I’ve had this reading list as an idea on my content calendar for about three weeks — always scheduled for today just because it was the first gap on my planner. But now, it’s coming at such a sad time, after a brutal and awful terrorist attack happened in Georgia against Asian-American women.
In an email newsletter I got yesterday, it reported that there’s been approximately 3,800 hate-related incidents against Asian Americans, and a majority of those were targeted toward women. Another report stated that major cities across the United States saw a 150% increase in hate crimes in 2020.
Before I jump into the reading list, I wanted to share some links that may be helpful during this time:
- Stop AAPI Hate | Use this site to report a hate incident & donate to the cause.
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum | NAPAWF builds a movement for social, political, and structural change for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.
- Asian Immigrant Women Advocates | AIWA works with immigrant workers in the San Francisco Bay Area’s garment, home care, hotel, restaurant, assembly, and other low-wage industries, as well as low-income immigrant youth in Oakland. It seeks to empower women and young people through education, collective action, and leadership development.
- Asian Pacific Fund | Donations here go to various AAPI communities across the country that need assistance.
- Asian Mental Health Collective | Donate to help de-stigmatize mental healthcare in the Asian community and make it more easily accessible.
I also found a list of 61 places you can donate to that will benefit the AAPI community. If there are additional resources or places to donate that I should add to this list, please feel free to leave a comment.
I want to be very clear that The Bitter Lemon stands with the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Hate does not belong here, and my heart goes out to all of the victims that have suffered from these injustices over the last year. As an ally, my little corner on the internet is a safe space today, and every day moving forward.
I know that reading books isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but I do know that I’ve learned so much about other cultures through reading work from diverse authors and it’s helped me understand the world around me… and the ones I don’t see.
Books by Asian-American and Pacific Islander Authors
The following post contains affiliate links, which sends me a small percentage of any sales at no cost to you. All proceeds from sales off this list will be donated to AIWA no matter when the purchase is made.
Some of the following books I’ve read, but many I haven’t — I did some digging specifically for this list. I think it’s important to have a mix of options in terms of genre, so let’s get into it!
Know My Name by Chanel Miller | Memoir
[Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape]. Okay, I just finished reading this book yesterday, so I’ll likely have a longer review coming in a separate post. But wow. “Know My Name” is Chanel Miller’s story of sexual assault. You’ve likely heard the narrative about it from the press… Stanford swimmer rapes a woman behind a dumpster??
This book is a masterpiece. As a victim myself, I found this book comforting in a way, but I know it may not be that way for everyone. I would recommend it to anyone who knows someone who’s suffered an assault and/or if you’re interested in learning about how the justice system treats sexual assault victims.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu | Humorous Fiction
I had this book on my Quarantine Reading List and bought it, but haven’t read it yet! “Interior Chinatown” is the story of Willis Wu, who is an aspiring actor in Hollywood that usually only gets the background roles… but he wants to be the respected star.
One day, he actually gets his break and he’s launched into a world he’s dreamed of… or is it? This book won many awards and has such great reviews.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim | Family Fiction
I bought this book last year and I absolutely loved it! It takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown and if you’ve been there, you have to read it (it takes you right back). Natalie just got the news that her mom passed away… and when she goes back to Chinatown to her mom’s apartment, she discovers a family recipe book.
The story dives into food and you’re going to want to order a bowl of authentic noodles! Anyway, Natalie considers reopening the family restaurant that was beloved, but ultimately didn’t work out. But, there are tensions within the community that Natalie must resolve if it’s going to work.
I loved this book so much I actually reached out to the author, Roselle, and she was so kind. She has another book out that’s also on my list: “Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop” and I cannot wait to read it! This book obviously takes place in Paris, but it has a bit of a romantic twist, on top of reading fortunes in tea leaves.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner | Memoir
This book comes out April 20, so mark your calendars, because it sounds so good! This is a story of food, grief, and endurance as Michelle Zauner shares her experience being one of the only Asian American students at her school in Oregon.
