5 must-read books for understanding Asia better

Not all Asians are the same. Here are a few of books for increasing your knowledge of Asian cultures and the socio-political landscapes (Available on The Book Depository ).

1) Has the West Lost It? by Kishore Mahbubani
The West’s two-century epoch as global powerhouse is at an end. A new world order, with China and India as the strongest economies, dawns. How will the West react to its new status of superpower in decline? Mahbubani’s timely polemic, he argues passionately that the West can no longer presume to impose its ideology on the world, and crucially, that it must stop seeking to intervene, politically and militarily, in the affairs of other nations.

2) The Art of Not Being Governed : An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia by James Scott
In accessible language, James Scott, recognized worldwide as an eminent authority in Southeast Asian, peasant, and agrarian studies, tells the story of the peoples of Zomia and their unlikely odyssey in search of self-determination. He redefines our views on Asian politics, history, demographics, and even our fundamental ideas about what constitutes civilization, and challenges us with a radically different approach to history that presents events from the perspective of stateless peoples and redefines state-making as a form of “internal colonialism.”

3) Dams and Development in China: The Moral Economy of Water and Power by Bryan Tilt
China is home to half of the world’s large dams and adds dozens more each year. The benefits are considerable: dams deliver hydropower, provide reliable irrigation water, protect people and farmland against flooding, and produce hydroelectricity in a nation with a seemingly insatiable appetite for energy. As hydropower responds to a larger share of energy demand, dams may also help to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, welcome news in a country where air and water pollution have become dire and greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in the world. Yet the advantages of dams come at a high cost for river ecosystems and for the social and economic well-being of local people, who face displacement and farmland loss.

4) Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India by Shashi Tharoor
British imperialism justified itself as enlightened despotism for the benefit of the governed, but Shashi Tharoor takes on and demolishes this position, demonstrating how every supposed imperial ‘gift’ from the railways to the rule of law was designed in Britain’s interests alone.

5) Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore by Sudhir Thomas
On more than one occasion, have I encountered individuals that know very little about Malaysia and Singapore, and less so about their historical connections. There is also sometimes confusion when it comes to identifying Malay from Malaysian. This book introduces the reader to the dynamics between Singapore and Malaysia through the perspectives of Singaporeans and Malaysians themselves.


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