Summer is already halfway over, but there’s still some time to read before September rolls around. Here are twenty books by Asian and Asian American authors that are perfect for relaxing on the beach or getting your heart racing on a hot summer night.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
“It was the most incredible feeling ever, knowing that something I wrote actually changed someone’s life.”
Mia Tang is ten years old and works the front desk of the Calivista Motel while her parents tirelessly clean and manage for the money-hungry, mean-spirited owner Mr. Yao. At night, her parents let immigrants board in the motel’s empty rooms for free at the risk of losing their jobs and home. When one the guests gets into trouble with the police, Mia is compelled to fight back against injustice through her love of words and writing.
Based on the author’s life, Front Desk tells the story of a young, first-generation Chinese American immigrant who learns that through compassion and diligence she can positively change the lives of those around her.
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Sometimes light illuminates things that are better left in the dark.”
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah lives with her mother in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture in Atlanta. Aru’s tendency to stretch the truth gets her in trouble one day when three classmates show up at her doorstep and dare her to light the cursed Lamp of Bharata. When Aru unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken Shiva, the god of destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother become frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
Fun fact: Paramount bought the film rights for Chokshi’s book. We might see this story on the big screen in the near future!
The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio
“Lola has this favorite saying: Home is where your heart is. If that’s true, then my home is wherever I am.”
Lou Bulosa shares a room with her mother at her grandmother’s home in San Francisco. Pining for a place of her own where she can escape her lovable but large extended Filipino family, Lou plans to build a tiny house on the small patch of land she inherited from her late white father. When her mom receives a job offer in Washington and back taxes threaten to take Lou’s land away, Lou rallies her friends and family to make her dream a reality.
The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang
“We have memories of things that never happened, DJ. I have memories of my mom being alive after she died, and you have memories of a stepdad who doesn’t even exist. Don’t you think we should figure out why? What it means?”
Sophia cherishes all of her memories of her mother, even the impossible ones that shouldn’t exist because her mother died when she was six. When Sophia gets assigned a school research project on solar eclipses, she becomes convinced that the upcoming solar eclipse will grant her the opportunity to make her alternate life come true, to enter a parallel world where her mother never died. With the help of two misfit boys, she must figure out a way to bring her mother back to her—before the opportunity is lost forever.
The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
“We humans may not be powerful or magical, but the stories we pass on to our children can be.”
Kiran is an average sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey. That is, until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden. After meeting a pair of Indian princes (who insist that they’re there to rescue her), Kiran travels to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers in an effort to rescue her parents.
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
“Ten thousand years of stomach gas.”
Fourteen-year-old Peasprout Chen dreams of becoming a legend of wu liu, the deadly and beautiful art of martial arts figure skating. As one of the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout knows she has some pretty big skates to fill. All she has to do is keep up with her studies, protect her younger brother Cricket, prove her innocence when she’s accused of vandalism and spying without breaking the peace between Shin and Pearl—oh, and become a champion while at it.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
“If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms.”
August 2018 is Asian rom-com month with the releases of film adaptations of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Crazy Rich Asians (which is also unsurprisingly on this list). If you’d like to read the book before the movie drops, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before will be available on Netflix on August 17.
“Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.”
My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
“As much as I love Bollywood damsels in distress, I don’t need saving. I’m my own hero.”
Winnie Mehta believed that Raj was destined to be with her. After all, their love was literally written in the stars and prophesied by a pandit. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she learns that her boyfriend of three years was hooking up with another classmate. Worse, Raj is crowned chair of the student film festival, a spot Winnie was counting on for her film school applications. But when Winnie reconnects with a fellow film geek Dev and falls for him hard, she questions whether or not choosing Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after.
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
“In this huge city, there were three people in this truck who mattered a lot to me. I’d protect that little part of the universe for as long as possible.”
Clara Shin thinks her summer is over when she’s sentenced to work at her dad’s Korean-Brazilian food truck, the KoBra. To make matters worse, she’s supposed to work with her uptight, overachieving classmate Rose Carver, who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter.” But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. And maybe Hamlet Wong, the boy crushing on her, is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?
Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
“These days it feels like every step I take is setting me up for the rest of my life.”
Sixteen-year-old Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. With college applications looming, his parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, D.C. while his parents are visiting his ailing grandfather in Iran, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success. But once he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles, Scott finds himself on an adventure that opens his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
“All the storytellers get it wrong.”
Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the stories in this collection reimagine East and South Asian mythology and folklore. A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. The stories in this collection vary in genres, from fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge.
Contributing authors include Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
“Don’t you know there are children starving in America?”
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, she never imagined that his family would be extremely wealthy and at the center of Singaporean high society. As soon as she steps off the plane, she is thrown into a storm of gossip, luxury, meddling relatives, and seriously mean, rich girls who would rather die than let some no-name ABC (American-born Chinese) snag Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Rachel’s love for Nick is tested and she must decide whether she’s willing to be tangled up with Nick’s family.
Crazy Rich Asians the movie will be releasing on August 15, 2018.
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mizra
“How were they to know the moments that would define them?”
“As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride.What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?”
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
“All the things that make you different make you perfect.”
Stella Lane is great at creating algorithms to predict customer purchases for her job, but she’s not so great with dating. It doesn’t help that she has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of “a shark getting its teeth cleaned by a pilot fish.” Which is why she decides to hire Vietnamese and Swedish escort Michael— to help her practice. What begins as merely sexual intentions turns into something more, and Stella begins to crave not only kisses but all the other things Michael is making her feel.
Convenience Store Woman written by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
“You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange—maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure’ me.”
Keiko Furukura is a 36-year-old resident in Tokyo who has been working at the same convenience store for the past 18 years. She finds comfort in the predictable routine of her job and has practically become one with the store. But Keiko understands that she’s not living up to society’s expectations and that her family is constantly worried about her quirky behavior. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man begins working at the store, Keiko must decide how much she is willing to give up to meet societal expectations.
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
“I’d pledged my life to Him, if to no avail, which left me believing God had to be nothing, a fiction; that, or He didn’t want me.”
Will Kendall has lost his faith in God and transfers from his Bible college to the prestigious Edwards University, where he meets and eventually falls in love with Phoebe Lin, a Korean American pianist who secretly blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn to a religious cult led by a charismatic former student, John Leal, who claims to have been held captive in North Korea. When the group bombs several abortion clinics in the name of faith, Phoebe disappears, and Will devotes himself to finding her and uncovering Leal’s deceit.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li
“The waiters were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Chinese.”
Jimmy Han hopes to trade up his late father’s homespun establishment, the Beijing Duck House, for a fancy Asian fusion restaurant. His older brother, Johnny wants the Beijing Duck House to remain traditional. Meanwhile, their longtime employees Nan and Ah-Jack are tempted to turn their 30-year friendship into something more. When Nan’s misfit son, Pat, and Johnny’s daughter, Annie, find themselves in a dangerous game that implicates them in the Duck House tragedy, their families must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to help their children.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
“No one escaped—either because they were someone who lost their shadow, or because they were someone who loved someone who lost their shadow.”
For the past two years, husband and wife Ory and Max have survived the Forgetting—a mysterious phenomenon that grants people magical abilities at the price of their shadows and memories—by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels normal until one day Max’s shadow disappears. Wishing to protect Ory from herself, Max leaves, and Ory risks threats of bandits, a brewing war, and a sinister cult that worships the shadowless in order to find his wife before her memory completely disappears.
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.”
Set in Toronto, this modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice follows Ayesha Shamsi, an aspiring poet who lives with her boisterous Muslim family. Though Ayesha has no intention of being in an arranged marriage, she is irritatingly attracted to Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. Meanwhile, Khalid grapples with his conservative beliefs and feelings for the outspoken woman. But their mutual attraction for each other gets complicated once a surprise engagement is announced.
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong
“After all, being true to life wasn’t the only way to tell a story.”
“Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?”
What are some books you’ve read and loved this summer? Let us know in the comments!