Life·11 min read

17 Books to Read From Our Fave Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors

AAPI Heritage Month Books
Photos: Penguin Random House
May 19, 2022

This post was originally published in May 2021 and has been updated.

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To honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and some authors we love, we rounded up our fave books to add to your bookshelf this May and beyond. There’s everything from short stories and essay collections to emotional nonfiction and award-winning titles. Know them, read them, love them. Repeat.

“Portrait of a Thief” by Grace D. Li

Enter: This buzzy, high-stakes debut novel about a multimillion-dollar art heist with major “Ocean’s Eleven” vibes. (Ahem, we’re talking $50 mil here.) The crew? An art history student at Harvard and his squad of quirky characters. The assignment? To steal five bronze sculptures from museums across the globe and return them to their place of origin, China. It’s a fast-paced, entertaining read that reckons with cultural appropriation, identity, and colonialist ties in the museum world. Our TBR pile? It’s stacked. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“The Emma Project” by Sonali Dev

A friends-to-lovers story with a Jane Austen twist? Count us in. In this modern retelling of “Emma,” you’ll meet Naina, who just ended her engagement and is ready to bring economic independence to millions of South Asian women through her microfinance foundation. Icon. And just when she thinks she’s finally put her past relationship behind her, her ex’s little brother becomes her biggest business rival. If you love a sweet family story with Hallmark rom-com vibes, you’ll def wanna give this one a read. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“The Loneliest Americans” by Jay Caspian Kang

What does it mean to be Asian in America? Jay Caspian Kang, a writer for The New York Times Magazine, blends his family’s own immigration story and candid personal experiences with extensive reporting to answer this question. If you’re looking for something thought-provoking and deeply affecting, check this out. You won’t regret it. Promise. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words” by Annika Sharma

Kiran wants to be the perfect Indian daughter…especially after her sister caused a family rift by marrying the “wrong” man. So when she meets her new neighbor Nash, a child psychologist who has family issues of his own, the duo begin a will-they, won’t-they romantic buildup that makes her question whether she should choose herself over her family. The suspense is killing us. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Minor Feelings” by Cathy Park Hong

Part critically-adored essay collection and part memoir, Cathy Park Hong explores what it means to be Asian American — all while unpacking questions about family, friendship, art, politics, identity, and individuality. Her essays are linked by an idea she calls “minor feelings” — which she describes as chronic feelings of shame, suspicion, and melancholy that come from everyday racial experiences and the burden of having your reality dismissed. It’s an incredibly smart read that takes a deeper look into racial bias in America. And there’s a TV show in the works too. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Arsenic and Adobo” by Mia P. Manansala

This cutie novel begins with major rom-com vibes and turns into an Agatha Christie–esque mystery. When Lila moves home after a breakup, she’s tasked with saving her family’s restaurant. But when a famous food critic, who’s also casually her ex, winds up dead, she’s the main suspect. She sets out to clear her name and takes you along on the journey. It’s a super-fun read that’s perfect for the beach, your couch or any Sunday afternoon. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner

We’re not crying, you are. Zauner’s memoir is the expanded version of her popular New Yorker essay where she writes about losing her mother and grappling with her identity. Zauner, who you might know as indie pop artist Japanese Breakfast, writes movingly about grief, using food to connect with her Korean roots and her family. It’ll make you appreciate your relationship with any mom figure in your life. (Amazon, Bookshop)


"Yolk" by Mary H.K. Choi

This charming fictional read follows two estranged siblings in NYC. There's Jayne, a self-obsessed college student who's struggling with an eating disorder. And June, her older, perfect-on-paper sister. When one of them gets a cancer diagnosis and the other is the only one who can help, their complicated relationship takes on some sweet new layers. Sister book club, coming right up. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“All You Can Ever Know” by Nicole Chung

Chung’s 2018 memoir chronicles her adoption story — from childhood to adulthood — as she navigates some hidden truths about her birth family. It focuses on the complicated nature of race, identity, and belonging. And is one you’ll immediately want to talk about with your friends after reading. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Sour Heart” by Jenny Zhang

This collection of short stories is perfect for anyone with a short attention span. The stories span from Queens to Shanghai, and are narrated by Chinese American girls growing up in NYC. It’s a manifesto on girlhood, immigration, life, experimentation, and family. And is perfect for anyone who can’t find the time to tackle one of the really long novels on their never-ending book list. (Amazon, Bookshop)


Warning: This story mentions sexual assault, which could be triggering to some readers.

“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller

For several years, Chanel Miller was known to the world as “Emily Doe” after she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner in 2015. “Know My Name” is her resilient reclamation of her name and her story. Miller chronicles the trial and all the emotional processing that comes with it. It’s powerful, emotional, and one that’s absolutely worth your time. Say her name. (Amazon, Bookshop)

For our conversation with Miller, click here.


“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

This 1989 classic is an intimate fictional look at the lives of a group of Chinese women and their daughters in San Francisco. It made a huge splash when it was published and eventually got turned into the first modern Hollywood studio film to star an all-Asian cast. The second time this would happen wouldn't be until the 2018 film "Crazy Rich Asians."  (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Gold Diggers” by Sanjena Sathian

This coming-of-age story follows the son of Indian immigrants in the Atlanta suburbs who’s grappling with his parents' high expectations. The only thing he wants to focus on, though, is his neighbor and her special golden elixir. Cue a crazy string of events, some magical realism, a timeline jump, and you get this buzzy, propulsive novel that sheds light on the burden of making it in America. And a stinging commentary on Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Mindy Kaling’s already scooped it up to adapt it for TV so you can consider yourself sold. (Amazon, Bookshop)


"Sex and Vanity” by Kevin Kwan

Larger-than-life characters, coming right up. This 2020 book by the "Crazy Rich Asians" author is a modern take on “A Room With a View.” In this frothy satire, you'll meet Lucie Tang Churchill, who finds herself torn between two men and two worlds. It jumps from Capri to East Hampton and will satisfy your wanderlust from start to finish. One-way ticket to happy ever after, please. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee

In this critically adored read from 2017, a teenager falls in love with a wealthy stranger in early 1900s Korea, and sets off a chain of events spanning generations and countries. When she learns she’s pregnant, and that her lover is already married, the trajectory of our heroine’s life changes forever. This dramatic multi-generational saga had usand it was recently adapted into a new show on Apple TV so you can stay in the world after you finish reading. (Amazon, Bookshop)


“Trick Mirror" by Jia Tolentino

Meet New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino. She's been called the “millennial Susan Sontag,” and in this collection of essays she dissects everything from self-delusion, the cult of Sweetgreen, marriage, reality TV, and more. You’ll be down an internet rabbit hole in no time. You’re gonna love it. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Buy it

"Last Tang Standing” by Lauren Ho

In this cute romance, you'll follow Andrea Tang, a 33-year-old successful lawyer who has (almost) everything: a gorgeous condo, a great group of friends, and access to Singapore’s best clubs. The only thing standing in her way of happiness? Her family’s unyielding pressure on her to get married. Cue a “Crazy Rich Asians” meets “Bridget Jones’s Diary”–esque novel about finding love, pushing back against pressure, and standing up for what you want. (Amazon, Bookshop)


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