Asian Heritage Month Reading List

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) in the US. At the beginning of May I posted a Movie List. Here’s a Reading List to wrap.

There are more than 400 writers, authors, and poets of AAPI heritage in North America listed on Wikipedia. I’ve only read a handful. So, glad to say I’ve many more to explore. Here’s a list of authors and their works that I’ve read in recent years, all with their own style and story to tell. Links are to my reviews on Ripple Effects or Asian American Press.

Ted Chiang – Hugo and Nebula Award winner

Arrival, previously published as Stories of Your Life, is a novella compiled into a short story collection. Chiang’s style is gentle and cerebral, melding together the humanity, psychology, and the transcendence with concepts of science. The New Yorker describes his writing as ‘soulful’. A worthy film adaptation came out in 2016 garnering 8 Oscar nominations including Best Picture the following year.

Nicole Chung – Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography

Chung’s All You Can Ever Know is a bold and candid memoir. Born in Seattle but due to extreme health issues and family situation, her Korean parents put her up for adoption. Chung describes what it’s like to grow up in her white, adoptive parents’ Oregon home, and her urge to seek for her roots. The book details her search for her biological parents. What’s poignant isn’t the search but the results.

Mindy Kaling

While you might think of her as an actress, comedian, director, and producer, Kaling first started as a writer for the popular TV series The Office. Her personal essays are candid sharing of how a woman of Indian descent tried to find a place in a white man’s world of TV and movie production, and made it. Her audiobooks which she narrates––Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? and Why not Me?––are both revealing and highly entertaining.

Kevin Kwan

Don’t get misled by the title Crazy Rich Asians, for the heroine in Kwan’s trilogy isn’t rich, or crazy, and her love though rich, isn’t crazy either. Yes, blame it all on the family then. The not-as-popular newest title Sex and Vanity is my favourite just because I love E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View and the Merchant Ivory film adaptation. This one from Kwan is screen ready… and don’t get misled by the title either.

Celeste Ng

Her debut novel Everything I Never Told You describes what it’s like growing up in a mixed race family, a gem of a book. Ng’s subsequent novel, Little Fires Everywhere is a more fledged out story about the intricacies of parent child relationships in the backdrop of a larger community of mixed races. It’s been turned into a TV mini-series. For this one, I’d enjoyed the book more.

Jhumpa Lahiri – Pulitzer Prize winner

I like many of Lahiri’s works describing Indian immigrants in Northeastern US, especially her short stories, from her debut work, the Pulitzer winning Interpreter of Maladies, her novel The Namesake, and her later short story collection Unaccustomed Earth. She had moved to Italy since 2011 and started to learn Italian and writing in her newly adopted language. Another unaccustomed earth to inspire new stories.

Jessica J. Lee – Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction 2020 winner

Born in Canada to a mother from Taiwan and a father from Wales, Lee is a unique voice in environmental writing today. Her debut memoir Turning: A Year in the Water describes her venture of swimming in 52 lakes in Germany in one year. Her next book, Two Trees Make A Forest chronicles her grandparents’ journey leaving China to settle in Taiwan after WWII and her own search for her roots on that island via its natural landscape.

Mark Sakamoto – Canada Reads 2018 winner

Forgiveness tells the coming together of two families, one a white Canadian family whose father was a former POW in a Japanese prison camp during WWII, and the other a Japanese Canadian family who had to be sent away to an internment camp while living in Canada during the same time. The marriage of their children bring them together. A very unique story, albeit the writing style and structure may not be as gratifying.

Souvankham Thammavongsa – 2020 Giller Prize winner

Born in a Lao refugee camp in Thailand and arrived in Canada with her family when she was a young child, Thammavongsa has come a long way from learning English to winning the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize with her short story collection How to Pronounce Knife. There are trade-offs involved while gaining a new life. Clarity of insights and poignancy mark her stories as she creates with her adopted language on the page.