As she gets older, she finds her Korean roots growing more distant until she reclaims her identity after her mother’s cancer diagnosis. I usually struggle with parents + terminal illness in books because I suffered a similar loss, but I’m making an exception because this sounds like a great read.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko | Social Justice Fiction
This is another book that was on my Quarantine Reading List and I haven’t read it yet (swear I’m not a slacker). This book has a bit of mystery to it as a young boy named Deming is left alone when his mother leaves for work and doesn’t return. Deming is adopted by two — presumably white — professors who move him away from his community and to the Bronx. He’s forced to leave behind his culture and there’s also some perspective from his mom. This sounds so interesting!
The Crazy Rich Asian Series by Kevin Kwan | Glamour Fiction
I know this is a popular series that you may have read, but if you haven’t, add it to your list! I loved getting these from the library and it really made me a fan of the author, Kevin Kwan — if you ever catch an interview with him, he seems so cool and fun.
This series introduces us to Nicholas Young and his very, very rich family… and all of their drama. The series has three books:
- Book 1: Crazy Rich Asians
- Book 2: China Rich Girlfriend
- Book 3: Rich People Problems
Now, if you’ve already read all of those, Kevin Kwan has an entirely other series coming our way. The first book came out last year, “Sex and Vanity.” I read it right when it came out and it’s very fabulous and glamorous, taking place on the island of Capri.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong | Humorous Fiction
I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this one is so colorful and bright. This is the story of 30-year-old Ruth who is experiencing the truth that life isn’t what she expected, so she moves back home with her parents. There, her father is suffering from memory loss, but this is a funny take on it (or so the book description says).
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi | Academic Fiction
“Trust Exercise” follows a group of students at a high-performing arts school in the 80s. It’s a look at the academic pressures in various societies, but there’s a major twist for the reader, and it has a layer of friendship and loyalty… sounds so different!
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon | Cult Fiction
Yes, you read that correctly — cult fiction! “The Incendiaries” is about Phoebe who is struggling from grief and gets roped into a religious cult. This book covers religion, politics, and love… and it sounds mysterious and a little spooky 🙂
A Burning by Megha Majumdar | Thriller & Suspense
“A Burning” is the story of Jivan, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack because of some comments on Facebook. She has an alibi, but it’s not as simple as anyone would hope… of course. This book covers justice, corruption, fate and class, and many of the reviews said it was so good it could be read in a single sitting. Wow!
New Waves by Kevin Nguyen | Startup Fiction
Have you noticed that I’m now creating my own genres? As a former employee of two startups, I always get a bit of a kick when reading books that touch on startup culture. “New Waves” is the story of a few pissed-off employees that plan to start their own business and steal the company’s database to kick things off — wow! Of course, the plan ends in tragedy… and there are some serious “Antitrust” vibes here.
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw | Glamour Fiction
This book sounds unique in that it’s fiction, but it takes the reader inside Shanghai. “Five Star Billionaire” follows five very different characters who are looking to make their dreams come true in the city which adds a level of possibility to the book. Many reviews said Shanghai served as a vibrant sixth character in the story. Admittedly, I’ve never been to Shanghai nor do I even know much about it, which is why I added it to the list.
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai | Romance
In “The Marriage Game,” Layla returns home to her family in San Francisco, where her father runs a popular restaurant. He encourages Layla to get back to work and offers her an office space, but he also has lined up several blind dates for her. And then there’s added drama with a CEO who wants Layla’s new office space. I’m sure you can guess where this is going, but I’m here for it!
The Windfall by Diksha Basu | Humorous Fiction
In “The Windfall,” we meet the Jhas family. For the past thirty years, their lives have been defined by cramped spaces and gossipy neighbors. But when Mr. Jha comes into an enormous sum of money—the result of an unexpectedly successful internet venture—he moves his reluctant wife to the super-rich side of town, ultimately forcing them, and their son, to reckon with who they are and what really matters to them.
Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen | Family Drama Fiction
“Soy Sauce for Beginners” shares the story of Gretchen who leaves her floundering marriage in San Francisco to move back to her childhood home in Singapore and immediately finds herself facing problems she’s avoided her entire adult life: her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s artisanal soy sauce business. Her father wants her to stay in Singapore, and her mother wants the opposite, so Gretchen must decide where to call home.
The All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series by Jenny Han | YA Romance
This is another super popular series, but if you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list! I devoured these books and then watched the Netflix adaptation (of book one) and loved all of it. The series follows Lara Jean who runs into a bit of a problem when her younger sister finds a box of letters Lara wrote to her former loves… and mails them. Needless to say, Lara has some explaining to do… The series is made up of three books:
- Book 1: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
- Book 2: P.S. I Still Love You
- Book 3: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
If you’ve already read that series, Jenny Han has more! I’ve also read her “Summer Series,” which is perfect if you love a good beach read. The series takes place over the span of summers at a beach house. Follow Belly as she goes from fun childhood summers to her first crush and summer love… we’ve all been there. Here are the books in that series:
- Book 1: The Summer I Turned Pretty
- Book 2: It’s Not Summer Without You
- Book 3: We’ll Always Have Summer
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang | Family Drama Fiction
“The Wangs vs. The World” is a riches to rags story. Charles Wang, a lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire (!) and made a fortune, has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up his children from schools and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to Upstate New York.
Pizza Girl by Jean Young Frazier | Humorous Fiction
“Pizza Girl” has been on my list for a while and it follows an 18-year-old, pregnant pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles. She’s grieving the death of her father, avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and ignoring her future.
Her world is changed when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
Once Upon a Sunset by Tif Marcelo | Family History Fiction
Diana Gallagher-Cary is at a tipping point in “Once Upon a Sunset.” As a Washington, DC, OB/GYN at a prestigious hospital, she uses her career to distract herself from her grief over her grandma’s death and her breakup from her long-term boyfriend. But when she makes a medical decision that disparages the hospital, she is forced to go on a short sabbatical.
Diana decides to use the break to put some order in her life, when her mother, Margo, stumbles upon a box of letters from her grandfather, Antonio, to her grandmother from the 1940s. They always believed that Antonio died in World War II, but the letters reveal otherwise. When they learn that he lived through the war and that they have surviving relatives in the Philippines, Diana becomes determined to connect with the family that she never knew existed, though Margo refuses to face her history. But Diana pushes on and heads on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that challenges her identity, family history, and her idea of romantic love that could change her life forever.
The Rajes Series by Sonali Dev | Romance
In this series, each book has different characters but it all follows the “forbidden love” formula we know so well. The second book in the series is what drew my attention when a chef is invited to compete on a reality cooking show and a catastrophe goes viral online…
The series has three books:
- Book 1: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
- Book 2: Recipe for Persuasion
- Book 3: Incense and Sensibility
I’ll be the One by Lyla Lee | YA
In “I’ll Be the One,” we meet Skye Shin who has dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame, and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
The Modern Love Series by Alisha Rai | Romance
This series by Alisha Rai has different characters in each book, but every plot deals with romance and technology in some way — dating apps, social media, emails, you name it. There are three books in this series (I’m currently on a library waiting list for book one):
- Book 1: The Right Swipe
- Book 2: Girl Gone Viral
- Book 3: First Comes Like
The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel | Romance
In “The Trouble With Hating You,” we meet Liya Thakkar — a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. But the same guy shows up at her office a week later.
As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance
For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Goodreads @thebitterlemon – where I share more of my book picks. Also, check out my printable bookmarks and Book Club Journal Pages in my Etsy Shop.
Thank you for this post, it was really informative and I’ve got some great recommendations to add to my ever-growing TBR now! 🙂 x
💙 Thanks for stopping by! After I made this list, I added probably 1/2 of it to my library reserve list 🤓 My TBR list is ridiculous but that’s ok!
We’re so glad that you included Jenny Han. She is one of our favorite authors.
I love her! I know she has another entire series, but I haven’t gotten to it yet 🙂 It’s on my list!
Thanks for all the great recommendations!
You’re so welcome! I’m excited to read them, too 🤓