Winter Reading 2023
Book Recommendations by Members, Speakers, and Asia Society Global Staff
As we approach the winter solstice and evenings get darker and colder, we asked our colleagues, speakers, and friends for book recommendations to warm our hearts throughout the long nights. Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, the following ten treasures will lighten your cold season.
Thanks to all contributors for the great recommendations!
1587, A Year of No Significance by Ray Huang [non-fiction, available in German]
It's a masterful piece of non-fiction that, while recounting the "year of no significance," offers a compelling and very readable portrait of elite politics and mores in the Ming dynasty as a whole. – Recommended by Jessica Batke (Asia Society staff)
China's European Headquarters. Switzerland and China during the Cold War by Anne Knüsel [non-fiction]
The book analyses how the People's Republic of China used Switzerland as headquarters for its economic, political, intelligence, and cultural networks in Europe during the Cold War. By tracing the development of Sino-Swiss relations, the author sheds new light on China's formulation and implementation of foreign policy in Europe, Latin America and Africa and Switzerland's efforts to align neutrality, humanitarian engagement, and economic interests. – Recommended by Thomas Hua
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa [fiction, available in German and Italian]
A moving international sensation about new beginnings, human connection, and the joy of reading. Easy read, uplifting and a must for all book(shop) lovers! – Recommended by Sepinod Forghani (Asia Society Corporate Member)
Early Indians by Tony Joseph [non-fiction]
Offers a series of revelations on South Asian pre-history. Connecting the earliest human migrations to the Indus Valley Civilization to modern day anthropology using archeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence. It is thoroughly sourced from the newest peer reviewed research. – Recommended by Prashanth Kanduri
From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia by Pankaj Mishra [non-fiction, available in German]
A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world. It’s about 10 years old but still a very good read. – Recommended by Shirin Sabahi (artist and speaker at Big Picture in April 2023)
This year is the occasion of the 95th anniversary of Chyngyz Aitmatov's birth, famous writer from Kyrgyzstan (and quite possibly the most famous person from Kyrgyzstan) – also very well known in German-speaking regions. Difficult to recommend just one of his novels but the most famous ones are "Jamilia", "The day lasts more than a hundred years", "Farewell Gulsary". To summarise just one, Jamilia has often been described as "the most beautiful love story in the world" and is a deeply touching portrayal of rural life in Kyrgyzstan during the Second World War. I was surprised to learn that most of the characters in Aitmatov's books, including Jamilia, are based on real-life people that lived in the village where he grew up! – Recommended by Seraina Petersen (Asia Society Member, Gen A Fellow 2021)
Also find her own book about Kyrgyzstan, including links to music by local artists from Central Asia, here!
Life of a Counterfeiter by Yasushi Inoue [fiction, available in German and Italian]
A journalist is commissioned to write a biography for the anniversary of a famous artist’s death. During his research, he finds himself connecting the dots of another man’s (the counterfeiter’s) life. Strong post-World War II vibes. Poetic, nostalgic, sad, and yet intriguingly beautiful. – Recommended by Manuela Coldesina (Asia Society staff)
Invaluable resource for students, researchers, and journalists to understand this critical issue of U.S. foreign policy. – Recommended by Simona Grano (Senior Fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis and speaker at STATE OF ASIA 2023)
The House of Doors by Tan Than Eng [fiction, available in Italian]
From the bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Garden of Evening Mists, a spellbinding novel about love and betrayal, colonialism and revolution, storytelling and redemption. Very evocative, lush descriptions. – Recommended by Tim Stanley (Asia Society Member)
Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada [fiction]
Short but powerful read. A view of parenthood, or rather motherhood, and the societal tropes and norms connected to it, as told through a man (not yet a father)‘s view, drawing parallels to featured animals, among which figure - surprise, surprise - weasels. – Recommended by Manuela Coldesina (Asia Society staff)
Finished all the listed books? Find more suggestions on previous reading lists.
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