Madeleine Thien – Giller and Governor’s General winne

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is also shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2016. It details the horrendous experiences of several classical musicians during Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China and the aftermath. Thien’s novel is an epic of a historical fiction set in both China and Canada spanning decades, and a poignant reminder that we should never forget history so not to repeat it, a crucial lesson much needed today.

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Book Sale 2011

If you ask me, I really can’t tell the difference between my summer reading and that of the other seasons. But, in terms of timing, I’d say the annual Book Sale at the Crossroads Market marks the kickoff… and not the summer solstice. It’s a charity book sale in support of the Servants Anonymous Society. I’ve posted my boxes of loot in the past couple of years. Here’s Arti’s annual book haul, 2011.

Again, as a picky screener, I spent hours looking through tons of books under that giant tent and picked out only those that were in mint condition… some I suspect have not even been opened. They were all $1.50 each. That’s the price if you buy in multiples of 10. Short of 10, $2 each. Best of all, it’s for a good cause… great excuse for hoarding. Well, at least I wasn’t tugging a rolling tote or luggage like some did.

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Here’s a list of my haul, in no particular order:

  1. Unruly Times: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Their Time by A. S. Byatt
  2. As We Are Now by May Sarton (love her Journal of a Solitude)
  3. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (film is interesting, curious about the book)
  4. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (after Atonement, like to try more of McEwan’s works)
  5. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (for JLC 5)
  6. The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (another one for JLC 5)
  7. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (great find, book is brand new)
  8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (the movie is delightful)
  9. The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels (13 years after her Fugitive Pieces, I’m curious)
  10. Up In The Air by Walter Kirn (always like to read the source material of a good movie)
  11. The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre (winner of 2009 Giller Prize)
  12. The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (finalist, 2009 Giller Prize)
  13. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston (numerous Canadian literary prize winner, just can’t resist a title like that)
  14. The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (NYT Book Review Best Book of the Year 2006. I’ve wanted to read it since it first came out)
  15. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann (my own copy finally)
  16. Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories by Colum McCann
  17. The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble
  18. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields
  19. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Following The Kite Runner, a movie version is coming out)
  20. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (still haven’t read this classic)
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Went back another day and more multiples of 10:
  1. Heat And Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1975 Booker Prize Winner, RPJ is the screenwriter of many Merchant Ivory productions, including “Heat And Dust” starring Julie Christie)
  2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize winner, 2003)
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (First the book, then the movie, and then the opera, yes, opera)
  4. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize winner, 1999. After the film, I’ve wanted to read this for years. Glad I found a trade paperback edition without Streep/Moore/Kidman on the cover)
  5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Pulitzer Prize winner, 2008)
  6. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (I’m partial to The Modern Library Classics, so this is a good find)
  7. The City of Yes by Peter Oliva (Found out from the cover that the author is owner of one of the still surviving indie bookstore in our city… a novel on Japan… interesting connections!)
  8. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Other shoppers at the Book Sale urged me to get it, or else I wouldn’t have picked it up… about 2 lbs and 973 pages. But for $1.50… alright.)
  9. The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
  10. The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
  11. The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith
  12. Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner (Author of In Her Shoes, looks like a breezy summer read)
  13. The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (Have been avoiding this, but my $1.50 curiosity took over)
  14. Limitations by Scott Turow (I used to be a fan of legal thrillers, so let me indulge again… it’s summer)
  15. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Finally, after the dust has settled. The Swedish movie is good, but not sure about the Hollywood version coming out)
  16. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (That’s all, couldn’t find the third one)
  17. False Impression by Jeffrey Archer (Have enjoyed some of his previous books)
  18. The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré
  19. A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carré
  20. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré (The film version is coming out this year with Colin Firth. But this little old paperback is the black sheep of the lot. I found the first 18 pages missing after I came home. But hey, I’m not complaining)

How do I alleviate the burden of so many books? Well, this is how I figure. I don’t see them as a TBR list, but new inventory of my personal library. They’re at a fraction of the cost if I were to buy them new.  Besides, how many people read all the books in a library?

