20 books by Asian authors that we’re excited about in 2020

20 books by Asian authors that we’re excited about in 2020

10 January 2020

Priyanka Mogul, Literature Programme Manager

Asia House is excited to kick off another year of brilliant literature from across Asia and the diaspora. Below are just a few of the authors that we’re looking forward to reading in 2020. 

  1. An Yu, Braised Pork | 9 January 2020

    *A STYLIST BEST BOOK OF 2020* ‘So elegant and poised, so tuned to the great mysteries of love and loss. Braised Pork is a major debut.’ — John Freeman One autumn morning after breakfast, when she finds her husband dead in the bathtub, Jia Jia’s life changes in ways she could never have imagined…

  2. Jeet Thayil, Low | 23 January 2020 ‘Jeet Thayil delights not just in pushing the bounds of possibility, but in smashing them to smithereens.’ — John BurnsideFollowing the death of his wife, Dominic Ullis escapes to Bombay in search of oblivion and a dangerous new drug, Meow Meow. So begins a glorious weekend of misadventure as he tours the teeming, kaleidoscopic city from its sleek eyries of high-capital to the piss-stained streets, encountering a cast with their own stories to tell, but none of whom Ullis – his faculties ever distorted – is quite sure he can trust.Heady, heartbroken and heartfelt, Low is a blazing joyride through the darklands of grief towards obliteration – and, perhaps, epiphany.Are you as excited about ‘Low’ as we are? Join us on 20 February at Foyles to hear from the author himself in conversation with Chris Powell. Tickets now on sale here

  3. Bae Suah, Untold Night and Day | 30 January 2020

    A hypnotic, disorienting story of parallel lives unfolding over a day and a night in the sweltering heat of Seoul’s summer. Blisteringly original, Untold Night and Day is a high-wire feat of storytelling that explores the possibility of worlds beyond the one we see and feel – and shows why Bae Suah is considered one of the boldest voices in Korean literature today.

  4. Deepa Anappara, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line | 30 January 2020 ‘A brilliant debut.’ — Ian McEwan, Sunday Times bestselling author of Atonement‘Djinn Patrol is storytelling at its best.’ — Anne Enright, Booker-prize winning author of The Gathering

    When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from episodes of Police Patrol to find him. With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the sprawling Indian city; the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.

    Are you as excited about ‘Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line’ as we are? Join us on 11 February at Foyles to hear from the author herself in conversation with Sarah Shaffi. Tickets now on sale here

  5. Intan Paramaditha, The Wandering | 13 February 2020The most ingenious and unusual novel you will read all year, where you choose your own story.You’ve grown roots, you’re gathering moss. You’re desperate to escape your boring life teaching English in Jakarta, to go out and see the world. So you make a Faustian pact with a devil, who gives you a gift, and a warning. A pair of red shoes to take you wherever you want to go.You’re forever wandering, everywhere and nowhere, but where is your home?

    And where will you choose to go?

    Are you as excited about ‘The Wandering’ as we are? Join us on 31 March at Foyles to hear from the author herself. Tickets now on sale here 

  6. Aravind Adiga, Amnesty | 20 February 2020 A riveting, suspenseful, and exuberant novel from the bestselling, Man Booker Prize–winning author of The White Tiger and Selection Day about a young illegal immigrant who must decide whether to report crucial information about a murder—and thereby risk deportation. Propulsive, insightful, and full of Aravind Adiga’s signature wit and magic, Amnesty is both a timeless moral struggle and a universal story with particular urgency today. 

  7. Sairish Hussain, The Family Tree | 20 February 2020 ‘An evocative portrayal of love and family.’ — Ayisha Malik‘Hussain weaves a tale of fragility and resilience, of the extraordinary in ordinary lives and of love and complexity in family. A wonderful debut.’ — Catherine Mayer

    The Family Tree is the moving story of a British Muslim family full of love, laughter and resilience as well as all the faults, mistakes and stubborn loyalties which make us human. 

  8. Yan Lianke, Three Brothers | 5 March 2020 The English-language nonfiction debut one of China’s most highly regarded writers, winner of the Franz Kafka Prize and twice finalist for the International Booker Prize, Three Brothers is a beautiful and heart wrenching memoir of the author’s childhood and family life during the Cultural Revolution. 

