As the weather begins to warm up, so does the climate of the next destination in our armchair travels. This month the Book Voyage reading challenge is taking us to the tropical climates in southern Asia.
From the treacherous peak of Mt. Everest to the tropical beaches, southern Asia is incredibly diverse, both in its landscape and its people. It is one of the most densely populated regions on Earth, and is home to two of the four most populous countries in the world (India and Indonesia). Throughout the countries of southern Asia (and sometimes even within a single country) there are hundreds of different ethnic groups and languages spoken, in addition to many popular religions.
With the increased violence against Asian Americans during the past year, we can’t publish this list of books set in southern Asia without stating our hope that, in addition to traveling virtually through their pages, these books will also help us all gain a deeper understanding of, and deeper respect for, our fellow humans. You can read more of our thoughts about the power of books here.
Last month, we read books set in the northern countries of Asia, and this month we’ll be focusing on the southern region the covers all countries commonly referred to geographical terms as South Asia as well as Southeast Asia.
For purposes of the Book Voyage reading challenge, we consider southern Asian countries to include: Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, and Brunei.
PS: You can read all about the Book Voyage challenge, find new book lists each month, and download your free printable map book tracker, with a color-coded map of each region here.
As always, you are welcome to choose any book set in this region that you’d like. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best books set in Asia’s southern countries, including many great novels and eye-opening historical fiction, heartbreaking as well as uplifting memoirs, and well-researched non-fiction reads.
While Americans today view many of the countries in Southeast Asia as exotic vacation destinations, most are largely unaware of the very difficult recent history in many of these countries, such as the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war (that ended in 2009). Fortunately, in compiling this reading list, we found an abundance of great books written by authors from each country that provide authenticity and will help us all gain a deeper understanding of this region.
Books Set in Southern Asia
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Travel back in time to 1950s India to meet Lakshmi. After fleeing from an abusive marriage, she settles in the vibrant city of Jaipur. Her talents as a henna artist enable her to survive on her own and become a confidant to her clients in the wealthy upper class.
As her reputation grows as someone who provides both beautiful henna work and good advice, she helps her clients in new ways as an herbalist. Then, Lakshmi is shocked when her past resurfaces. The husband she escaped arrives in Jaipur, along with a girl he says is Lakshmi’s 13-year old sister.
The book covers a full year in Lakshmi’s life. You’ll find yourself absorbed by the vivid descriptions of the culture and scenery, as well as enamored with Lakshmi’s strength.
Heads Up: Abortions are part of the plot.
The Book Girls Say... This book can easily be read as a standalone, but it is the first in a trilogy. The second book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, was just recently released.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 95% Would Recommend to a Friend
Perveen Mistry is one of the first female lawyers in India, complete with an Oxford education and a passion for protecting women’s rights. After joining her father’s law firm in the 1920s, she’s assigned oversight of a wealthy man's will with three widows.
Perveen becomes suspicious when all three women sign their inheritances over to a charity, leaving themselves no money for living. When Perveen investigates, things quickly escalate to involve murder. She has to figure out what really happened behind the closed doors of Malabar Hill before someone else is hurt.
The Book Girls Say... This book will appeal to fans of both historical fiction and mystery.This book is the first in a series. Book two is currently available, and book three was recently released in hardback..
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 94% Would Recommend to a Friend
This historical romance tells the story of two generations. Jaya is a journalist in present day New York, heartbroken after a third miscarriage and its effects on her marriage.
In desperate need of a change of scenery, she sets off for India to explore her family history. As Jaya begins to learn the culture, she also learns about her grandmother’s experiences during WW2 from Ravi, her grandma’s former servant and confidant. He shares stories of both struggle and love, and helps Jaya discover her own legacy and strength.
The Kindle version is currently free with Kindle Unlimited.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 93% Would Recommend to a Friend
The Jha family lives a middle-class life, happy their son has been accepted to a university in America. Then, Mr. Jha receives a windfall of cash when an internet company he started gets bought out.
He decides they should move to the ultra-rich side of town and is eager to do everything possible to fit in and embrace his new financial status. However, the move sets off a chain of events in their neighborhood and family, forcing them to see what really matters.
The Book Girls Say...This humorous book is great in audio form and although the plots and wealth are different, it’s a good match for fans of Crazy Rich Asians. In addition to the parent’s experiences moving up the financial ladder in India, you’ll see the son’s experiences adapting to American life at his business school in Ithica, New York.
