Pachinko by Min Jin Lee ★★★★★
I heard a lot of great things about this book when it first came out two years ago, but I never got around to reading it until a friend recommended the book again to me recently. I had read Min Jin Lee’s other book, Free Food for Millionaires, which was quite good, but it was published in 2007, so I was curious to see how her writing had changed since then.
The story starts off with a family in Busan, Korea and the hardships they endure with the Japanese occupation during the war. The daughter of the family, Sunja, gets married and then moves to Osaka, Japan, hoping for a better life. When she gets there, she realizes it’s not as ideal as she dreamt, and she and her family deal with poverty, illness, discrimination, and racism.
This book was so good. It’s 489 pages and I finished it in two days because I was so immersed in it. Min Jin Lee does a wonderful job developing each character that they each had a distinct personality and you could understand why each character acted a certain way.
One of the characters really struggles with his identity as a Korean person living in Japan. He tries his best to assimilate into Japanese culture, starts hating his own Korean-ness, and even expresses a want to become Japanese at some point. He even experiences being tokenized. When reading about his thoughts and experiences, I couldn’t help but empathize as someone who once in the past wanted to be something other than Vietnamese and also hated my own culture. I feel like this struggle with identity is inevitable when you’re living in a place where the country makes it a point to always point out your differences.
This is definitely one of my favorite books, I would highly recommend it!
Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami ★★★☆☆
Ms Ice Sandwich is about a young boy and his obsession with a lady who sells sandwiches at the nearby grocery store. It’s written from his perspective, so it reads like the stream of consciousness of a young boy, with run-on sentences and sporadic thoughts.
I thought it was a sweet book, but I had a lot of trouble keeping my interest because I felt that while the writing was unique since it was from the perspective of a young boy, it was hard for me to follow along. It was a short, quick read, though!
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim ★★★☆☆
This debut novel from Hana Kim follows the story of a family during the Korean War. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective and you really get to know what each character is thinking as the events unravel.
When I was first reading it, I was really interested in the story and rooting for the protagonist. Halfway through, I really found it hard to continue reading. The characters had all become unlikeable and it was hard for me to feel empathy for any of them. While I understand the characters’ point of view, especially with the time period they were in and the cultural restrictions, it was a really frustrating read. It was the kind of frustration where you want everyone to do better for themselves, but they just can’t, and so I felt helpless as a reader.
Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski ★★★☆☆
I read Nagoski’s book on Burnout last month and this month, and at the time I had put this book on hold too after hearing a lot of great things about it. I finally was able to check this book out in the month of August.
This time around, Nagoski writes about women’s sexuality and all the different factors that come into play.
Growing up in a traditional Asian household, I feel a lot of shame when it comes to anything sexual. And then, sometimes I feel like there’s something wrong with me.
As it turns out, the mainstream has always approached women’s sexuality as a lite version of men’s sexuality. They have men’s standards set the default, so it’s common for women to feel broken because those standards aren’t made for us.
Nagoski goes into detail about mental, cultural, and physical factors that affect women’s sexuality. There are also worksheet pages for the reader to help understand why they feel certain ways when it comes to their sexuality.
After reading this book, I don’t feel so isolated and alone in thinking that there’s something wrong with me. I enjoyed reading this book, but I found some of the parts repetitive at times and some of it was kind of dense to follow. I’d still recommend it for women out there who are still trying to understand their sexuality.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li ★★★☆☆
Number One Chinese Restaurant is about a family-owned Chinese restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. There’s a lot of family politics and drama, as you maybe can imagine when running a business with your family. There’s the older generation who wants to keep things the same because it works and then there’s the younger generation who wants to innovate and revolutionize the way things work.
I used to work in a family-owned Chinese restaurant a few years ago, and while there was definitely family drama there, this book takes it to the extreme.
Aside from my experience of working in the restaurant setting, I found it really hard to relate to the characters in this book. They were either all selfish or they were pushovers. I think because the book tried to cover every character’s background story and current situation, it was spread kind of thin.
This story was okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.
Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang ★★★★☆
After reading so many novels and non-fiction books, it was refreshing to read a collection of short stories. The short stories are centered around the new generation of Chinese youth, from those living in poor conditions to those who are extremely wealthy, some of the stories take place in the United States while others take place in China.
If you’re not a fan of having no closure, this might no the best book for you. As with most short stories I’ve read, there’s no concrete ending, which lets the audience come up with their own ending.
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan ★★★★☆
This book follows two main characters from a small town in China. They are promised to each other in an arranged marriage by their parents, and after they get married, they move to the United States. Fast forward a few years, they end up moving back to China for the husband’s job.
The wife, Lina, goes from someone who had a job to a housewife living an extremely privileged lifestyle. The husband, Wei, has a very lucrative job in marketing, but he lives with regrets that he didn’t do more with his life seeing how he was a very promising student growing up.
I found this to be pretty interesting since it shows a different perspective of what it’s like to move from the United States to their home country and how that affects each character as well as their relationships.
Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter by Dan Ariely ★★★☆☆
This book really makes you think about how you spend your money.
For example, I almost never pay for iced tea on a daily basis (it’s about $6 in NYC depending where you go), but when I’m on vacation, I don’t even flinch paying that much for an iced tea. Why is that? According to this book, it seems like one of the reasons is that I already paid a lot of money to go on vacation (flights, hotel, rental car), that $6 compared to the hundreds I spent on everything else doesn’t seem like a lot.
