Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best Asian Books of the Decade?

After my blog post about The Times list of best books of the decade, I got chatting to Adrienne Loftus-Parkins* about how there should be more Asian books on the list. I said that we should have a list of Asian best books, and Adrienne took up the challenge, writing to me later :
Hi Sharon,

Okay here is a first pass, nothing is in any particular order (yet) and its absolutely not ready for publication. I'm sending to get your input - particularly re the ones I haven't read (but am sure you have) and any others I don't know about. Please add whatever you'd like to, and mark the ones you completely disagree with. Then I'll take another pass at it.

Thanks, have fun with it.


PS You'll see that I've included a couple of British Asian books - occupational hazard of living in London!

The Best Asian Books of the Decade :

Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

Temptations of the West – How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond by Pankaj Mishra

Silk Road by Colin Thubron

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

Beijing Coma – Ma Jian

The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

The Temple-Goers by Aatish Taseer

Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

Inspector Chen Series by Qiu Xiaolong

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra ( but a touch too long)

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry ( not as good as A Fine Balance – isn’t it time he wrote another book?)

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Butcher and Bolt by David Loyn – excellent primer on Afghanistan

Greetings from Bury Park: Race Religion and Rock and Roll by Sarfraz Mansoor

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Snow by Orhan Pamuk (although I feel My Name is Red is better, this one is more relevant to contemporary Turkey)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

The White Moghuls by William Dalrymple

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts but could have been abou t30% shorter

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

China Road by Rob Gifford

Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century by Will Hutton

God’s Terrorists by Charles Allen (fascinating although the author felt he could have done better)

Holy Warriors: A Journey into the Heart of Indian Fundamentalism by Edna Fernandes

Khandahar Cockney by James Fergusson – eye opening book about the life of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan

I might not have suggest these but people suggested them ( ie I don’t think they are as great as other people do!):

Brick Lane by Monica Ali – not so sure about this one, but a number of people suggested it.

Persepolis: The Story of an Iranian Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart

Ones I haven’t read but I understand are noteworthy.

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

The Boat by Nam Le

Madwoman on the Bridge by Su Tong

Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan

Once on the Shore by Paul Yoon

The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim

The Assassin’s Song by MG Vassanji

Imperial Life in The Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
So now I kick the list over to you - which books do you think should have been included on the list? Which titles would you vote for and why?

Postscript :

Let me also slip in this link to Asian Literary Review editor Chris Woods' list of best books of 2009 [via] which has some excellent Asian titles on it.

*A correction needed here. Adrienne's company is The Asian Word and the Lit fest is only one of Adrienne's products. She curates other Asian literature events at other venues in London (current projects are at the National Portrait Gallery and at Kings Place) as well as the first Asian women's literature festival which will take place in London in October / November and will be produced in partnership with the Pan Asian Women's Association (PAWA). More about these projects later.


cj'alhafiz said...

have a visit to my blog, sis..

Michelle said...

I'd definitely vouch for The Gift of Rain. That was one of my favourite reads of the year. I thought Persepolis was quite good, but I'm not sure how it compares with the rest on that list. The Harmony Silk Factory was an okay read as well, though not exactly great.

For me, though, this is more like a list of what to read, I haven't read a whole lot of it yet.

Oxymoron said...

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong.

poppadumdum said...

"Breaking The Tongue" by Singaporean Vyvyanne Loh (wish she'd change the spelling of her "Vyvyanne" - makes her sound like a perfume-counter salesgirl in Sungai Wang)

"Laws of Evening" - Mary Yukari Waters

sri said...

animal's people

the life of pi (is that asian?)

and i thought family matters was gorgeous. much better than the bollywood drama of a fine balance

Greenbottle said...

there are at least two non fiction books here;Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta which is a very very good travel book on bombay and another travel book by colin thubron.

if the list is meant for fiction these two travel books have to be taken out although they are probably better read than some of the fiction in the list.

bibliobibuli said...

"animal's people" should be there. "life of Pi" no - written by a canadian even if first part set in India.

greenbottle - yes there is non-fiction in there. perhaps there are other nf titles you would include?

Greenbottle said...

yes, these two could be up there with the best:-

1) tim mackintosh-smith's the hall of a thousand columns : hindustan to malabar with ibn battuth (pub. 2005)

2) the last mughal: the fall of a dynasty: delhi 1857 (pub. 2006)

glenda larke said...

Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies. How could that one not be there????? Just because he now lives in NY or something?

Chet said...

It's quite a balanced list of countries represented. Genres, too.

I like that Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen Series is on the list.

And of course, YiYun Li's The Vagrants.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks Greenbottle, Glenda.

"Sea of Poppies" should certainly be there. this is a list of first thoughts to be added to and debated.

Josette said...

What about Lovers and Strangers Revisited by Robert Raymer? I really like the short stories in it! :)

Arkaan said...


Chen said...

Balanced list of countries maybe, but not languages...