The Shergill sisters, Rajni, Jezmee, and Shirina were not close growing up, and that hasn’t changed as they became adults with their own lives. On her deathbed, their mother requests that the British-born sisters return to her homeland to carry out her final rites. Each sister is in the middle of her own very different big life decisions, but they agree to honor their mother’s wishes.
The Book Girls Say... This book is perfect for those looking for a lighter read. Part fictional travel narrative, part witty-family drama, you’ll find the sisters journey both funny and heartbreaking.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐½ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Looking for a more literary option? White Tiger won the Booker Prize back in 2008 and was recently made into a film on Netflix.
This darkly witty book is the story of the caste system in India and the vast differences in the lives of those in it. Balram Halwai is hired as a driver for his village’s wealthiest family and gets a glimpse into the lives of the rich. Balram studies the actions of his employers and learns how to finagle his way to financial success, but that doesn’t mean he’s doing it morally.
The Book Girls Say… Described as irreverent, grim, and biting, this pick won’t be for everyone. If you want a look into the worst of present-day India and enjoy dark humor and literary fiction, it could be a good match.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 80% Would Recommend to a Friend
In this split timeline mystery, you'll travel to Bangkok and experience Thailand in both the early 70s and present day. Reclusive artist Laura is watching her mom slide into dementia when she is contacted by a stranger claiming to be her brother that disappeared 40 years earlier.
Despite warnings from her sister that the call is a scam, Laura visits Bangkok in search of the truth.
The book alternates between Laura's investigative travels and her parent's time in Bangkok, where they tried to create an American life in an exotic location. While they strived to keep up perfect appearances, both parents were keeping secrets from those around them.
Heads Up: This story involves heavy subject matters including: child kidnapping, human trafficking, drug use, and underage prostitution for both girls and boys.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐½ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Written as a novel, this story parallels the author’s own life experience. Seven-year-old Raami lived in a carefully guarded world of royal privilege until her father brought home news about the civil war raging in the streets of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Over the next four years, Raami endures starvation, forced labor, and she survives the genocide that killed more than ¼ of the population of the country, including many of her family members. Throughout it all, she finds comfort only in the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father.
The Book Girls Say… Reviewers say that this story moves slowly at times, but it will open your eyes to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s through poetic prose that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.
This is the memoir of a childhood survivor of the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Loung Ung’s father was a high-ranking government official, and she and her six siblings lived a life of privilege in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. But when she was five years old in 1975, everything changed. When Pol Pot’s army took the city, Ung’s family was forced to flee. Many of her siblings were sent to labor camps, and she ended up in a work camp for orphans where she was trained as a child soldier.
Ung’s story is both harrowing and hopeful as we see the war crimes and unspeakable brutality of the Pol Pot regime from her point of view. Through it all, she was sustained by courage and love until she was finally reunited with her family - those who survived - many years later, after the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.
The Book Girls Say… This book comes to us highly recommended by one of Angela’s college friends, whose family also fled the Pol Pot regime in mid-1970s. After surviving several years of torture in labor camps, they escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979 where they lived for two years, before finally arriving in the US with their six children in 1981.
While this novel takes place in contemporary Vietnam, the interwoven stories of three characters show the lingering effects of war.
Maggie is an art curator, born in Vietnam, but living in the US. When she returns to her birth country looking for clues in her father’s disappearance, she meets Hung, who has run a pho stall for decades. He provided a meeting place for dissident artists like her dad. One of Hung’s regular customers is Tu’, a young tour guide who leads American vets on war tours.
The three very different characters come together as Maggie tries to piece together her past in this complex story of art, love, loss, and hope.
This emotional and beautifully written saga follows generations of a family impacted by war and political strife. The story starts in the 1920s when Trần Diệu Lan is born. As Communism rose in northern Vietnam, she is forced to flee her home with her six children and persevere through almost unbearable strife.
You’ll also follow the story of her granddaughter, Hà Noi, who is coming of age during the Vietnam War as her parents and uncles head to fight. Her grandmother tells her stories of the family history as they hope for the men to return home safely.
While Western views of the Vietnam War are common, this book shares another view from the families trying to survive there, along with a history of what they had already been to in the decades before the war.
The Book Girls Say… Don’t miss reading the author’s note on Goodreads (no spoilers) to get a little extra insight to her story and country.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
This adventurous travel memoir by a Vietnamese-American covers thousands of miles of changing landscape through Asia as he searches for his cultural identity. He’s considered too Western by family in Vietnam, but not at all American when he is home in California.
