AGI’s Recommended Reads for Spring 2013

Searching to expand your intellectual horizons this year? AGI presents a selection of fascinating pan-Asian reads that will take you from Japan to Nepal.

Chinese LivesThe People Who Made a Civilization by Victor H. Mair, Sanping Chen and Frances Wood, Thames & Hudson
Expected Release Date: March or May

China is the most populous country on earth, with the longest history of any modern nation. Here, the full range of Chinese cultural and scientific achievements, as well as its military conquests, wars, rebellions, and political and philosophical movements, are told through the eyes of real people who created or were involved in them. From Fu Hao, an early warrior lady of the thirteenth century BC, to the late twentieth-century leader Deng Xiaoping, their careers, achievements, misdeeds, disasters, punishments, ideas and love stories make this an unforgettable read. Illustrated with portraits, paintings, written documents, bronzes, sculptures, and location maps, and written in an authoritative yet accessible style,Chinese Lives provides the perfect introduction to China’s history and her peoples.

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Five Star Billionaireby Tash Aw, Fourth Estate Expected Release Date: February

In this stunning new novel, the award-winning Tash Aw (born in Malaysia, now living in London) charts the overlapping lives of migrant Malaysian workers, forging lives for themselves in sprawling Shanghai. Justin is from a family of successful property developers. Phoebe has come to China buoyed with hope, but her dreams are shattered within hours as the job she has come for seems never to have existed. Gary is a successful pop artist, but his fans and marketing machine disappear after a bar-room brawl. Yinghui has businesses that are going well but must make decisions about her life. And then there is Walter, the shadowy billionaire, ruthless and manipulative, ultimately alone in the world. The author brilliantly examines the migrations that are shaping this dazzling new city, and their effect on these individual lives.

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Gold Rush in the Jungle: The Race to Discover and Defend the Rarest Animals of Vietnam’s “Lost World” by Dan Drollette Jr., Crown Publishing Group (Random House) Expected Release Date: April

Deep in the jungle where the borders of Vietnam meet those of Laos and Cambodia is a region known as “the lost world”. Large mammals never seen before by Western science have popped up frequently in these mountains in the last decade, including a half-goat/half-ox, a deer that barks, and a close relative of the nearly extinct Javanese rhino. Containing research gathered from famous biologists, conservationists, indigenous peoples, former POWs, ex-Viet Cong, and the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since the war’s end, Gold Rush in the Jungle goes deep into the valleys, hills, and hollows of Vietnam to explore the research, the international trade in endangered species, the lingering effects of Agent Orange, and the effort of a handful of biologists to save the world’s rarest animals.

 

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The Gurkha’s Daughter: StoriesStories by Prajwal Parajuly, Quercus
Release Date: January

A disfigured servant girl plans to flee Nepal; a Kalimpong shopkeeper faces an impossible dilemma; a Hindu religious festival in Darjeeling brings with it a sacrifice; a Nepali-Bhutanese refugee pins her hopes on the West; a Gurkha’s daughter tries to comprehend her father’s complaints; two young Nepali-speaking immigrants meet in Manhattan. These are just some of the short stories describing and dramatizing the experiences of the Nepalese people and the Nepalese diaspora – the people whose culture and language is Nepalese but who are dispersed to India, Bhutan and beyond. From every perspective and on every page, Prajwal Parajuly blends rich colour and vernacular to paint an eye-opening picture of a unique world and its people.

 

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Heart of Thomasby Moto Hagio, Fantagraphics
Release Date:January

The setting: a boarding school in Germany, sometime in the latter 20th Century. Fourteen year-old Thomas Werner falls from a lonely pedestrian overpass to his death immediately after sending a single, brief love letter to a classmate. Thus begins the legendary and enigmatic Heart of Thomas, by Japanese manga master Moto Hagio. Inspired by a French film, The Heart of Thomas was nearly cancelled early in its serialization until Hagio’s first trade paperback sold out in a single day, giving her new series a new lease on life. The result was a story more complex, less accessible, and yet so compelling it can be found near or at the top of any list of classic manga. The Heart of Thomas is already the most eagerly anticipated manga translation of the new decade.

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Inby Natsuo Kirino (translated by Philip Gabriel), Harvill Secker
Expected Release Date: June

In this compelling and moving novel, the prize-winning author of ‘Out’, Natsuo Kirino (the Queen of Japanese Noir), explores the themes of love and death, and the significance of fiction in a new literary mystery.

 

 

 

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Romancing the East: A Literary Odyssey from the Heart of Darkness to the River KwaiA Literary Odyssey from Shangri-La to the River Kwai by Jerry Hopkins, Tuttle Publishing
Expected Release Date: March

However soaked in blood its history and no matter how unsettling its social conditions and poverty, Asia has never lost its irresistible attraction or mystique. It has long been an inspiration for Western novelists, so much so that more than 5000 novels have been set in Asia in the English language alone. Storied names like Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Pearl S. Buck, George Orwell, Graham Greene, E.M. Forster and many more have used their experiences in Asia as a vibrant backdrop for some of the world’s most famous works of literature. In Romancing the East,best-selling author Jerry Hopkins combines his research and his own experiences as a longtime expatriate with an intimate knowledge of Asia and offers us a unique perspective on the impact of Eastern culture in Western literature.

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A Tale for the Time Beingby Ruth Ozeki, Canongate Books/Viking Adult Expected Release Date: March

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island in Canada who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth,A Tale for the Time Being promises to be an inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

 

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Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors, NAL Trade (Penguin Group)Expected Release Date: February or April

In his international bestseller,Beneath a Marble Sky,John Shors wrote about the ancient passion, beauty, and brilliance that inspired the building of the Taj Mahal. Now with Temple of a Thousand Faces, he brings to life the legendary temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, an unrivaled marvel of ornately carved towers and stone statues. There, in a story set nearly a thousand years ago, an empire is lost, a royal love is tested, and heroism is reborn.Temple of a Thousand Faces is an unforgettable saga of love, betrayal, and survival at any cost.

 

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The Third SonA Novel by Julie Wu, Algonquin Books
Expected Release Date: April

It’s 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan where he meets a Japanese girl named Yoshiko. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both. In Saburo, author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character, a gentle soul forced to fight for everything he’s ever wanted: food, an education, and his first love, Yoshiko. A sparkling, evocative debut, it will have readers cheering.

 

 

By Tim Holm

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