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12+ Amazing Books to Read by AAPI Authors (Plus 2 Picture Books!)

by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@ashley_dicksonellison)

Here are a few of my favorite reads by AAPI authors. I've included some adult picks, young adult picks, and a couple of picture books. I first posted this list in 2021 and wanted to update with some more amazing books I've read since then! The books with the astericks beside them are the latest additions.

Adult Picks

Helen Hoang's The Bride Test ( | - I've shared my love of this romance novel many times including when I talked about it as one of my favorite reads from 2020 in our Unabridged Awards episode. I love the way that Hoang explores the obstacles that both Khai and Esme face and the hard work that they have to do to find a way forward with their relationship.

Min Jin Lee's Pachinko ( | - This is another favorite book for me. This epic historical fiction novel spans multiple generations and locations, and I learned so much from it about the Japanese occupation of Korea and what that looked like for individual Korean families. This powerful book speaks to the lasting impact of that occupation on people from both countries.

Mira T. Lee's Everything Here Is Beautiful ( | - This novel explores the complicated relationship between two sisters with very different lifestyles and attitudes. In this powerful depiction of what it is like to struggle with psychotic breakdowns, Lee shows what this journey can be like for everyone involved. The story ultimately depicts a quest to find peace amid the turmoil.

Chanel Miller's Know My Name ( | - We discussed this powerful, important memoir as our book club pick on episode 141. Reading Miller's account of what happened to her when she was assaulted by Brock Turner and then the agonizing aftermath of the court case and the lasting impact on her life highlights just how broken our justice system is and how wrong our approach toward sexual assault is.

*Celeste Ng's Our Missing Hearts ( | - We discussed this as our January 2023 book club pick, and it was such a phenomenal book to read and to discuss and is on my list as a longtime favorite read. The story, set in an eerily near-future America that functions within the confines of government laws created to preserve "American culture," centers on Bird, a twelve-year-old who can't really remember the time before the laws were put in place ten years prior. Bird knows that his mother left and is missing, but he doesn't know why - he only knows that it's dangerous to wonder. But as folktales from his mother drift back into his mind, he can't stop the latent curiosity from pouring out of him as he embarks on a dangerous quest. This one is so masterfully crafted, and it shows the power of resistance in the face of oppression. Jen also put together an outstanding bookish fave featuring books to read after Our Missing Hearts.

*Suzanne Park's So We Meet Again ( | - I loved this fun, thoughtful romance focusing on Jessie Kim, who has just moved back home to Tennessee after being unexpectedly laid off from a high-end corporation where she did an excellent job but was pushed out of the company. Once home, she runs into Daniel Choi, a nemesis from her childhood, who seems to be breezing through life. Despite her reluctance to interact with Daniel, his business savvy help becomes appealing to Jessie as she thinks about how to revive her long-abandoned YouTube cooking channel featuring meal hacks. In addition to the romance at the core of this story, I absolutely loved the exploration of entrepreneurship and the trials and tribulations of building a business. I have loved everything I have read from Suzanne Park, and I’m eager to read more of her backlist!    

*Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties ( | I listened to this one and seriously could not stop listening, which has been a rarity for me. In this romcom romp, protagonist Meddy feels a bit suffocated by her life with her mom and three doting aunties, all of whom expect her to be the photographer in their family wedding business. But when a date (set up by her mom, who pretended to be her on a social media dating app) goes suddenly and dangerously awry, Meddy finds herself in desperate need of her aunties and their special abilities to handle absurdly terrible situations. I laughed my way through this one and loved every minute. Jen talked about this one on our Cozy Mysteries Recommendations episode; check it out here. (Four Aunties and a Wedding ( | is also fantastic! And Jesse Q. Sutanto is a great follow on Instagram.) 

Young Adult Picks

Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before series ( | - Oh my goodness, you all know we at Unabridged love this series. You can't go wrong with this YA lit romance series featuring Lara Jean. I love these books so very much (and you all know I am still very picky about romance books!). Be sure to check out the Netflix adaptations as well, and listen in to our discussions of the first film (back on episode 90) and the third film that came out last month (episode 169)!

