2013 in Review: The Best in Books

With a little something for everyone, here’s the 13 best books related to Asia that we came across in 2013, organized by category….

ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Asian Britain: A Photographic History
by Susheila Nasta – Published in partnership with the British Library and Getty Images, this book chronicles the long history of South Asian immigrants in the United Kingdom through B&W photographs.
The Chinese Art Book, Phaidon / Korean Art: The Power of Now, Thames & Hudson (tie) – A bit of a cheat, but both of these great art books deserve a mention. You can see reviews of both of them in the next print issue of AGI magazine.

CHILDREN’S

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang – A new kind of fable for kids and adults alike, this short novel from Korean writer Hwang (who will be a special guest at the London Book Fair in 2014) was a massive hit selling over 2 million copies in South Korea alone, and inspired a popular animated film. Delightfully illustrated by London-based artist Nomoco.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida – Brought to English language readers by British author David Mitchell (‘Cloud Atlas’), this personal look at autism by a boy from Japan became a surprise best-seller in the summer, with some calling it the best book ever on the subject.

COOKBOOKS

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka
by Bree Hutchins – An essential book if you want to expand your range of Asian recipes, this cookbook presents a wide range of delicious treats from the island nation of Sri Lanka.

The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia – Another lesser-known national cuisine which is slowly increasing in popularity, this book focuses on modern versions of classic Iranian dishes.

FICTION

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Another hugely successful novel from the author of ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Sons’, who takes us back to war-torn Afghanistan once again.


A Tale for the Time Being 
by Ruth Ozeki – A Booker Prize nominee this year, this was a personal favourite which takes us from the windswept beaches of British Columbia to the streets of Tokyo in search of a lost teenage girl and her Buddhist grandmother.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Another novel shortlisted for the 2013 Booker, this looks at the consequences of the radical choices made by two brothers from Calcutta in the 1960s.

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Boxers & Saintsby Gene Luen Yang – Far and away one of the best graphic novels of the year (it’s actually a box set of two linked books that should be read together), the story revolves around the Boxer Rebellion which occurred in China in at the turn of the 20th century. Yang, previously best known for ‘American Born Chinese’, is definitely one to keep an eye on.

HISTORY/NON-FICTION

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang – Another epic biography by Chang (following ‘Mao’), this one is a must-read for anyone interested in power, politics, and historical revisionism.
The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy – A tough read, but one with a hard-hitting look at how terrorists took over the famous Taj Hotel in Mumbai for nearly three days in 2008 and the brave folks who dared to stand up to them.

RE-ISSUE (digital)

Mr Ma and Son by Lao She – Originally published in 1929, this has recently been translated into English and published by Penguin Books China (along with ‘Cat Country’ by the same author). This is a tale of the two title characters “who run an antiques shop nestled in a quiet street by St Paul’s Cathedral in London, where, far from their native Peking, they struggle to navigate the bustling pavements and myriad social conventions of 1920s English society”.

Tim Holm

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