Best asian literary history & criticism books according to redditors

We found 97 Reddit comments discussing the best asian literary history & criticism books. We ranked the 54 resulting products by number of redditors who mentioned them. Here are the top 20.

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Chinese literary criticism books
Indian literary criticism books
Japanese literary criticism books

Top Reddit comments about Asian Literary History & Criticism:

u/gods_rubber_chicken · 43 pointsr/japan

I'll do classical works, since those are what I know best.

Classical works:

Kojiki. One of the recent translations is highly readable. It contains the major native myths and legends, which you will see referenced over and over again in your modern works.

Manyoshu: Earliest surviving collection of native poetry. A partial translation done in the 50s is the one I recommend, as the final English was worked over by an actual English language poet, making it by far the most accessible one around. Poets and topics range far and wide, especially when compared with later classical works.

Tales of Ise: Another one with a recent translation. Provides a good look at the noble aesthetic, romance in classical Japan, etc.

Kokin Wakashu: There are no easy to find translations of this, unfortunately. However, if you were to ask a Japanese scholar what the definitive Japanese classic is, this would be it. All later aesthetics, from literature to art, derive in large part from it in one way or another. It is a collection of poetry from 905 (approx) that epitomizes the new noble aesthetic of the age, and as I said, sets the tone for the next millennium and beyond.

Tale of Genji: The definitive prose classic. Courtly love and romance, political intrigues, all that. There are several full-length English translations (and a few that aren't full length). There are still many adherents to the Arthur Waley version, despite its age. The newer Royall Tyler translation is more thorough and scholarly accurate, however.

Tale of the Heike: Several translations exist, but the recent one by Royall Tyler does a good job of projecting the lyrical quality of the original while maintaining accuracy. Several others exist as well, but the Tyler is probably the easiest to both find and read. Tale of war and upheaval at the end of the 12th century, showing the decline of the nobility and rise of the new warrior class. Probably hard to go from cover to cover with, as there are many names/events/places that are hard to follow for most readers. Spot reading recommended.

Confessions of Lady Nijo: There are a few translations, but the one I have linked is probably the easiest to find. Discusses the life of a woman who served in the imperial courts of the late 13th/early 14th C. and all the trials and tribulations she faced by receiving the favors of the emperor.

Hope this is a good start for you all.

u/strangenchanted · 12 pointsr/books

Here's a list I made a while back, slightly edited:

Argentina: Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones. Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch.

Italy: Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.

Spain: Don Quixote, of course. Arthur Perez Reverte (The Club Dumas). Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The Shadow of the Wind).

Germany: Thomas Mann (Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain). Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum).

Czech Republic: Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Russia: Tolstoy. Dostoyevsky. Bulgakov. So many of these guys.

Hungary: Sandor Marai, Embers

Bosnia: Ivo Andric, The Vizier's Elephant

Serbia: Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars

Denmark: Peter Hoeg, Smilla's Sense of Snow

Greece: Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Egypt: Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Kenya: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Nigeria: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi

Colombia: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Chile: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Mexico: The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Peru: Conversation in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa

Cuba: Explosion in a Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier

The Philippines: The Woman Who had Two Navels by Nick Joaquin

Indonesia: This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Japan: Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, Quicksand, The Key, Seven Japanese Tales, etc. The short story collections The Showa Anthology and Modern Japanese Literature. Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country.

u/blackstar9000 · 11 pointsr/worldnews

This is slightly off-topic, but if anyone's interested in the US relations with the Hmong, there's an excellent book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, about culture clash among Hmong immigrants living in California.

u/Zoidboig · 8 pointsr/LearnJapanese

Learn to Read in Japanese (Roger Lake / Noriko Ura)

Vol. 1 (beginner to intermediate)

Vol. 2 (building on Vol. 1, intermediate to advanced)

And of course:

Breaking into Japanese Literature

Exploring Japanese Literature

u/goofballl · 5 pointsr/LearnJapanese

> Since you are learning you may also want to check out Read Real Japanese

Also Exploring Japanese Literature and Breaking Into Japanese Literature

u/shinew123 · 5 pointsr/books

I strongly recommend the William Buck translations for both the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are retellings, but they encompass much more than other translations and the job is exquisitely done. I found the Penguin edition of the Ramayana to be dull in comparison.

u/Strindberg · 4 pointsr/books
u/Graptoi · 3 pointsr/taoism

Its my understanding that modern mandarin differs from the ancient mandarin the text was written in to such an extent that you might as well read it in English since that is your native tongue; and I would recommend the D.C Lau or Jonathon Starr english translation. That being said, the copy you were given is likely just fine and there are a few Etymologists that hang around here that are qualified to say that with any certainty. There is a reading material link on the side-bar you should check out, but I guess the major texts you're going to need in addition to your TTC are the Zhuangzi, the Liezi (Liezi is somewhat controversial but definitely worth the read), and the Huiananzi (This is a much later Han Dynasty text that is optional but interesting). I would also recommend getting several different translations of the TTC and the Zhuangzi in order to see the different ways in which people have interpreted the text.

u/allthewhite_horses · 3 pointsr/LearnJapanese

Also Donald Keene put together a pretty good anthology of stuff in translation that covers a lot of the most important authors from the Meiji era until the late 20th century, you can get a copy for a few bucks on Amazon.

u/anthropology_nerd · 3 pointsr/Anthropology

A good popular anthropology book for summer reading is 1491: New Revelations About the Americas before Columbus.

