Asia in 48 Books

What I love most about summer is having time to read books I actually want to read. If you are or have been a comparative literature student, you probably know what I mean. 90 % of the time during my program, I read… and read… and read. And yet, 90 % of those books had to be written or reported about (I once had a course where I was required to read at least 3 books a week). In the end, reading without the need for highly perceptive and critical analysis turned out to be a luxury.

About a month ago, I came across author Ann Morgan’s blog A Year of Reading the World, where she read 196 books from 196 countries (!). And right around the same time, I discovered the literature map of the world where each country is represented by its most important book. It was a call for me to take up the mantle (or at least a smaller version of the mantle) and accomplish a similar project.

I was about to have two months vacation during the summer. Instead of reading the world as Morgan did, I thought focusing on the Asian region would be better — because 196 books in 2 months = no life and is that even possible, plus I’ll be doing a PhD on Asian texts anyways. The fruits of this calling are this blog and this first project.

Which books?

Making the list was a tough task. I’ve mostly chosen books according to reviews. And each time I hit a wall, I checked Morgan’s list. There are countries that do not have a lot of literature translated to English. In such cases, my options were essentially limited. All in all, I attempted in this list to diversify the period (1881 – 2019) and genre (philosophical, thriller, romance, historical etc.)

The List

I will continue to update as I read through this list. You may click some of the titles to read the reviews.

Afghanistan Earth And Ashes (2003) by Atiq Rahimi
Armenia The Fool (1881) by Raffi
Azerbaijan The Orphan Sky (2015) by Ella Leya
Bahrain Chronicles of Majnun Layla & Poems (2014) by Qassim Haddad
Bangladesh Brick Lane (2003) by Monica Ali
Bhutan The Circle of Karma (2005) by Kunzang Choden
Brunei  Written in Black (2015) by KH Lim
Burma Smile as they Bow (2008) by Nu Nu Yi
Cambodia  First They Killed My Father (2000) by Loung Ung 
China The Three Body Problem (2008) by Cixin Liu
Cyprus Ledra Street (2006) by Nora Nadjarian 
Georgia The Prose of the Mountains (2015) by Alexandre Qazbegi
India The Forest of Enchantments (2019) by Chitra Divakaruni
Indonesia  Supernova (2001) by Dee Lestari
Iran Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) by Azar Nafisi
Iraq The Corpse Exhibition & Other Stories (2014) by Hassan Blasim
Israel Homesick (2008) by Eshkol Nevo
Japan Convenience Store Woman (2016) by Sayaka Murata
Jordan Land of No Rain (2015) by Amjad Nasser
Kazakhstan The Dead Lake (2014) by Hamid Ismailov
Kuwait A Map of Home (2008) by Randa Jarrar
Kyrgyzstan Tales of the Mountains and Steppes (1963) by Chinghiz Aitmatov
Laos Mother’s Beloved (1999) by Outhine Bounyavong
Lebanon The Hakawati (2008) by Rabih Alameddine
Malaysia  The Garden of Evening Mists (2011) by Tan Twan Eng
Maldives Dhon Hiyala and Ali Fulhu (1976) by Abdoulla Sadiq
Mongolia Wolf Totem (2004) by Jiang Rong
North Korea The Accusation (2014) by Bandi
Nepal The Lazy Conman and Other Stories (2009) by Ajit Baral 
Oman Celestial Bodies (2018) by Jokha Alharthi
Pakistan Home Fire (2017) by Kamila Shamsie
Palestine Mornings in Jenin (2010) by Susan Abulhawa
Philippines  The Farm (2019) by Joanne Ramos
Qatar The Corsair (2013) by Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud
South Korea The Plotters (2010) by Un-su Kim 
Saudi Arabia The Dove’s Necklace (2010) by Raja Alem
Singapore  Ponti (2018) by Sharlene Teo
Sri Lanka The Moon in the Water (2009) by Ameena Hussein
Syria A Woman in the Crossfire (2012) by Samar Yazbek
Taiwan Notes of a Crocodile (2017) by Qiu Miaojin
Tajikistan Hurramabad (2000) by Andrei Volos
Thailand  The Sad Part Was (2017) by Prabda Yoon
Timor-Leste  The Crossing (1997) by Luis Cardoso
Turkmenistan Death of the Snake Catcher: Short Stories (2018) by Ak Welsapar
United Arab Emirates The Wink of Mona Lisa and other stories (1994) by Mohammad al Murr
Uzbekistan The Dancer from Khiva (2008) by Bibish
Vietnam Floating Lives (2012) by Ngoc Tu Nguyen
Yemen The Hostage (1984) by Zayd Mutee’ Dammaj

What’s next

I’ll be posting a weekly review for this project. Given the timeline I’ve set, I will write longer, more detailed reviews for some but not all books. Subscribe to this blog to stay updated!

Week 1 Review : Books from Afghanistan, Japan, North Korea,China, Kazakhstan, Burma


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