Winter Reading 2019

Book Recommendations by Members, Speakers and Asia Society Global Staff

Winter Reading 2019

Once again we have asked around for favorite books and received recommendations from members, speakers and colleagues. Whether you are looking for fiction or non-fiction, the following list provides you with literature throughout the winter. 

Thank you to all the contributors for all the great recommendations!


Ball lightning

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu (2018 / originally appeared in Chinese 2005) [fiction]

Scientific enquiry meets the hard reality of the needs of military and commerce to harness technologies regardless of their potentially devastating impact. By author of The Three Body Problem and master of Chinese science fiction. – Recommended by Michael Jeive (Asia Society Member)


bang my car

Bang my Car by Ann Ang (2012) [fiction]

A unique example of literature written entirely in Singlish, this book's rich stories bring to life the more local and traditional side of Singapore that most visitors either miss or brush off due to the country's present. – Recommended by Martin Mosteiro Romero (Asia Society Member)



Die Reise in den Westen

Die Reise in den Westen translated by Eva Lüdi Kong (2016 / originally appeared in Chinese in the 16th century) [fiction]

Großartig. Tolle Neuübersetzung eines wilden, amüsanten, lehrreichen Klassikers – zurecht viel prämiert. – Recommended by Kai Strittmatter (author and journalist, speaker at Asia Society 2018)




Ghachar Ghochar

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (2013) [fiction]

Traces, rather subtly, the transformation of a family as they moved up the affluence ladder. – Recommended by Sarbari Dasgupta (Asia Society Member)




Ich bleibe eine Tochter des Lichts

Ich bleibe eine Tochter des Lichts by Shirin (with Alexandra Cavelius and Jan Kizilhan) (2015) [non-fiction]

Gripping story about a woman of the Yazidi people who are a minority within a minority. It is the tale of a woman who was abducted by IS terrorists and was abused and raped before she managed to escape to Germany. Insights into the region, its history and the war that is waged against women by the IS. – Recommended by Desirée Meili (Asia Society Switzerland)


Leadership and the Rise of Great Power

Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong (2019) [non-fiction]

It is a decent work by a leading Chinese scholar who explains China's foreign policies from a Chinese perspective. – Recommended by Jue Wang (Lecturer at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, Associate Fellow for Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, speaker and lecturer at Asia Society 2019)




The Anarchy

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple (2019) [non-fiction]

The question of how a relatively small group of Englishmen was able to subjugate the entire sprawling nation of India is a source of lasting disquiet. Like all of William Dalrymple's books, this history of the East India Company inspires both awe and melancholy. –; as recommended by James Crabtree (author and journalist, speaker at Asia Society 2019)



The Garden of Evening Mists

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (2011) [fiction]

An evocative book set in Malaysia dealing with many complex historical and interpersonal issues. – Recommended by Sarbari Dasgupta (Asia Society Member)




The Hidden History of Burma

The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century by Thant Myint-U (2019) [non-fiction]

A modern history of Burma that demonstrates how the weight of history, race, and economic inequality can sabotage the best of intentions for building a stable, prospering democracy. –; as recommended by James Crabtree (author and journalist, speaker at Asia Society 2019)



Devil's Dance

The Devils' Dance by Hamid Ismailov (2018) [fiction]

The Devils' Dance is the first major Uzbek work to be translated directly into English – by a translator who didn't know Uzbek before starting the project. He is fluent in Russian and Farsi though, as we learn in the epilogue. This combination must have not only helped him language wise but also in the settings of the two stories the novel intertwines: the interrogation of the real-life prominent Uzbek writer Abdulla Qodiriy by the Soviet secret police during the Great Terror in 1937, and of the marriages of the 19th century Uzbek poet-queen Oyxon. The parallels of their sufferings – the latter was married to several khans in succession – is at times a bit too ornamental for my liking and not seldom confusing, but the history it tells of this Central Asian country I know almost nothing about is absolutely fascinating. – Recommended by Serena Jung (Asia Society Switzerland)




Finished all the listed books? Find more suggestions on previous reading lists.

Summer Reading 2019

Winter Reading 2018

Summer Reading 2018

Winter Reading 2017


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