Finished Reading 'Crazy Rich Asians'? Try These 8 Books Next
Last week, during a much-needed, 48-hour trip to the beach, I pulled out a book I'd been saving for just such an occasion: Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, the blockbuster of a book whose film adaptation is set to hit screens any day. And as I opened to the first page and took a cleansing, I-can't-wait-to-read-about-the-seedy-social-underbelly-of-the-fantastically-wealthy, I noticed Crazy Rich Asians' distinctive cover peeking out from the umbrella next to me. It seems like everyone is speeding through Kevin Kwans' debut novel these days. And what are we supposed to do when it's over?! Well, here are books to read if you loved Crazy Rich Asians.
First published in 2013, Crazy Rich Asians is actually the first of a trilogy revolving around the hyper-wealthy families of Singapore (China Rich Girlfriend is the second in the series, and Rich People Problems is the third). Kwan himself identifies as Singaporean (rather than Chinese), and comes from an incredibly long line of "establishment families," reaching back to the 900s.
In a recent article for Town & Country, Kwan shared several family photos from the 1920s, replete with fancy cars, enormous estates and elaborate art deco aesthetics. The people Kwan writes about? He knows them, intimately. Kwan masterfully weaves rom-com elements and family drama into his stories, pulling out strands that are relatable to anyone, not just those in proximity to glamour and wealth. And within the following eight books, you will find a number of common themes, from truth-telling satire to the search for belonging.
'Sarong Party Girls' by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
If the inconceivably glitzy world of modern Singapore has got you hooked, then Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's Sarong Party Girls, about a group friends, led by the spunky Jazzy and determined to land ang moh — Western expat — husbands will satiate your appetite for sure. Because underneath the satirical look at those desperate to climb the social ladder, Tan lays bear a deeply patriarchal hierarchy.
'Pachinko' by Min Jin Lee
If you loved the multigenerational saga of Crazy Rich Asians, Min Jin Lee's Pachinko is a heart-rending novel of borders, of sacrifice, of power and of resilience. Beginning with Sunja, the teenaged daughter of a crippled Korean fisherman, and her rejection of her unborn baby's wealthy, married father, Lee's novel follows four generations of a family fighting for the right to control their own destiny in 20th century Japan.
'The Wangs vs. The World' by Jade Chang
Jade Chang's The Wangs vs. The World takes a look at wealth from the other side of the curtain. After amassing a fortune with his cosmetic company, Charles Wang loses everything in the recession. With the one car he has left, Charles picks up two of his children from school (school that he can no longer afford) and drags them across the country, from their foreclosed Bel-Air mansion to the upstate New York home of the eldest Wang daughter.
'Where'd You Go, Bernadette?' by Maria Semple
Loved the sharp-as-hell, satirical wit of Crazy Rich Asians? Relished cackling at rich women behaving badly? Then you're going to love the eccentric, bitingly-funny protagonist of Maria Semple's Where's You Go, Bernadette?, Bernadette Fox, whose sudden disappearance is investigated by her 15-year-old daughter, Bee.
'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty
If the darker elements of Crazy Rich Asians was appealing, Liane Moriarty is your girl. There's a good chance you've heard of the HBO adaptation of Pretty Little Liars, which moved the story setting from a wealthy suburb of Sydney to Monterey, California. You've probably even watched at least one or two episodes. But reading Liane Moriarty's deep dive into the lives of the mundanely powerful and wealthy, and her exploration of appearance versus truth, of lies versus secret, is dark and delicious and wholly addicting.
'The Nest' by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The interpersonal dynamics of Kwan's books, especially when it comes to family and familial wealth, are mirrored in Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest, about four siblings who have built lives around the promise of gaining access to their collective trust fund. But when the access date grows close, and they realize the reality of their inheritance, it causes deep rifts and lays bare dark, painful realities.
'The Leavers' by Lisa Ko
An exploration of belonging, and the often painful ways in which we seek solace, Lisa Ko's novel about a mother (Polly) and son (Deming), may feel like it takes place in an entirely different world from Crazy Rich Asians. And in many ways, it does. Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, is a single mother struggling to raise her son in New York. And one day, without warning, she disappears. Told from both Polly perspective and Deming's, who is adopted by a white couple and renamed Daniel, The Leavers dives into cultural identity and memory, which is so often cut by borders.
'Useful Phrases for Immigrants' by May-Lee Chai
Desperate for a broader, more diverse look at the generational relationship between China and the Chinese diaspora? May-Lee Chai's collection of short stories, which is set to hit shelves on Oct. 23, is the sharp-eyed, deeply poignant book you're looking for.