Happy February, traveler!
Consider this a companion piece to my YouTube video, I read 69 books in 2020 🎏, attached right underneath this paragraph! The post you see before you isn’t one of my normal blog posts; it’s more of an aggregation of the books I mention in that video, along with promotion links, representation notes, and content warnings.
Want to know whether I recommend these books? Do you want to know my one-star and five-star reads? Which were my favorite reads of the year?
Watch to find out! 😉 And subscribe to my channel for more fun content, if you would like!
Welcome to my 2020 reading wrap-up! I read quite a salacious number of books, and I’m so excited to share them all with you, dear traveler. Each book will be listed as it appears in the video!
Are you ready?
Let us depart on this journey!
(Please let me know if I am missing any notes on content warnings or representation!)
69. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Rep: sapphic side-character
Content Warnings: abasement and humiliation; physical and emotional abuse; parental death; blood, violence, and murder; drugs and forced drugging; harassment; use of poison; suicide
68. Free Food For Millionaires By Min Jin Lee
The daughter of Korean immigrants, Casey Han has refined diction, a closeted passion for reading the Bible, a popular white boyfriend, and a magna cum laude degree in economics from Princeton, but no job and an addiction to the things she cannot afford in the glittering world of Manhattan.
In this critically-acclaimed debut, Min Jin Lee tells not only Casey’s story, but also those of her sheltered mother, scarred father, and friends both Korean and Caucasian, exposing the astonishing layers of a community clinging to its old ways and a city packed with struggling haves and have-nots.
Rep: Korean author and protagonist; Korean-American characters
Content Warnings: rape; sexual assault and harassment; racism and xenophobia; sexual interactions and content; physical and emotional abuse; microaggressions and stereotypes; sexism and misogyny; parental abuse
67. Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo
10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
Rep: Korean-American author and protagonist; Korean-American characters; Cantonese characters; Hong Kong setting
Content Warnings: mention of eating disorders; anxiety
66. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. valente
Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents — a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child.
After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story… at once familiar and entirely new.
Rep: Native-American protagonist and characters
Content Warnings: racism, racial slurs, and xenophobia; sexual assault and attempted rape; misogyny and sexism; blood, violence, gore, and murder; child neglect; suicide and suicidal thoughts; abduction and forced marriage; childbirth and pregnancy
65. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store — for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Rep: Jamaican author, protagonist; and characters; Korean-American protagonist and characters; immigrant and undocumented immigrant representation
Content Warnings: infidelity; depression; immigration battle; toxic family dynamics; racism and xenophobia; violence; suicidal ideation
64. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminates the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.
Rep: east-coast Americans in their natural habitats (LMAO 😋)
Content Warnings: wrongful conviction; sexism and misogyny; infidelity; executions
63. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.
She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.
When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
Rep: Japanese author, protagonist, and characters; Asian-American characters; queer and sapphic characters; Japanese setting
Content Warnings: none apply!
62. Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial “big” — and very human — subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.
Rep: queer, Vietnamese author
Content Warnings: discussions of the following — sexual content and references; war and its aftermath; racism and xenophobia; homophobia; brief use of racial slurs
61. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale
Sin and Syntax covers grammar’s ground rules while revealing countless unconventional syntax secrets (such as how to use — Gasp! — interjections or when to pepper your prose with slang) that make for sinfully good writing. Discover how to:
- Distinguish between words that are “pearls” and words that are “potatoes”
- Avoid “couch potato thinking” and “commitment phobia” when choosing verbs
- Use literary devices such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, and metaphor (and understand what you’re doing)
Everyone needs to know how to write stylish prose — students, professionals, and seasoned writers alike. Whether you’re writing to sell, shock, or just sing, Sin and Syntax is the guide you need to improve your command of the English language.
60. The Aeneid by Virgil
Fleeing the ashes of Troy, Aeneas, Achilles’s mighty foe in the Iliad, begins an incredible journey to fulfill his destiny as the founder of Rome.
