Best Books To Read While Traveling Asia

Explore Asia: A Journey Through the Best Books Rediscovering Asia’s Literary Gems Embark on a literary adventure through Asia and uncover its hidden treasures through

Peter Lonsdale

Explore Asia: A Journey Through the Best Books

Table of Contents

Explore Asia: A Journey Through the Best Books

Rediscovering Asia’s Literary Gems

Embark on a literary adventure through Asia and uncover its hidden treasures through a collection of timeless classics, captivating travelogues, mesmerizing historical fiction, and enlightening cultural exploration books.

Immerse Yourself in Classic Novels

Immerse yourself in the rich literary heritage of Asia by delving into a diverse selection of classic novels. Delight in the poetic prose of Murasaki Shikibu’s “The Tale of Genji,” a captivating tale that offers a glimpse into ancient Japanese court life. Experience the deep introspection found in Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” a thought-provoking exploration of universal themes set against a backdrop of Russian society. And journey through the changing landscape of China in Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Good Earth.”

Embark on Captivating Travelogues and Memoirs

Embark on captivating journeys through the eyes of intrepid travelers who have explored the wonders of Asia. Travel with Elizabeth Gilbert in her soul-searching memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” as she ventures through Indonesia, India, and Bali. Venture into the slums of Mumbai with Katherine Boo’s poignant non-fiction work, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” And accompany Paul Theroux on his epic train journey from Europe to Asia in “The Great Railway Bazaar.”

Step Into Asia’s Historical Fiction

Step back in time and discover the rich history of Asia through the lens of historical fiction. Dive into Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” and uncover the hidden world of geishas in pre-World War II Japan. Follow the tumultuous events of Southeast Asia in Amitav Ghosh’s “The Glass Palace.” And experience the complexities of female friendships in Lisa See’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”

Delve into the Essence of Asian Culture

Delve into the heart of Asian culture through books that provide deep insights into the traditions, customs, and beliefs of its diverse communities. Immerse yourself in Gregory David Roberts’ “Shantaram” and navigate through the vibrant streets of Mumbai. Explore the intersection of Western medicine and traditional beliefs in Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” And journey through modern China in Jung Chang’s gripping memoir, “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China.”

Embark on a literary journey that transcends geographical boundaries, connecting you with the essence of Asia. Whether you choose classic novels, captivating travelogues, historical fiction, or enlightening cultural exploration books, each of these selections promises to transport you to the heart of this captivating continent.

Captivating Novels Must-Reads for Exploring Asia

Discovering the Greatness of Classic Novels

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

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Graham Greene presents a captivating narrative in his remarkable novel, The Quiet American. Set during the turbulent French Indochina War, the story delves into the intricate dynamics of love, betrayal, and political scheming. The lives of three central characters – Thomas Fowler, a British journalist; Alden Pyle, an American aid worker; and Phuong, Fowler’s Vietnamese lover – intertwine, highlighting issues of morality, imperialism, and the devastating consequences of war.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling’s timeless masterpiece, The Jungle Book, takes readers on a thrilling journey to the mystical world of Mowgli, a young boy raised by wolves in the mesmerizing Indian jungle. As Mowgli embarks on numerous adventures, encountering iconic figures like Baloo the bear and Shere Khan the tiger, he learns valuable lessons of loyalty, courage, and the delicate harmony of nature.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the enchanting life of a geisha in pre-World War II Japan. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Sayuri, readers are immersed in the intricate rituals and sacrifices that geishas undertake to perfect their art. Golden’s meticulous attention to detail effortlessly transports us to a different era, exploring themes of love, identity, and the indomitable spirit of the human soul.

Shogun by James Clavell

James Clavell’s epic historical novel, Shogun, unfolds against the backdrop of feudal Japan, intertwining elements of adventure, romance, and political intrigue. The story follows John Blackthorne, an English ship pilot who becomes embroiled in a power struggle between warlords. As Blackthorne adapts to the enigmatic Japanese culture, he becomes entangled in a web of alliances and treachery. Clavell’s meticulous research and masterful character development make Shogun a captivating exploration of honor, strategy, and the clash of civilizations.

Disclaimer: The images used in this HTML format are sourced from external websites. We do not claim ownership of these images.]Best Books about Travelogue and Memoirs for Your Asian Journey

Discover the World with Fascinating Travelogue and Memoirs

Unveiling the Essence of Wanderlust in “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

In the acclaimed memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert takes readers on a captivating expedition across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Through her authentic narratives and introspective reflections, Gilbert unveils the profound journey of self-discovery and restoration that she embarked on following a painful divorce. As readers delve into the vibrant tapestry of cultures, traditions, and tantalizing cuisines that she encounters, they too will be inspired to embark on their own transformative odyssey.

