10 Must-Read Books by Asian Authors

Many countries in East and Southeast Asia will be observing the Mid-Autumn  Festival this month, also called Moon Festival, Tsukimi (Japan), Chuseok (Korea), and Tết Trung Thu (Vietnam). The moon - and moon deities - appear frequently in Eastern mythology, and the legends still influence writers today.

Celebrate Asian authors with this reading list full of incredible books that will leave a lasting impression long after you’ve turned the final page. 


Jade City by Fonda Lee Book Cover

1. Jade City (The Green Bone Saga) by Fonda Lee

The first book in my all-time-favorite fantasy series; Jade City is a thrilling, high-stakes wuxia-inspired gangster saga. Think The Godfather in an urban fantasy metropolis where magic comes in the form of jade and two rival crime syndicates go to war, vying for control and power. There are territory disputes, assassination attempts, knife duels to the death, blood feuds to settle—truly a seamless blend of modernity and casual brutality in the gritty, bustling streets of Kekon. 

The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huyhn Book Cover

2. The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huyhn

A family of estranged Vietnamese women cursed to never know love or happiness reunite when a psychic makes a startling prediction. The Fortunes of Jaded Women has my whole heart – it’s a love letter to Vietnamese women. I see pieces of myself and my family in this book; the meddling aunties, the family dramatics, the messy and complicated feelings of Vietnamese women. There’s so much heart within these pages. Keep an eye out for the release this autumn! 

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Book Cover

3. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

No other book has haunted me quite like this one. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a poignant letter that reads like poetry from a Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who can’t read. He pieces together fragments of his life, reflecting on race, identity, sexuality, and grief with a raw intensity that moved me to tears.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker Chan Book Cover

4. She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun is a feminist reimagining of the rise of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. The story follows a peasant girl who was destined for nothing, but had the innate, unfaltering ambition for greatness and glory—a fate that belonged to her dead brother. Zhu takes his identity and joins a monastery to survive, and there begins her journey from monk, to warlord, to a king who would be remembered for thousands of years to come.

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li Book Cover

5. Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

The Portrait of a Thief can best be described as atmospheric and character-driven. Bright-eyed college students on an impossible art heist. The weight of dreams and the taste of possibility between uncertainty. The exploration of the American dream entwined with the identity of immigrant children. All the diaspora feelings.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan Book Cover

6. Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a romantic fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e. Whether it was flying on clouds, strolling through magical night markets, or riding on the claws of a venerable dragon—everything was so vividly painted. Sweeping adventures that took us through the Celestial Kingdom where gods and immortals resided, the Eastern Seas battling legendary creatures, and a shadowy realm of forbidden magic.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo Book Cover

7. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

There’s a dreamlike quality to The Chosen and the Beautiful that’s difficult to fully depict but impossible to forget. A wistfulness for bygone summer days; a bittersweet nostalgia through rose-tinted lens. Vo reimagines The Great Gatsby from Jordan Baker’s perspective as a queer Vietnamese immigrant in the most elite circles of 1920s American society, where she existed in a liminal space—a borderline between acceptable and not. 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang Book Cover

8. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

If I had to sum up this book and series in one word, it would be pain. The Poppy War is a grimdark military fantasy inspired by historic events in the second Sino-Japanese war. The sheer scope and depth of this trilogy is incredible, from the world building to the mythology to the history. It’s a story of gods and monsters, of war and vengeance. 

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh Book Cover

9. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

A Spirited Away-esque retelling of the Korean folklore, “The Tale of Shim Cheong”. In The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea, a girl finds herself in the spirit realm after sacrificing herself to the sea. She sets out to wake the Sea God with a motley crew of demons, lesser gods, and spirits. The lush and immersive world pulled in from the very first chapter. A must-read for fans of Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films! 

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas Book Cover

10. The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword contains echoes of the Mulan we’re familiar with—a girl disguises herself as a man and goes to war in her father’s stead—but the story itself is vastly different. This wuxia-inspired reimagined tale of Mulan in 5th century AD China is rich in history and customs of the past, which makes the world so much more immersive. A wonderful reimagining of an evergreen classic.


 This blog post was written by Nina at Tender Curiosity. Follow her for more reviews and ramblings!

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1 comment

tHIS IS SUCH A PERFECTLY CURATED LIST!!!!!! omg i can’t wait to binge read these

Jennie September 09, 2022

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