A good medical anthropology-like book is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about epilepsy in recent Hmong immigrants to the U.S.

I'm a little tired and that is all I've got right now.

u/commodore84 · 3 pointsr/worldnews

If you're interested in the Hmong, read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Fantastic book and discusses the plight of the Hmongs in detail.

u/montereyo · 3 pointsr/Anthropology

My ubiquitous recommendation for medical anthropology is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, about a Hmong family in California whose newborn daughter has epilepsy. It's well-written and engaging.

u/piconet-2 · 3 pointsr/books

i have a few if you don't mind multiple entries. I can't choose just one D:. Murakami as you mentioned is love.

  • not a writer per se but a poet... Basho - it's mostly because i have a terrible terrible attention span and each haiku takes me to a different place in an instant and brings me back.

  • i am liking Pema Chodron as well - right now, things aren't so stable in my house and school. my head is a royal mess and i've been thinking of becoming an hero more often than usual. she calms me down and brings me back to the present. or the book.

  • natsume soseki - kusamakura is not as famous as Botchan or I am a Cat but just a few pages will suck you into that atmosphere and won't let you go.

  • osamu dazai - reading "no longer human" was like someone talking about me, just in a different setting. scared me and depressed me for a long time. but it was so fantastically written [translated i mean - by donald keene].
u/1000m · 2 pointsr/LearnJapanese

I think it's Japanese Vocabulary (Quick Study Academic)

u/reetnz · 2 pointsr/audiobooks

Whoops, I'm late! I listened to A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oë:

>Bird's son is born with a brain hernia. Doctors tell him the baby will not survive & Bird is caught in limbo, waiting for the child to die, terrified it will survive in a vegetative state & change his life forever. He turns to alcohol & an old girlfriend in an attempt to escape. The story is dark, deeply personal & semi autobiographical. Like watching a car crash in slow motion, this is one of those dark, unputdownable "gripping", "utterly compelling" stories. Skip it if you're looking for a cheery read but if you're interested in some exceptional Japanese lit it's superb. Great book, great narration.

Loved it. It was recommended in a post on /r/books by /u/thatbookishgirl & I'm so glad. I'll definitely be reading more books by this author.

I've just picked up Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer & just keep giggling. I had no idea it was going to be so funny!

u/sabu632 · 2 pointsr/Anthropology

Basso is phenomenal. I also always recommend The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Both superb ethnographies.

u/tuscangourmet · 2 pointsr/booksuggestions

Out , Grotesque and Real world, all by female Japanese novelist Natsuo Kirino. They all have female main characters. They are very dark, and they show an interesting side of the Japanese lifestyle/sense of annihilation.

Rivlary, by Nagai Kafu. A beautifully written and mean geisha tale from the point of view of the geisha.

Murakami has already been mentioned, but unless you pick up his short stories (where he is at his best, IMHO), almost all of his novels are written by the point of view of a male character. The exception is 1q84, his latest, and by far weakest, novel.

u/ClimateChange2100 · 2 pointsr/booksuggestions

A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe - A more visceral take on alienation in Japanese society than you get from Murakami.

u/MasterHiggGround · 2 pointsr/LearnJapanese

While I personally do not know any, as I am a beginner (for like, 4 or six years due to my lack of studying :D )
u/overactive-bladder had shown me some.

u/Belgand · 2 pointsr/LearnJapanese

Not like this, no. Still, you can put in the work, build your own, and share it with others if you're feeling generous.

The closest example would be to get some of the Japanese readers out there like "Read Real Japanese", "Breaking Into Japanese Literature", and "Exploring Japanese Literature". These are aimed at people still learning so they're chosen to be notable, but still easy to read. More relevantly they typically have vocabulary at the bottom of each page to help you. Admittedly, there are other features present (full parallel text in English, Japanese audio for each, etc.), but that's why they're specifically sold as teaching tools.

u/tacire_niyalma · 2 pointsr/ManchuStudies

Haha, even if it would be lying to say that there's an endless supply of material, there should still be plenty to read even without the government stuff. Here are a few titles that are easily available.

