2020: Round-up of “Best Books” lists


How did Asia fare in the “Best Books” lists of 2020? We like to keep score, but there are also many excellent recommendations and hidden gems in these many lists.

In this (highly unscientific) sampling, we take a broad view of what constitutes an “Asian” book. Japanese literature again makes a strong showing, this year joined by a clutch of Korean novels: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami and Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo seem to come out on top. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu won the National Book Award and naturally shows up on several of the lists, as does  How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang, which was shortlisted for the Booker.

There is less concurrence in the non-fiction lists but Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley (podcast) features more than one, as does One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang.

Click on the title for our review; and see the ARB’s own list of the favorite Asian books from 2020.

NYT 100 Notable Books

World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2020

  • Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong
  • The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
  • I Live in the Slums by Can Xue
  • Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
  • The Book of Shanghai, ed. by Dai Congrong & Jin Li
  • Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
  • The Law of Lines by Hye-young Pyun
  • Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna
  • b, Book, and Me by Kim Sagwa
  • Lean against This Late Hour by Garous Abdolmalekian
  • Mrs. Murakami’s Garden by Mario Bellatin
  • Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City by Fang Fang
  • The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili
  • Pa-Liwanag: To the Light (Translating Feminisms)
  • Passage to the Plaza by Sahar Khalifeh
  • Fracture by Andrés Neuman
  • Deviant Disciples: Indonesian Women Poets (Translating Feminisms) ed. by Intan Paramaditha
  • The Highly Unreliable Account of the History of a Madhouse by Ayfer Tunç
  • A Story of Civilization through the Great Epics by Suchethana Swaroop
  • Dressed for a Dance in the Snow: Women’s Voices from the Gulag by Monika Zgustova

TIME: Best Fiction, Non-Fiction, The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020

Refinery29: The Best Books of 2020

WSJ: 10 Best Books of 2020


FT: Best Books of 2020: History

Foreign Affairs: The Best of Books 2020

  • The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Twenty-first Century by Thant Myint-U
  • The Hundred Year’s War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017 by Rashid Khalidi
  • MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman by Ben Hubbard
  • Hybrid Actors: Armed Groups and State Fragmentation in the Middle East by Thanassis Cambanis, et al.
  • Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War by Taomo Zhou
  • The Art of Political Control in China by Daniel C Mattingly
  • The Bhutto Dynasty: The Struggle for Power in Pakistan by Owen Bennett-Jones


BBC: Best Books of 2020 so far

Washington Post: 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2020

The Guardian: Best Books of 2020

NY Post: Best books of 2020 ~ The top 30 must-read titles from the past year

The Economist

Lithub: Our 65 Favorite Books of the Year

  • The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun
  • How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang
  • Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
  • Out of Mesopotamia by Salar Abdoh
  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar
  • How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Arab Conference of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance by Elizabeth F Thompson

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: The best books of 2020 for your summer reading list

PopMatters: The Best Books of 2020 Fiction Non-Fiction

  • Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
  • The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
  • Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna
  • Serenade for Nadia by Zülfü Livaneli
  • Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life by Zao Dao
  • The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud by Kuniko Tsuruta
  • Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
  • Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
  • Spring Rain by Andy Warner
  • Sweet Time by Weng Pixin
  • Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

Japan Times: Our critics’ favorite books published in 2020

InStyle: The 20 Best Books of 2020

The Independent: The 20 best books of 2020