Award-Winning Books by Asian Authors You Should Read Part I

Asians have been making a name around the globe by showcasing their talent and genius through music and different forms of art. Asian culture is also being recognized all over the world. It has been attracting attention globally because of its rich and prominent contribution to the arts, entertainment, mining, engineering, agricultural, and technological industries.

Aside from the fields mentioned above, Asian literature can also compete with western nations and deserve to have a spotlight in the literary industry. Here is a list of award-winning books by Asian authors that are sure to have something for everyone; from an incredible, deeply moving South Korean story about family love, to dark, noir thrillers between Manila and New York, to a fantastical alternate world set in Japan, and to political narratives that depict the state of contemporary China.

Photo credits to Penguin Random House

1. Please Look After Mom
    by Kyung-sook Shin

The plot of this novel follows Park So-nyo, a loyal matriarch and stroke victim, as she becomes lost on a city train and is separated from her family. It is a heartbreaking and demanding tale of family sacrifice and love. The narrative then shifts to a sequence of memories about So-nyo's devotion to her family as they look for her in the bustling and intimidating streets of downtown Seoul.

Please Look After Mom is the novel that gave South Korean writer, Shin Kyung-sook, recognition as the first South Korean and first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011. Within ten months of its 2009 South Korean debut, it sold a million copies. It has received praise worldwide from critics and has been translated into English by Kim Chi-young.

Photo credits to Goodreads

2. Ilustrado
    by Miguel Syjuco

The story opens with the drowning death in New York of well-known author Crispin Salvador, an exiled gadfly who rarely managed to refrain from upsetting the authorities in his native country. This opening has a New York noir feel to it and has a shade of an American thriller. Salvador leaves a list of people behind, but there is no sign of the manuscript (The Bridges Ablaze) that was meant to make him famous forever and settle any unresolved issues. The book's narrator was a younger Filipino author who chooses to follow the clues back to the Philippines and write the biography of his mentor. He was Salvador's student and grew close to him in his final weeks.

The action that follows leads readers on a meta-critical journey that succeeds in amusing readers while posing important queries regarding the state of Filipino literature as a whole.

Miguel Syjuco's acclaimed novel makes a sincere effort to understand the diversity and idiosyncrasies of modern Manila and the fabric of the contemporary Philippines via a prism of half-autobiography and half-cultural criticism. Syjuco is a grand prize winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize for his first novel, Ilustrado.

Photo credits to Goodreads

3. 1Q84
    by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami's novel 1Q84 (stylized on the Japanese cover as "ichi-kew-hachi-yon") was first released in three volumes in Japan in 2009–2010. It parallels the "real" year 1984 with a fictional one. The book tells the tale of how Aomame, the protagonist, starts to notice odd changes happening in the world. She rapidly becomes entangled in a scheme involving Tengo, her childhood sweetheart, and Sakigake, a religious cult, and sets out on a quest to learn what is really "real."

Murakami’s books have sold millions of copies outside of Japan and have been bestsellers both domestically and abroad. His novels, essays, and short tales have been translated into 50 other languages. He has won various honors for his writing, including the Franz Kafka Prize, the Jerusalem Prize, the World Fantasy Award, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and the Gunzou Prize for New Writers.

Photo credits to Penguin Random House

4. Wolf Totem
     by Jiang Rong (Lü Jiamin)

Wolf Totem adapts the author's personal experiences on the Mongolian Steppe and follows Chen Zhen, the primary character and the one who narrates the story. Chen Zhen is a male Chinese in his late 20s who fled Beijing to work in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. Wolf Totem contrasts the Han Chinese farmers in the region with the ethnic Mongolian nomads through depictions of folk customs, ceremonies, and life on the steppe. Some interpretations state that the book celebrates the Mongolian "freedom, independence, respect, its unyielding before adversity nature, teamwork, and competition" while criticizing the Chinese "Confucian-inspired culture," which was "sheep-like."

The book finishes with a 60-page "call to action" that is unrelated to the novel's main plot and criticizes the settlers' agricultural collectivization of the nomads and the ecological catastrophes it created.

Lü Jiamin is a renowned Chinese author best known for his top-selling 2004 book Wolf Totem, which he penned using the alias Jiang Rong. In November 2007, the book earned him the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize.

The list of these award-winning novels is solid proof of how excellent Asian literature is. Stay tuned on our Website, Twitter, and Facebook page as we will release another set of book recommendations written by brilliant Asian authors soon!


Marjorie Ann M. Patricio is a Digital Marketing and Brand Development intern of PS Media Enterprise. She is currently a 4th-year Communication Research student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa, Manila.


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item Award-Winning Books by Asian Authors You Should Read Part I
Award-Winning Books by Asian Authors You Should Read Part I
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