Reading Suggestions

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Asia/Middle East

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Khaled Hosseini. Kite Runner/Afghanistan

An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present day. The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy Afghan youth and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption. It is also about the power of fathers over sons: their love, their sacrifices, and their lies.

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Tahmima Anam. The Good Muslim/Bangladesh

In the dying days of a brutal civil war, Sohail Haque stumbles upon an abandoned building. Inside he finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for a lifetime to come. . . . Almost a decade later, Sohail’s sister, Maya, returns home after a long absence to find her beloved brother transformed. While Maya has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, Sohail has shunned his old life to become a charismatic religious leader. And when Sohail decides to send his son to a madrasa, the conflict between brother and sister comes to a devastating climax. Set in Bangladesh at a time when religious fundamentalism is on the rise,The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family, and the long shadow of war.

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Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth/China

A Chinese peasant overcomes the forces of nature and the frailties of human nature to become a wealthy landowner. 

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Kashmira Sheth. Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet/India

Growing up with her family in Mumbai, India, sixteen-year-old Jeeta disagrees with much of her mother’s traditional advice about how to live her life and tries to be more modern and independent.

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Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg. The Heist/Indonesia

Just when it seems that international crook Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: he convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill — if the two don’t kill each other first.

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Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis/Iran

Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and the toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane’s child’s-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love. 

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Simone Elkeles. How to Ruin a Summer Vacation/Israel

When sixteen-year-old Amy, a spoiled American, goes to Israel for a three-month summer vacation with a father she barely knows, she is not prepared for his Jewish family and the changes they bring about in her life.

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Alan Brown. Audrey Hepburn’s Neck/JapanBook Jacket

Infatuated with actress Audrey Hepburn, young Toshi comes of age in Tokyo, where he tries to make a living while balancing family secrets, American friends and lovers, and his own burgeoning identity.

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Margaret Drabble. The Red Queen: a transcultural tragicomedy/Korea

Barbara Halliwell, on a grant at Oxford, receives an unexpected package – a memoir by a Korean crown princess, written more than two hundred years ago. A highly appropriate gift for her impending trip to Seoul. But from whom? The story she avidly reads on the plane turns out to be one of great intrigue as well as tragedy. The Crown Princess Hyegyong recounts in extraordinary detail the ways of the Korean court and confesses the family dramas that left her childless and her husband dead by his own hand. Perhaps it is the loss of a child that resonates so deeply with Barbara…but she has little time to think of such things, she has just arrived in Korea. She meets a certain Dr. Oo, and to her surprise and delight he offers to guide her to some of the haunts of the crown princess. As she explores the inner sanctums and the royal courts, Barbara begins to feel a strong affinity for everything related to the princess and her mysterious life. After a brief, intense, and ill-fated love affair, she returns to London. Is she ensnared by the events of the past week, of the past two hundred years, or will she pick up her life where she left it?

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Colin Cotterill. The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die/Laos

In a small Lao village, a very strange thing has happened. A woman was shot and killed in her bed during a burglary; she was given a funeral and everyone in the village saw her body burned. Then, three days later, she was back in her house as if she’d never been dead at all. But now she’s clairvoyant, and can speak to the dead. That’s why the long-dead brother of a Lao general has enlisted her to help his brother uncover his remains, which have been lost at the bottom of a river for many years. Lao national coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his wife, Madame Daeng, are sent along to supervise the excavation. It could be a kind of relaxing vacation for them, maybe, except Siri is obsessed with the pretty undead medium’s special abilities, and Madame Daeng might be a little jealous. She doesn’t trust the woman for some reason-is her hunch right? What is the group really digging for at the bottom of this remote river on the Thai border? What war secrets are being covered up?

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Yangsze Choo. The Ghost Bride/Malaysia

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price? Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

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Amit Majmudar. Partitions/Pakistan

As India is rent into two nations, communal violence breaks out on both sides of the new border and streaming hordes of refugees flee from blood and chaos. At an overrun train station, Shankar and Keshav, twin Hindu boys, lose sight of their mother and join the human mass to go in search of her. A young Sikh girl, Simran Kaur, has run away from her father, who would rather poison his daughter than see her defiled. And Ibrahim Masud, an elderly Muslim doctor driven from the town of his birth, limps towardthe new Muslim state of Pakistan, rediscovering on the way his role as a healer. As the displaced face a variety of horrors, this unlikely quartet comes together, defying every rule of self-preservation to forge a future of hope.

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Anita Diamant. Day After Night/Palestine

A tale inspired by the post-Holocaust experience is set in an immigrant holding camp in 1945 Palestine, where four women, refugees from Nazi Europe, find healing in the bonds of friendship that are forged while recounting their losses.

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Alex Yates. Moondogs/Philippines

Traveling to Manila to reconnect with his estranged father only to discover that the man has been kidnapped, Benny becomes enmeshed in a wild plot involving national power struggles, a ragtag team of wizardry-infused soldiers, and unsavory details about his father’s character.

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Dave Eggers. A Hologram for the King/Saudi Arabia

A struggling American businessman travels to a rising Saudi Arabian city with the hopes of securing a contract that will earn him a commission large enough to stave off his economic woes and hold his family together.

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Liza Williams. Snake Agent/Singapore

You were supposed to go to Heaven, but ended up in one of the many Chinese hells instead. Who you gonna call? Nobody, you’re dead. Luckily, in future Singapore, Detective Chen is on the case. Specializing in supernatural crimes, Chen finds himself in hell teaming up with a demon cop to solve the mystery, return a lost soul to its rightful reward, and restore harmony between Heaven and Earth. 

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Timothy Hallinan. The Fourth Watcher/Thailand

The author of the Looking for Trouble travel book series, Poke Rafferty is ready to settle down in Bangkok with his fiancÉe, Rose, and his newly adopted daughter, Miaow. But trouble isn’t ready to let him go; it’s back in Poke’s life with a vengeance, in the guise of his long-estranged father, Frank, the last person he ever wanted to see again. And Frank hasn’t come empty-handed, arriving with a box of rubies, a wad of fraudulent identity papers, and one of the most dangerous gangsters in China in hot pursuit. With a rogue American Secret Service agent targeting Rose for her unwitting part in a North Korean counterfeiting operation, Poke can see trouble descending from everywhere to attack those he loves—and it will take every skill he possesses to keep them, and himself, alive.

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Ian McDonald. The Dervish House/Turkey

It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square. Welcome to the world of The Dervish House—the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It’s a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia. Gas is power. But it’s power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away. The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions’ League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher. The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core –the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself—that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama and a ticking clock of a thriller.

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Camilla Gibb. The Beauty of Humanity/Vietnam

Searching for answers about her dissident father’s disappearance, a Vietnamese-American art curator returns to her ancestral country, where she meets a venerable pho stall soup maker and a dynamic young tour guide whose historical and cultural insights irrevocably shape her life.

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One thought on “Asia/Middle East

  1. Pingback: Around the World in 80 Books | Reading Suggestions

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