His voyage will take him through stormy seas, entangle him in a tragic love affair, and lure him into the world of the dead itself — all the way tormented by the vengeful Juno, Queen of the Gods. Ultimately, he reaches the promised land of Italy where, after bloody battles and with high hopes, he founds what will become the Roman Empire.
Rep: Romans, who were super gay (LOL)
Content Warnings: sexual content, blood, violence, death, assault, and gore in an epic-poetry format
59. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Frances has been a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she’s unafraid to be herself.
So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared…
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
Rep: queer and sapphic author, protagonist, and characters; British-Nigerian protagonist; South Korean side character; Indian side-character
Content Warnings: animal abuse; mental illness; anxiety; emotional abuse by a parent; death threats; online harassment; underage drinking
58. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for… and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after – the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable – she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Rep: Asian author and characters; Asian-coded fantasy setting; queer and sapphic protagonists; queer characters
Content Warnings: abduction; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and assault; fantasy with a caste system; death, murder, torture, and violence; forced contraception; genocide; harassment; forced prostitution; rape; sexism and misogyny; slavery; homophobia
57. Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan
Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.
Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan – it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?
Rep: Asian author and characters; Asian-coded fantasy setting; queer and sapphic protagonists; queer characters
Content Warnings: fantasy with a caste system; death, murder, gore, torture, and violence; forced contraception; genocide; harassment; forced prostitution; rape; sexism and misogyny; slavery; homophobia; the precursors to war
56. Heartstopper: Volume 1 By Alice Oseman
Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie — the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months — but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
Rep: queer and gay protagonists
Content Warnings: emotionally abusive relationship; one incident of a non-consensual kiss; brief references to past homophobia, including uses of homophobic slurs; brief references to past bullying
55. Reflection by Elizabeth Lim
What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?
When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang’s great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang’s spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise — or become King Yama’s prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend.
Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it’s too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him — and be lost in the Underworld—forever?
Rep: Chinese author, protagonist, characters, and setting
Content Warnings: sexism and misogyny
54. Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.
At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.
To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.
If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.
Rep: Asian author; South-Asian- and Southeast-Asian- inspired world; South-Asian and Southeast-Asian-coded characters; sapphic and queer characters; gender-fluid, transgender, and non-binary characters
Content Warnings: violence, blood, gore, murder, and death; nudity and sexual content; war and its aftermath; physical illness
53. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.
But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.
As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
Rep: Korean author; mixed Korean (half-American) protagonist; queer character
Content Warnings: mentions of sexual content; profanity
52. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.
Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should — and should not — marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
Rep: Singaporean-Chinese author and characters; Singaporean characters; Asian characters; setting in Singapore
Content Warnings: animal cruelty; classism; colorism; domestic abuse; xenophobia
51. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home — and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
50. Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.
So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation — following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married — Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to — her mother.
Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.
Rep: Korean author
Content Warnings: racism and xenophobia; bullying; racial slurs; domestic dysfunction
49. Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge
Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.
Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.
Content Warnings: pregnancy; themes of death; abusive relationships; miscarriage
48. I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition — without losing herself.
Rep: queer, queer, bisexual, and Korean author, protagonist, and characters
Content Warnings: fatphobia; homophobia and biphobia, mentions of racism and xenophobia
47.The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr — until she pillories London’s best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom — and her best chance for love.
Rep: Malaysian author; Malaysian protagonist of Chinese descent; Indian side character
Content Warnings: sexual content; unwanted pregnancy; racism and xenophobia
46. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Whether you’re writing your first novel or your seventeenth, Save the Cat! breaks down plot in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method so you can write stories that resonate! This book can help you with any of the following:
- Outlining a new novel
- Revising an existing novel
- Breaking out of the dreaded “writer’s block”
- Fixing a “broken” novel
- Reviewing a completed novel
- Fleshing out/test driving a new idea to see if it “has legs”
- Implementing feedback from agents and/or editors
- Helping give constructive feedback to other writers
But above all else, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel will help you better understand the fundamentals and mechanics of plot, character transformation, and what makes a story work.
45. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does — or does not — say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
Rep: Black author and characters; Asian side character
Content Warnings: blood, death, and violence; mentions of cancer; domestic and physical abuse; child abuse and neglect; infidelity; drug use; violence; institutionalized discrimination; racism and xenophobia; police brutality
44. Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories by Liana Romulo
Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories presents thirteen well-loved myths and tales from the Philippines. These stories will enchant six to ten-year-old readers around the world with their wit and charm. Many of the tales have been transmitted from mother to child over centuries, and cover classic childhood themes — such as the forces of good triumphing over evil, children rebelling against adults and the weak prevailing over the strong. They make perfect new additions for story time or bedtime reading.
Narrated with an international audience in mind and illustrated with whimsical watercolors by award-winning artist Joanne de Leon, this is a must-have collection of tales for anyone interested in the Philippines.
Featured Filipino stories include:
- Why Mosquitoes Buzz Around Our Ears
- The Magic Lake
- The Deer and the Snail
- Why the Cock Crows
- The Prince’s Bride
Rep: Filipino author and characters; fables set in the Philippines
43. The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.
It’s a comfortable undeath… even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.
Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.
Rep: Malaysian author; queer and sapphic protagonist and characters
Content Warnings: death, blood, and violence; coerced marriage; infidelity
42. The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson
Ys, city of wealth and wonder, has a history of dark secrets. Queen Malgven used magic to raise the great walls that keep Ys safe from the tumultuous sea. But after the queen’s inexplicable death, her daughters drift apart. Rozenn, the heir to the throne, spends her time on the moors communing with wild animals, while Dahut, the youngest, enjoys the splendors of royal life and is eager to take part in palace intrigue.
Rep: Celtic-inspired setting
Content Warnings: coerced sex (by use of magic); violence, blood, murder, and death
41. Displacement by Kiku Hughes
A teenager is pulled back in time to witness her grandmother’s experiences in World War II-era Japanese internment camps.
Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.
These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.
Rep: Japanese-American author and characters
Content Warnings: internment camps; racism and xenophobia; institutionalized discrimination
40. Texas Driver Handbook from the Texas Department of Public Safety
The Texas Department of Public Safety, Driver License Division, is committed to creating a faster, easier, and friendlier driver license experience and a safer Texas. One step toward achieving these important goals is to continuously improve the Texas Driver Handbook by providing you with accurate information on traffic laws, clear images of road signs, examples of common driving situations, and general safety tips. We have also included special tips to emphasize important information you need to know.
39. Waiting on a Bright Moon by Neon Yang
Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies — a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages.
Rep: queer, non-binary Singaporean author; sapphic and queer characters
Content Warnings: violence, blood, and torture
38. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua’s iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way — the Chinese way — and the remarkable results her choice inspires.
Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a school play
- not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin
The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.
Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:
“According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:
- Oh my God, you’re just getting worse and worse.
- I’m going to count to three, then I want musicality.
- If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!”
But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices — the exacting attention spent studying her daughters’ performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons — the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting — and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another
Rep: Chinese author
Content Warnings: child abuse and neglect (keysmash)
37. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
Olivia Laguni is half-Chinese, but typically American in her uneasiness with her patchwork family. And no one in Olivia’s family is more embarrassing to her than her half-sister, Kwan Li. For Kwan speaks mangled English, is cheerfully deaf to Olivia’s sarcasm, and sees the dead with her “yin eyes.”
Even as Olivia details the particulars of her decades-long grudge against her sister (who, among other things, is a source of infuriatingly good advice), Kwan Li is telling her own story, one that sweeps us into the splendor, squalor, and violence of Manchu China.
Rep: Chinese author, characters, and protagonist; mixed-race characters
Content Warnings: internalized racism; racism and xenophobia; death of a parent
36. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Thirty-six-year-old Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction ― many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual ― and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less.
Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…
Rep: Japanese author, protagonist, characters, and setting; neurodivergent-coded protagonist
Content Warnings: sexism and misogyny; ableism; elitism; abusive, predatory male character
35. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation.
