The Best Asian Books of 2013

Adrienne Loftus Parkins

Adrienne Loftus Parkins

The Best Asian Books of 2013

02 January 2014

Adrienne Loftus Parkins, Director of the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature, picks her top Asian fiction and non-fiction books of 2013. 

2013 was a great year for Asian Literature. With books by Asian authors long and short-listed for important literary prizes, Asian Lit has taken a big step forward towards international recognition.

Kicking off the choices of the best of 2013 are two novels by Pakistani authors.

Among my favourite reads this year was The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam.  Set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, this is a powerful and moving portrait of love, terror and the toll taken on families by political strife.

Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a very clever, brilliant novel in which the author uses the format of a self-help book to outline how a young man should live a successful life. His pursuit of money and inter class love are symptoms of the changes we are seeing in societies across Asia.

Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire is another compelling book about the race to become rich – here Aw charts the overlapping lives of Malaysian migrant workers trying to live out their dreams in a tough-minded, hard-hearted  Shanghai.

Short-listed for the Costa first book award, Sathnam Sanghera’s Marriage Material is my choice of the best British Asian book of the year. It is the tender and humorous story of two generations of a British Punjabi family set in a corner store in the Wolverhampton.

Sathnam Sanghera’s 'Marriage Material'

Sathnam Sanghera’s ‘Marriage Material’

The final fiction choices are Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, an epic tale of courtesans, revolution, love, greed and the fall of China’s Imperial Dynasty;  Jhumpa Lahiri’s immigrant’s story, The Lowland and Ruth Ozeki’s imaginative A Tale for the Time Being.

On the non-fiction front, there were almost too many to choose from. We at Asia House loved William Dalrymple’s Return of a King-The Battle for Afghanistan, Shereen el Feki’s journey into intimate life in the Arab World, Sex and the Citadel and the brilliantly researched The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 by Samuel Johnson Prize winner, Frank Dikötter.

Two very moving accounts of great tragedy, Wave: A Memoir of Life After the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala and The Siege: Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy round up our list of the must reads of 2013.

Best Asian Books 2013

Watch out for the list of books I am looking forward to reading in 2014 – coming very soon.