If India is a woman’s body, her arms outstretched to hold her billion babies, Kashmir is the unruly forelock above her right temple. Or at least, that’s what I thought as a child, when my Nanaji took out his historical maps, pre-Partition and post- , to show me how we had been carved up. Since then, since the internet, I’ve zoomed in on that northwestern border countless times, tracing my fingers over the mess of dotted lines that vaguely indicate where I was born. If you log in from Pakistan, the Kashmir region is labeled as disputed. From India, it is solid line, appearing firmly under Indian control. 

When Mark O’Neill first came to Taiwan in 1981 to study Mandarin, the island was under martial law that had been in place for several decades. Since then, Taiwan has undergone momentous changes to become a modern and prosperous democracy while remaining one of the world’s geopolitical hotspots, a great deal of which O’Neill witnessed and covers in The Island.

Memoirs from Cambodian and of Cambodians remain rare, at least in English. A Cambodian Odyssey by Haing S Ngor came out almost forty years ago and became a bestseller a few years after the Oscar-award winning film, The Killing Fields. It is hard to think of many since. Until now with Chantha Nguon’s new memoir, Slow Noodles: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes, written with Kim Green. 

Rental Person Who Does Nothing is a memoir about a project—or perhaps even an experiment—by Shoji Morimoto. Morimoto’s wife encountered a blog post by therapist and self-help writer Jinnosuke Kokoroya that insisted that “people have value even if they do nothing”. Morimoto began to wonder if that is really true. And, if it is true, whether society has space for people who “do nothing”. After all, he was used to his boss telling him things like, “it makes no difference whether you’re here or not,” and “you’re a permanent vacancy.”

You never know what’ll show up in the archives. In 2015, Benjamin Penny stumbled across the 19th-century diaries of one Chaloner Alabaster in the Special Collections room of London’s SOAS. Alabaster left England in August 1855 to take up a position as “student interpreter” in the China Consular Service. He ended up making a career of it, but the diaries reproduced here end in 1856 when Alabaster was still a teenager.

In the late 19th century, a group of Mennonites leave Russia for what is now Uzbekistan. Driven out by Russian demands that the pacifist group make themselves available for conscription, and pushed forward by prophecies of the imminent return of Christ, over a hundred families travel in a grueling journey, eventually building a settlement and church that locals still remember fondly today.