I’ve been in the middle of a reading slump for some time now, but after giving a few of the books on this list a chance, I feel more motivated to read than ever.
Given that it’s currently Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’ve been trying to incorporate more Asian-centered books into my TBR this May. Whether its books with Asian characters, authors, or setting, I think it’s important to educate oneself on the Asian American experience—and what better way to do that than readings some interesting and well-written content.
Below are a few of the books I’ve either read or have just started to read in the past few weeks.
The Vegetarian | Han Kang
If you’ve never heard about this book before, the premise may sound a bit odd. It’s about a woman who goes vegetarian (actually vegan, but oh well) after a traumatizing dream she has. Her family cannot understand why she would make such a drastic life change and continuously tries to make her go back to being “normal.”
The book is divided into three different parts, and I’m currently reading the third and final portion of it. There are definitely some aspects of the book that I find interesting and want to reflect on further, but there are even more parts that I find myself questioning and wondering what is even going on. Because I lived in Korean for two years, I like to think I understand at least a bit of Korean culture, but some things in this book seemed more extreme. I guess that may be the whole point, but I’ll have to finish it before I make any final decisions.
It’s definitely an interesting read, and I would recommend it if just to see how others find Han Kang’s writing.
Dark Matter | Blake Crouch
I loved this book so so so much. It was very hyped in the Science Fiction world, but I’m always skeptical when it comes to overly-hyped books. This lived up to the hype and then some.
Dark Matter follows James who is a college physics professor in Chicago. One day he’s walking home from meeting a college friend when he’s abducted, beaten and asked: “Are you happy with your life?” before being knocked out cold.
I went into this book knowing little to nothing about the plot, and I think you should as well. Thrillers, mysteries, etc are all better digested when the main plot points come at you with a bang—that means no spoilers. (NONE!) Most of the time I even neglect to read the synopsis on the dust jacket for fear of unnecessary spoilers. If you’ve heard it was good from a source you trust, just go into it blind and enjoy the ride.
And oh, boy was this book a wild ride. Just when you think you know what is going on, more and more twists and turns come at you from all angles. Read this. You will not be disappointed.
Pachinko | Min Jin Lee
I’ve been putting off reading this book for awhile, and finally set aside a couple of days to speed through it. And I am so happy that I did. I have a love-hate relationship with historical fiction, but this one did not disappoint.
It follows a family of Koreans as they try to navigate life while living first in Japanese-occupied Korea and then in Osaka, Japan. The book shows the family’s struggles and triumphs while trying to learn what it means to be Korean in a country that will not accept them.
It was beautiful and heartbreaking and not for one second boring. I’m astounded at writers who can weave together sentences, chapters, and characters without missing a beat. This book is told from many different perspectives, and yet it never seemed awkward or abrupt. It is my absolute favorite writing—the kind that is luscious and rich in its prose without skimping on the characters or the plot.
This book has everything and more. If you’re interested in learning more about what was happening in Korean and Japan from the early 1900s to the late 1980s, pick up this one ASAP.
American Panda | Gloria Chao
So, I’ve only just started this book, but I can tell already it’s going to be an instant favorite. I’m such a sucker for contemporary YA romances—even the truly horribly written ones—and I’m sure I will love this one as well.
The book follows our main character, Mei, who is a Taiwanese American student at MIT. Her parents have her whole life planned out for her. First, a degree from MIT, then onto Harvard Med school where along the way she will find the perfect Taiwanese boyfriend and get married to have a bunch of little Taiwanese babies.
Problem is, Mei kind of hates biology and gets queasy at the thought of blood. Rather than looking for the Taiwanese suitor of her parents’ dreams, she’s into a Japanese boy who goes to her school. She’d rather spend her days dancing in the abandoned room of her dorm than studying for her pre-med finals. So, will she stick to the plan her parents made for her, or will she go against their wishes and become like Ying-Na, the girl her parents always warned her of?
I’m literally only 3 chapters into this book, but I love it so so much. Mei is such a likable character, and I want her to succeed at MIT so badly. I’m rooting for her hard. I’ve never read a book with a Taiwanese American main character, and I’m so excited to learn more about her and how being a daughter of an immigrant family affects her experience with school, love, and life.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette | Maria Semple
This is another book I’ve been meaning to read for far too long. I’m almost ashamed it took me so long—especially since I finished it and it was an instant new favorite. 5 stars all the way, Bernadette!
I went into this book only knowing that Bernadette is a mother of one daughter, Bee and that she is missing. I think if you haven’t already read it, you should do the same. The book is truly worth it, and everything will be uncovered as you read through the documents, emails, and trascripts that make up this book.
This book made me question so many things about myself and life, but most of all, it made me want to take a cruise to Antarctica.
Rich People Problems | Kevin Kwan
Finally finished the third book in the series! Is this the last one? Do we know? If so, I’m definitely okay with the ending of this series. It was a fun, easy read and made me even more excited to watch the new movie coming out based on the first book.
If you know nothing of this series, it follows a bunch of crazy rich Asians living in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. You will be appalled at the gradeur and luxury of their lives and just how much they spend on a regular basis. Yes, it might make you feel bad about your own finances, but it will also probably make you feel better about all the problems you don’t have to deal with. There is some series familial backstabbing in this series.
If you’re a fan of juicy, fun drama, this is the series for you.