  9. Catherine Cho, Inferno | 19 March 2020 When Catherine left London for the US with her husband James, to introduce her family to their newborn son Cato, she could not have envisaged how that trip would end. Catherine would find herself in an involuntary psych ward in New Jersey, separated from her husband and child, unable to understand who she was, and how she had got there.In an attempt to hold on to her sense of self, Catherine had to reconstruct her life, from her early childhood, to a harrowing previous relationship, and her eventual marriage to James.The result is a powerful exploration of psychosis and motherhood, at once intensely personal, yet holding within it a universal experience – of how we love, live and understand ourselves in relation to each other.

  10. Nazanine Hozar, Aria | 12 March 2020 This extraordinary, gripping debut is a rags-to-riches-to-revolution tale about an orphan girl’s coming of age in Iran.Nazanine Hozar’s stunning debut takes us inside the Iranian revolution–but seen like never before, through the eyes of an orphan girl. Through Aria, we meet three very different women who are fated to mother the lost child: reckless and self-absorbed Zahra, wife of the kind-hearted soldier; wealthy and compassionate Fereshteh, who welcomes Aria into her home, adopting her as an heir; and finally, the mysterious, impoverished Mehri, whose connection to Aria is both a blessing and a burden. The novel’s heart-pounding conclusion takes us through the brutal revolution that installs the Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran’s supreme leader, even as Aria falls in love and becomes a young mother herself.

  11. Cauvery Madhavan, The Tainted | 30 April 2020 ‘A moving story, compellingly told.’ — Shashi Tharoor It’s spring 1920 in the small military town of Nandagiri in southeast India. Colonel Aylmer, commander of the Royal Irish Kildare Rangers, is in charge. A distance away, decently hidden from view, lies the native part of Nandagiri with its heaving bazaar, reeking streets, and brothels. Everyone in Nandagiri knows their place and the part they were born to play–with one exception. The local Anglo-Indians, tainted by their mixed blood, belong nowhere.When news of the Black and Tans’ atrocities back in Ireland reaches the troops, even their priest cannot cool the men’s hot-headed rage. Politics vie with passion as Private Michael Flaherty pays court to Rose, Mrs. Aylmer’s Anglo-Indian maid, but mutiny brings heroism and heartbreak in equal measure. Only the arrival of Colonel Aylmer’s grandson Richard, some 60 years later, will set off the reckoning, when those who were parted will be reunited, and those who were lost will be found again.

  12. Xiaolu Guo, A Lover’s Discourse | 21 May 2020 A story of desire, love and language – and the meaning of home – told through conversations between two lovers.A Chinese woman comes to London to start a new life – away from her dead parents, away from her old world. She knew she would be lonely, but will her new relationship with the Australian-British-German landscape architect bring her closer to this land she has chosen, will their love give her a home?

  13. Dima Alzayat, Alligator and Other Stories | 28 May 2020 In Alligator and Other Stories, Dima Alzayat captures luminously the many ways of feeling displaced: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant, as a woman. Often told through the lens everyday scenarios, her stories are rich, relatable, and full of nuance. Each story is a snapshot of those moments when unusual circumstances suddenly distinguish us from our neighbours, throw into relief the fact that we are ‘other’. 

  14. Nikesh Shukla, Brown Baby | 11 June 2020 Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant (Unbound) and co-founder of The Good Literary Agency, described Brown Baby: A memoir of race, parenting and home as “the book about being a parent I would have loved to have read when my kids were born.” The book explains how he brought up his children to have positive role models of colour, to walk the line between a creative life and one that makes them enough money, and what it means to be a “feminist dad”.“At its heart, Brown Baby, will investigate the challenge of preparing children for a world beleaguered by racism, sexism and the effects of climate change, whilst also filling them with all the joy, boundlessness and eccentricity that life has to offer,” said Bluebuird. “Shukla’s grief for his late mother is woven through the text, with the author feeling her absence anew as he navigates being a parent himself.” 

  15. Elif Shafak, How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division | July 2020 In How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division, Shafak argues that twenty years ago, we lived in a time of optimism where it seemed as though fascism had been defeated and liberal democracy had triumphed. Today, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme – we have entered the age of pessimism. In a rallying cry for hopefulness, Elif Shafak explores how writing can nurture democracy, tolerance and progress. Drawing on her own experiences and drawing upon her TED talks, Shafak examines the urgent questions of our time in this passionate plea for hope and truth. “As the world becomes increasingly polarised, beset with anxiety, anger and tribalism, it’s time for us to turn to the art of storytelling for wisdom, connectivity and much-needed empathy,” says Elif Shafak.   

