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

Exploring cultural differences in my intercultural and international marriage has long been at the heart of my blog. Which is why, when Yuta Aoki contacted me about his new book exploring cultural differences for mixed couples dating in Japan, I jumped at the chance to do an interview.


There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan profiles 15 different people (spanning eight nationalities, both straight and LGBT) dating across racial and cultural borders in the country. Yuta’s deeply personal interviews touch some of the most private and intimate details of their love lives. He follows up each of the stories with a discussion of the cultural dynamics going on between the couples, which makes the book even more valuable. Whether you’re curious about intercultural dating in Japan or already in an intercultural relationship, you’ll find this a fascinating addition to your library.

I’m excited to introduce you to Yuta Aoki and There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan through this interview.


Here’s Yuta’s bio from

Yuta Aoki is a Japanese author, blogger, and YouTuber. He writes about Japanese culture, multi-cultural communication, and dating.

He is a chronic traveler. He has been to more than thirty countries, from Eastern Europe all the way across to Southeast Asia. He enjoys talking to local people and listening to their stories. His desire to share the best of these stories inspired him to write There’s Something I Want to Tell You – True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan.

He dates internationally, although he’s slightly worried that he might end up spending more time writing about dating than actually doing it.

He was born and raised in Japan.

You can learn more about Yuta at his blog at

I asked Yuta about everything from how he was able to get people to speak so candidly about their love lives, to his response to people who think culture doesn’t matter in intercultural dating:


Tell us about the inspiration for writing this book.

One huge inspiration was my friend’s story about how she met her husband. She is African-American and her husband is Japanese.

One day, she was walking down the street of Gunma, a Japanese prefecture where she liked at that time. A car approached behind her and pulled up.

‘What’s up?’ the man inside shouted in English. He was Japanese.

‘Uh… good evening,’ she replied in Japanese, hesitantly.

He smiled, wanting to continue the conversation.

But she wasn’t up for a random chat. It was already getting dark. The sun was going down. She walked away.

She would have forgotten him, had it not been for the birthday party she was going to the same night. The party took place on the 2nd floor of a building where there were several bars.

During the party, her phone rang. It was her friend.

‘Hey, can you come downstairs? There’s someone I want to introduce you to,’ her friend said.

When she came downstairs, she noticed a familiar-looking man.

‘Hey, you are the guy from the car!’ she exclaimed.

That was how she met her husband.

This story made me realize that people had unusual dating stories. I also remembered a friend who had made countless crazy boyfriend, one of which had run 40 kilometers (25 miles) just to see her. I wanted to know more.

You share a variety of stories about dating in Japan from people of different nationalities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientations — many of them diving into very intimate and personal details about the relationships. How did you find the people to interview for this book? And how were you able to get them to speak so candidly on the record?

Finding people to interview was quite easy as I already knew very diverse people who lived in Japan. All I had to do was ask around. Then some of them introduced me to other people.

I think the reason why those people opened up was that most people actually want to talk about their relationships. Often, we are afraid of being judged. But once someone stars actively listening to you, you can’t stop.

I think being interviewed is a very interesting experience. I encourage you to try it if there’s an opportunity. If you have an interesting dating story, contact me!

What’s your favorite story from this book and why?

Every time people ask that question, I come up with a different answer because there are so many interesting stories.

There’s an American girl called Lily, and I loved her quasi-relationship with a dorky, smart, obsessive Japanese guy called Aiba-kun. Lily wants to be his friends because he’s a smart guy and likes Japanese literature which she likes a lot. He’s also one of few friends Lily made back in university in Nagoya. But Aiba-kun doesn’t seem to be able to shake off his romantic obsession. There have been countless misunderstandings—both personal and cultural—between them.

Once, Lily decided to go on a “date” with him. She knew he hadn’t dated any girl before, so she wanted him to experience what it was like to go out with a girl. She was always clear that she wasn’t interested in him, but it was difficult for him to hold back his feelings.

Lily had to go back to the States, but they continued exchange emails even though she found it difficult to write long messages in Japanese.

Eventually, she came back to Japan and started living in Tokyo, quite far from Nagoya. One day, Aiba-kun showed up in her house unnoticed. It was an awkward meeting. Lily had to take him to a nearby café and convince him to leave because he kept insisting on dating her.

But their (sort of) friendship still continues. Lily thinks that once he gets over his infatuation, they can be really good friends.

I like this story because it has several layers of misunderstanding. On one hand, there is American dating culture that tends to be more casual and relaxed. On the other hand, there is an awkward boy who is not experienced with women. I find their friendship kind of cute.

Was there anything you learned about dating in Japan in the process of writing this book that surprised or shocked you?

It’s not so much surprising as curious, but so many Japanese people in those stories are, well, Japanese, in their way of thinking.

Western women who date Japanese men often find it confusing that Japanese men don’t always express their emotions and thoughts verbally.

Michelle, a Finnish girl, says her Japanese ex-boyfriend didn’t want to talk about bad things because he didn’t like confrontations. He wasn’t a talkative guy, and when they went on a date, he didn’t have much to say. She wanted him to talk more.

Kala, another African-American woman, talks about the ‘automatic translator’ that she invented to decode her Japanese husband’s non-verbal messages. When her husband is hungry, he comes around the kitchen, where she is cooking, and asks, ‘Do you need any help?’ But Kala knows he is not really offering help. It’s his indirect way of saying, ‘I’m hungry.’

Lack of verbal, direct communication is just one thing. There are a lot of recurring themes about dating in Japan: mind-reading, passiveness in bed, accommodating personalities, private nature of dating, etc. It was interesting to re-discovering my own culture.

What would you say to people who claim that culture doesn’t matter in intercultural dating?

I think what they really mean is that cultural differences can be overcome, which isn’t false.

But some people overlook or simply don’t notice cultural differences and that can be a problem. I remember Andre, a Jamaican man, who dated a Japanese girl who had a completely different communication style.

When she wanted to stop seeing him, she simply stopped answering his text, which confused Andre a great deal because he needed a verbal, explicit explanation. The more he pushed, the more irritated she was. It wasn’t necessarily his fault because from her part, she was unable to communicate with him effectively. Instead, she just became angry and passive-aggressive, which confused him even more.

It turned out their relationship had been fraught with misunderstandings, which neither of them fully understood. I think a little understanding of cultural and personal differences would have made their relationship much more pleasant.

What do you hope people come away with after reading your book?

I hope that people come away with a good understanding of what to expect in dating in Japan. At the same time, I hope people notice that there are many Japanese people who don’t fit the Japanese stereotypes. I included very diverse people in my book, so I you can understand dating in Japan from different angles.


Thanks so much to Yuta Aoki for this interview! Learn more about Yuta at his blog at You can find There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating on, where your purchase helps support this blog.