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#ReadAsian: 12 Books to Add to Your 2021 To-Be-Read List

#ReadAsian: 12 Books to Add to Your 2021 To-Be-Read List

Have you found your next great read yet? 

Since we’re gearing towards the second half of the year (crazy, right?), it’s always a good idea to revisit your To-Be-Read List and add a couple books from different genres to further expand your reading horizons.

And if you’re a spontaneous type of reader, this might be equally helpful to you as well.

This June, Fully Booked is putting the spotlight on Asian authors— bannering art and stories that shed light on the vibrant and diverse world of Asian literature. From fiction to cookery, here are some recommendations you can add to your TBR and fulfill a reading goal this year that is to: Read Asian.

 
 



1. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

In a nutshell: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.”

Why is it TBR worthy: This autobiography unpacks, confronts, and dismantles the “model minority” myth and fearlessly explores the complexities of being Asian in America.

Perfect for: Readers interested in cultural racism and curious what it's like to be Asian in America. 

 

2. Almond by Won-pyung Sohn

In a nutshell: Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school, and they develop a surprising bond. 

Why is it TBR worthy: Intriguing and heart-warming. Almond is a story centered on how love, friendship, and persistence can have an impact towards one person’s life. BTS members RM, Suga, and J-Hope recommended the book as they were also seen reading it in their reality series In The Soop. Even RM and Suga praised the book, saying Almond is “well-written” and “an interesting read.”

Perfect for: Reading during the rainy season. This Korean coming-of-age book opens new perspectives on understanding love and how one’s life can be changed by it. 

 

 

3. Kawaii: How to Draw Really Cute Food by Angela Nguyen

In a nutshell: In her new collection, artist-author Angela Nguyen turns even the most mundane foods into living, breathing, adorable characters that you will want to draw yourself. Including beautifully clear and straightforward step-by-step instructions and minimal text, How to Draw Really Cute Food is great for both visual learners and those interested in learning the essential techniques of kawaii.

Why is it TBR worthy: Fun, wildly entertaining, and full of all things cute: it has chapters on appetizers, entrees, desserts, snacks and drinks.

Perfect for: Art enthusiasts or hobbyists that are looking for a relaxing activity on a Sunday afternoon because it’s filled with cute illustrations. 

 

 

4. The Living: 100 Daily Practices from a Japanese Zen Monk for a Lifetime of Calm and Joy by Shunmyo Masuno

In a nutshell: A minimalist line drawing appears opposite each lesson on an otherwise blank page, giving you an opportunity to relax with a deep breath between lessons in this book. With each daily practice, you will learn to find happiness not by seeking out extraordinary experiences but by making small changes to your life, opening yourself up to a renewed sense of peace and inner calm.

Why is it TBR worthy: Authored by a Japanese monk who embodies the wisdom of Zen, this book will help you to relax and find happiness amid the swirl of the modern world through simplifying your life.

Perfect for: Those looking for clear, practical, and easily-adopted lessons to improve one’s quality of life. 

 

 

5. Man Tiger: A Novel by Eka Kurniawan

In a nutshell: A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger.

Why is it TBR worthy: An immersive book that will take you to the social realities in rural Indonesia. This book revolves around a mysterious case of murder while the events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.

Perfect for: Readers who are interested in mystery, suspense, and magical realism. 

 

6. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

In a nutshell: Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he's the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits.

Why is it TBR worthy: An award-winning graphic novel that breaks barriers and connects cultures. Humorous and entertaining with beautiful illustrations and a relatable storyline fit to break your reading slump.

Perfect for: Teaching kids to adapt reading at an early age with good takeaway lessons on breaking Asian stereotypes. 

 

7. The Art of Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki

In a nutshell: The Art of Spirited Away Large-size is a hardcover coffee-table book featuring artwork from the renowned animated film, Spirited Away, directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Why is it TBR worthy: A coffee-table book that deserves a spot in your nook, especially if you’re a Studio Ghibli fanatic. It features commentary, color stills, sketches, storyboards, and illustrations used to envision the rich fantasy world of the film. Also includes a complete English-language script.

Perfect for: Aspiring animators, art collectors and of course, Studio Ghibli fans.

 

 

8. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

In a nutshell: A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers'. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother's, and her little sister's. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

Why is it TBR worthy: This is a lovely picture book that is overflowing with imaginative drawings that celebrate diversity and self-love.

Perfect for: Enriching mother and daughter bond through storytelling.

 

 

9. Sugar and Spite by Gail D Villanueva

In a nutshell: Jolena can't take Claudine's bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolena knows going into her grandfather's potions lab is forbidden, she sneaks in one day to access the family magic: She brews a batch of gayuma, the powerful love potion.

Why is it TBR worthy: Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva, asking whether it’s ever okay to take away someone's free will. Join us at Fully Booked Chats with Gail Villanueva to know more about the book.

Perfect for: Young readers as the book—capturing the richness of Philippine culture— blends love, family, and friendship into one fascinating story.

 

 

10. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

In a nutshell: Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Why is it TBR worthy: You might have watched the Netflix adaptation but reading the book still hits differently: you will get to enjoy Jenny Han’s relatable and quirky writing, plus definitely be able to relive all the kilig. It’s a heartfelt and charming story that will bring you back to the butterflies you once had when you were in high school.

Perfect for: Young adults who are craving a light and casual coming-of-age book to get out of a reading slump.

 


 

11. Quintessential Filipino Cooking: 75 Authentic and Classic Recipes of the Philippines by Liza Agbanlog

In a nutshell: Experience classic and authentic recipes from the Philippines with Quintessential Filipino Cooking. This expansive collection highlights the traditions and flavors of Filipino cooking, and gives each one Liza's personal touch that takes them to the next level.

Why is it TBR worthy: This cookbook contains over 75 recipes and 60 photos that will encourage you to explore more on cooking Filipino dishes for the family.

Perfect for: Moms and dads, young pros, and kitchen enthusiasts looking to explore more Filipino delicacies and improve their cooking skills.

 

12. Walking with the Comrades by Arundhati Roy 

In a nutshell: Roy takes readers to the unseen front lines of this ongoing battle, chronicling her months spent living with the rebel guerillas in the forests. In documenting their local struggles, Roy addresses the much larger question of whether global capitalism will tolerate any societies existing outside of its colossal control.

Why is it TBR worthy: In this book, Roy talks about her first-hand experiences in 2010 as she spent living with the Naxalite communist guerillas. It’s a fierce and riveting non-fiction that will take you deep within the forests of rural India at war. 

Perfect For: Military and historical non-fiction who are interested in eyewitness storytelling.


Explore more reads that offer perspectives and insights on the wide range of Asian experiences. Check out more books on the Fully Booked Read Asian page.


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