February 26, 2014

I Like (Asian) Books

My life goals are things like: Travel the world. Eat delicious things often. Be well-read.

Speaking as a flight attendant, our minds can seriously rot on those planes. Day after day, we mindlessly pour beverages and show passengers how to get into lavatories. (Pro-tip: Push where it says to push.) Reading in our spare time on longer flights and between flights certainly helps to keep the brain sharp. Because I want to be well-read, and because I'm actually kind of pretentious, I tend to prefer classics. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time, but East of Eden is right up there too.

I can't read classics all the time, though. I was slugging through F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night for so long that even after renewing it once, I had to return it only halfway read. For my next read, I looked for some Asian/Asian American literature. I wasn't kidding when I said I loved all things Asian - I have an affinity (obsession?) for Asian (American) books. I fawned over Kevin Kwan's debut novel, Crazy Rich Asians in an earlier post, but let me introduce some of my other favorites.

My favorite author of all time is Haruki Murakami. An international best-selling author, and Japan's most prolific author, his works blend fantasy into ordinary life, creating uniquely intriguing tales. I've probably read more of his works than any other author (well, except K.A. Applegate and Ann M. Martin), and my favorite of his is, hands down, Kafka on the Shore. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle comes in second.

I believe The Joy Luck Club is the best, and will always be the best, of Amy Tan's novels. Weirdly enough, I read it for the first time just last year, though it came out shortly after I was born, 25 years ago. It's one of, if not the first, mainstream Asian American books ever, telling stories of four Chinese immigrants and their daughters.

Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was such a beautiful book, recommended to me by my good friend Michelle after I went to Seattle for the first time. It takes place during the Japanese internment, and recounts the special friendship between a Chinese American boy and Japanese American girl in Seattle. I definitely shed tears while reading it; so moving!

Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, deserves a mention. Though this odyssey of a Japanese girl who rises from being sold into slavery to geisha stardom is supposedly filled with inaccuracies, it's still a favorite of mine. It's a well-written adventure filled with friendship, rivalry, love, and betrayal, and who wouldn't like that?

Finally, I'm currently reading China Boy, by Gus Lee. Needless to say, I'm burning through it much faster than Tender is the Night. I picked it because it's set in San Francisco, the story of a Chinese American boy struggling with the loss of his mother, English, surviving in a fight-ridden urban neighborhood, and an actual wicked stepmother. I find the writing style very interesting, as the narrative is a fascinating, descriptive prose, while the actual voice of the main character is broken English (think Short Round, maybe).

You might have noticed what is missing from this list: Vietnamese (American) literature. Sadly, that's an area I have yet to explore. I must have read one at one point or another, but I can't remember anything that stood out. Anyone have any recommendations? What are your favorite Asian (American) books?


  1. I've been wanting to read Memoirs of a Geisha for forever. I just haven't yet.
    And by K.A. Applegate are you implying: ANIMORPHS?!?!

    1. you better believe it! I still love Animorphs! Cassie and Jake 4ever...

    2. YES! Cassie & Jake 4Eva! I've been trying to collect the last books so I finish it.