Need a Good Summer Read? Try These 28 Books Featured on the Blog

Today Hangzhou, China will reach a sizzling 36 degrees Celsius (that’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit). When the weather heats up, I love nothing better than curling up with a good book during the summer.

I’ve featured so many great books over the years, and many of them could be the perfect companion to your summer this year.

So whether you’re chilling out on the beach or cooling down indoors, here’s my list of recommended summer reads I’ve featured here on the blog, listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. (P.S.: These titles are linked to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.)

#1: “There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan” by Yuta Aoki

Yuta Aoki’s book shares the stories of 15 different people spanning 8 nationalities who dated Japanese locals, and explores the cultural dynamics. Learn more through my interview with Yuta.

#2: “Good Chinese Wife” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

When it comes to the success of a cross-cultural relationship, does culture or personality matter more? Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir “Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong” offers a very personal answer to that question. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#3: “Tone Deaf in Bangkok” by Janet Brown

It’s never too late to follow your heart to Asia. Just ask writer Janet Brown, who went to Thailand at age 45 and fell in love with the people and places. Learn more through my interview with Janet.


Quincy Carroll#4: “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” by Quincy Carroll

This novel explores the clash between two Americans (a deadbeat and an idealist) teaching English in China, and the student who comes between them. Learn more through my interview with Quincy.

#5: “The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” by Susan Chan

“The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” is an easy breezy love story that reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#6: “Tiger Tail Soup” by Nicki Chen

In “Tiger Tail Soup”, Nicki Chen transports us to a place you don’t often find in wartime China literature – Fujian Province’s Gulangyu Island. Learn more through my interview with Nicki.

#7: “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev

“A Bollywood Affair” is such a unique and enchanting book that, even if you’ve sworn off the romance genre, you must read it. Learn more through my interview with Sonali.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes#8: “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes

“The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes links two women across centuries to a silk embroidered sleeve in a story of love, courage and humanity. Learn more through my interview with Kelli.

#9: “Love Me Anyway” by Tiffany Hawk

Tiffany Hawk offers an inside look into being a flight attendant — along with some AMWF romance — in her coming-of-age debut novel, “Love Me Anyway.” Learn more through my interview with Tiffany.


#10: “Pearl River Drama: Dating in China” by Ray Hecht

Ray doesn’t shy away from letting you into his utterly imperfect love life, and ultimately he comes across as a genuinely nice foreign guy just looking for love in China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

#11: “South China Morning Blues” by Ray Hecht

Through 12 viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the underside of the expat scene in China. It’s a fresh take on modern China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

The Porcelain Thief#12: “The Porcelain Thief” by Huan Hsu

“The Porcelain Thief” deftly combines Huan Hsu’s personal experiences as a Chinese American in China, family stories, and his quest for buried porcelain. Learn more through my interview with Huan.

#13: “A Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming

Linda Leaming’s new book “A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up” reads like a love letter to Bhutan. Learn more through my interview with Linda.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz#14: “Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras” by Leza Lowitz

Leza Lowitz shares her emotional journey towards marriage and motherhood in Japan (as well as opening a yoga studio in Tokyo) in “Here Comes the Sun”. Learn more through my interview with Leza.

#15: “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & #16: “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy” by Grace Mineta

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss these charming comics by Grace Mineta. Learn more through my interviews (here and here) with Grace.

#17: “Parsley & Coriander” by Antonella Moretti

“Parsley & Coriander” is a delightful novel that captures the spirit of finding your own path in China, especially as an expat woman. Learn more through my interview with Antonella.

#18: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng is a dark, powerful tale of an AMWF family in America facing a tragedy. Learn more through my interview with Celeste.

#19: “The Empress of Bright Moon” by Weina Dai Randel

Weina Randel has crafted a beautifully written, engaging and suspenseful tale of how one of the greatest rulers in China came to rise. You can learn more about this second chapter of the duology by reading Weina’s guest post on sex education during Tang Dynasty China.

