10 Must-Read Novels Set in Asia

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With so many good books about Asia, picking the best ten books seems like a daunting task. This list provides ten of the best novels set in Asia by iconic writers that reflect the colorful culture and traditions of the region.

1. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005) by Lisa See is set in a county in Hunan, China in the 19th century. Two girls find solace in friendship and camaraderie by writing messages on silk fans.

2. The Glass Palace (2000) by Amitav Ghosh is set during the British invasion of Burma in 1885. A boy named Rajkumar creates his own empire in the forest, but the royal family was later banished. During his exile, he met and fell in love with Dolly. Years later, he searches for her.

3. An Artist of the Floating World (1986) by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the life story of artist Masuji Ono, who was also a propagandist for the Japanese Empire during the wars. He struggles to find meaning in life now that he has no one and nothing to live for.

4. Spring Snow (1969) by Yukio Mishima narrates the life of Kiyoaki of the Ayakura family who is torn between tradition and change. He discovers that he has fallen deeply in love with Satoko who was engaged to the royal prince.

5. The God of Small Things (1998) by Indian author Arundhati Roy is about fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel. The story shifts from when the twins were young to the present. As the title implies, it shows how small things can change people for the rest of their lives.

6. A Suitable Boy (1993) by Vikram Seth tells of Lata’s search for the most suitable boy to marry with the help of her mother Rupa Mehra. In the story, the lives of four families are intertwined in love, sadness, joy and forgiveness.

7. The Dream of the Red Chamber (1791) by Cao Xueqin is one of the most-read books of all time. Written during the Qing Dynasty, it narrates the life of two branches of the wealthy family of Jia, the Rongguo and the Ningguo.

8. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994) by Haruki Murakami tells of Toru Okada’s search, first for his wife’s missing cat, then for his missing wife. His search led him to the strange netherworld in Tokyo.

9. A Single Shard (2001) by Linda Sue Park is a story of Tree-Ear and Min. Tree-Ear is curious about the work of the potters in the village, one of them being Min. One day Tree-Ear accidentally breaks a box and pledges to work to pay for the item.

10. The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea (1963) by Pearl S. Buck is set in Korea after the end of World War II. Stories from four generations of the aristocratic family, Kim, show the resiliency of the country.

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