Lunar New Year Book Recommendations

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Happy Lunar New Year everyone! Back in elementary school we would celebrate the Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year here in the States… and China) by making red envelopes, trying moon cakes, and listening to stories about Chinese New Year. While I’m not making red envelopes and I stopped trying moon cakes as soon as I realized red bean paste is not my thing, I still enjoy stories! At least I hope I do, otherwise having this blog makes no sense.

lunar new year

This year I thought that I might share some Asian book recommendations. These recommendations will either have an Asian author, an Asian main character, or were inspired by Asian mythology. Now, before anyone gets all upset saying that Indian and other South Asian countries are part of Asia I should say that I know. Calm down. I know that South Asian countries are Asia too, I’m focusing on East Asian countries for this recommendation post because (most) East Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year or did at one point, and (most) South Asian countries don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year.

On to the recommendations!

Here’s a quick key before we start:

🥮 – Asian main character

🐉 – Inspired by Asian mythology

🧧 – Asian author

Currently Out:

even the darkest stars

Even the Darkest Stars – Heather Fawcett 🥮🐉 (Tibetan)

In this book inspired by the Tibetan landscape, culture, and mythology, we follow Kamzin, the daughter of a chieftain who desperately wants to be an explorer for the King. Due to a surprising turn of events Kamzin is given the opportunity to help explore and survey a treacherous mountain. This book has magic, friendship, personal growth, some romance, and betrayal. If you feel like harrowing a dangerous journey up a snowy mountain all while cuddled up with a blanket and some hot tea, then this book will be right up your alley.

wild swans

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China – Jung Chang 🥮🧧(Chinese)

This book is a memoir following Jung Chang’s family over three generations. It is beautifully written and pulls you into the lives of each of the women followed throughout this memoir. Even if you think memoirs and biographies aren’t for you, I promise this one is. It reads much more like fiction in how the depictions of the women’s lives are incredibly vivid and moving.


Warcross – Marie Lu 🥮🧧 (Japanese)

Warcross follows Emika Chen, a girl who had a rough life that lead her to becoming a hacker and bounty hunter. Due to a hacking incident she is recruited by the creator of Warcross, a video game that has enthralled the globe, to essentially be a covert spy for him in the upcoming Warcross competition. This book doesn’t focus a lot on the fact that the two main characters are Asian, but rather their abilities. This book is a fast and fun read that has a plot twist that I at least didn’t see coming.


Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto 🥮🧧 (Japanese)

I read this book in high school, so I don’t remember too much. I do remember that, for a required reading, I really enjoyed it! It, in part, is a story involving a trans parent and follows the parent’s relationship with their kid and how Japanese society reacts to and treats the trans and LGBTQ community.

Banana Yoshimoto’s novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul. (Goodreads)

the poppy war

The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang 🥮🐉🧧 (Chinese)

When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late. (Goodreads)


1Q84 – Haruki Murakami 🥮🐉🧧 (Japanese)

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers. (Goodreads)

to all the boys

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han 🥮🧧 (Korean)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all. (Goodreads)

red winter

Red Winter – Annette Marie 🥮🐉 (Japanese)

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope… and hope is all she has left. (Goodreads)

crazy rich asians

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan 🥮🧧 (Singaporean)

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. (Goodreads)

Not Yet Released

wicked fox

Wicked Fox – 🥮🐉🧧 (Japanese)

A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s. (Goodreads)

descendant of the crane

Descendant of the Crane – Joan He 🥮🐉🧧(Chinese)

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high? (Goodreads)

Happy Reading!


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