5 Novels from the Orient

In celebration of Chinese New Year, Karma Luminary, Philip Blackwell, shares these 5 riveting reads. Ranging from contemporary non-fiction to compelling memoirs and even sci-fi, these books invite us to delve deeper into life in the East.

1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The outrageously funny debut novel by Kevin Kwan follows Rachel Chu as she visits her boyfriend’s family home in Singapore for the first time. What she doesn’t know is that he is the heir to a massive fortune and one of the most eligible bachelors in Asia. How will she cope with the gossiping, scheming and her boyfriend’s formidable mother?

Crazy Rich Asian

2. Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Lui)

One of China’s most exciting science fiction writers, Hao Jingfang tells a story of two places literally worlds apart: capitalist Earth and socialist Mars. Questioning the absolutist terms with which each planet views the other, they try to find a way to live that considers the complexity of human existence, beyond ideology. An ambitious novel full of ideas that asks how and why humanity organizes itself the way it does.


3. Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao (translated by Mike Fu)

In the early 1970s, the globe-trotting Taiwanese author Sanmao moved to the Sahara, just because she could. This free-spirited memoir — astonishingly — documents her life in the desert with her husband Jose, pushing hard against conformity of any kind and getting to know the local way of life. Experiencing love, loss and peril this travelogue is imbued with Sanmao’s indomitable spirit.

Stories of the Sahara

4. Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah (translated by Deborah Smith)

Blisteringly original, Untold Night and Day is a high-wire feat of storytelling that explores the possibility of worlds beyond the one we see and feel – and shows why Bae Suah is considered one of the boldest voices in Korean literature today. For two years, twenty-eight-year-old Kim Ayami has worked at Seoul’s only audio theatre for the blind, only for it to close. As the heat of summer intensifies order gives way to chaos.

Untold Night and Day

5. Three Brothers by Yan Lianke

The English-language nonfiction debut one of China’s most highly regarded writers and winner of the Franz Kafka Prize. In this heartfelt memoir, Yan Lianke brings the reader into his boyhood home in Song County, Henan Province, painting a richly detailed portrait of rural China during the Cultural Revolution.

Three Brothers

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