In this latest installment of Read the World, we set our sights on great works of literature from Asia and the Middle East. Some of the books on this list tackle the causes and repercussions of the uprisings in the Middle East. Others speak to the West’s patronizing representations of Asians.
Then there are those that provide a spellbinding introduction to the past, and still more that entertain and scare us. If you're looking for ways to explore and understand diverse cultures around the world, there's no better place to start than in books.
Where will the pages take you today?
Hands down my one of my favorite books (in the world, all-time) is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan). I’m also in the midst of developing a huge literary crush on Keigo Higashino (Japan). Do any of the titles on this list jump out at you?
Afghanistan Atiq Rahimi A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear or The Patience Stone / Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns / Anna Badkhen (*author is Russian) Waiting for the Taliban or The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village
Bangladesh Taslima Nasrin Shame / Tahmima Anam The Good Muslim / Humayun Ahmed To the Woods Dark and Deep / Ekhlasuddin Ahmed When the Evening Darkens / Shawkat Osman The Laughter of a Slave / Anwar Pasha Rifles Bread Women
Cambodia Alice Pung Unpolished Gem / Vaddey Ratner In the Shadow of the Banyan / Loung Ung First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers / Haing S Ngor Survival in the Killing Fields
China Zhu Wen I Love Dollars / Jian Rong Wolf Totem / Ma Jian Stick Out Your Tongue or Red Dust / Cao Xuequin Dream of the Red Chamber / Wu Cheng’en Journey to the West / Chan Koonchung The Fat Years / Yan Lianke Dream of Ding Village / Mo Yan Red Sorghum: A Novel of China / Han Dong Banished / Mian Mian Candy / Xu Zechen Running Through Beijing / Hok-Pang Tang & David Coomler A Time of Ghosts / Huo Da Jade King: History of a Chinese Muslim Family / Wang Xiaobo Wang in Love and Bondage: Three Novellas / Cao Wenxuan Bronze and Sunflower / Yan Lianke Lenin’s Kisses / Anchee Min Empress Orchid / Qiu Xiaolong Death of a Red Heroine / Yan Geling The Last Daughter of Happiness
India Suketu Mehta Maximum City / Rohinton Mistry Family Matters or A Fine Balance / Rahul Bhattacharya The Sly Company of People who Care / Amitav Ghosh The Ibis Trilogy / Tabish Khair The Thing about Thugs / Manu Joseph Serious Men / Chandrahas Choudhury Arzee the Dwarf / Manju Kapur The Immigrant / Neel Mukherjee A State of Freedom or The Lives of Others / Mani Sankar Mukherji The Middleman / I. Allan Sealy The Trotter Nama / Shashi Warrier / Aniruddha Bahal / Vikram Chandra Sacred Games / M T Vasudevan Nair Bhima Lone Warrior or Kaalam / Gurcharan Das India Unbound / Shashi Tharoor The Great Indian Novel / Mahasweta Devi Mother of 1084 / RK Narayan Malgudi Days / Kushwant Singh Train to Pakistan / Shivaji Sawant Mrutunjay / Sunil Gangopadhyay Those Days / Rabindranath Tagore The Home and the World / Sashi Deshpande / Kiran Nagarkar Cuckold or Seven Sixes are Forty-Three / Vivek Shanbhag Ghachar Ghochar / Roy Arundhati The God of Small Things or The Ministry of Utmost Happiness / R.K. Narayan Malgudi Days or The Guide / Seth Vikram A Suitable Boy / Karen Mahajan The Association of Small Bombs / Avarind Adiga The White Tiger
Iran Akbar Golrang Parpin Flowers / Shahrnush Parsipur Touba and the Meaning of Night / Mahmoud Dowlatabadi The Colonel
Iraq Samuel Shimon An Iraqi in Paris or Baghdad Noir / Ali Bader The Tobacco Keeper / Hassan Blasim The Madman of Freedom Square / Rodaan Al Galidi Thirsty River / Samira Al-Mana The Oppressors / Fuad al-Takarli The Long Way Back
Japan Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore or 1Q84 / Natsume Sōseki The Miner / Yukio Mishima Death in Midsummer: And Other Stories or his tetralogy The Sea of Fertility / Hiromi Kawakami Manazuru or Strange Weather in Tokyo / Shiba Ryotaro The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu / Yasunari Kawabata Snow Country, Keigo Higashino Salvation of a Saint or The Devotion of Suspect X
Kyrgyzstan Chinghiz Aitmatov Jamilia or The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years
Lebanon Elias Khoury Gate of the Sun / Hanan al-Shaykh One Thousand and One Nights or The Locust and the Bird / Jabbour Douhaiy June Rain / Alexandra Chreiteh Always Coca-Cola / Iman Humaydan Wild Mulberries or Beirut Noir / Amin Maalouf Samarkand or In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong / Rashid al-Daif Dear Mr Kawabata / Khalil Gibran The Prophet / Najwa Barakat Oh Salaam!
Pakistan Mohsin Hamid Exit West or Moth Smoke or The Reluctant Fundamentalist / Sara Suleri Meatless Days / Bapsi Sidhwa Ice Candy Man or Cracking India / Bina Shah A Season for Martyrs / Jamil Ahmad The Wandering Falcon / HM Naqvi Home Boy / Uzma Aslam Khan Trespassing / Ali Sethi The Wish Maker / Kamila Shamsie Home Fire or Burnt Shadows / Mohammed Hanif Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
South Korea Hwang Sok-Yong The Guest or The Old Garden / Shin Kyung-Sook Please Look After Mom / Han Kang The Vegetarian or Human Acts
Syria Fadi Azzam Sarmada / Rafik Schami Damascus Nights / Khaled Khalifa In Praise of Hatred or No Knives in the Kitchens of This City
Vietnam Bao Ninh The Sorrow of War / Nguyen Nhat Anh Ticket to Childhood
About the author: Sharon K. is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She is the host of the Portland, Maine chapter of Silent Book Club. You can follow her on Instagram here.
Join your local SBC Chapter for some sustained silent reading with friends! Hong Kong, Boston, Denver, Chicago, and more.