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel#20: “The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel

“The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel, about the rise of China’s young Empress Wu, truly reads like a Tang Dynasty-era Cinderella story. Learn more through my interview with Weina.

#21: “The Secret of the Nightingale Palace” by Dana Sachs

The romance at the heart of this novel — which relates to its intriguing title — just stole my heart away. Plus, the book explores a side of World War II that we all too often forget — the US internment of Japanese Americans. Learn more through my interview with Dana.

The Good Shufu#22: “The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater

“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater is a heartfelt story about love & life abroad that proves sometimes those unexpected detours lead us to incredible joy. Learn more through my interview with Tracy.


#23: “Empire of Glass” by Kaitlin Solimine

“Empire of Glass” is stunning for its lyrical prose and unique in that it’s presented as a “translation” of the story of Li-Ming and her husband Wang. Learn more through my interview with Kaitlin.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self#24: “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” by Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon’s memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” offers a personal view on Asian masculinity in the West — and is a book you must read. Learn more through my interview with Alex.

Atom Yang Red Envelope#25: “Red Envelope” by Atom Yang

Thanks to Atom Yang’s exceptional writing and sense of humor, Red Envelope is a fun, romantic romp through the most wonderful time of the year for Chinese. Learn more through my interview with Atom.

#26: “Ferry Tale: A Hong Kong Love Story” by Shannon Young

It’s as enchanting as any big-screen rom com – but better, thanks to the Hong Kong setting and charming AMWF couple. Learn more through this post on Ferry Tale.

#27: “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia” edited by Shannon Young

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. You’ll also find my essay “Huangshan Honeymoon” featured in this collection. Learn more about my essay and 12 other essays you’ll want to read.

Year of Fire Dragons#28: “Year of Fire Dragons” by Shannon Young

“Year of Fire Dragons” details the life-changing year Shannon Young spent in Hong Kong while in a long-distance relationship with her Eurasian boyfriend. Learn more through my interview with Shannon.

2015 Gift Recommendations For Books Featured On This Blog

The Good Shufu

Does your 2015 holiday shopping list include book lovers? Over the past year, I’ve featured a lot of fantastic books on this blog (including AMWF titles); they could also make amazing gifts for that special someone in your life.

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, along with a recommendation for who would love it and a link to my interview with the author. Happy holidays! (Note: titles are linked to, where your purchase helps support this blog.)

For people fascinated with intercultural relationships:

There's Something I Want To Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan

There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan by Yuta Aoki (Read my interview with Yuta)

For anyone who loves an easy, breezy romance:

The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane

The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane by Susan Chan (Read my interview with Susan)

For readers who want a smashing good romance novel (with a little Bollywood flair):


A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (Read my interview with Sonali)

For fans of expat stories set in China:

Pearl River Drama: Dating in China

Pearl River Drama: Dating in China by Ray Hecht (Read my interview with Ray) SouthChinaMorningBlues_800

South China Morning Blues by Ray Hecht (Read my interview with Ray)

For fans of Chinese history and culture:

The Porcelain Thief

The Porcelain Thief by Huan Hsu (Read my interview with Huan)

For fans of Eat, Pray, Love:

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras by Leza Lowitz (Read my interview with Leza)

The Good Shufu

The Good Shufu by Tracy Slater (Read my interview with Tracy)

For anyone who loves comics and stories about the ups and downs of living abroad:

My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I'm Crazy_

My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy by Grace Buchele Mineta (Read my interview with Grace)

For fans of Lisa See’s China novels:


Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip (Read my interview with Mingmei)

For readers who love coming-of-age stories:

Year of Fire Dragons

Year of Fire Dragons by Shannon Young (Read my interview with Shannon)

What books do you think would make great Christmas gifts?