At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
Rep: queer, Vietnamese author and protagonists; gay and queer characters; Vietnamese characters
Content Warnings: intense, graphic sexual content; animal violence; substance abuse and addiction; bullying and harassment; racism and xenophobia; cancer; death; homophobia; use of homophobic slurs; parental abuse; sexual assault; domestic violence; trauma; depression; war and its aftermath
34. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.”
When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby.
But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.
Rep: Chinese author, protagonist, and characters
Content Warnings: racism and xenophobia in a historical setting; mentions of rape and sexual assault
33. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers — but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything
Rep: Asian protagonist; mixed-race Indigenous side-character; BIPOC characters
Content Warnings: mind control and loss of autonomy; grief and trauma; violence, gore, blood, and murder; mentions of sexual assault/dubious consent; mentions of suicide; death of a loved one; mentions of cancer
32. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariok Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her.
The day they got together was the best one of Freddy’s life, but nothing’s made sense since. Laura Dean is popular, funny, and SO CUTE … but she can be really thoughtless, even mean. Their on-again, off-again relationship has Freddy’s head spinning — and Freddy’s friends can’t understand why she keeps going back.
When Freddy consults the services of a local mystic, the mysterious Seek-Her, she isn’t thrilled with the advice she receives. But something’s got to give: Freddy’s heart is breaking in slow motion, and she may be about to lose her very best friend as well as her last shred of self-respect. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnist Anna Vice, to help her through being a teenager in love.
Rep: mixed Japanese author and protagonist; sapphic and queer protagonist and characters
Content Warnings: unwanted pregnancies and abortion; infidelity; toxic relationships; underage drinking; mentions of vomiting
31. The Yellow Wallpaper
A woman and her husband rent a summer house, but what should be a restful getaway turns into a suffocating psychological battle.
Content Warnings: mental illness and depression; postpartum depression; sexism and misogyny
30. A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark
Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself
Rep: Black author, protagonist, and characters; Egyptian characters and setting; sapphic protagonist
Content Warnings: fantasy violence; brief descriptions of nudity
29. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend?
Rep: LGBT protagonist and characters
Content Warnings: forced coming out; homophobia and queerphobia
28. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A simple story of a “strong man” whose life is dominated by fear and anger, Things Fall Apart is written with remarkable economy and subtle irony. Uniquely and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe’s keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.
Rep: Igbo author, protagonist, and characters; African setting
Content Warnings: colonization and its effects; banishment; death, violence, blood, and murder; domestic abuse; religious conversion
27. Kim JiYoung Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
ruly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person.
In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job — in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time — as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women — alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.
In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist — a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her — from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child — to put them first.
Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her?
Rep: Korean author, protagonist, characters, and settings
Content Warnings: sexism and misogyny; violence against women; sexual assault
26. The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including:
- “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards),
- “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner),
- “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist),
- “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists),
- “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist),
- “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history,
- “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).
Rep: Chinese author; Chinese-centric stories; BIPOC characters; queer characters
Content Warnings: racism and xenophobia; war and its aftermath; violence, blood, gore, and murder; death and grief; colonization and its effects; human experimentation; denialism
25. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance — and Papi’s secrets — the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Rep: Black and Latine author, protagonists, and characters; Dominican setting; sapphic relationship and characters
Content Warnings: sexual assault and harassment; attempted rape and sexual assault; infidelity; death and grief; parental separation; plane crash; pregnancy and premature labor; risk of neonatal death; sex trafficking and threat of forced sex work
23. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy — including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets — and the truth about her own family — before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
Rep: forced abortion; ableism; mentioned suicide; blood, violence, and murder; fatmisia
Content Warnings: Malaysian author, protagonist, characters, and setting; Malaysian characters of Chinese descent
24. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace — and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox — possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Rep: Japanese author, protagonists, characters, and setting
Content Warnings: child grooming; attempted rape; child prostitution; intense bullying; discussions of suicide; attempted suicide; suicide ideation; depression; ableism; death of a loved one; physical abuse; discussions of war
22. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance.
