Asian literature has always been as rich and diverse as the continent’s individual regions. From Japan’s historical masterpieces to India’s Booker Prize winning entries to Singapore’s glitzy satiricals, Asian literature is one of the most engaging and enjoyable continental literature offerings!
Asian lit is also wonderfully accessible, with novels of all difficulty levels available for easy purchase both online and in Aussie bookstores, so for people looking to get into Haruki Murakami, Aravind Adiga and Kevin Kwan books, here are four Asian novels you should read right now:
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s incredible masterpiece is as haunting as it is enriching, being a lament on lost time and love. The story centres around Toru Watanabe, as he recalls his youth upon arriving in Tokyo to study drama without any motive for doing it.
Watanabe recounts two relationships with two very different girls: Naoko, a beautiful yet emotionally-exhausted girl who Watanabe falls for after the death of his friend (and Naoko’s boyfriend), Kizuki; and Midori, a bright and outgoing young girl who is the antithesis of the withdrawn Naoko.
The perfect place to start your Asian lit adventure, Norwegian Wood is a touching-yet-troubling account of the youth most of us eventually long to rekindle.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Now a solid Netflix film (but you should definitely read the novel first), The White Tiger is the perfect introduction to at least beginning to understand India’s complex and routinely cruel class system.
Balram Halwai is a man from a poor Indian family who seeks to make it as a successful businessman. Along the way, he becomes the driver for a family of rich landlords, working his way toward success utilising some unscrupulous means of his own.
Winner of the 2008 Booker Prize, The White Tiger is a fascinating look at class and corruption in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But, seriously, do yourself a favour and read the book first – Adiga’s prose provides a morbidly funny look into the tragedies of modern India that makes it a truly engrossing read.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Okay, hands up if you knew about the megahit film before the book? I’ll admit to it, and, of course, it was hard not to think about the film’s buzzing and vibrant vision when attempting to read the book for the first time, but it was totally worth it!
The novel takes the time to further explore distinctions between old and new money, as well as containing far more depth and extended plotlines in contrast to its condensed movie counterpart, so it basically creates a much more profound world in which these crazy rich Singaporeans operate – something which is a helluva lotta fun for people who already adored the film!
But, if you haven’t experienced either, we recommend doing the reverse and reading the book first: it will give you a much broader understanding of the story’s social and economic context before you treat yourself with a super awesome film that deserves every bit of its USD 238 million gross.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Keiko Furukura is a little strange, or at least her friends and family think she is. They can’t understand why the 36-year old won’t try and find a husband, a respectable job, anything to get her out of the “rut” that is working at one of Japan’s famous convenience stores.
What they fail to understand, however, is that Keiko has finally found a sense of purpose working at the Smile Mart, and she really doesn’t want that to change… a fascinating look into the kind of life people don’t seek to learn more about, Convenience Store Woman is a quirky and fun tale from one of Japan’s premier contemporary novelists.