Asia in 48 Books

From July to August, I will be reading 48 books from 48 different Asian countries, at a pace of 4-6 books per week. The goal is to produce a weekly review in line with this project.


Books from Afghanistan, Japan, North Korea, China, Kazakhstan, Burma

A novella about the effects of war ; a story about a weird convenience store worker; snippets of the daily lives of North Koreans; a hard sci-fi set in the Cultural Revolution; and a gay fiction banned for more than a decade — this is the first week's reading list of my Asian in 48 books project.

“The Three-Body Problem” by Cixin Liu – a book review

Despite my undeniable lack of expertise and love for this particular subject, I have fallen in love with Cixin Liu's hard sci-fi novel which takes as its inspiration the orbital mechanics dilemma of predicting the movements of three bodies whose gravitational fields collide (phew!) — the so-called Three-Body problem.

“The Accusation : Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea” by Bandi – a book review

To be able to publish one's short stories outside North Korea while residing within its very totalitarian walls is a feat in itself, and one that takes immense courage. But what makes Bandi's collection of short stories even more exceptional is its portrayal of the everyday lives of those who live in and under a communist regime — circumstances seemingly mundane are narrated in a strong dissident voice that refuses to bow down to the "naturalness" of their diurnal oppression.

“Killing Commendatore” by Haruki Murakami – a book review

A disturbing number of references to breasts, cats in cameo roles and psychedelic reveries (and realities) — Killing Commandatore is without doubt a Murakami novel. The narrator, a painter in his thirties seemingly disconnected from the social world yet in touch with art, music and literature, quite easily joins the genealogy of this writer's characters. But while these classic pointers exist, accompanied with the celebrated Japanese author's signature surreal existentialism, this novel ultimately fails to stand at par with his other works. In the end, the "naturalness" with which Murakami writes unnaturalness is bogged down by unnecessary repetitions, convoluted narrative lines and unsatisfactory endings.