You’ll also learn about his family history and arrival to the US as “boat people” after his father’s imprisonment by the Vietcong and their experience landing in California as refugees. As you read this travelogue, you’ll get a sense of both history and present-day life in Vietnam.
Gabby has a career in London, along with two sons out of the house and in university. Her husband has always traveled extensively for work, so when he takes a new job in Pakistan, she decides to join him so they can finally have some time together.
Pakistan is a country of contradictions, with danger looming from the Taliban, gorgeous landscapes, and welcoming locals.
While in Pakistan, Gabby receives a shocking letter about her childhood on the Cornish coast. The book includes flashbacks to Cornwall that will also take you to experience the English coast as she tries to reconcile her memories with those of her sister.
The Book Girls Say...The vivid descriptions of Pakistan in this book are regularly praised by reviewers. You'll get a good sense of both the danger and the beauty that exist together.
This remarkable autobiography tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, who refused to give up on her right to an education when the Taliban took control of her region of northern Pakistan in 2012. Although she was only 15, her voice was enough of a threat to cause her attempted murder on her way home from school.
Miraculously, she survived, and the attack emboldened her instead of silencing her. Her ongoing efforts to support education for girls lead her from Pakistan to the UN. She also became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The Books Girls Say...There is also a Young Readers Edition with the same title. The two editions are hard to tell apart based on the covers, so be sure to double check when you purchase the book or check in out from the library.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
In this short YA romance, Pakistani-American teenager Naila travels to her parent’s home country for the first time between her junior and senior years in high school. After being introduced to the culture and scenery, her summer vacation takes a shocking turn when she finds out her parents have arranged her marriage, and she has no say in the matter. She is truly forced in every way, including some traumatic scenes.
Although the author herself has a successful traditional arranged marriage, she wrote the book to highlight the horrifying realities of forced marriage. This is very different as one partner, most often the woman, doesn’t get to voice her opinion. It’s important to note that while this character’s family is Muslim, forced marriage happens within the extremes of most faiths, including Christianity and in countries around the world, including the US.
The Books Girls Say...There are two books of the same title by different authors. They have similar covers, so make sure you grab the right one!
Heads Up: This book includes rape.
Book Girls' Readers Rate This Book ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 100% Would Recommend to a Friend
Rachel is a New Yorker who agrees to spend the summer in Singapore, her boyfriend Nick's home country. He just failed to mention one crucial aspect of his life while they have been dating. He is considered Singapore's most eligible bachelor, and his family is crazy-rich. The family is essentially royalty, with younger generations expected to fall in line with the older generations' wishes for their life (and spouse) choices.
This book is rich (see what we did there?!) with descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of Singapore, and it gives a very entertaining look at the lifestyle of the 1% from both the inside and outside perspectives. According to Angela's Singaporean friends, these crazy stories are actually not so far-fetched.
Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in a trilogy written by Singaporean-born Kevin Kwan, and you can pick up the complete box set here. The second book is set in China, and the third brings us back to Singapore.
The Book Girls Say… We both laughed through this whole series and even loved the movie based on the first book. This book/series is an excellent pick if you want something entertaining, but be ready to pay attention because there are a lot of characters! Reading the trilogy back to back is a great choice so you don't have to relearn all the relationships. We also highly recommend the audiobooks, because the accents add to the stories. We enjoyed the second book a little less, but the final book is just as good as the first, so keep going!
What to read next if you loved the Read the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy... If you already read and enjoyed CRA and you’re looking for something similar that’s also set in Singapore, consider Last Tang Standing. Described as Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones’s Diary, this is the story of a successful thirty-something who is about to become the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan - much to the disappointment of her Chinese-Malaysian family.
This dual timeline novel weaves together the stories of twelve-year old Kevin, who in 2000 sits beside his ailing grandmother in Singapore, and the story of his grandmother’s hidden past. Kevin overhears a mumbled confession from his grandmother and sets about researching his family’s history.
During WWII, as Japanese troops swept down Malaysia and into Singapore in 1942, entire villages were wiped out, often leaving few survivors. Many women, like Kevin’s grandmother, were sent to Japanese military brothels to serve as sex slaves under the title “comfort women.” Sixty years later, she is still haunted by what she saw and what she endured.
In writing this novel that shines a light on this too-little-known period of Singaporean history, author Jing-Jing Lee draws upon her own family’s experiences.
This book provides journalist and mountaineer Jon Krakauer’s personal account of summiting Mt. Everest and the disaster that occurred when a monstrous storm hit during his descent.