Rep: blind protagonist
Content Warnings: war and its aftermath; PTSD; depression; blood, violence, and death; mentions of rape; cancer; assimilation; bullying
21. Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente
Neva is dreaming. But she is not alone. A mysterious machine entity called Elefsis haunts her and the members of her family, back through the generations to her great-great-grandmother — a gifted computer programmer who changed the world. Together Neva and Elefsis navigate their history and their future, an uneasy, unwilling symbiote.
But what they discover in their dreamworld might change them forever…
Rep: mixed-race Japanese characters; queer and genderfluid characters
Content Warnings: sexual content; body horror; death of a loved one; grief and depression
20. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.
So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in a 1970’s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.
Rep: Chinese author and protagonists; mixed-race protagonists; queer characters
Content Warnings: threatened forced outing; infidelity; racism and xenophobia; substance abuse; blood, gore, violence and death; child abuse and negligence; sexism and misogyny; drowning; bullying and harassment; pregnancy and childbirth; mentioned rape; sexual content; suicide
19. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Rep: Chinese author and characters; BIPOC characters
Content Warnings: racism and xenophobia; classism; sexism and misogyny; institutionalized discrimination; pregnancy, miscarriage, infertility, and abortion; victim blaming; bullying; substance abuse; poverty and its effects; stalking, sexual content
18. The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.
A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?
Rep: queer, non-binary Singaporean author; queer and non-binary characters and protagonists; Asian-coded characters and world; normalized-queerness setting
Content Warnings: blood, death, torture, and violence; psychological and emotional abuse
17. Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards by Bong Joon Ho
As part of his unique process, Director Bong Joon Ho storyboarded each shot of Parasite prior to the filming of every scene. Accompanied by the film’s dialog, the storyboards he drew capture the story in its entirety. Director Bong has also written a foreword and provided early concept drawings and photos from the set which take the reader even deeper into the vision that gave rise to this stunning cinematic achievement.
Director Bong’s illustrations share the same illuminating power of his writing and directing. The result is a gorgeous, riveting read and a fresh look at the vertiginous delights and surprises of Bong Joon Ho’s deeply affecting, genre-defying story.
Rep: Korean author, protagonists, characters, and setting
Content Warnings: classism; sexual content; blood and violence; child abuse; self-harm; suicide; use of slurs; substance use
16. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother — his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Rep: South-African, mixed-race author
Content Warnings: domestic abuse; use of racial slurs; racism and xenophobia; violence
15. Tiny Pretty Things by by Dhonielle Clayton and SONA CHARAIPOTRA
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance — but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.
When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.
Rep: Black author, characters, and protagonist; Indian author; mixed-race Korean protagonist; queer characters; BIPOC characters
Content Warnings: substance addiction; eating disorders; bullying; racism and xenophobia; homophobia; dubious consent; implied sexual assault and pedophilia
14. ABNKKBNPLAko?! by Bob Ong
Bakit namamalo si Miss Uyehara?
May mga notebook bang lumilipad?
Bakit masakit sa ulo ang Mafhemafics?
Ano ang sikreto sa pagkakaibigan nila Pepe at Tagpi?
Bakit may mga taong nakapikit sa litrato?
Masarap ba ang Africhado?
Sino si Tigang?
Bakit may mga classroom na kulang ang upuan?
Masama bang mag-isip nang malalim habang naglalakad?
Saan ang Ganges River sa Pilipinas?
Bakit may mga umaakyat ng overpass pero hindi tumatawid?
Sino ang webmaster ng bobongpinoy sa Internet?
- No calculators.
- No dictionaries.
- No erasures.
- No cheating.
Oops, time’s up!
Pass your papers.
Why does Miss Uyehara hit people?
Are there notebooks that can fly?
Why does Mafhemafics hurt your head?
What is Pepe and Tagpi’s secret for making friends?
Why are there people who close their eyes in photos?
Does Africhado taste good?
Who is Tigang?
Why are their classrooms that don’t have enough chairs?
Is it bad to think deeply while walking?
Where is the Ganges River in the Philippines?
Why are there people who climb the overpass without crossing?
