from this, I totally need to get on it and pick more of these up. I felt kind of bad about doing a TTT post about books I hadn’t read, but it’s actually reminded me how much I still want to get to them! 🙂

  2. Nice! Thank you very much for this post 😀 I am an enormous Asian fan, and I pretty much don’t know any of the books on this list (except for Memoirs of a Geisha). Definitely will be checking a few of these out. Great post, thanks for sharing this 😀

  3. Great picks for this week Kate, and I loved your theme as well; very appropriate given you’re still in Japan (or have recently been to Japan if you’re back home again).
    I haven’t read any of these books yet but I guess if I want to start some east Asian inspired tales I now have the perfect starting point, and actually the Lotus War series by Jay Kristoff is on my to-read list (I loved Nevernight) so I really want to start that soon. I hope you enjoy it as well, trust me if it’s anything like Nevernight I reckon we’ll both love it! 😀

    1. Aww thanks! And I’m still in Japan at the moment, not back home until January! Yesss, the Lotus War series is pretty high up my TBR, but I’ll have to wait until I get home to get physical copies. I also have LOADS of other books I need to read in the mean time, but that’s totally beside the point… 😉

      1. Oh wow so you’ve still got a way to go before you come home again but it seems like you’re having a great time.
        Honestly I don’t think I’ll be able to get around to it anytime soon either. Definitely in the new year but I’m the same because I have loads of other books I need to read in the meantime. 🙂

  4. Check out Lisa See and Amy Tan! I loved Peony by Lisa See and Shanghai Girls! Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club makes you cry. Ha Jin writes some good ones, like Waiting. There are a bunch of amazing picks, and Memoirs of a Geisha is one of them.

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