Hiroshima (1946 and 1985) is journalist John Hersey’s classic account of six survivors of the 1945 atom bomb attack on Japan. Amid the wreckage, these six lived to offer their accounts of the devastating experience.
These blinks will make you re-examine what you thought you knew about the Mongols of the twelfth century. They’ll show you why it’s unfair to imagine them as uncivilized barbarians. Indeed, the Mongol army under Genghis Khan and his descendants brought trade, civilization and order – the Mongol Empire contributed to the making of the modern world.
The Silk Roads (2015) is a comprehensive history of the world, written with an eye to the networks of trade that shaped it. The networks of trade first established in ancient Persia and later linked with Chinese trade routes created a great network between the East and the West. But these Silk Roads are not relics of the past. They have morphed and changed, and their impact can be felt today, right down to America’s fateful engagement in the region where it all began.
Killing the Rising Sun (2016) tells the story of the Pacific War, which took place between 1941 and 1945, and its main belligerents, the United States and Japan. From the attack on Pearl Harbor to bloody invasions of Japan to the development of the world’s first atomic bomb, the book portrays the brutality of World War II from a US perspective, and describes how the war was eventually won.
A River in Darkness (2000) is the harrowing true story of one man’s life in and eventual escape from the brutal dictatorship of North Korea. Born in Japan, Masaji Ishikawa was one of hundreds of thousands of Koreans who moved to the country between the 1950s and 1980s. His memoir chronicles the life of drudgery, terror and endless hardship that awaited them.
India after Gandhi (2007) chronicles the story of post-independence India. For centuries, the country was ruled by colonial overlords, but that changed in 1947. After a long struggle for independence, Indians gained self-rule. Since then, the journey hasn’t been easy, but India remains a persevering and determined democracy – and the largest the world has ever seen.
Billion Dollar Whale (2018) is the definitive account of how a quick-witted and calculating Malaysian social climber called Jho Low defrauded a national investment fund and pulled off one of the twenty-first century’s most audacious heists. The fruit of years of painstaking research by two of America’s top investigative journalists, it sheds light on the shadowy workings of a globe-spanning network of swindlers, crooks and hustlers.
The Anarchy (2019) details how the East India Company, an English joint-stock corporation, came to rule the British economy – and the fates of 200 million South Asians. From its founding in 1599 by privateers and pirates to its time as master of the largest standing army in South Asia, the Company fanned the flames of anarchy, then used the resulting chaos as an opportunity to loot an empire.
Nine Lives (2009) is a study of spirituality and religion in contemporary India. Drawing on William Dalrymple’s in-depth interviews with religious practitioners, these blinks will whisk us from Tibet to Karnataka to Kerala and West Bengal as we explore four remarkable – and remarkably pious – lives. Along the way, we’ll unpack the social and historical context in which these believers’ faiths emerged and continue to be practiced.
China in Ten Words (2012) explores the way modern China talks about itself and probes what that tells us about its past, present and likely future. Honing in on ten common concepts, author Yu Huan tells the story of a nation that has seemingly changed beyond recognition, yet in many ways remains closer to its revolutionary origins than one might believe.
The Vietnam War is remembered as one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. At the end of 1967, the US government was assuring the public the war was almost won; by February 1968, that was no longer the case. In Hue 1968 (2017) Mark Bowden examines the battle in the city of Hue which changed the way the American public viewed the war.
Fukushima (2014) tells the story of how one of the biggest tsunamis in Japan’s history combined with government neglect, corporate interest and propaganda to create the most serious nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The book was written by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit that brings together science and political advocacy.
Nothing to Envy (2010) presents fascinating first-hand anecdotes from North Korean defectors, giving intimate insights into the lives of North Koreans under the rule of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. The thousands of refugees who arrive in South Korea each year bring with them stories of famine, repression and an isolated nation that has fallen out of touch with the developed world.
Maoism (2019) is a deep dive into Maoist ideology, tracing the origins of the movement in the caves of northwest China to the jungles of India, the high Andean sierra, and the California city parks where The Black Panthers did their military drills. Maoism is a movement that’s hardly limited to China or even Asia.
Narrated by Marston York
An Autobiography (First published in two volumes; Volume 1, 1927, and Volume 2, 1929) is the autobiography of one of the world’s most famous political icons – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The book traverses his rebellious childhood, his early activism in South Africa and his work for the Indian Independence Movement up until 1920, and gives insight into Gandhi’s personal philosophy and his lifelong quest for Truth.
How Asia Works examines the economic development of nine Asian countries and, in the process, sketches a blueprint for other developing nations seeking to achieve sustainable economic growth. Joe Studwell explains why some Asian economies have boomed while others have fallen behind, revealing what history has proved works – and what doesn’t.
Becoming Kim Jong Un (2020) tells the story of the North Korean dictator from his childhood as the son and grandson of two infamous Korean leaders through to his momentous summit with American president Donald Trump. Setting aside the insults and jokes about Kim that the media and internet often perpetuate, it takes a serious look at Kim’s enigmatic persona and behavior and diagnoses the grave threat that he and his nation pose to the world.
Myanmar’s Enemy Within (2017) examines a shocking outburst of violence against an ethnic minority – the Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar. Beginning with an account of the events of 2012 and 2013, these blinks work their way back to explain the historical context of anti-Muslim resentment in the country. Along the way, they explore the legacies of British colonialism, the rise of nationalism, and the country’s troubled transition to democracy.
Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers (2019) considers the way that leadership determines the fate of nations. Yan Xuetong reflects on the rise of China and the USA’s diminishing stature while speculating on how the international order might look like in a few decades.
The Great Race (2016) is a comprehensive history of the competition to produce electric vehicles. These blinks detail the various roadblocks that emerged in the effort to build electric vehicles, and how different countries and companies sought – and sometimes managed – to overcome them.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers describes life in the Annawadi slum in India, close to Mumbai’s international airport. These blinks tell the story of families who live in squalid conditions but still dream of a better life, even though the odds are overwhelmingly against them.
In From the Ruins of Empire, author Pankaj Mishra examines the past 200 years from the perspective of Eastern cultures and how they responded to Western dominance. The book charts in detail the colonial histories of Persia, India, China and Japan in the nineteenth century to the rise of nation-states in the twentieth century. Select stories of cultural figures help to humanize the often violent clashes of cultures, showing the powerful influence of individuals in the course of history.
Minor Feelings (2020) is poet Cathy Park Hong’s searing account of life as an Asian American. Drawing on her own experiences alongside penetrating insights, it paints a picture of the purgatorial status that Asian Americans still face.
North Korea is a closed society into which very few people are able to peek. This book is the story of an American journalist who got into the country by posing as an English teacher. She recounts her astonishing experiences and paints a very human picture of the country that so few are privileged to see. The phrase “Without You There Is No Us” comes from a chilling patriotic hymn sung twice a day, every day by the author’s students, expressing their devotion to their Great Leader, Kim Jong-il.