I thought this was a pretty good read, but I found some parts to be a little repetitive.
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JenniferSeptember 9, 2019 at 7:58 am
These all sound like really good books!!
Carrie @ Curly Crafty MomSeptember 9, 2019 at 10:16 am
You read a lot of books in August!! I am finishing up a beach trilogy and then I hope to get back to some other books. I am going to check out a couple of these that you mentioned here!
SundayDahliasSeptember 9, 2019 at 1:04 pm
Being Korean, I definitely want to try reading Pachinko! It sounds like an interesting read.
Rowena @ rolala lovesSeptember 9, 2019 at 4:53 pm
I’m really impressed with how many books you managed to get through in a month! You’ve piqued my interest in the Dollars and Sense book. I think we have a pretty good handle on our money and spending but I also feel like there’s always room for improvement.
AngieSeptember 10, 2019 at 12:01 am
So glad to hear your thoughts on Pachinko, it’s been on my to-read pile for SO long!!! Hope to pick it up soon.
GemmaSeptember 10, 2019 at 5:20 am
Thanks for the recommendations.
SophSeptember 10, 2019 at 6:21 am
Pachinko sounds like a wonderful book. I’m always looking for new book recommendations and I’ve actually never heard of any of these authors so this has definitely given me some to keep an eye out for!
Soph – https://sophhearts.com x
JenniferSeptember 10, 2019 at 6:37 am
I really love reading books and this is a great list of must reads <3 Nice Post! Have a great day!
KatrinaSeptember 10, 2019 at 7:32 am
I was just about to start on Pachinko, heard really good things about it. Thanks for the recs!
AshleySeptember 10, 2019 at 10:13 am
You crushed that August reading list! I think What We Were Promised sounds like such an interesting read.
Le Stylo Rouge
Kim CaoSeptember 10, 2019 at 12:45 pm
Thanks so much for all these recommendations! As a fellow writer, I like to explore different ways of writing like the one you described for Ms. Ice Cream Sandwich. Also LOVE that most of these authors are Asian!
The Exclusive Beauty DiarySeptember 10, 2019 at 12:58 pm
All of these books sounds interesting. I didn’t read them but I will search because I would like to check inside after your post. Thank you so much for sharing.
New Post – http://www.exclusivebeautydiary.com/2019/09/olaplex-hair-perfector-no-3-ordinary.html
ShinSeptember 11, 2019 at 1:33 am
Ooh Pachinko seems like a great read. Living as a Korean in Sri Lanka for more than 10 years, I feel I’ll definitely relate! Didn’t read Atomic Habits yet (still going through my other books in my shelf ?), I’ve been listening to him on podcasts and he’s extremely well spoken and gives a lot of food for thought.
That’s a long list of books you’ve read in August – how do you find the time for all these books? 🙂
?Better Marketing & Mindfulness https://www.toomanytabs.co/
Audrey | Brunch at Audrey'sSeptember 11, 2019 at 1:48 am
I read an eARC of Home Remedies! I was super excited for it, but once I started reading, I found that I didn’t connect to the writing/characters at all. To me the characters felt more like archetypes than real people. I probably would have DNF-ed, but I always feel obligated to finish eARCs heh. But most of the Goodreads reviews are positive so I guess I missed something! The stories I thought had concepts slightly more interesting than the rest were “Algorithmic Problem-Solving for Father-Daughter Relationships,” “Home Remedies for Non-Life-Threatening Ailments,” and “Echo of the Moment” 🙂 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s
JacobSeptember 11, 2019 at 7:18 am
These are lovely reads
new post: https://www.melodyjacob.com/2019/09/what-are-we-without-him.html
KathleenSeptember 12, 2019 at 5:15 pm
These all sound so interesting! My reading list is growing everyday, I just can’t read fast enough!
Kathleen / http://www.madeinthe1990s.com
mainouSeptember 13, 2019 at 2:15 pm
Thanks for these reviews! Been on the hunt for some new reads.
stephaieSeptember 13, 2019 at 5:29 pm
They defiantly all sound great! tbh Im kinda digging the money one.
Stephanie Vainer | a learning story blog
LovelySeptember 14, 2019 at 6:11 am
Thanks for the fab recommendations hun!
NancySeptember 15, 2019 at 12:32 am
Oooh! I love that you have some Asian authors in your reads last month. Glad that Pachinko was a really good read. It is interesting to read about how families have to adjust to a different culture when they move. Oh man, arranged marriages is something else. When the lifestyle changes to privileged, everything is so different. Thanks for sharing all of these reads!
Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me
KaraSeptember 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm
You read some really interesting book this month. I’m adding Dollars and Sense and What We Were Promised to my to-read list!
x Kara | http://karascloset.net
ÉliseDecember 19, 2019 at 11:53 am
i haven’t had the chance to read books written by asian authors (and not because of anything but rather because i still enjoy YA series to avoid even bigger stress after a long day at work since YAs are less intense and easily entertaining) so this is such an interesting list. if i were to pick one, come as you are is probably at the top of my list just because when it comes to women sexuality, we’re always shamed for it especially in asian family setting where we’re always told to cover ourselves. this book sounds like the kind of empowerment that i need!