Krakauer, an experienced climber, was sent to Nepal as a journalist for Outside Magazine to summit Everest under renowned New Zealand guide, Rob Hall. His intent was to write a magazine article about the growing commercialization of the once-feared mountain. This book addresses that issue, and so much more about his harrowing experience.
The storm that Kraukeur and others on the mountain that day encountered on their descent ultimately claimed many lives, and it forever changed those who managed to make it off the mountain alive.
The Book Girls Say… Angela has read this book several times, including in college as assigned reading for both her business management major and her leadership minor. This book sheds insight into the roles played by the sherpas, guides, and climbers (both experienced and inexperienced) while climbing Everest, and if you are the academic/nerdy type (like us), you might find it interesting to consider the group decision making dynamics at play, especially as the storm hits the mountain.
At the age of 29, Conor Grennan quit his job and planned a year-long round the world adventure, beginning with a three-month volunteer position at an orphanage in war-torn Nepal called the Little Princes Children’s Home. Conor initially questioned whether he was qualified for the work or if he had what it took to be a volunteer in a country in the middle of a civil war. Still, as soon as he got to know the children, he knew that he needed to do even more.
He discovered that the children were not actual orphans - rather than had been taken from their homes by child traffickers who promised their families’ that (for a huge fee) they would take the children to safety away from the war. Instead of taking them to safety, the traffickers abandoned the children in the chaotic capital of Kathmandu. What began as just a short-term volunteer position led Connor to a high-risk journey through the mountains of Nepal on a quest to reunite the children with their families.
The Book Girls Say… This memoir is described as a cross between Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea(about one man’s work to educate Pakistani children in the backyard of the Taliban).
Despite never traveling outside of North America, Canadian Jaime Zeppa sets off on a solo adventure to teach in Bhutan, a Buddhist country in the Himalayas. In this autobiography, she shares both her day-to-day experiences in this emerging tourist destination and her bigger picture personal realizations during her time in the county.
Tight government restrictions on tourists, including large financial requirements, make this all-access peek into this remote, unspoiled location and their culture rare. Luckily, she describes her experiences in a way that will make you feel like you are right there with her throughout this travel memoir.
The first in a series of three novels, A Golden Age follows The Hague family through the turmoil of the Bangladesh War of Independence in the early 1970s. Rehana is a widow with children who are almost grown. Her city had recent elections that signal change.
No one foresees the extreme circumstances and chaos ahead. It’s a time of revolution and hope, but requires heroism and hard choices. Rehana is forced into a heartbreaking decision as she tries to keep her children safe.
When Julia’s dad, a successful New York attorney, disappears, she has no idea what could have happened. Four years later, she finds an old love letter he wrote to a woman in Burma. Determined to follow every lead, Julia travels to Burma to investigate her father’s past.
After traveling to Kalaw, the village of the woman from the letter, Julia meets a man named U Ba who seems to know her and has a story to tell her about her father and his past. Both a love story and a look into past and present Burma/Myanmar, you’ll be enthralled by this poignant novel.
This mystery/crime novel is the first in a multi-book series about Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old doctor who has been a member of the Communist Party for 47 years. He is unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos in 1976. Dr. Paiboun faces many challenges in his new position, including his lab being underfunded, his incompetent boss, and his quirky staff, but he approaches it all with humor.
In this first book, the wife of a prominent politician dies, and Dr. Paiboun has reason to suspect that she was murdered after examining her body. He is in no way an investigator, but he is determined to find out the truth that the powers that be want to keep hidden.
The Book Girls Say… Reviewers describe Dr. Paiboun as a very likable and witty narrator and say that the story's plot moves along at a very nice pace without being predictable. If you end up enjoying this book, there are a total of 15 in the series, and all of them are included free with an Audible membership!
Prefer a non-fiction set in Laos? Take a look at Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos, the memoir of an American man who worked in Laos for two years, and whose experiences will take you from the corridors of power the living rooms of poor citizens.
As a rebellious young girl, Chye Hoon resented her destiny to be a cook rather than following her dream to attend school like her brother. But as she gets older, she begins to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity and the richness of her traditions. She marries a Chinese man, and together they raise ten children in Malaysia.
Chye is happy that she can pass on all the stories she’s heard throughout the years, but as her children become more influenced by the modernizing Western World, she fears losing the heritage she holds so dear.
