For those who need drama
The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth (2019) by Veeraporn Nitiprapha
Veeraporn Nitiprapha’s award-winning novel about betrayal, loss and love feels like a Thai soap opera but reads like poetry. Chareeya and Chalika’s father die after being separated from his mistress; and their mother follows suite because of depression. Thus begins a series of seemingly endless tragedies that would befall the sisters, tragedies from which they escape by devouring everything, from food to music, in order to nourish their inner emptiness. Amidst it all is a boy, in love with one, loved by the other. Poignant and relatable, this book will move even the most unemotional.
For the thrill-seekers
Death in Midsummer and other stories (1953) by Yukio Mishima
Yukio Mishima is one of the most revered authors in Japan, most known as a master short-story writer and playwright. This collection begins with the titular story about a couple who goes to a resort for vacation, only to have their two kids taken from them by a freak fatal accident. With sex spectacles, ritual suicides and former lover encounters, this gruesome, tragic and often surrealist anthology is sure to keep you at the edge of your plane seat.
For those in the pursuit of truth
Fish-hair woman (2012) by Merlinda Bobis
What is true in the stories we tell ourselves? What is fictive in the truth we tell others? To call this novel a simple account of a historical war in the Philippines would not do it justice. A love story, a political thriller and a supernatural tale all at once, this novels tells the story of Estrella who trawls the casualties of the war from the river with her twelve-metre hair. Bobis’ style of writing, poetic and self-conscious, will surely keep you hooked as you try to get down to the bottom of the truth.
For those who wish to forget the past
The Remains of the Day (1989) by Kazuo Ishiguro
An ageing butler’s journey towards his past brings him closer to the importance of the present. Told in the perspective of Steven, a self-proclaimed first-rate butler of the Darlington Mansion, this novel speaks to the question of dignity, of service and of love. Nobel-prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro ingeniously crafts a work that seems more a memoir than a fictive imagination of the mind. Beautiful yet simple, his words come out of the book to bring its readers to a universe of sublime confusion and wanderings.
For those who have had enough of normalcy
Convenience Store Woman (2018) by Sayaka Murata
Keiko is a single woman in her thirties who has been working in a convenience store for 18 years — and contrary to what everyone seems to think, she is not miserable. In a society where people are expected to act in a “normal” way, Keiko devises a plan to make sure she won’t be ostracized. This novel is short, but packs a powerful, often disturbing, punch.
Do comment below for recommendations of other Asian books you’ve read that fit the summer vibe!