Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.
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.
This one 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 a 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)
Crossover alert. This 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)
We’re not talking happy tears here. Yanagihara’s novel — released to critical praise — centers on four men as they graduate from college and make their way through New York City over the course of decades. Warning: it gets pretty heavy (it tackles abuse and trauma) and will probably break your heart into a million pieces. It’s a long one, but trust us, it’s beyond worth it. (Amazon, Bookshop)
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)
This one’s your next best thing. It’s all about an awkward meet-cute that turns into more. You’ll watch a couple’s relationship develop over text as they become each other's emergency contacts. Very millennial and very timely. Pssst: we also love this author's new YA book “Yolk.” (Amazon, Bookshop)
Pack your knives and go get this book. Lakshmi’s 2016 memoir chronicles, yep, her loves, losses, and adventures with food. The book tells her story — everything from being a young girl traveling between India and America, to how she became a model, to her battle with endometriosis, the paternity of her daughter, and more. As soon as you start reading, you’ll be hungry for more. Bon appétit. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Throw it back with this novel. In it, boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Girl joins a secret cult and the cult turns violent. Naturally, things go awry. It all takes place on a college campus so you know it’s ground zero for compelling characters and loaded drama. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Enter this collection of stories. They 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, family, and more. 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)
Meet Andrea Tang. She’s 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)
This one will do it. This 2018 critical fave is, you guessed it, a collection of nonfiction essays. Chee reflects on the AIDS crisis, his father’s death, sexual trauma, the 2016 presidential election, and more. It will make you think hard about life, identity, politics, art, and humanity. All the easy, fun stuff. (Amazon, Bookshop)
We’re telling you upfront, this one’s an enigma that’ll have you trying to put all the pieces together. It’s set in the American suburbs during the 1980s. There’s a performing arts class, two freshmen, and an acting teacher. And everything you think might happen to these characters gets flipped upside down, spun around, and flipped again. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Enter: this novel. It begins when an undocumented woman in the US goes to work one day and doesn’t come home. The book centers on what happens to her son after he’s adopted by a white couple, who rename him and try to make him assimilate. It’s set in both China and upstate New York and will make you think about what it really means to belong. It’s also a National Book Award nominee, so you know it’s good. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Check this one out. The themes in Yang’s novel touch on race, ambition, and wealth. You’ll follow a teenager in Massachusetts who becomes fixated on a politician's wealthy son. Years later, they reconnect...and the obsession (and your page-turning) intensifies. (Amazon, Bookshop)
“The Sympathizer” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and follows a conflicted Vietnam War sympathizer as he acts as a double agent. It’s set in both America and Vietnam and is perfect for fans of spy novels and history. (Amazon, Bookshop)
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 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)
Start here. Min Jin Lee’s novel, a National Book Award finalist, will transport you to 1990s Japan and Korea. This one's all about what happens when a fisherman's daughter falls for a wealthy stranger who also happens to be married. She gets pregnant, and its ripple effects span generations. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Read this memoir, then have your convo. It follows Chung’s adoption story — from childhood to adulthood — as she navigates some hidden truths about her birth family. It’s all about the complicated nature of race, identity, and belonging. And it’s one you’ll immediately want to talk about with others after reading. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Try reading for laughs instead. Wong’s first book — a collection of essays written to her daughters — covers everything from motherhood to making it in the comedy world. Warning: you'll laugh in public while reading. (Amazon, Bookshop)
In this modern retelling of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” a Korean American "it" girl must choose between her picture-perfect boyfriend and a playboy known as “the Count.” This one spans from NYC nightclubs to elite Connecticut society life and will have you whispering, "Good morning, Upper East Siders." It's already been scooped up for TV so read the book first. Pssst: the sequel “Anna K Away” recently dropped. (Amazon, Bookshop)
This debut literary novel is in the form of a fictional love letter from a son to his illiterate mother. It touches on everything from their family history in Vietnam to the challenges faced by working-class immigrant families. Critics loved it, and the title doesn't lie (hint: it's gorgeous). (Amazon, Bookshop)
This new 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’s set in Capri and East Hampton and will satisfy your wanderlust from start to finish. One-way ticket to happy ever after, please. (Amazon, Bookshop)
This book will feed your travel fix. In it, an ultra creative Chinese American entrepreneur brings an aimless college student from New Jersey along on a wild trip through Asia. Some drama goes down. Cut to a year later and the college student finds himself living with a woman and her son who are in witness protection. It’s a thrilling romp that explores excess, ambition, and racial stereotypes. (Amazon, Bookshop)
PS: If you buy anything from this email, theSkimm may get something in return. Oh, and if something’s out of stock, oops, it was there when we published. Thanks.
Skimm'd by: Lindsay Schneider, Avery Carpenter, Emmy Favilla
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