Asian Book Recommendations 101 || a list of amazing and diverse reads you should check out!!!

I love seeing representation in books.

Now I don’t really talk a lot about my heritage on here, *cough* mainly because I’m not that connected with it (diaspora things sigh) *cough* , but I absolutely adore it when I see diverse representation in media. I do indeed have those Asian roots embedded in me (specifically Indian) and growing up I didn’t exactly see myself in the characters I read about.

Even though now there’s been an influx of wonderful Asian books and so many more authors are being promoted, my younger self was adversely affected by how she never saw herself in literature. (WHY WERE THERE NO INDIAN FOOD DESCRIPTIONS HM??)

When I first stumbled upon The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani – it was a monumental moment. BASICALLY COMPLETELY LIFE-CHANGING. It was the first time I’d ever read about someone with a similar culture as me, and who looked like me – and oh gosh was that a wonderful feeling. After that I was obviously in dire need of a good diverse book and I’m proud to say that I’ve now read so many great books with stunning representation in the past few months. Most of which I’ve found thanks to the ever-so-kind blogging community (YOU ALL ARE THE BEST)

Today I decided to compile a list of my favorite books either featuring Asian character or written by Asian authors, so without further ado let’s get started!!

The Poppy War – By R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth —it was a shock to everyone and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her existence. That she got into Sinegard—was even more surprising. Targeted by her classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of an insane teacher , Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive

-summary adapted from goodreads

This book is insanely good in every possible way. The engaging plot-line, morally gray characters and the dark gritty tone of the book are all executed SO BRILLIANTLY. It deals with very very heavy and unsettling themes, which can be disturbing at times but overall it’s just fantastic. The historical references to Asian Culture (which we’re really never taught about in school- just saying taking world history was a scam if I’m only taught about two continents *cough*) and a full exploration of how horrifying war can actually be – this book builds up to a sensational start of a series. It’s brutal and a masterpiece- highly, highly recommend this one!! Also, I’m going to start my library copy of the burning god soon (IT’S DUE IN SIX DAYS WISH ME LUCK) AND I AM NOT READY FOR THE PAIN.

An Ember in the Ashes- By Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Martial Emperor risk destruction of all they hold dear.But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

-summary adapted from goodreads

also fun fact – sabaa tahir actually requested the cover to be changed to feature a poc character!!! that really emphasises on how important representation is 🙂

Did you really think I would not include this?? I mean I’ve got to stick to my brand right??

The Ember Quartet is the definition of a good fantasy series. With twisting scenes, writing that grapples you into the story and action packed scenes- this is something you don’t want to miss out on. IF THAT HASN’T CONVINCED YOU JUST READ IT FOR ELIAS PLEASE. The well-thought-out world building, which is inspired by Ancient Rome, and the concept of the two different empires was just so utterly entrancing to read about. I also love how our main character Laia is portrayed. She’s not your typical badass “I know everything there is to know about” heroine and I adored that about her. She’s vulnerable, and weak but there’s so much inside her that we get to see as the story progresses on. OH ALSO WE CAN’T FORGET THE BEST CHARACTER EVER HELENE *ahem* even though I hated her in the first book that’s fineeEe *ahem*

We Are Not Free – By Traci Chee

“We Are Not Free, is the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps. In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.”

-summary adapted from goodreads

This was one of the first books I ever read thanks to the blogging community and it was 100% worth it!! We are not free follows fourteen Japanese-American teens during WW2 after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. It talks about the internalised discrimination that these teens faced solely for their heritage (something still prominent to this day unfortunately) We often only discuss about the western side and suffering during the world war, but this truly provided a wonderful insight on how horrible and devastating it was for others as well. Rest assured, I went on a very long history Wikipedia spiral after this. It utterly BROKE ME and if you too would like to drown in a puddle if your salty tears- this is the perfect book you’re looking for.

Portrait of a Thief- By Grace D. Li

Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back.A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.”

-summary adapted from goodreads



This book hit close to home. If you overlook the problems and unrealistic circumstances- this book is a masterpiece. It’s a letter to all the children of immigrants out there, it’s an eloquent discussion on colonialism and it just resonated with me so deeply. The characters’ emotions and thoughts correlated with many I’ve had of my own, and that feeling of never really belonging in a particular place is one I’m too familiar with. I’m a huge art and history enthusiast, and I especially adore art history, so seeing a book completely dedicated to that topic obviously made me giddy with excitement and jump around like a five-year-old. I didn’t love the execution of the heists (anything realistic has left the chat) but it’s still a story that will remain in my heart for the longest time.