The Book Girls Say… This is a long book, but it will truly transport you to Malaysia, complete with the smells of chilies and garlic frying. Reviewers of the audiobook have been unimpressed with the narration, so this one is probably better to read in paper or ebook formats - fortunately, the Kindle version is currently free with Kindle Unlimited. Also, this book uses a lot of “Manglish,” so be sure to reference the glossary at the back of the book as needed.
Yun Ling grew up in northern Malaysia, among the plantations and jungles, before studying law at Cambridge (like the author himself, who grew up in Malaysia and studied law in England).
In 1949, Yun Ling discovers the only Japanese garden in Malaysia and tries to engage its creator - the exiled former gardener to the Emperor of Japan - to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur in memory of her sister. He refuses to design the garden for her, but agrees to take her on as his apprentice to teach her the art.
As a survivor of Japanese brutality during the war that claimed her sister’s life, Yun Ling holds anger toward the Japanese, but inside the Garden of Evening Mists, she is drawn to the gardener. The garden is a place of mystery: why did the gardener leave Japan? Why does Yun Ling’s host seem immune to the depredations of the Communists? And what is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war?
The Book Girls Say… This Booker Prize-nominated novel will immerse you in the Malaysian highlands with its poetic descriptions that vividly describe the landscape, the mist, the smells, and flora and fauna. For those who love WWII historical fiction, author Tan Twan Eng also wrote another beautiful novel set in Malaysia called The Gift of Rain.
In the 1920s, Lakshmi enjoyed a carefree childhood among the coconut and mango trees of Ceylon (which later became a part of Sri Lanka). But at the age of 14, she was sent across the ocean to Malaysia and forced into a marriage with a much older man. Lakshmi was promised a life of riches and luxury, but instead, they struggle to get by as Lakshmi gives birth to six children by the age of 19.
Throughout her life, Lakshmi endures incredible hardship and suffering, but she draws upon her incredible strength to face each new challenge, including finding a way to keep her daughters safe during the Japanese occupation of WWII.
Rich with traditional folklore, Eastern magic, Indian celebrations, and Malaysian cuisine - this long novel spans 85 years and four generations as it tells one family’s saga. Although Lakshmi (the “Rice Mother”) is the main character of this story, each chapter is narrated by a different member of the family. This provides readers with different perspectives on various events, creating even greater depth and layering to the story, while maintaining a consistent plot from beginning to end.
On the isolated island of Belitong, on the east coast of Sumatra, Muhammadiyah Elementary must have ten students enrolled in order to stay open. Ikal - the narrator who is just six years old when the book opens - is relieved when the tenth student shows up just in time to keep the school open, preventing him from being sent to work.
Despite the poverty-stricken school constantly facing threat of government closure, greedy mining magnates, and natural disasters, the ten young students (nicknamed the Rainbow Troops) are led by two dedicated teachers (one just fifteen years old) whose dedication ensures that they receive the education they deserve.
The Indonesian author, Andrea Hirata, once promised his teacher that he would one day write a book in her honor. This nearly-autobiographical novel is that promise fulfilled. Originally published in the language of Bahasa, this book sold a record-breaking five million copies in Indonesia.
The Book Girls Say… Written in simple, conversational prose, this book is described as emotionally draining, but also delightful, inspiring, and humorous.
Many Americans know very little about Indonesia, even though it has the world’s fourth-largest population. The country is made up of 13,500 islands and has more than 300 ethnic groups who, between them, speak 719 languages. Indonesia is a nation of stark contrasts. Jakarta, for example, tweets more than any other city on Earth, yet 80 million Indonesians live without electricity.
Author and journalist Elizabeth Pisani lived in Indonesia for three years as a reporter (1988-1991) and then returned for a four-year stay a decade later while training as an epidemiologist specializing in AIDS.
In this memoir, she introduces the world to Indonesia via a 13-month, 26,000 mile journey around Indonesia undertaken in the early 2010s for the purpose of writing this book. She intersperses her experiences with detailed explanations of the history, politics, and economics of the nation.
Author Deborah Douglas was raised in America, but always longed to know more about her Filipino heritage. After applying to be a Peace Corps Volunteer, she was excited to be assigned to the Philippines, where she could not only serve the community, but also embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Through this memoir, she takes us along on her adventure, from the simple joy of ordinary moments in the mountain town of Baguio City, to her struggles for belonging and identity. Filled with warmth and humor, Something in the Middle appeals to those yearning for a travel adventure, interested in learning more about the experience of volunteering abroad, or those still seeking to discover where they belong in the world.
