A tour around the region’s past and present in books: some high notes of the past year.
Fiction & poetry
The White Book by Han Kang
Intensely personal, hypnotically serene, and mournfully meditative.
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Bae’s novella evocatively captures the contingency and fugitiveness of the modern condition in her poetic snapshots of life and language on the move.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A rich, well-crafted book as well as a page turner.
Beasts Head for Home by Abe Kobo
As riveting and as unforgiving as the frigid Chinese Civil War wilderness in which it is set.
We That are Young by Preti Taneja
Prose that is always intense, detailed and engrossing.
Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan
Eka Kurniawan is the Quentin Tarantino of Indonesian literature.
The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon
A creative menagerie of short stories from arguably the coolest author from Bangkok in a generation.
Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin
A classic of Taiwanese contemporary literature that stirs the imagination as it confronts social inequities of gender and sexuality.
The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei
It’s not often that English readers have the opportunity to take a look at Hong Kong from a truly local point of view.
Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali
In the past few years, the final novel of dissident Turkish author Sabahattin Ali has come into its own.
Motherland Hotel by Yusuf Atılgan
Atılgan has been compared to Camus. It is easy to see why.
Louder than Hearts, poems by Zeina Hashem Beck
Beautifully poised and profound.
Travels in a Dervish Cloak by Isambard Wilkinson
A book that demonstrates the great value of travel writing itself from a humane, humorous and enthusiastic author.
Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia by Michael Vatikiotis
A personal and accessible examination of the region’s politics from a former managing editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review.
The Souls of China by Ian Johnson
An enduring account of China’s inner life at a time of disorienting social and economic change.
The best account we currently have of the cultural and historical influences on China’s 21st century aspirations.
Once Upon a Time in the East: A story of growing up by Guo Xiaolu
Guo Xiaolu has always been a writer who has worn both her heart and her integrity on her sleeve.
Fixing Inequality in Hong Kong by Yue Chim Richard Wong
Wong has set a standard for public discussion which one can only hope that others on all sides of this multi-faceted issue will see fit to emulate.
A brilliant and highly readable history of America’s evolving grand strategy toward Asia and the Pacific.
The overall impression is that the Chinese came out of the negotiations keeping the upper hand.
Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan, edited by Luke Gartlan and Roberta Wue
A highly-readable and wide-ranging volume, which wears its considerable scholarly expertise lightly enough for any interested reader to enjoy.
Chinese Porcelain in Habsburg Spain by Cinta Krahe
It would be hard to lavish too much praise on this marvelous book; it is likely to remain unsurpassed.