Read Around the World - Asia

Books Set in Asia

Many people are excited to think about future trips this year.  You can also travel the world while sitting in your favorite comfy chair by choosing books from this list.  Enjoy your adventure!




The kite runner by Khaled Hosseini
Also available in: e-book | audiobook

Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara-- a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.


In Kabul in 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school and rarely leave the house, and their only hope lies in the ancient custom of "bacha posh," which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age.

The noodle maker by 1953- Jian Ma

Two men, a writer of political propaganda and a professional blood donor, meet for dinner every week. During the course of one drunken evening, the writer recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln from an art school and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. He is inspired by extraordinary characters, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as if they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker. Ma Jian's masterpiece allows us a humorous yet profound glimpse of those struggling to survive under a system that dictates their every move.

Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook

Friends Snow Flower and Lily find solace in their bond as they face isolation, arranged marriages, loss, and motherhood in nineteenth-century China.

Convenience store woman by 1979- Sayaka Murata
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A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and an extraordinary world, this is both an ironic and sharp eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

Kokoro by 1867-1916 Sōseki Natsume

 Kokoro --meaning "heart"--is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls "Sensei." Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student's struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

The bastard of Istanbul by 1971- Elif Shafak
Also available in: e-audiobook

At the center of this novel is the "bastard" of the title, Asya, a nineteen-year-old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehila, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya's mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is uncovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters, The Bastard of Istanbulis a bold, powerful tale that will confirm Shafak as a rising star of international fiction.

Snow by 1952- Orhan Pamuk

Following years of lonely political exile in Western Europe, Ka, a middle-aged poet, returns to Istanbul to attend his mother's funeral. Only partly recognizing this place of his cultured, middle-class youth, he is even more disoriented by news of strange events in the wider country: a wave of suicides among girls forbidden to wear their head scarves at school. An apparent thaw of his writer's curiosity-a frozen sea these many years-leads him to Kars, a far-off town near the Russian border and the epicenter of the suicides. No sooner has he arrived, however, than we discover that Ka's motivations are not purely journalistic; for in Kars, once a province of Ottoman and then Russian glory, now a cultural gray-zone of poverty and paralysis, there is also Ipek, a radiant friend of Ka's youth, lately divorced, whom he has never forgotten. As a snowstorm, the fiercest in memory, descends on the town and seals it off from the modern, westernized world that has always been Ka's frame of reference, he finds himself drawn in unexpected directions: not only headlong toward the unknowable Ipek and the desperate hope for love-or at least a wife-that she embodies, but also into the maelstrom of a military coup staged to restrain the local Islamist radicals, and even toward God, whose existence Ka has never before allowed himself to contemplate. In this surreal confluence of emotion and spectacle, Ka begins to tap his dormant creative powers, producing poem after poem in untimely, irresistible bursts of inspiration. But not until the snows have melted and the political violence has run its bloody course will Ka discover the fate of his bid to seize a last chance for happiness. Blending profound sympathy and mischievous wit, Snow illuminates the contradictions gripping the individual and collective heart in many parts of the Muslim world. But even more, by its narrative brilliance and comprehension of the needs and duties.

The henna artist by Alka Joshi
Also available in: audiobook | e-audiobook

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist--and confidante--to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own... Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow--a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does. "Eloquent and moving...Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.

The white tiger : a novel by Aravind Adiga
Also available in: e-audiobook

Relocating to New Delhi when he is offered a new job, Balram Halwai is disillusioned by the city's twenty-first-century materialism and technology-spawned violence, a circumstance that forces him to question his loyalties, ambitions, and past.

Le colonial : a novel by Kien Nguyen

A quest to convert lost souls turns into a battle for survival for three French missionaries in 18th-century Vietnam, or Annam, in Nguyen's richly detailed, evocative second novel. Each missionary hails from a completely different background: dour, ascetic Pierre de Béhaine is a powerful Jesuit bishop; tormented artist François Gervaise is fleeing France after committing a murky misdeed; headstrong 16-year-old Henri Monange joins the order to escape crushing poverty. Scarcely a year into their stay in Annam, the two younger men are sentenced to death by the local mandarin for their parish's failure to pay taxes, but are spared when Gervaise gives up his faith to save Monange and their followers. A changed man, Gervaise turns to Buddhism and pledges his loyalty to a rebel force of peasants, caught in the middle of a civil war between the country's North and South. Meanwhile, Monange joins de Béhaine at the court of Prince Ánh in the South and falls in love with a beautiful servant girl named Xuan, who eventually becomes Ánh's concubine. Nguyen maintains the impressive period detail that made his first novel, The Tapestries, so compelling, but his narrative is much sharper this time around, with the story drawing energy from the contrast between the characters' various agendas, particularly the constant clashes between Gervaise and Béhaine. Nguyen's take on the meeting of East and West is intelligent, heady and memorable.

The god of small things by Arundhati Roy

On a December day in 1969 twins Rahel and Estha, born to a wealthy family living in the province of Kerala, India, find their lives changed after the death of their English cousin who was visiting for the holidays.