^(And you got me curious there, what is this 100-200 speakers language? :-))


u/ballsack66 · 1 pointr/books

I've read parts of it in the past and am actually reading it right now in it's entirety for a class. This is the version I have. It's fairly easy to read - the thing to bear in mind is that this translation and the one you posted are in prose where obviously the original is in verse. The story itself is wonderful. When you start reading in the beginning take it slowly and try to get a handle on the genealogies. It'll make it easier down the road as there are so many characters and they all have unusual names. Think about the force of Dharma (Duty) as you read because this is a central concept. When a person acts against his Dharma it leads to chaos, death, and conflict. The Kurus are the antagonists because this is exactly what they do. Have fun!

u/[deleted] · 1 pointr/AskReddit

I highly recommend the nonfiction book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It's about the collision of what westerners think of as illness and the Hmong people of Vietnam think of as being "touched" by special spirits, through the story of a young girl with epilepsy whose Hmong parents refuse standard medical treatment. Very well written, unfolds like a mystery, a whole new way of thinking bout the world. Wish it had come out when I was 16 instead of 26!

u/smellephant · 1 pointr/zen

Are you sourcing this from The Teachings of Master Wuzhu: Zen and Religion of No Religion ? I've put it on my wishlist.

"No merit whatsoever" is just as good as "void and nothing holy" in my book. What does either leave to cling to?

u/Redfo · 1 pointr/taoism
I picked up a used copy of this one. Good translation.

u/therealplexus · 1 pointr/Chinese

I ended up getting this one Tao Te Ching a Bilingual Edition by D.C. Lau and it's really everything I could hope for.

It consists of two parts, the first has the "Wang Pi" version of the Tao Te Ching, which is the most well known, with for each verse the Chinese version and English Translation.

The second part is based on scrolls that were found more recently but that are some of the oldest versions of the Tao Te Ching that are known, also bilingual. There's also a great general introduction.

u/theshiba · 1 pointr/AskScienceDiscussion

Hi, throwing in my two cents that the best way to improve your reading/grammar and literary knowledge is to dive deep into anthologies and collections. Think of it as a sampling of the 'best of the best' and you are getting a taste of what is considered to be great. Also don't be afraid to pick up a piece of classic literature and think, "Good god, this was considered awesome?" That's ok. Some people don't like premodern literature. Some people LOVE it. Some people HATE it. Some people are all about cyberpunk angsty lit that's a product of our super modern society. Some love poetry...well, you get the picture. The beauty of an anthology is you can survey the goods -- and if you love something you read, odds are it's only a small selection taken from a much bigger book OR the writer is pretty prolific and if you like his style of writing, odds are you are going to LOVE the rest of his work.

Don't know where to begin? I recommend checking out some classics from overseas (which I use as a required book in my courses):

u/Oddish420 · 1 pointr/taoism

I found I found Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu): Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson helpful. It's very coherent as Watson has gone through the work of Zhuangzi and presented us with much core, essential material.

u/overactive-bladder · 1 pointr/LearnJapanese

there are many graded readers out there with exactly what you're describing though.

u/theksepyro · 1 pointr/zen


Linji: 1 (this is the copy that I have, after discussing it here it sounded better) 2

Bankei: 1 2


Edit: My university professor translated the xinxinming (based off of lok to's translation) and chunks of the platform sutra (original work i believe), and i've got a copy of that. he suggests for further reading on the platform sutra to read 1 2 3 (as well as zen doctrine of no mind! ha!)

u/ninjininja · 1 pointr/unt
u/chewingofthecud · 1 pointr/taoism

Accurate might not be what you're after.

If you mean "accurate" in terms of "reflects the idiosyncracies of the original text", then a translation by a Victorian scholar like Herbert Giles or James Legge would be good. I actually find this type of translation to be very helpful, especially if it's annotated which Legge's is. When he does use the word "God", he always explains that it's an interpolation based on the context in which the quote is found.

If you mean "accurate" in terms of "reflects the style and character of the original text", then a more modern translation like that of D.C. Lau might be good.

Burton Watson's Complete Works of Chuang Tzu leans more toward the former, and although I haven't read it, I've been told that Victor Mair's Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu leans more toward the latter. Both are reputed to strike a good balance between literal accuracy and the spirit of the text.

u/grndfthrprdx · 1 pointr/AskReddit

I read that book. It is a biography/history of one family of Hmong, and the Hmong in general. One of the stories is that since they are so used to farming, they tend to plant crops in their house in the US or whatever country they are moved too.

u/TFnarcon9 · 1 pointr/zen

You can read about wuzhu in wendi adamek's book.

She's tite if you haven't read her. The book covers the text itself and encounters well questions of its 'legitimacy'

And yeah, part of the thing is his 'lineage' or student line or whatever didn't last. He was very clever, right along hueneng in changing around words to be more about mind and less about practice, and was certainly iconoclastic in speech (and practice, there is a funny passage about monks begging him to do normal stuff), but there was no predecessor clever enough to withhold the contradiction as well as he did.