Library Services


East and South East Asian Heritage Month Books

3 October 2022

The Library Liberating the Collections Group and Campaigns Group have compiled a list of book recommendations from across the UCL community to celebrate East and South East Asian Heritage Month this September.

Rows of books on shelves with a ray of sunlight shining

East and South East Asian Heritage Month is a nationwide celebration dedicated to “East and South East Asian heritage, culture, history and everything in between”.  

We asked members of the UCL community to suggest books that celebrate, acknowledge and educate about the incredible ways in which East and South East Asian communities have helped to shape the UK and beyond.  

How many have you read? Share your own recommendations through the online form or on social media: 


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

*Nominated three times

This epic historical fiction novel follows four generations of a Korean family in Japan during a complex historical flow in the 20th century, asking what the essence of human beings is. This profoundly engrossing story powerfully depicts the modern history of east Asia since Japanese colonization and political warfare, dealing with not only discrimination, stereotyping, and many other aspects of challenges that immigrants can encounter but also generation gaps between older and younger immigrant family members.

Recommended by: Jeehye Hwang

It’s a story that shows the struggle that mothers go through and how strong they are. It also shows the impact that some decisions you make when you’re young can have on your family.

Recommended by: Aaliyah A.

Be Me: LGBTQIA+ Stories of Belonging edited by Joel Donato Ching Jacob and Daphne Lee

With bold stance and absolute beauty of the writing (thanks to some touch of speculative fiction-ish), the tales defy the Western heteronormative structures through the lens of Southeast Asian. Interweaving myth and more contemporary social realism, this well-curated anthology is packed with thought-provoking threads to reflect on our queer native culture.

Recommended by: Awal Hidayat

Human Acts by Han Kang

Human Acts quietly yet forcefully illustrates how one instance of defiance can influence an entire nation for years to come. It is a reminder that Asian histories are not just ancient oriental fantasies, but that history continues to be actively made and felt by its own peoples. For me, it is a celebration of individual and collective agency in our part of the world.

Recommended by: Michelle

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

It is an amazing book about a military school and shows the effect that war can have on people and communities.

Recommended by: Aaliyah A.

Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng

Everything I Never Told You is an intriguing and poignant novel that explores themes of identity, interracial relationships, and societal/familial expectations. The diverse side stories and in-depth character development makes this a relatable read for many, but particularly first-generation individuals from East and South-East Asian backgrounds.

Recommended by: Leanne Yu

An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo

A big juicy summer read about Hong Kong from its beginnings. Deals with some very complex historiography with humor and lightness of touch. Timothy Mo was/is a brilliant author, gathered lots of critical praise before falling out with the publishing industry and self published since the mid 90s to mixed success.

Recommended by: Simon Bralee

Last night at the telegraph club by Malinda Lo

It’s a book about self-discovery and shows how hard it is for people to truly be themselves in this world.

Recommended by: Aaliyah A.

The History of the Adventures of Vivi and Vera, by Dung Kai-cheung

Hong Kong literature is important but neglected.

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Prize.

The Sorrow of War by Bảo Ninh

A powerful and harrowing book that tells us the history of a country and its people.

Noli Me Tángere by José Rizal

A major work of fiction, the national epic of the Philippines. It challenged Spanish Colonialism in the Philippines. It is today mandatory reading for school kids there (often in Tagalog, although written in Spanish) and should be better known in the UK.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

An excellent book, set in one of Japan's many convenience stores. Unravels so much about Japanese society. 

Sing to the Dawn by Minfong Ho

It’s a beautiful story of an Asian girl growing up in a village. It was also a Literature text for us, other than the usual Shakespearean books.

Aurora Metro Books

UCL has just subscribed to this book collection on Drama Online, which includes a South East Asian plays collection.


The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices             

Broadcaster and journalist Xue Xinran had to leave China to publish this book – a deeply harrowing collection of stories of women from different sections of society, during times of major political upheaval. Their experiences explore how women’s lives have been affected by issues including the one-child policy; LGBTQ+ discrimination; gender-based violence; forced marriage and more.

[Content warning: there are discussions of abuse, assault, and sexual violence (including towards children) throughout the book]

Recommended by: Jessica Luong

A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads by Anthony Reid

The author, Anthony Reid, is an Australian historian, famous for his historical research in SEA. This book has been translated in many languages and is worth reading to learn about Asia in depth. The language of it is easy to understand, including for non-professional readers. The contents are classified by different themes, e.g., religions and cultures, rather than nations.

Recommended by: Dan Wang

South and East Asian Cinemas Across Borders: Critical Trends in Transnational Cinema, edited by Clelia Clini, Rohit K. Dasgupta, Yanling Yang

A critical analysis of this particular cinematic discourse through a transcultural approach. This volume is a comprehensive account of the cinemas from this region with an emphasis on co-productions and transnational exchanges.

Recommended by: Vladimir Alexander Smith-Mesa

East Side Voices: Essays celebrating East and Southeast Asian identity in Britain by Helena Lee

An anthology of writers of East and Southeast Asian heritage in the UK that looks at identity, community and family, especially in the light of the covid pandemic.

Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch United East India Company/Grote Atlas van de Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, edited by G. Schilder et al. Voorburg

The vast cartographic collection of the Dutch East India Company (VOC, 1602-1799) holds many detailed maps and coastal profiles of newly-discovered countries, harbours, regions, courts, temples, in addition to all kinds of other visual materials on the peoples, their produce, their customs, traditions and religions, left by painters, draughtsmen, travellers, traders, sailors, soldiers, conquerors etc. coming from Europe to South and South Asia. For centuries this collection, which together with its enormous archives covers the VOC area from Africa to Japan, from Australia to China, and from the Middle East via India through to Indonesia and the Pacific, constituted a well-guarded trading secret of the VOC, kept in its central office in Amsterdam. This treasure was published in full for the first time between 2006 and 2010, in 7 enormous volumes by Asia Maior in Voorburg, the Netherlands. A resource that is of great significance to historians, anthropologists and other scholars interested in the early modern world and its trade, the Dutch maritime empire, globalization, colonialism, orientalism, contact with first nations etc, especally in South and South East India.

Recommended by: Reinier Salverda, Honorary Professor of Dutch, UCL/SELCS

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in UCL Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science

Photo of Steps to Progress exhibit in UCL Main Library
Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science are dedicated to supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for our users and staff. We have produced a Library Equality, Diversity and Inclusion implementation plan, enhanced CPD opportunities for staff, and developed a set of race equality pledges for the department.

More information

More information on East and South East Asian Heritage Month can be found on the organiser’s website.