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What’s your summer reading plan?

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(If you’re interested, here are my finds from the Book Sale of 2010 and 2009.

You may also like to explore the list of “Upcoming books into films”)

Upcoming Books Into Films

Looking for book suggestions for yourself or your book group in the coming year? The following is a list of books being planned for a movie adaptation. Books turning into movies always generate a lot of debates and discussions.  Better still, read the book then watch the movie together… I’m sure more debates will ensue.

Hope the following list can furnish you or your group with some ideas. Do note that these titles are in various stages of development, meaning some may come out in the next year or two, some may take longer if they get started at all.  Click on titles (links) for more details.

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1984 by George Orwell

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Adjustment Team (short story) by Philip K. Dick (Film: The Adjustment Bureau)

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Hergé

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Daniel Radcliffe)

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Keira Knightly)

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant (short story)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Ivan the Fool by Leo Tolstoy

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Middlemarch by George Eliot

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

One Day by David Nicholls

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Paradise Lost by John Milton

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (A new take: Jane Austen Handheld)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (My Fair Lady, Carey Mulligan, Emma Thompson script)

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (A Latina spin: From Prada to Nada)

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Matt Damon, Keira Knightly)

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Tiger by John Vaillant

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré (Colin Firth)

Water for Elephant by Sara Gruen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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For a more updated list, click here to “More Upcoming Books Into Movies”.

If you know of any other titles, you are welcome to add to this list by leaving the info in the comment section.

CLICK HERE for WordPress Tag: Book Into Film.


Beach Reads and Summer Reading 2008

It’s that time of the year when you let it all hang loose and not care about whether what you’re reading is ‘literature’ or not. For some strange reasons, the hot summer months, the taking leave of work and school, the temporal evasion of chores and responsibilities seem to have emboldened us to new adventures, legitimizing ‘escape reading’. But my question is why only in the summer? Do seasons regulate our choices? Should ‘summer reading’ differ from that of the other 10 months in the year? Has the term “Beach Read” been coined merely to jack up book sales?

A look at some current writers’ “summer reading” casts even more doubts on arriving at a clear cut definition of “Beach Reads”. Dan Zak of Washington Post interviewed a sample of them and surveyed their summer reads. Here’s what he found:

  • Mary Higgins Clark: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Susan Choi: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Janet Evanovich: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Thomas Mallon: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  • Sue Monk Kidd: The Grimke Sisters From South Carolina: Pioneers for Women’s Rights and Abolition by Gerda Lerner.

… and so on and so forth. Click here to read more of Dan Zak’s article on summer reading.

And here’s Arti’s list. I’m currently reading Lisa Scottoline’s Lady Killer, which should satisfy a ‘traditional’ definition of a ‘beach read’. Other than that, I’m also re-reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and still plowing through two of Robert K. Johnston’s books, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film In Dialogue and Reframing Theology and Film. If a ‘beach read’ is defined as a fast pace, plot-driven page-turner, these definitely don’t qualify.

I’ve just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which is one dynamite read, a wild ride any time of the year. It deserves a whole new post. But to categorize it as a ‘beach read’ would seem to have down-graded its quality and impact.

A few titles I plan on getting hold of this summer:

  • Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. After watching the film, I’m really interested to find out how a writer instills spirituality into the narrative of everyday living.
  •  Away by Amy Bloom. I’ve wanted to know more about her through her reading. So far I’ve only read one thing from her: Introduction to Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion.
  • The Savior by Eugene Drucker, founding member of the renowned Emerson String Quartet. In this debut novel, he dispels the myth of the saving power of music, using a Holocaust death camp as the backdrop. Should be one poignant read.

What’s your summer reading list like? Typical ‘beach read’ or evidence shattering its existence?

Summer Reading 2009 Click Here.

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