I live in Asia and devour books, therefore it makes sense to create a list of all the best books set in Asia that I have read. Please leave me a comment and add your favourite novels set in Asia as I’m always after new reading materials to explore.
Best Novels set in Southeast Asia
If you’re planning a trip to South East Asia and you want to get prepared for the vibe, learn about the history and cultures you may encounter then read some of these books set in southeast Asia. Many of them are in the genre of historical fiction set in Asia.
Books Set in Thailand
Starting off the list with books set in Thailand. In the historical fiction set in southeast Asia there are a few books about Thailand.
Bangkok in Times of Love and War by Claire Keefe-Fox
If you want to learn something of the history of Thailand then I recommend reading this book set in Bangkok. It follows a female nurse who is the protagonist who falls in love with a British man based in Bangkok but they then become separated during World War 2.
The author really captures the feeling of Bangkok from an outsider perspective and I enjoyed the snippets into how Siam became Thailand and political history that I learnt through reading this novel set in Thailand.
Books Set in Myanmar
My top recommendation for books about Burma is Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig. This incredible book, set in Myanmar, follows the history of one family through the last century. The characters in the novel are based on Craig’s own family members. This book was incredible for teaching me about Burma, its history, its multiple cultures and explains a lot about World War 2 and British colonisation that I never knew.
Miss Burma is one of the best novels set in Asia that I have ever read.
Books set in Asia : South Asia
Books set in Sri Lanka
As someone who has never read a book set in Sri Lanka that I didn’t like, I recommend nearly all these Sri Lanka novels and historical fiction reads.
The Elephant Complex – John Gimlette
One of the best books on the Sri Lankan Civil War, this is an extremely readable history which explains the complexities of Sri Lankan history and is completely engaging
Mosquito – Roma Tearne
Historical fiction set in Sri Lanka during the period of the Sri Lankan civil war.
When Memory Dies – Ambalavaner Sivanandan – fictional book set during the civil war
Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje- fictional book set during the civil war
Tamil Tigress – Niromi de Soyza –
One of the best books about Sri Lanka that I have read. This is an autobiography of a former female soldier in the Tamil Tigers and is eye-opening, raw and emotional.
Shantaram – Gregory David Robert (first book I read and decided I needed to visit India!) – Epic adventure story that is also true!
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth- Family orientated drama concerning arranged marriages and religion issues
A Fine Balance -Rohinton Mistry – Heartbreaking and important
The Palace of Illusions – Chitra Divakaruni – Tale of the Mahabharata, one of the oldest, most epic stories in the Hindu religion told from a female perspective
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – Fantasy story set during India’s independence
Holy Cow – Sarah Macdonald – Autobiographical book concerning India’s spiritual and religious elements
The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling – Children’s story of jungle adventures about a boy growing up with wolves
A Passage to India – E.M.Forster – short novel depicting the beginning of the end of the British Empire in India
The Far Pavilions – M.M.Kaye – Adventure, love, war, religion – one of my favourite books of all time.
Shadow of the Moon – M.M.Kaye – fictional story about the lead up to the First Afghan War
City of Djinns – William Dalrymple – extremely readable history of Delhi, this book feels like it’s a fictional story
The Beach – Alex Garland (Thailand) – backpacker tales from Thailand
Forget You Had a Daughter – Sandra Gregory – Autobiography about an English teacher who served time in Thailand’s notorious Kong Klem prison, nicknamed the ‘Bangkok Hilton’
Travel – All Countries
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (Italy, India, Bali) – don’t watch the movie but do read this book! Touches on dealing with depression as well as travel
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson (Worldwide and humorous!)
First They Killed My Father – Loung Ang (Cambodia)
The Quiet American – Graham Greene (Vietnam)
House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende (South America)
The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank (WW2)
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (USA- WW2)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe (USA)
The Island – Victoria Hislop (Crete – Greece)
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
The Goldfinch – Donna Tart
The Versions of Us – Laura Barnatt
Nocturnal Animals – Austin Wright
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climber Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
The Moonstone and The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Tender is the Night – F Scott Fitzgerald
The Beautiful and Damned – F Scott Fitzgerald
Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde