12 books by Asian authors for your holiday gifts and beyond

Asian North American literature is rich and diverse, and we have a list to prove it: perfect for last minute gifts for the bookworms in your life, or your 2020 reading list.

You have some bookworms in your life and you know that they’d love a book for Christmas, but which one?

Or maybe you want to read more books as part of your New Year’s Resolutions and want a little bit more diversity on your reading list?

The good news is that nowadays, there are a growing number of excellent books by Asian authors. Here are some books that would make for good gifts this season, or perfect additions for your New Year’s reading list.

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Mythology, but make it Asian

Sure, everyone knows about the Greek gods, but what about Asian mythology and monsters?

The Dragon Warrior, Katie Zhao 

Chinese mythology was never this fun, fresh, and funky. Lunar New Year takes a turn when suddenly demons appear and the legends are confirmed; the Chinese gods (and monsters) are real. And in the midst of it all, a ragtag team of preteens who might change everything, if they can stop arguing among each other.

Wicked Fox, Kat Cho 

High school is hard enough, but throw Korean folklore creatures into the mix and you get a whole new level of difficulty. This fantasy set in modern day Seoul follows a girl who is half gumiho, nine-tailed fox that drains human energy to survive, a human boy she rescues, and the consequences that follow afterwards.

Frothy Rom-Coms

Ah, young love. Remember high school crushes and the feeling of invincible youth? Revisit those moments with these two fluttering, refreshing books. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han 

Read the original book that spurred the Netflix movie that took the world by storm (and its upcoming two sequels)! Lara Jean is a classic romantic who lives vicariously by writing letters to crushes until one day, they’re sent out. Thus begins the story of a fake relationship, real emotions, and the sweet rush of realizing one’s feelings. 

Read the whole series:

When Dimple met Rishi, Sandhya Menon

Arranged marriage, meet modern time and one romantic and someone who wants nothing to do with romance (for now). This endearing book swept up several awards when it came out in 2017 and its themes of culture and passion still ring true today. Read it to find out why so many readers adore this story. 

Romance versus the world

These two books take romance and pit them against very real difficulties of circumstances or environment. 

The Bride Test, Helen Hoang

This spicy romance features a character with autism, a half-Vietnamese girl who comes to the States to woo him, and the quirks of adjusting to a new culture, or perhaps a familiar one.

Immersive, bluntly realistic, and with a romance that shines all the brighter with its difficulties, Hoang secures her position as a promising romance writer. 

A Girl Like That, Tanaz Bhathena 

Set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this book will sear itself into your mind. Context warning: this is a heavy book that tackles abuse, rape culture, and mental health through the voice of an Indian girl who is severely misunderstood and three students around her.

Though it traverses to dark spaces, the author writes with a gracious hand that will devastate and soothe readers through the characters’ interactions, romantic and otherwise. 

Existential quarter-life crises

Are we merely floating or chasing after something, and in the end, does it matter? If you’re going through your quarter life crisis, add these two books to your reading list to feel a bit less alone. 

Somewhere Only We Know, Maurene Goo 

A K-Pop star meets an average boy who’s actually working for the paparazzi, and a Roman Holiday-esque tale ensues as the characters have a whirlwind of a day in glittering Shanghai. Along the way, both characters address their careers, or lack thereof, and how passion fits into what they do. 

Permanent Record, Mary HK Choi 

A grittier take on pop star meets plebeian boy, this time set in New York and featuring a slightly older cast. It’s also been announced that Jon M. Chu, director of Crazy Rich Asians, is going to bring this story to life!

Be sure to meet Pablo, Lee, and their curious relationship ahead of the movie by getting the book.

Beautiful words

Dive into a world of rich descriptions and exquisite emotions with these two books whose words blossom as they pull you further into the story. 

Natalie Tan’s Book of Love and Fortune, Roselle Lim 

Chinatown’s gentrification, delicious recipes, food descriptions to make you hungry, and a sweet romance swirl together to this beautifully written gem of a debut novel.

Though it was released this year, it’s already been picked to become a TV show with Warner Bros TV. Before its launch, make sure to get familiar with Natalie, her magical food, and her community.  

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong 

This award-winning poet gives prose a spin, and you can tell: Vuong’s phrases carry the hyper-focused intensity found in poetry while also pushing forward the story of Little Dog’s coming of age.

Historical fiction

As Asian authors write books, Asian-American and Asian-Canadian history is also rising in visibility and importance. These two books immerse us in lesser known history, teaching us beyond our high school textbooks. 

The Downstairs Girl, Stacey Lee

Atlanta, the 1890’s. As segregation and women’s rights simmer in the city, protagonist Jo starts up an anonymous advice column that stirs up controversial opinions, even from her disadvantageous position as an Asian woman.

This book is charming and thought-provoking while shining a light on a lesser known piece of American history.

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee 

Starting in Korea with Sunja, a teenage girl who falls in love with a wealthy businessman, this massive epic then moves to Japan as the consequences of her relationship unwind four generations down.

This award-winning book was picked up by Apple for a series while also sweeping up awards and much deserved attention. It’s a thick book of interlocking stories that move swiftly through the years and one worth the read. 

Remember that gift cards are always an option as well! Be sure to recommend these titles and continue to support Asian authors this Christmas and beyond.

Don’t forget to check out Cold Tea Reads and the first book of our inaugural book club, Ali Wong’s Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life.

Stay tuned for our next Cold Tea Reads meet up in Vancouver in January 2020 (registration link coming soon).

Photo by Andrew Le on Unsplash.

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