Rainbow world map

East Meets West: Amazing Reads From Asia & Africa

Read every book in your local library? Try out these books from the other side of the world! You could learn a lot from reading about another culture.

Africa gave us the origins of civilization, while Asian cultures have a rich history of poetry and art that extends much further back than 1776. Yet generally, we as a country read books by American authors. Even abroad (for example, in the UK) American novels dominate the market, often to the detriment of writers from that country.

These books listed below range from true historical tales of politics and war to fictional pieces fueled by imagination and philosophical thought.

1. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)



In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.


This gripping true story of a young boy, forced to grow up fast and take part in a bloodthirsty war reveals the horrifying experiences that some children have endured and offers this survivor his chance to have a voice that reaches the whole world.


2. Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)



Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.


Based loosely on Nigeria in the 1960s, this heartbreaking tale is about the victorious end of Colonialism in Nigeria and the struggle to maintain unity and independence, both throughout the nation and even between families.


3. The Scriptwriter by Adeerus Ghayan (Pakistan)


The Scriptwriter by [Ghayan, Adeerus]


The Scriptwriter is a politico-military thriller set in Pakistan amidst political turmoil in the second half of 2014. Novel’s theme is based on the international espionage net that covers South Asian and Middle Eastern region. Caught in this net is the elected Government of Pakistan which is accused by the opposition of having come in power via fraudulent elections. The plot is centered upon the US preparations for attack on the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant/Syria and its involvement in Pakistani politics.


This enthralling book of espionage and the tipping scale between war and peace is a look at more recent history within Pakistani political relations, a subject many Westerners don’t know as much about as they perhaps ought to. While we may be somewhat aware of our own roles in global politics, we may not be aware of other nations’ perspectives.


4. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (India)




The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.


Follow the budding relationship of these four strangers who must overcome the dire political climate they are stranded in. Rather than losing hope and turning on each other, they persevere, and their inspiring tale teaches us to have hope in life and one another no matter the bleak circumstance.


5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Japan)



Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan – where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller – Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic


If hardcore, brutal action is more your thing, then this is the novel for you! It looks like an especially fantastic reading experience for any Manga fans out there.


6. When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (Korea)




Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, live in Korea with their parents. Because Korea is under Japanese occupation, the children study Japanese and speak it at school. Their own language, their flag, the folktales Uncle tells them—even their names—are all part of the Korean culture that is now forbidden. When World War II comes to Korea, Sun-hee is surprised that the Japanese expect their Korean subjects to fight on their side. But the greatest shock of all comes when Tae-yul enlists in the Japanese army in an attempt to protect Uncle, who is suspected of aiding the Korean resistance. Sun-hee stays behind, entrusted with the life-and-death secrets of a family at war.


Based on the historical events of Japan’s occupation of Korea, Park’s work illustrates the struggle and heartbreak of having your identity and culture stripped away from you… and have your family gradually tearing apart as a result. Addressing life-and-death issues of courage and collaboration, injustice, and death-defying determination, this proud Korean family fights to survive in the face of totalitarian oppression.


7. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam (Cambodia, China)




Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. She suffered unspeakable acts of brutality and witnessed horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life–until, in her early twenties, she managed to escape. Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Mam became a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking, rescuing sex workers–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.


Somaly Mam tells us the harrowing experiences of her past and how she found the strength to turn it all around and save others who are going through the same perils.


8. The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Russia)



Nothing in the whole of literature compares with The Master and Margarita. One spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow. Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical, funny, and devastating satire of Soviet life combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful, and wonderful characters. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s reign, and finally published in 1966 and 1967, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, signaling artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.


In an era where artists were restricted and limited in their imagination and artistry, Bulgakov dared to write out his own way. With some aspects of the everyday life of what was back then the Soviet Union, Bulgakov reveals a part of history while he fights against the oppressive system of the time. (Yes, Moscow is technically in Europe. But since Russia as an entire country is in Asia as well as Europe, we figured we’d include this beloved classic!)



All In-text Images via Amazon.

Featured Image via Pinterest.