By Alex Garland (Viking, 1996)
A Thai island utopia turns foul in this satirical novel that nevertheless sparked a real-life tourist rush to Koh Phi Phi near Phuket, where the movie adapted from the book was shot.
By Eugenia Kim (Henry Holt & Company, 2009)
“I learned I had no name on the same day I learned fear.” So starts this soulful novel about a woman’s journey through a dying aristocratic culture within Japanese-occupied Korea in the decades leading to WWII.
By Peter Hessler (Harper Perennial, 2001)
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Hessler taught English in China’s Yangtze River valley, immersing himself in local life and decoding the Orwellian red state doctrine.
By Timothy Mo (Turnaround, 2012)
Snooky, a Muslim-born kathoey (ladyboy) in Thailand, is coerced into spying on a local Islamist school in this fictional study of rising extremism in Southeast Asia—with side trips to the Philippines, Singapore, and beyond.
By Heinrich Harrer (Dutton, 1953)
During WWII, an unlikely friendship develops between the Dalai Lama and an Austrian mountaineer who has escaped a British prisoner-of-war camp in India.
By Graham Greene (Heinemann, 1955)
The British author portrays Western blundering in the powder keg that was French Indochina (now Vietnam) in this classic wartime novel.
Appeared in the October 2015 issue as “Asia, Decoded”.
GEORGE W STONE
is Editor-in-Chief, National Geographic Travel. He tweets as @travelerstone.
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