  16. Romalyn Ante, Antiemetic for Homesickness | 23 July 2020 Born on the fiesta of San Sebastian in her hometown of Lipa Batangas, Romalyn Ante left the Philippines at 16, when her mother – a nurse in the NHS – brought the family to the UK. The poems in her debut collection, Antiemetic for Homesickness, are a bridge between these two worlds: lush with the smells and tastes of home back in the Philippines, they piercingly explore notions of identity, homeland and heritage across cultures, languages and the place one calls home. From a talented young poet already garnering prizes and praise, this is a debut alive with vitality and possibility, a feast for the senses, and one that offers a dazzlingly unique perspective on identity in an ever-expanding world.

  17. Dima Wannous, The Frightened Ones | 11 August 2020 A timely, powerful novel from an exciting new voice in international literature; the intertwined stories of two women–who may or may not be the same person–set in present-day Syria.In her therapist’s waiting room in Damascus, Suleima meets the strange and reticent Nassim and soon the two begin a strained relationship. But when Nassim, a writer, flees Syria for Germany, he gives Suleima the manuscript for his most recent novel, whose protagonist’s life bears discomforting similarities to her own.Whose story is it? What is fact and what is fiction? Narrated in alternating chapters by Suleima and the mysterious woman in Nassim’s novel, The Frightened Ones is a probing examination of life in Assad’s Syria and the devastating effects of oppression on one’s sense of identity. 

  18. Hari Kunzru, Red Pill | 1 September 2020 From the widely acclaimed author of White Tears, a bold new novel about searching for order in a world that frames madness as truth. After receiving a prestigious writing fellowship in Germany, the narrator of Red Pill arrives in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee and struggles to accomplish anything at all. Instead of working on the book he has proposed to write, he takes long walks and binge-watches “Blue Lives”–a violent cop show that becomes weirdly compelling in its bleak, Darwinian view of life–and soon begins to wonder if his writing has any value at all. Wannsee is a place full of ghosts: across the lake the narrator can see the villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution, and in his walks he passes the grave of the Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist, who killed himself after deciding that “no happiness was possible here on earth.” When some friends drag him to a party where he meets Anton, the creator of “Blue Lives,” the narrator begins to believe that the two of them are involved in a cosmic battle, and that Anton is “red-pilling” his viewers–turning them towards an ugly, alt-rightish worldview–ultimately forcing the narrator to wonder if he is losing his mind.

  19. Sayaka Murata, Earthlings | October 2020 Set in contemporary Japan, Earthlings is the story of two children who believe they have come from outer space. Granta says: “Forcibly separated by their families, cruelly treated by the very people who should care for them, they must struggle against society to find each other again. Their reunion, when it comes, will have spectacular and violent consequences.” Sayaka was the author of Convenience Store Woman – the story of an oddball shop assistant trying to make an appearance of fitting in – has acquired cult status since it was published in 2016. It has sold more 1.5m copies in Japan alone and been translated into more than 30 languages. In the UK, it has sold 22,672 copies since July through Nielsen BookScan’s TCM, and is a regular in the Small Publishers Fiction top 20. 

  20. Osman Yousefzada, The Go-Between | 1 October 2020 The son of Afghan parents, Osman Yousefzada was raised in post-industrial Birmingham. Osman’s father was a carpenter, and his mother, to help make ends meet, took up sewing and became a seamstress. Women from Indian-East African, Israeli, Shia and Afghan communities came together in the Yousefzada household to have clothes made and mended by his mother. Osman learned the craft at her knee and became enraptured by what was deemed a woman’s job, and increasingly found himself at odds with the highly patriarchal culture he grew up in.Whether secretly bringing his sister books and magazines from the local library, lusting after forbidden jelly in the local shop, or chatting to the area’s prostitutes, Osman quietly weaved in and out of different spheres.But no one can be a go-between forever, and Osman’s is a story of finding your own way, even if it means turning your back on the world you know.


This is by no means an expansive list of the amazing literary talent being released by authors of Asian and Middle Eastern origin in 2020. Do you know of any we have missed out? Which books are you most looking forward to reading this year?

Let us know on Twitter (@asiahousearts) and we’ll tweet your answers.

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