Journey into the Wilderness in “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson

“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson offers an enthralling account of his ambitious quest to hike the legendary Appalachian Trail. With his signature blend of wit and insight, Bryson shares his remarkable experiences traversing challenging terrains, encountering wildlife, and bonding with fellow adventurers. This captivating memoir not only immerses readers in the breathtaking beauty of America’s wilderness but also delves into the complexities of human nature and the transformative power of the great outdoors.

Unlocking the Secrets of the Soul in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho’s renowned novel, “The Alchemist,” intertwines the realms of travelogue and spiritual odyssey. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Andalusia, Spain, the story follows a young shepherd named Santiago on a quest to discover a fabled treasure. Along his transformative journey, Santiago encounters enigmatic characters who impart profound wisdom on following one’s dreams and uncovering the true desires of the heart. Through its evocative imagery and symbolic storytelling, “The Alchemist” invites readers to embark on their own introspective exploration.

Embark on a Profound Journey of Self-Discovery in “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

In the captivating memoir “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed shares her soul-stirring solo adventure along the majestic Pacific Crest Trail. Burdened with personal hardships, Strayed embarks on a grueling expedition of healing and self-redemption. Through her raw vulnerability and poetic descriptions, she paints a vivid picture of the awe-inspiring landscapes and inner battles she encounters along the way. “Wild” serves as a powerful travelogue that resonates deeply with readers, inspiring them to embrace their own inner strength and embark on transformative journeys.

Historical Fiction Best Books to Read While Traveling Asia

Explore the Captivating Realm of Historical Fiction

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Step into the vibrant world of 18th-century Japan and uncover the intricate tapestry of cultures and hidden truths in David Mitchell’s mesmerizing masterpiece, “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.” Transporting readers to the secluded Dejima Island, a Dutch outpost in Nagasaki, Mitchell superbly depicts the clash between Dutch traders and the traditional Japanese society amidst Japan’s era of isolation. Through vivid prose and a compelling narrative, Mitchell delves into a tale of forbidden love, political scheming, and the quest for personal identity in a world on the cusp of monumental change.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of pre-World War II Japan with Arthur Golden’s evocative historical fiction, “Memoirs of a Geisha.” This best-selling novel unfolds the captivating life of Sayuri, a young girl sold into the enigmatic world of geisha and her remarkable journey to becoming one of Kyoto’s most celebrated geishas. Golden’s exquisite storytelling provides readers with an intimate look into the intricate customs of geisha, the complexities of love, and the indomitable human spirit amidst a backdrop of societal transformation and political tumult.

The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

Embark on a grand adventure through 19th-century India in M. M. Kaye’s unforgettable historical novel, “The Far Pavilions.” Set against the majestic Himalayas, this sweeping tale follows the life of Ashton Pelham-Martyn, an Englishman raised as an Indian, torn between two worlds. Kaye’s impeccable attention to detail and enthralling narrative style transports readers to an era of opulence, political unrest, and star-crossed romance amidst the vast expanse of the British Raj.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Immerse yourself in the ancient customs and traditions of 19th-century China with Lisa See’s hauntingly beautiful novel, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” This poignant story explores the deep bonds of friendship between Lily and Snow Flower, two young girls from contrasting backgrounds who become laotongs, or “old sames.” Against the backdrop of footbinding, societal expectations, and the oppression faced by women in Chinese society, See weaves a compelling tale of love, betrayal, and the enduring power of female friendships.

Now is the perfect time to embark on a literary journey through time and lose yourself in the captivating world of historical fiction. Immerse yourself in vibrant cultures, complex characters, and rich historical settings as you unravel the secrets and enthralling narratives within these acclaimed works. Whether it’s exploring 18th-century Japan, pre-World War II Japan, 19th-century India, or 19th-century China, each novel promises an unparalleled adventure.

So, find a cozy nook, brew a warm cup of tea, and allow these extraordinary historical fiction books to transport you. Surrender to the vivid storytelling and remarkable historical insight offered by these talented authors. History comes alive in the pages of these novels, captivated by their glory and intricacy.

