Thu's Top Ten Books of 2018

Since I started working at Brazos Bookstore in August 2017, I have read over 100 books by Asian and Asian-American authors. I counted them all on my shelf, and around the 100 mark I stopped counting. At one point, I even speculated whether this was a form of racism.

In August, I saw the movie Crazy Rich Asians 4 times. I was in that camp of heartwrenched and teary Asians, and it astonished me. I was in awe of portrayals of friendship, family, love, fuck ups, silliness, courage, deceit, confidence, pride, and shame through characters that I could identify with, characters that resembled me. I wondered whether other people, upon seeing themselves in books and movies, felt the same as me.

I think representation matters. Everyone, regardless of their skin color, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender, or whatever, deserves to have a vast range of stories, to share their stories, and break away from stereotypes. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t put everything on here, but I am incredibly proud of these authors, their stories, and what this means for the future of literature. Season's readings!

Staff Pick Badge
Go Home! Cover Image
By Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Editor), Viet Nguyen (Foreword by), Alexander Chee (Contribution by)
ISBN: 9781936932016
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Feminist Press - March 13th, 2018

This powerful anthology was my introduction and gateway to some of my favorite Asian voices like Alexander Chee, Esmé Weijun Wang, and Jason Koo. My favorite story is Fariha Róisín’s "Meet a Muslim". Go Home’s daring and diverse collection of stories feel so real and transform the concept of home and turn it upside down.

The Ensemble: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735214767
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Riverhead Books - May 15th, 2018

How often do we get to grow along with and spend the greater part of our lives with another person? Does persistence and proximity pull us closer? Would creating and nurturing something together help us anticipate and strengthen our bonds? Can loss and change define relationships? Aja Gabel’s The Ensemble affords us this rare opportunity to witness bonds that surpass time and what defines and strengthens them through the lives of Jana, Henry, Brit, and Daniel, who form the Van Ness String Quartet.

Sanpaku Cover Image
ISBN: 9781684152100
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Archaia - August 21st, 2018

Marcine is obsessed with the Japanese theory of sanpaku, where seeing the white around the irises is the sign of a terrible fate. Sanpaku has everything that would pull me towards a book: set in my hometown of Houston, tantalizing depictions of food, by an Asian author about Asians. But aside from the details, what makes Sanpaku so special and what keeps me coming back to it is Marcine’s connection to her late lola, the lengths she takes to compensate for it after her death, and fully realizing the space your loved ones and their memories occupy in your heart. A gorgeous and quirky coming-of-age graphic novel that tackles love, family, and self-realization. Read my interview with Kate here!

Strange Weather in Tokyo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781640090163
Availability: Backordered
Published: Counterpoint LLC - November 14th, 2017

Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo is not quite your typical love story. A treat for fans of Haruki Murakami’s love stories (i.e., Norwegian Wood), SWT thoughtfully renders humanism where Murakami’s other-worldly characters miss. In addition, read it for the vivid Tokyo cityscape and drool-worthy Japanese meals.

The Incendiaries: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735213890
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Riverhead Books - July 31st, 2018

R.O. Kwon surpasses the impossibility that plagues most holiday gatherings by bridging the spectrum of faith and belief in this alluring novel about three strangers from troubled pasts who become tangled with a religious cult with secret ties to North Korea. Apart from being the hottest book of 2018, The Incendiaries has been reviewed and raved about by everyone. It’s that good! Read my interview with Reese here!

Number One Chinese Restaurant: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250141293
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - June 19th, 2018

Two reads, interview, and a panel discussion later, Lillian Li’s Number One Chinese Restaurant is the one that did it for me and for the record is my ‘Number One Favorite Book’ of 2018. A rich and heartfelt story about a Chinese restaurant and the colorful lives of the people who breathe life into it, Li’s intention and brilliance shine through every page and gives me hope for the future of Asian and Asian-American stories. Read my interview with Lillian here

The Day the Sun Died Cover Image
By Yan Lianke, Carlos Rojas (Translator)
ISBN: 9780802128539
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Grove Press - December 11th, 2018

Yan Lianke is one of China’s most prolific and banned authors, and his newest novel The Day the Sun Died is a dystopian Chinese allegory meets The Walking Dead. Sharp and sinister, all of the villagers in a small town begin to dreamwalk as if carrying on with their daily lives and eventually meet exhaustive deaths. A young narrator and his parents, proprietors of a funerary service, desperately try to save the town.

Convenience Store Woman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802128256
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Grove Press - June 12th, 2018

For 18 years, fluorescent lighting, beeps and chimes, ebb and flow, and even the food of the convenience store courses through Keiko’s veins. The convenience store provides for her and it’s the life she knows. But when this life clashes with her family’s wishes for her to meet society’s standards, she is resigned to conform. An entertaining and refreshing critique on the pressures of society.

Lion Cross Point Cover Image
By Masatsugu Ono, Angus Turvill (Translator)
ISBN: 9781931883702
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Two Lines Press - April 10th, 2018

Akutagawa Prize-winning author Masatsugu Ono’s Lion Cross Point is part Japanese ghost story and a young boy’s reconciliation and catharsis from unspeakable brutality and abuse. 10-year-old Takeru casts a gentle and pure lens to heartless and dark places from his memories. In this eerie and breathtaking novel, the reader’s path teeters on the verge of hope and hopelessness.

Chemistry: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525432227
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Vintage - April 3rd, 2018

What do we know about the unnamed narrator in Weike Wang’s Chemistry? She has roughly a year to finishing her Ph.D. in chemistry (and fulfilling her parents dreams), her boyfriend Eric proposed (twice), but all she can think is how she’s not up to the task. Hilarious, smart, penetrating, and poignant, Wang’s narrator is brilliant albeit lacking in social skills whose relentless and polarizing sensibilities makes her the greatest unsung hero. I love this book!

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