Diary of a Bookworm: Fun reads to celebrate Lunar New Year

Featuring young adult, science fiction, biographies, fantasy and romance


Julie Blunt

Bookworm Julie Blunt celebrates Lunar New Year by sharing their recommendations to read for Lunar New Year. From “Crazy Rich Asians” to “Iron Widow,” they share a range of genres. (Graphic created in Canva by Julie Blunt).

Julie Blunt

Dear diary:

Lunar New Year is a 15-day celebration marking the start of a new calendar year. Though Lunar New Year is commonly known as “Chinese New Year,” the celebration is enjoyed throughout many other Asian cultures. 

In this diary entry, I’ve gathered a list of Asian authors and novels that I’ve read or have been recommended in order to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Chloe Gong: “These Violent Delights” duology

Chloe Gong is a New York Times bestseller and author of the “These Violent Delights” duology. Born in Shanghai, Gong now lives in New York, where she says she’s “pretending to be a real adult,” according to her website. Gong is in my list of top 10 favorite authors not only because her writing is phenomenal and lively but, as a 24-year-old author, she relates to an older audience of Young Adult readers. 

As I’ve previously mentioned, Gong’s “These Violent Delights” is a “retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ based during a gang blood feud between the Chinese and Russian mafia in the 1920s.” When I first read the books, it was one of the few times I experienced such deep emotion while reading, making it an all-time favorite. 

In Gong’s “Authors Note” at the end of “These Violent Delights,” she mentions that, while the book is a work of fiction, many of the injustices mentioned were commonplace during the 1920s in Shanghai. 

Kevin Kwan: “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy

I haven’t cracked the spine on this series yet, but I have always wanted to dive into the world of “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan after seeing the hype around the movie adaptation.

Rachel Chu decides to spend the summer with her boyfriend Nicholas Young, in Singapore, but what she expects isn’t what she gets: Nicholas’ family is “crazy rich,” and Nicholas is one of the most eligible bachelors in Singapore. The book is described by Goodreads as “a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese.” It’s a story of young love, high-brow characters and culture. 

With a current Rotten Tomatoes rating of 91%, the film adaptation of “Crazy Rich Asians”  was released in 2018, gaining over $174 million dollars in box office growth. 

Xiran Jay Zhao: “Iron Widow” 

Jay Zhao is another young author who relates to the older generation of young adult readers. “Iron Widow” is a science fiction novel reimagining an era in which the only Chinese female emperor coexists with robots, monsters and wields powerful female rage. 

It’s a world where the men are paired up with women to pilot giant magical mecha’s based on creatures from East Asian myth. The novel portrays men as powerful and women as lesser beings, making you want to scream “screw the patriarchy” at the top of your lungs. 

18-year-old Wu Zetian wants to avenge her sister’s death, caused by the negligence of her copilot. The only way Wu Zetian knows how she’ll achieve her goal is to become the next copilot. It turns out she may be more powerful than she anticipated. 

One of the most recurring eye-catching details in Zhao’s novel was the mention of historic beauty standards in China. Foot-binding, a method of folding a woman’s toes into her feet, making them smaller, was a painful beauty standard for women in China.

Simu Liu: “We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story”

Actor and now author Simu Liu is best known for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Shang-Chi. However, acting hasn’t always been his career path. 

In Liu’s biography “We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story,” he tells of his grandparents’ caring demeanor and his rough home life to how he became one of the newest superheroes in the most popular cinematic universe of our generation.

Reading fiction is fun when you want an escape from the real world. However, reading a biography like Liu’s, you can see firsthand the experience that other cultures, unlike your own, have gone through. 

R.F. Kuang: “Poppy War” Trilogy

The Poppy War” by R. F. Kuang has been on my physical “to be read” list since I bought it on a whim. It wasn’t until I read further about this novel that I realized I’m a huge fan of female heroines and warriors. That’s what it seems this trilogy has. 

Goodreads has Kuang’s novel described as a science fiction, fantasy, young adult novel inspired by twentieth-century China following the story of Rin, who is “targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty and gender.” On the brink of war, Rin discovers she possesses a power that could mean saving her people or losing everything.

Seeing different cultural representations in mainstream fiction and literature is refreshing for many people, including myself. As someone who grew up in a household where other cultures were unknown to us, I try my best to learn and understand through novels as an adult. I’ve found that many novels with main characters from ethnicities and cultures I’m not a part of find themselves among my favorites.

Happy Lunar New Year and Gung Hay Fat Choi!