These Violent Delights- By Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.”

-summary adapted from goodreads

Yes, loving this book is a personality trait of mine, and no, it cannot be undone.

As a lover of retellings of any kind- this one immediately caught my eye. Romeo and Juliette but set in Shanghai AND IT’S A HISTORICAL FICTION??? all my expectations are already exceeded. The characters contribute so much to the story and are extraordinary in every way, Juliette Cai I’m looking at you, and we CANNOT FORGET the writing!!! The entangling, luscious prose just lures you in and the descriptions are all simply stunning!!! THE ROMANCE!!! My enemies-to-lovers-loving-heart has reached heaven thank you very much. The yearning, the angst and the tension are ALL present- this books is simply divine. ALSO THE COVER IS SO PRETTY C’MON.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea- By Tahereh Mafi

“It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped. She’s tired of the degrading comments she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her – they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds – and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.”

-summary adapted from goodreads

I read A Very Large Expanse Of Sea a while back and while I can’t exactly remember much. of the plot, I do remember absolutely loving this book Tahereh Mafi gets her message through loud and clear through her well-crafted characters. Shirin is actually a wonderful character- tough and loving and her growth portrayed in this book is done beautifully. Ocean is the absolute sweetest as well, and I adored the relationship between both of them.

Library of Fates- By Aditi Khorana

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough. The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

-summary adapted from goodreads

The Library of Fates is an Indian-Inspired fantasy which does such a great job of incorporating cultural ties with it’s stunning and lush plotline. Even though I did have minor problems with this (okay fine,,, kinda a lot) It’s still a brilliant read if you want lyrical writing and some of the best Indian representation I’ve ever seen. The world is beautifully detailed and the Indian folklore in it is just SO GOOD AKSJKS. The ending did throw me off a bit though, alright fine I hated the ending – but hey, I’d solely recommend this to you if you love pretty covers and good mythological aspects!

The Night Diary- By Veera Hiranandani

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

-summary adapted from goodreads

I am indeed a firm believer in saving the best for last.

The night diary was one of the first books I ever read with Indian representation so of course I may just the be a teensy bit biased but shh you didn’t hear that from me.

I’ve never actually read a book about the India partition before so this was an experience for me. All of Nisha’s thoughts are heartbreaking but still filled with the essence of innocence and of course hope. It’s hard to imagine how terrifying crossing the border must’ve been but this book does an amazing job at portraying a realistic depiction of the harsh times. I also completely fell in love with the format- it’s told through diary entires which really helped us to gain a deeper insight into Nisha’s thoughts. All in all, the night diary is a book that means so much to me and will remain with me always.

Have you read any of the books from this list? What are some of your favorite diverse reads? Any books you’re looking forward to picking up?

Thanks so much for reading and hope you have a great day ahead!!!

ByeEEEEe

36 thoughts on “Asian Book Recommendations 101 || a list of amazing and diverse reads you should check out!!!

  1. SUHANI THIS LIST IS ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OMG??????

    i need to read the poppy war ASAP but I just don’t have time to properly binge read the trilogy and I’m so mad😭 yes yes yes to the ember quartet that series made me feel everything!! also these violent delights and portrait of a thief are both incredible! i bought we are not free and I’m so excited to get to it. great post!💜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. omg i love this post so much suhani 😭😭 we are not free and an ember in the ashes are two of my favorite books of all time and i still cry on a regular basis because of mas’s chapter in wanf 💔 and ooh the poppy war and portrait of a thief have been recommended to me so many times, i really need to get to them asap!! i haven’t heard of the night diary before, but it sounds incredible!! 🤩

    Like

  3. Yess I love this so much, there are so many amazing books here! An Ember In The Ashes and These Violent Delights are both on my TBR and I’m hoping to get to them in the next couple of months. I really want to read The Night Diary too now! Thank you so much for sharing, I adored this ❤

    Like

  4. I was literally looking for some book recommendations and I came over your blog out of no where!!
    I think The ember in the ashes allures meeeeeeee the most as of now, Great post, Suhani❤❤❤

    Like

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