After the events of last week, I wanted to recommend a few books by Asian authors that I’ve read recently and absolutely fallen in love with. I know this is not much but if it can encourage you to spread love not hate, and to diversify your shelves, then that’s a small step.
Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It follows Chloe, a college students, who decides to rent a boyfriend in order to escape an arranged marriage with a boy she despises. Except when she signs that contract, she might get more than she bargained for… Following the dual perspective of Chloe and Drew, an art student who plays fake boyfriend in order to earn a living, this book is the fake dating trope by excellence. Because of course, they’re going to fall in love and will have to get of the tangled mess of lies they have put themselves in!
I also really enjoyed Gloria Chao’s previous book American Panda which is a college romance as well.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
I gotta start by admitting that I was afraid of picking up this book because I was worried that it was going to be too cliché. I’ve seen my fair share of kdrama, and I was a bit worried but that was for no reason! This book was absolutely amazing and I love it with all my heart. It has fat rep and queer rep, an amazing cast of diverse characters, friendships, a kpop competition, and of course, a cute romance. This was such a feel-good book, and I am so glad that I discovered it.
On a side note, if you have enjoyed this one and would like to check out some other kpop related books, then I would recommend Scandalized by Tara Frejas! I read it a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. You should definitely read it if you like romance books with drama on the side!
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
This was one of my most anticipated reads for the year and boy did I not disappoint. It’s a historical fiction set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s, and we follow 17 year-old Lily Hu who discovered a lesbian night club called the Telegraph Club with one of her classmates in the midst of navigating her own sexuality as well as her parents’ expectations. It’s the story of a girl who wants to build aircrafts, and who falls in love with a girl who dreams of flying one, and I think that’s pretty cool. This is hands down one of my favourite reads of the year so far.
I’ve been dying to read Malinda Lo’s book Ash for years, and now I want to read it even more. It’s a queer retelling of Cinderella, and I’m really curious about it.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
I wanted to include at least one middle grade book on this list! Of course, it could have been Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah, but I talk about this one enough, and I decided to pick a standalone instead. Dragon Pearl is a blend of science fiction and Korean mythology. We follow thirteen year-old Min who comes from a family of gumiho (shapeshifter foxes). As her brother goes missing, she will do anything to find him, and potentially right the wrong that has been done to him and their family. This book was full of adventures and plot twists and I really enjoyed it.
Yoon Ha Lee is also the author of adult sci-fi series Ninefox Gambit and Phoenix Extravagant which I’m really curious about!
Displacement by Kiku Hughes
How could I also not include this graphic novel in my post? I simply had to. Through the story, we follow the main characters as she embarks on a journey to discover what happened to her grandmother during the second world war, as she was relocated in a Japanese-American internment camp. This book was heartbreaking and eye-opening, and one more reminder that we shouldn’t forget the past, and stop replicating it so much. A must read.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
I feel like I don’t talk about this book enough on here. It’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai as a strange sickness have appeared, and we follow the heirs of two rival gangs. The setting is both glamorous and dangerous, and makes for an absolutely stunning book. Yes, enemies to lovers is the superior trope, but lovers to enemies? Mutual pining despite the very fact that you very much don’t want those feelings? Excellence, I am telling you. Add on top of that a brilliant cast of diverse characters, a plot that thickens with every page, and there you have it. I cannot wait for the sequel. (Warning: as expected from the title, this book can get quite violent, but if you don’t mind the graphic depictions of body gore then what are you waiting for? It is absolutely brilliant.)
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
This was my latest read! After seeing so many people recommend it on bookstagram, I finally decided to give it a try, and what can I say, y’all were right. This book is absolutely excellent. It’s a high fantasy set in a land inspired by the history of China, and its military strategies and collective trauma. The world building is super fascinating and I simply couldn’t put it down. I have ordered the sequel already, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. [TW: graphic depictions of violence and rape.]
In addition to that here’s on top of my head some more books I also absolutely loved and encourage you to read!
Frankly in Love by David Yoon: in a few words, a YA coming-of-age with fake dating. This book was super cute and moving and I cannot recommend it enough.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (or really, any book by this author. She is fantastic and I cannot wait for her next release which is this time going to be SFF!) [TW: anxiety, depression, suicide.]
On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: this was one of my favourite reads of 2020. It’s a letter from a son to his mother, it’s queer, and the writing is absolutely beautiful.
And finally Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan which is another book that stayed on my mind for a while after I finished it. It deals with quite heavy topics such as depression and suicide but it was also such an important read. [TW: suicide, depression.]
And bonus: on top of my TBR: Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho and The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which I all cannot wait to read!