*Emiko Jean's Tokyo Ever After ( | and Tokyo Dreaming ( | - This duology is one of my favorite YA romance book series picks ever. This one is a lovely story that is full of surprises. From my book review: “Tokyo Ever After centers on Izumi Tanaka, a Japanese American teenager living in Mount Shasta, a small town in northern California. Izumi, who goes by Izzy because it's 'easier' for her mostly white community, struggles to find her place and is unsure about her identity and her future.

“But Izumi has a stellar group of friends, one of my favorite aspects of the series, and they have all sorts of adventures. One of her friends, in an effort to help Izumi find her way, starts digging into Izumi's paternal side of her family. For Izumi's whole life, it has only been her and her mom, and her mother had always refused to share anything at all about Izumi's father. But as her friend discovers through some sleuthing, Izumi's father is none other than the crown prince of Japan." Check out my full book review of this one here.

Marie Lu's Legend Series ( | - This is one of my absolute favorite YA lit series, and I love all of the books in it (including Rebel, which came out after a long break!). This brilliant trilogy shows a dystopian government and the lengths that people will go to keep the power structures in place. I also love the way that Lu explores many important social issues including distribution of wealth, access to health care, and the insidious structures that favor some citizens over others.

*Michelle Quach's Not Here to Be Liked ( | - Eliza Quan is running to be editor-in-chief for the school newspaper, and although it is a position always held by boys, she feels sure she will win because of her leadership throughout her high school career with the paper. She also expects to run uncontested, so when another staff member, Len, throws himself into the running at the last minute, things get surprisingly heated.

In this brilliant book, Quach explores so many important social issues from a feminist perspective. Eliza and Len would be natural enemies, but Len is a complex character who often sees things from Eliza's perspective despite being on the other side of the conflict. Eliza is a nuanced protagonist with her own complex and limited understandings of what it means to be a feminist and what it means to be a leader.

In addition to the central conflict of the story - Eliza's right to be editor-in-chief - Quach explores so many topics related to gender, identity, and relationships in a meaningful way that leaves the reader with new ideas and fresh perspectives. (This was a great buddy read picked by Jen!)

Emily X. R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After ( | - This book is an all-time favorite for me and is such a powerful YA lit novel exploring important topics including depression, suicide, and finding healing through connections to family and to art. Pan's consideration of Leigh's quest to follow her mother's spirit (which has taken the form of a red bird) all the way back to her mother's family in Taiwan is powerful and poignant.

David Yoon's Frankly in Love ( | - I loved this YA lit novel featuring Frank Li, a Korean-American teen who is struggling to find his way and feels like he is neither Korean enough nor American enough. Considering himself a "Limbo" who does not fit neatly into either culture, Frank winds up in a fake dating relationship with fellow Limbo, Joy, in an effort to ease family dynamics, and learns a lot about himself and his true feelings. This one is fun, funny, and poignant, and I love the way it centers a male protagonist navigating romantic situations.

Kids' Picture Books

Yangsook Choi's The Name Jar ( | - With all of the important discussions happening about correct pronunciations of people's names, I wanted to share this gem of a picture book with you. This book, which focuses on Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hey), who comes to America from Korea, explores the pressure that kids sometimes feel to make their names "easier" for other people by adopting a new American name. Ultimately celebrating Unhei's decision to keep her real name, this book is a great conversation starter with kids and shows how we can support one another with empathy and compassion. (Perhaps it goes without saying, but I want to note here that having Anglicized name is, of course, not inherently bad. I just love the way this book explores a consideration of names and why we should take the time to learn to pronounce them correctly.)

Joanna Ho's Eyes that Kiss at the Corners, illustrated by Dung Ho ( | - This gorgeous book celebrates eyes "that kiss at the corners and glow like warm tea." The stunning illustrations celebrate the way that family connections can strengthen our own positive self-image, and the lovely text explores the way that the shape of our eyes makes us unique and can also connect us to our heritage.

I first wrote this blog post in 2021 after the horrific shootings in March of 2021 in Atlanta and in response to the ongoing racist assaults on the AAPI community. I've read so many outstanding books by AAPI authors since that time that I wanted to revisit this post to update it with some new favorites. If you're interested in reading more about ways to support the AAPI Community and also about the importance of names, the articles linked below can be a starting point:

Be on the lookout for # AAPIApril on Bookstagram where Bookstagrammers are featuring more favorites by AAPI authors, and share your favorites as well!

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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