Who is the webmaster of bobongpinoy on the Internet?
- No calculators.
- No dictionaries.
- No erasures.
- No cheating.
Oops, time’s up!
Pass your papers.
Rep: Filipino author and setting
Content Warning: brief abuse from a teacher
13. The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives — and eventually her own.
Rep: BIPOC-coded protagonist and characters; sapphic and queer protagonists and characters; disabled characters (wheelchair user)
Content Warnings: mild depictions of blood, wounds, and violence
12. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
Rep: Nigerian author, protagonists, and characters
Content Warnings: infidelity; child abuse; blood, murder, and violence; implied rape; domestic violence; pedophilia
11. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl — and herself — than first meets the eye.
Content Warnings: mild violence; alcohol
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Rep: queer author, characters, and protagonists; disabled protagonist (prosthetics)
Content Warnings: past child abuse; violence, death, blood, and murder; body horror
9. THE ORDER OF THE PURE MOON REFLECTED in THE WATER by Zen Cho
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
Rep: Malaysian author; Chinese-coded world, protagonists, and characters; non-binary/genderfluid protagonist; queer and gay character
Content Warnings: misgendering; violence, blood, and death
8. PARACHUTE by Kelly Yang
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.
Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences.
Rep: Asian-American author, protagonist, and characters; Chinese protagonist and characters; Filipino protagonist and characters; sapphic and queer side character
Content Warnings: rape and sexual assault; racism and xenophobia; pedophilia; discrimination
7. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
Rep: sapphic protagonists
Content Warnings: violence, gore, blood, torture, and murder; animal killing; mentioned rape and sexual assault; mentioned suicide; war and its aftermath
6. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
When Rin aced the Keju — the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies — it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard — the most elite military school in Nikan — was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power — an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive — and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity… and that it may already be too late.
Rep: Chinese author; Chinese- and Asian-coded world, protagonists, and characters
Content Warnings: war and its aftermath; blood, violence, gore, murder, and mutilation; genocide and massacres; abandonment; ableism and fatmisia; physical and emotional abuse; substance abuse and addiction; bullying and harassment; human experimentation; infertility; sexism and misogyny; discrimination and colorism; rape and sexual assault
5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Rep: Korean author, protagonists, characters, and setting; Japanese characters and setting
Content Warnings: violence, blood, and death; suicide; racism and xenophobia; sexism and misogyny; sexual assault; pedophilia; war and its aftermath; substance abuse; domestic abuse
4. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang — a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love… and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns — and grudges — aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Rep: Chinese author, setting, protagonist, and characters; transgender side character; Korean side character; queer side characters
Content Warnings: substance use; blood, gore, and violence; explosion; death, murder, and loss of a loved one; self-mutilation while possessed; insects
3. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Rep: queer, transgender, Latine author and protagonist; Mexican-Cuban-American, gay, transgender protagonist; queer relationships; Colombian-American love interest; character with ADHD; Latine cast; gay characters; lesbian side character
Content Warnings: mentioned abuse; deadnaming and misgendering of a trans character; blood, violence, and death; death of a loved one; gender dysphoria; homophobia and transphobia
2. The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
Rep: Vietnamese author; Asian-coded protagonist, characters, and setting; non-binary protagonist; queer and sapphic characters; normalized-queerness setting
Content Warnings: animal death; death of a loved one; grief and mourning; forced sterilization; mentioned childbirth
1. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo
The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover — a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty — and discover how truth can survive becoming history.
Rep: Vietnamese author; Asian-coded protagonist, characters, and setting; non-binary protagonist; queer and sapphic characters; normalized-queerness setting
Content Warnings: blood, violence, murder, gore, and death; emotional manipulation
So concludes the list!
- Do you see any of your favorite novels on this list?
- What were your most memorable reads of 2020?
- Let me know what you’re currently reading this year!
Thank you so much for visiting, traveler! 💗
Don’t miss a post! Coming up next on my blog: book reviews for some awesome fantasy books by Black authors and a post for Lunar New Year reads!
Let’s connect across the Net! 💖