Diana is a Washington, DC, OB/GYN whose demanding career helps keep her distracted from all the upheaval in her life - her grandmother's death, her breakup with her long-term boyfriend, and her mom, Margo, who just moved in with her.
When Margo discovers a box of letters between her grandparents in the 1940s, she learns that her grandfather didn't die in WWII like she'd always believed. Not only did he live through the war, she has surviving relatives in the Philippines.
When Diana is forced to take a sabbatical from the hospital, she decides - despite Margo's opposition - to travel to the Philippines in hopes of connecting with the family she never knew existed. The trip will challenge her identity, her family history, and even her idea of romantic love.
The Book Girls Say… This novel is described as "sexy, adorable, and heartfelt," and is a great pick for those looking for a lighter read this month. We were not previously familiar with this author, but she also wrote the newly released In a Book Club Far Away, which also caught our attention.
The Sri Lankan civil war lasted for 25 years, from 1983-2009. During that time, between 70,000 and 100,000 lives were lost. This novel takes us beyond those numbers to tell the heart-breaking story of how the war impacted the lives of two families.
Yasodhara and her siblings had an idyllic childhood in Colombo where their Sinhala family was fortunate to have everything they could ask for. She was only subtly aware of the differences between the Tamil and Sinhala people. Saraswathie, on the other hand, lived in the active war zone of Sri Lanka. She dreamed of becoming a teacher, but those dreams were shattered when she was arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the heart of the conflict.
As the war rages on between the Sinhala and Tamil cultures, Yasodhara’s family is able to escape to Los Angeles (where they struggled to assimilate), but by then, her life has already become intertwined with Saraswathie’s, and she’ll ultimately be led back to her homeland to help those most affected by the war.
The Book Girls Say… With a narrator on each side of the struggle, this fiction book is widely regarded as one of the most balanced portrayals of the Sri Lankan civil war.
Nineteen-year-old Englishwoman Gwendolyn Hooper married a rich and charming widower who owned a tea plantation in colonial Ceylon (now part of Sri Lanka). Gwen is excited for the adventure of her new life, and she’s determined to be the perfect wife and mother, but the reality is not what she expected. After she gives birth to their first child, she finds herself keeping secrets from her husband, and she soon discovers he is keeping secrets of his own - including the terrible truth about what happened to his first wife.
This novel includes lush descriptions of the landscape, and also does a good job of capturing the time and the prejudice rife in Ceylon during this colonial era.
The Book Girls Say… This was recommended to us by Angela’s college friend who grew up in Sri Lanka, and who said this novel is one of her favorite books set in her home country.
In 2002, Timor-Leste became the first new nation of the 21st century. While challenging Indonesian occupation to become their own nation was a huge accomplishment, they quickly realized that forming a new country and government was equally difficult, especially when your one million citizens speak 20 different languages.
The author of this combo travelogue and history book lived in Timor-Leste for four years, giving him a unique insight into Timorese's struggles and culture.
Our search for a great book set in Brunei came up short, but for those who are eager to learn a little something this very wealthy and very tiny country on the island of Borneo, we do have a quick read that you might be interested in.
Part of the "Smarter in 60 Minutes" series, this quick non-fiction read provides a basic primer on Hassanl Bolkiah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei who celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 2017, marking his 50th year in power.
Bolkiah negotiated Brunei's independence from the British Empire in 1978, a freedom which they achieved in 1984. The first sultan to also serve as Prime Minister, Bolkiah has ruled over this prosperous nation ever since. Thanks to his country's oil and gas reserves, Bolkiah is officially the world's wealthiest monarch, and he has the extravagant lifestyle to prove it.
The Kindle version is currently free with Kindle Unlimited.
[…] month, we read books set in Southern Asia – a region that includes many island nations. Our book lists for Western Europe and Northern […]
Monday 3rd of May 2021
This month, I think I'll journey to Nepal and climb Mount Everest! So, I'm starting 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer.
Saturday 24th of April 2021
Wow! This may be the hardest month to choose just one book! I may have to try and power through a few instead :-) Absolutely loving this challenge! <3
Wednesday 21st of April 2021
Another great book list for May! So much to read.... this time, I've only read 3 of the books previously and at least 15 of the others really grab my interest. I plan to keep your lists as guides for book selection long after this challenge is finished.
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Great list! I've already read two, The Henna Artist and They Storyteller's Secret, but am trying to knock some titles off my TBR so will be reading What Could Be Saved and The Mountains Sing, as well as Burnt Sugar. Thanks for hosting this, really enjoying the challenge!