The Greatest Asian Books of All Time

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  1. 1. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

    The 39th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

    "The Tale of Genji" is a classic work of Japanese literature from the 11th century, often considered the world's first novel. The story revolves around the life of Genji, the son of an emperor, exploring his political rise, romantic relationships, and the complex court life of the Heian era. The novel is celebrated for its detailed characterization and its analysis of the different forms of love.

    The 155th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

    The 227th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

    The 277th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Mahabharata by Vyasa

    The book is an English translation of the ancient Indian epic, originally written in Sanskrit, which tells the story of a great war that took place between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The narrative explores themes of duty, righteousness, and honor while also featuring a rich array of gods, goddesses, and supernatural beings. It is not only a tale of war and conflict, but also a profound philosophical and spiritual treatise, containing the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hindu philosophy.

    The 315th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

    Set in 1950s India, this epic novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, focusing primarily on the young woman Lata and her mother's quest to find her a suitable husband. The narrative explores the political, social, and personal upheavals in a newly independent India, struggling with its own identity amidst the backdrop of a society grappling with religious tensions, land reforms, and the shaping of a modern democratic state. Lata's journey is an exploration of love, ambition, and the weight of familial duty.

    The 348th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    "A Fine Balance" is a poignant narrative set in India during the 1970s, a time of political turmoil and upheaval. The plot revolves around four diverse characters - a widow, a young student, and two tailors - who are brought together by fate. Through their interconnected lives, the book explores themes of caste, poverty, political corruption, and the human spirit's resilience. It offers a profound exploration of the delicate balance that sustains life amidst adversity.

    The 385th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a haunting tale of three friends, who grow up together at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they mature, they discover a dark secret about their school and the purpose of their existence, which is to become organ donors for the rest of society. The story is a profound exploration of what it means to be human, the morality of scientific innovation, and the heartbreaking reality of love and loss.

    The 388th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Analects by Confucius

    The Analects is a collection of sayings and teachings attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his disciples. The book emphasizes the importance of personal and societal morality, filial piety, and the cultivation of knowledge and virtue. Confucius stresses the importance of leading by example and treating others with respect and kindness. The Analects has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and philosophy, and its teachings continue to be studied and applied today.

    The 466th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

    This ancient Chinese military treatise, written by a renowned general and military strategist, is a comprehensive guide on military strategy and tactics. It covers various aspects of warfare, from planning and preparation to execution and aftermath. The work emphasizes the importance of understanding one's enemy, using deception, and adapting to changing circumstances. It also stresses the importance of terrain, morale, and leadership. Despite its military focus, its principles have been applied to business, politics, and other fields, making it a timeless classic on strategy.

    The 479th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

    "Journey to the West" is a classic Chinese novel that follows the adventures of a Buddhist monk and his three disciples, a monkey, a pig, and a river monster, as they travel from China to India in search of sacred Buddhist scriptures. Along the way, they face a series of challenges and obstacles, including battling demons and overcoming their own personal weaknesses. This epic tale is a blend of mythology, folklore, and fantasy, and is also a commentary on the practice and principles of Buddhism.

    The 492nd Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Call to Arms by Xun Lu

    "Call to Arms" is a collection of short stories that vividly capture the impact of the socio-political upheaval during the early 20th century in China. The narratives delve into the lives of ordinary people, predominantly the peasantry and the lower classes, who are often caught in the throes of societal change and struggle for survival. Through a blend of realism and symbolism, the stories explore themes of tradition versus modernity, the human condition, and the quest for justice, reflecting the author's critical engagement with the national and cultural issues of his time.

    The 578th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

    "Dream of the Red Chamber" is a classic Chinese novel that provides a detailed, episodic record of life in the aristocratic Jia family. The story revolves around the love triangle between the family's heir, his sickly cousin, and his other cousin who is raised to be his wife. It is also a critique of the family's decline and a reflection on the societal norms of the time. The novel is famous for its vivid characterization and psychological depth, and its unique portrayal of Chinese society during the Qing dynasty.

    The 593rd Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

    This ancient text is a fundamental guide to the philosophy of Taoism, offering wisdom on how to live a balanced, virtuous life in harmony with the natural world and the Tao, the source of all existence. The book explores themes such as simplicity, humility, and non-aggression, emphasizing the importance of understanding and aligning oneself with the Tao. It provides guidance on leadership, personal growth, and spiritual enlightenment, advocating for a life of peace, contemplation, and connection with the universe.

