Asia Society Switzerland's Summer Reading List

Book Recommendations by Members and Asia Society Global Staff

With summer holidays being finally here, it is time for our second round of book recommendations as there is hardly a better way to enjoy this season than reading a gripping book outside.

We decided to ask the members of Asia Society Switzerland as well as our colleagues at the Asia Society Centres around the world to tell us what their favourite book (fiction and/or non-fiction) from or about Asia is.

We have gathered the following selection of recommendations which hopefully will get you covered for this summer season:


The Girl with Seven Names. A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee (2015)
«An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.» –; as recommended by Anita Fahrni (Member of Asia Society Switzerland)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (2016)
«A heartbreaking novel about family, memories and the repercussions of the cultural revolution in 1960's China.» – recommended by a Member of Asia Society Switzerland



Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee. A Life by Matthew Polly (2018)
«I have to confess that martial arts movies send me to sleep! But who can’t be interested in such a cultural icon as Bruce Lee?  This is a very serious and well-researched biography (with lots of great photos) of a pop culture icon who deserves more recognition for the stereotypes and barriers he challenged and broke through.»– Anne Kirkup (Asia Society New York)


Wild Swans

Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (1991)
«The amazing story of three women in China from the late 19th century to the early 1990s. A must read for people interested in Chinese history.» – recommended by a Member of Asia Society Switzerland



The House of Trembling Leaves

The House of Trembling Leaves by Julian Lee (2013)
«Former stockbroker turned author Julian Lees has an innate sense of bygone eras that he evokes effortlessly in his writing, perhaps because his own life is steeped in history that stretches from Russia and China to Hong Kong. Great reading, excellent background learning about Chinese, Russian history and connecting roots in Macao.» – Roger Groebli (Member of Asia Society Switzerland)


Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)
«I couldn't decide if this was a love story, an adventure story or pure fantasy but I loved every genre-bending moment. The book follows Nadia and Saeed on a journey from their war-torn city (in what we assume to be the middle east) to the west through a series of mystical doors. With each new door comes a new location, Mykonos, London, San Fransisco, and in turn a new challenge for this young couple. For the reader, the doors bring a growing appreciation of this dystopian near future. War, global warming and massive population flow from the global south to the 'west' have turned Nadia and Saeed's world on its head. It can be bleak and confusing, but suspend all belief and enjoy. This is a story about humanity, hope and kindness.» – Jette Radley (Asia Society Australia)

A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (2008)
«Tatsumi's graphic novel/memoir charts his sentimental education as he becomes a professional manga artist and, through his struggles to realize the full possibilities of the form, establishes the gekiga style of more realistic comics. A sharply drawn on-the-ground portrait of the ascendance of manga in postwar Japan and a group of frustrated young artists struggling to define themselves, and make a living, through their work.» – Michael Buening (Asia Society Texas)


The Third Revolution

The Third Revolution. Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth C. Economy (2018)
«If you have been following China professionally for the last few years, Economy's book might not provide you with a lot of new insights. But for part-time China watchers (like myself), it is a very useful synthesis of the major changes happening under President Xi Jinping.» – Nico Luchsinger (Asia Society Switzerland)


Human Acts

Human Acts by Han Kang (2017)
«The «Gwangju Uprising» is one of the great collective tragedies in South Korea. The images of military violence against protesters and the deaths of children and students bring every hard-boiled Korean to tears immediately. Han Kang, known to not shy away from brutality, masters to give account of the uprising and its aftermath with tenderness and in detail. Through the perspectives of seven characters she gives us a lecture in both history and empathy.» – Serena Jung (Asia Society Switzerland)

To The Last Round

To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951 by Andrew Salmon (2009)
«As the only account devoted exclusively to this now-legendary action, this remarkable narrative is an essential and historically invaluable resource for those interested in military history.» –, as recommended by a Member of Asia Society Switzerland

Finished all the listed books? Find more suggestions on our Winter Book List 2017/2018.

Share your book recommendations!

We are always eager to receive your highly appreciated book suggestions, just write us an e-mail to

Thank you very much in advance for your recommendations!