Cultural Exploration Books

Discover New Horizons with These Fascinating Books

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts

Embark on an enthralling journey through the vibrant streets of Mumbai with “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. This immersive literary masterpiece captures the essence of India’s largest city, unveiling its diverse culture and captivating characters. Experience the captivating tale of Lin, the protagonist, as he unravels the secrets of Mumbai’s underbelly, encountering slums, gangs, and compelling narratives along the way. Roberts’ descriptive prowess and captivating storytelling make “Shantaram” an indispensable read for those seeking to explore the cultural depths of this bustling metropolis.

“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster

Travel back in time to colonial India with the timeless classic “A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster. This gripping novel delves into the intricate cultural tensions and misunderstandings between the British colonizers and the native Indians. Set against the backdrop of the fictional city of Chandrapore, Forster skillfully portrays the complexities of relationships and the clash of cultures. Through his perceptive narrative, “A Passage to India” offers readers a profound exploration of the cultural, racial, and political dynamics of early 20th-century British India.

“The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Transport yourself to the enchanting world of Myanmar with “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” by Jan-Philipp Sendker. This captivating tale follows Julia Win, a young American lawyer, as she embarks on a transformative journey to unravel the secrets of her father’s mysterious past in Burma. Immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural traditions and immerse yourself in a story of love and self-discovery. “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” beautifully captures the essence of Burmese culture, spirituality, and resilience through Sendker’s lyrical prose and engaging plot. Prepare to be transported on a truly immersive cultural experience.

“The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi

Step into the lives of Afghan women and their struggles for empowerment in the compelling novel “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” by Nadia Hashimi. This powerful narrative weaves together the stories of Rahima and Shekiba, two women from different generations but united by their indomitable spirit. Hashimi’s eloquent writing and poignant storytelling shed light on the cultural traditions, social dynamics, and strength of Afghan women. “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” offers readers an intimate glimpse into the daily lives and resilience of Afghan women.

Embarking on a cultural exploration through literature allows readers to transcend boundaries and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of various societies. The four books mentioned above – “Shantaram,” “A Passage to India,” “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats,” and “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell” – provide captivating narratives that take readers on enlightening journeys through the diverse cultures of India, Myanmar, and Afghanistan.


Unlocking the World of Literature: Discovering Asia Through Classic Novels, Travelogues, and More

Exploring the Literary Gems of Asia: Classic Novels to Add to Your Travel Reading List

Embarking on a journey through Asia opens up a world of rich cultural experiences. To enhance your immersion, we recommend delving into the following classic novels:

  • “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  • “Shogun” by James Clavell
  • “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan
  • “The Great Railway Bazaar” by Paul Theroux

Illuminating Your Adventure: Must-Read Travelogues and Memoirs for Your Asian Expedition

If you crave travelogues and memoirs, consider adding these captivating books to your Asian travel itinerary:

  • “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo
  • “From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East” by William Dalrymple
  • “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann

A Glimpse into History: Fascinating Historical Fiction Set in Asia

For history enthusiasts exploring the wonders of Asia, these gripping historical fiction works are worth immersing yourself in:

  • “The Painter of Shanghai” by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  • “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  • “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell
  • “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga

Navigating Asian Cultures: Insightful Books for Cultural Exploration

To gain a deeper understanding of Asian cultures, these insightful books will shed light on various aspects:

  • “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China” by Jung Chang
  • “The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss” by Edmund de Waal
  • “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • “Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century” by Richard McGregor

Exploring the Words of Modern Voices: Contemporary Asian Authors to Discover

Delve into the works of these contemporary Asian authors who challenge conventions and offer fresh perspectives:

  • Haruki Murakami – Known for his surreal and thought-provoking novels
  • Yiyun Li – Renowned for her poignant short stories and novels
  • Arundhati Roy – An acclaimed author known for her novel “The God of Small Things”
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Though not Asian, her works provide insights into diverse cultures

Where to Find Literary Treasures: Searching for Books during Your Asian Sojourn

While traveling in Asia, you can find these literary treasures in various locations, including:

  • Local bookstores
  • Major bookstore chains like Kinokuniya and Barnes & Noble
  • Online platforms such as Amazon, Book Depository, and local e-bookstores
  • Libraries and book exchange hubs in backpacker hostels

A Bookish Exchange: Connecting with Fellow Travelers

If you’re eager to interact with other bookworms and swap your favorite books, consider visiting popular backpacker hostels or guesthouses that offer book exchange facilities. These social hubs provide opportunities to enrich your literary journey through book-sharing with fellow travelers.

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