Interview with Susan Chan, co-author of the romance novel “The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane”

What a dreary week it’s been for me. I caught the flu last Thursday (the worst possible kind, with body aches and zero energy), which kept me holed up bed for three days straight. It also rained nonstop during that time, a downpour of almost Biblical proportions that ended up flooding my favorite trails in the wetlands park nearby. And on Monday, just when I thought I was getting over the flu, I lost my voice completely. That’s right, I can’t talk a single word! That led to a trip to the hospital with a rather unpleasant experience of having a doctor shove a rod with a camera on it into my throat (everything is fine – just need to take some medicine and finish a round of vapor therapy). Oh, and did I mention that the blissful summery temperatures we were enjoying last week have dipped back into wintery territory once again?

Yep, that kind of week.

It’s times like this when I turn to a good story for a little escape – the chance to slip into another world and forget about my troubles for a while. Especially if it’s an easy, breezy love story like The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane, which reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen.The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane

Susan Chan, along with her co-author Carol Polakoff, have woven together a delightfully relaxing romance novel with many different interwoven love stories set in San Diego, California (almost like the movie “Love, Actually”). Even better, one of those love stories is about a young AMWF couple (I think it’s the best in the novel!). Given that Susan’s husband is Chinese, I’m not surprised she’d want to share a story reflecting her own experiences. The book also draws upon her Jewish heritage with a story about a Holocaust survivor and the mystery of a missing family painting.

This is a perfect book for the beach, travel, or (if you’re like me) a little escape from the ordinary.

I’m honored to introduce you to Susan Chan and The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane through this interview.

Susan Chan
Susan Chan

Susan was born to immigrant parents, grew up in New York City, and attended local public schools. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art as an art major, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York and a Master’s from New York University. She taught high school Social Studies for a number of years and then changed career paths. She obtained her Masters and Professional Diploma in Guidance and Counseling from Fordham University and became a high school guidance counselor.

She has been married to her husband Jay for 44 years and blessed with two children and one grandson (as of now). As an interracial couple they faced many challenges but their marriage has lasted because they have been guided by two principles – don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t go to sleep mad.

Susan has also shared a story on this blog titled My daughter said, “I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese.”

You can follow The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane at the Lily Court Lane Books Facebook Page.

I asked Susan about how she came up with the AMWF couple in the story, her motivation for writing about a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and what it was like dating her husband in the 1960s.


What inspired you and your partner to come up with this idea of a community at Lily Court Lane with all of these interwoven romance stories?

I’m a collector of stories. I seem to have a personality that encourages others to confide in me or at the very least share their stories. My mother had the same quality and she’d laugh when she said I seem to wear a sign across my chest saying tell me your problems. I guess that’s also what caused me to enter my chosen profession as a high school guidance counselor. The reason I mention this is because the stories in the book are based on events which happened to people I know. That’s why they have the ring of truth about them.

As you can imagine, my favorite couple in the story is Ming, a Chinese-American guy who works at the coffee shop in the community, and Cindy, a “wild child” kind of woman with purple-dyed hair and a nose ring who helps at the local bakery. Could you talk about how you came up with these characters and their storyline?

Ming and Cindy are the interracial couple I wish my husband and I could have been. While true that his mother opposes Cindy at first because she’s not Chinese, she comes to accept her and eventually love her like a daughter. I never had that opportunity as my husband’s mother died when he was very young and his family never really reconciled themselves to our marriage. Cindy’s neighbors view her relationship with Ming as “normal” and never interfere. Everyone, including strangers, felt they had the right to express their opposition to my marriage. I was even asked at work if I really wanted to change my last name to my married name. Most people tend to focus on the outward differences in a person such as the shape of an eye, the texture of hair.

There’s also a very fascinating story woven throughout the book about a Jewish woman whose family lost a rather valuable painting during World War II. Could you talk about what motivated you to put this into the story?

My father never really wanted to talk about his family. I guess he experienced survivor’s guilt. He was the only one in his family to survive the Holocaust because he’d immigrated to America. I grew up knowing about the Holocaust, which not everyone today learns about, but millions of deaths cannot be easily grasped. When as a youngster I read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” it became clear how the story of one person can affect a multitude. Usually the Holocaust is reduced to numbers; I wanted to put a human face on it.