    The 617th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Ramayana by Valmiki

    The book is an ancient Indian epic poem which follows the journey of Prince Rama as he embarks on a quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana, the demon king. The narrative explores themes of morality, dharma (duty/righteousness), and the struggle between good and evil. The story is not just about Rama's battle against Ravana, but also his spiritual journey and the importance of upholding one's duties and responsibilities.

    The 619th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima

    This novel follows the life of a young man named Mizoguchi, who becomes an acolyte at a famous Zen temple in Kyoto. Mizoguchi is afflicted with a stutter and a severe inferiority complex, which leads him to develop a destructive obsession with the temple's beauty. As he struggles with his personal demons, his fixation escalates into a desire to destroy the temple. The book is a profound exploration of beauty, obsession, and the destructive nature of ideals.

    The 620th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    "Nectar in a Sieve" is a tale of an Indian peasant woman named Rukmani who endures the hardships of rural poverty, natural disasters, and personal tragedy, while trying to raise her children and maintain her marriage. The book explores themes of love, hope, and the strength of the human spirit against the backdrop of a rapidly changing India. Despite the constant struggles, Rukmani never loses her faith and hope, symbolizing the resilience and strength of ordinary people in the face of adversity.

    The 838th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao

    This book is a collection of speeches and writings by the former leader of the People's Republic of China. It covers a wide range of topics including communism, revolution, class struggle, and the correct handling of contradictions among the people. The book was published with the intention of promoting the leader's ideology and was widely distributed during the Cultural Revolution. It was considered an essential guide to life and politics in China during this period.

    The 865th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

    "Snow Country" is a poignant tale of a tragic love affair between a wealthy city-dweller and a provincial geisha. Set in a remote hot-spring town in the snowy Japanese mountains, the story explores the depth of human emotions, loneliness, and the ephemeral nature of beauty and love. The narrative is filled with vivid imagery and symbolism, reflecting the melancholic and transient beauty of the snow country, and the inevitable fate of the characters.

    The 901st Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

    Set in Tokyo during the late 1960s, the novel follows a college student as he navigates a complex love triangle while grappling with his own mental health and the societal pressures of the time. He's torn between his love for a beautiful but emotionally troubled woman and his growing feelings for a lively, outgoing classmate. As he confronts his past, present, and future, the narrative explores themes of love, loss, and personal growth.

    The 919th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. Upanishads by Hindu scripture

    The book is a comprehensive compilation of ancient Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads, which are fundamental to understanding the core philosophies of Hinduism. The text delves into profound spiritual teachings and philosophical dialogues about the nature of reality, the self, and the universe, providing invaluable insights into concepts such as karma, reincarnation, moksha, and the ultimate truth of existence. It serves as a guide to spiritual enlightenment and self-realization, offering timeless wisdom for introspection and personal growth.

    The 930th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima

    "The Sea of Fertility" is a four-part epic that follows the life of Shigekuni Honda, a man who believes in reincarnation. The series spans several decades, beginning in the early 20th century and ending in the 1970s, and explores Japanese history, culture, and spirituality. As Honda encounters individuals he believes to be the reincarnations of his childhood friend, he grapples with questions of identity, mortality, and the nature of the soul.

    The 942nd Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki

    "Some Prefer Nettles" is a novel that explores the complexities of a failing marriage in early 20th century Japan. The main characters, a husband and wife, are both aware of their fading love for each other and are drawn to other people, but are hesitant to divorce due to societal pressures and the welfare of their young son. The novel also delves into the cultural tension between traditional Japanese customs and the encroaching influence of Western culture.

    The 963rd Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Bashō

    "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" is a travelogue that depicts the author's journey through the remote and desolate northern regions of Japan. The narrative combines prose and haiku poetry to capture the beauty and spirituality of nature, as well as the author's introspective thoughts and philosophical insights. The journey is not just physical but also spiritual, as the author seeks to understand his place in the world and the essence of the human condition.

    The 978th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

    This novel is a political and philosophical exploration set in early 20th century India during the country's struggle for independence. It revolves around three main characters: a nobleman, his wife, and his friend, a fervent nationalist. The story unfolds as the wife, initially confined to the inner quarters of their home, begins to question her societal boundaries and the idea of nationalism after meeting her husband's friend. The narrative delves into the complexities of love, freedom, and the concept of home and world, set against the backdrop of the Swadeshi movement, a part of the Indian independence movement against British rule.

    The 988th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download