What do you hope people come away with from reading this novel?

First and foremost, that they spent a pleasant few hours reading about people they’d like to be friends with. Corny though it sounds, I believe human beings, whatever their differences, have one thing in common – the need for love. I wanted to give my readers an opportunity to escape to a world filled with love and happy endings – as can be found on Lily Court Lane, a fictional street in sunny San Diego CA.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on Book 2 in the series-The Women of Lily Court Lane. The working title of the book is “Lies of Omission.” The reader will learn how Cindy is unexpectedly united with her birth family, Dallas resolves her problems with Simon and Carolee seems to find love with a handsome man she meets on the beach. There’s been such a positive and encouraging response to Cindy’s romance with Ming that I plan to delve more deeply into his cultural background.

Interracial and cross cultural couples were pretty rare when you and your husband were dating or first married. Did you happen to meet any others back then?

No, never. Back in the day (the 1960’s-70’s), interracial couples were usually Asian women with white men who were most often military men bringing home a bride from their deployment. Although it wasn’t favored by the general population, it was more or less accepted. But it was not at all accepted for white women.


Thanks so much to Susan for this interview about The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane! Don’t forget to check out the Lily Court Lane Books Facebook Page, where you can follow the series.

Guest Post: My daughter said, “I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese.”

When you’re raising biracial and bicultural kids, you’re bound to have some interesting conversations with them about identity. That’s the case for Susan Chan, author of The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane, who recalls an incident with her daughter, after the little girl told another child about her background. Her daughter said, “Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”

Read on to find out what happened – and thanks so much to Susan for sharing!

Do you have a fascinating story that you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? We welcome a variety of guest posts – including love stories, posts about having/raising biracial kids, biracial identity stories, and anything else that falls within the realm of this blog. Check out the submit a post page to learn how to get your writing published here!


(Photo by Phalinn Ooi via
(Photo by Phalinn Ooi via

April is an iffy day in New York City-blustery one day and spring-like the next. The morning of April 29, 1989 dawned clear and bright for the Chan family. We were all dressed hours before we needed to be, each of us sporting a touch of red-a lucky Chinese color. Leah had gotten up early every morning for months to practice her speech and now she was prepared and eager to start.

Arriving early at the Temple for Leah’s Bat Mitzvah, we greeted each person as they arrived. It was a serious moment and as her mom, I held my breath, waiting for her to begin.  Seated next to her Chinese father, and her younger brother, I held back my tears of pride.  We watched her carry out her part in the religious ceremony and then it came time for her personal speech.

I watched my child, now blossoming into a young lady, speak seriously of becoming an adult, as she gave recognition to her cultural and religious background. The years melted away and I recalled an incident that had happened when Leah was a child, probably four or five. She was approached by a little boy in the playground. I had to hide my smile later when she told me their conversation.

She’d said in a very serious tone, “Mommy, he’s so stupid.”

“Leah, you know we don’t use that word.”

“Well, he was.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t know any better,” I said, wondering if I’d need to have a talk with his mother. What had he said to make my child angry?

“He asked me, ‘What are you?’”

“And what did you say?”

“I didn’t know what he meant.”

“Uh huh,” I answered in an encouraging tone.

“He asked me again, and he said, ‘I’m Italian-American and you can be two things.’”

“Oh, so he thinks people can only be two things because that’s what he is.” I realized he was referring to the idea popular then of a hyphenated American.

“Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”

I knew that Leah wouldn’t let him get away with that.

“Oh, yes, I can,” Leah told me she’d said to him. “I go to American school during the week, Chinese school on Saturday, and Hebrew school on Sunday. Mommy, then he ran away. If I can’t call him stupid, what can I call him?”

That little girl grew up to be a lawyer.

Susan Chan, a romance author and former guidance counselor, lives in San Diego, CA, and is co-author of the Lily Court Lane book series. You can follow Lily Court Lane books on Facebook.


Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.