Our choice of books for 2017

Here is the round-up of the best Asian Art and Islamic World books in our annual Asian Art Books Survey for 2017.


Chinese Ivory Carvings:
The Sir Victor Sassoon Collection

by Rose Kerr, Phillip Allen and Shih Ching-Fei, Scala Arts & Heritage,
ISBN 9781785510854, £60

Sir Victor Sassoon (1881-1961) lived an extraordinary and colourful life and left a remarkable legacy. He created a trust to preserve his collection of ivories for the benefit of UK citizens. Since its foundation and under the guardianship of the dedicated trustees, the collection has grown by the addition of significant specimens that originally went unrepresented. Chinese Ivory Carvings presents 350 of its most significant artefacts, each illustrated and discussed. Four introductory essays explore the acquisition of the pieces, placing the ivories in their historical and cultural context.

Chinese and Japanese Works of Art: in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen

by John Ayers, Royal Collection Trust,

ISBN 9781905686490, £178

The Royal Collection includes some of the most historic examples of Oriental art in the Western world. With more than 2,000 items distributed among the royal residences in England and Scotland, this collection presents a rich cross-section of the porcelains, jades, lacquer and other works of art produced in China and Japan and brought here over a period of several centuries, reflecting the West’s long-standing appetite for rarities from distant lands. A striking feature of the collection is the mounting in the 18th and 19th centuries of many ceramics in gilt bronze: the mounts themselves, made in French and British workshops, are often of superb quality and of great historical importance and are published here for the first time.

Faces of China: Portrait Painting 

of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Edited by Klaas Ruitenbeek, Imhof Press,
ISBN 9783731906285, Euro 49.95

Faces of China is the catalogue from the first exhibition explicitly dedicated to Chinese portrait painting at the Asian Art Museum in Berlin. A selection of more than 100 paintings from the collections of the Palace Museum Beijing and the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto, most of which have never been shown in Europe, spans a period of more than 500 years. The main focus is on the unique portraits of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), including images of members of the imperial court, ancestors, military figures, and informal portraits of artists and famous women.

Jade: From Emperors to Art Deco

by Marie-Catherine Rey, Somogy Editions d’Art, ISBN 9782757211779, £38

From the dawn of Chinese civilisation, when it became imbued with its quintessential qualities, to the 1920s, when this stone ‘more precious than gold’  became the source of inspiration for modernist jewellery and objects of art, these essays and illustrations lift the veil on the history of this quintessential expression of Chinese culture.

Traditional Chinese Architecture:
Twelve Essays

Edited by Nancy S Steinhardt,
Princeton University Press,
ISBN 9780691159997, $50

A ground-breaking book by one of the world’s leading historians of Chinese architecture. Translated by Alexandra Harrer Fu Xinian is considered by many to be the world’s leading historian of Chinese architecture. The book gathers together, for the first time in English, 12 seminal essays by Fu Xinian and pays special attention to the technical aspects of the building tradition since the first millennium BC, aldongside Fu Xinian’s signature drawings. The essays look at the modular basis for individual structures, complexes, and cities; lateral and longitudinal building frames; the unity of sculpture and building to create viewing angles; the influence of Chinese construction on Japanese architecture; and the reliability of images to inform us about architecture. The book also examines such topics as the representation of architecture on vessels in the Warring States period, early Buddhist architecture, and the evolution of imperial architecture from the Tang to Ming dynasty.

Design by The Book: Chinse Ritual Objects and the Sanli Tu

by Francois Louis, Bard Graduate Center,

ISBN 9781941792100, $29.98

Today, China’s classical antiquity is often studied through recovered artefacts, but before this practice became widespread, scholars instead reconstructed the distant past through classical texts and transmitted illustrations. Among the most important illustrated commentaries was the Sanli Tu, or Illustrations to the Ritual Classics, whose origins are said to date back to the great commentator Zheng Xuan. Design by the Book, which accompanies an exhibition at Bard Graduate Center Gallery, discusses the history and cultural significance of the Sanli Tu in mediaeval China.

China Rediscovered: 

The Benaki Museum Collection of
Chinese Ceramics

by George Manginis, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9781910376584, £20

In May 1936 the steamship Sorrento sailed into the port of Piraeus, Greece. Aboard were 16 crates with 452 items of Chinese pottery, destined to join another 341 already on display at the Benaki Museum in Athens. Over the past nine years the museum s founder, Antonis Benakis, had been in contact with their donor, Greek-origin British businessman George Eumorfopoulos. His Chinese art collection was one of the most extensive the world had ever seen. In bestowing this gift, Eumorfopoulos wanted to introduce Greeks to the art of China through its best-known medium at the time, ceramics. A circle of enthusiasts and scholars, among which Eumorfopoulos was pivotal, grasped the opportunity to evaluate anew long-held preconceptions on Chinese civilisation.

China’s Asian Dream:
Empire Building Along the New Silk Road

by Tom Miller, Zed Books,
ISBN 9781783609246, £9.80

‘China’, Napoleon once remarked,
‘is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world’. In 2014, President Xi Jinping triumphantly declared the lion had awakened. Under his leadership, China is pursuing a dream to restore its historical position as the dominant power in Asia. From the Mekong River Basin to the Central Asian steppe, China is flexing its economic muscles for strategic ends. By setting up new regional financial institutions, Beijing is challenging the post-World War II order established under the watchful eye of Washington. And by funding and building roads, railways, ports and power lines a New Silk Road across Eurasia and through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean China aims to draw its neighbours ever tighter into its embrace. Combining a geopolitical overview with on-the-ground reportage from a dozen countries, the book offers a fresh perspective on the rise of China and asks: What does it means for the future of Asia?

Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era
of Western Domination

by Robert Bickers, Allen Lane,

ISBN 9781846146183, £12.99

Even at the high noon of Europe’s empires China managed to be one of the handful of countries not to succumb. Invaded, humiliated and looted, China nonetheless kept its sovereignty. Robert Bickers’ major new book looks at the long, often agonising process by which the Chinese had by the end of the 20th century regained control of their own country.  Many unusual, strange and vivid sources are used to recreate a now fantastically remote world: the corrupt, lurid modernity of pre-War Shanghai, the often tiny patches of ‘extra-territorial’ land controlled by European powers (one of which, unnoticed, had mostly toppled into a river), the entrepôts of Hong Kong and Macao, and the myriad means, through armed threats, technology and legal chicanery, by which China was kept subservient. Today Chinese nationalism stays firmly rooted in memories of its degraded past – the quest for self-sufficiency, a determination both to assert China’s standing in the world and its outstanding territorial claims, and never to be vulnerable to renewed attack. History matters deeply to Beijing’s current rulers – and this book explores why.

CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping

by Kerry Brown, IB Tauris (reprint),

ISBN 9781784538774, £8.50

China has become the powerhouse of the world economy, its incredible boom overseen by the elite members of the secretive and all-powerful communist party. But since the election of Xi Jinping as General Secretary, life at the top in China has changed. Under the guise of a corruption crackdown, which has seen his rivals imprisoned, Xi Jinping has been quietly building one of the most powerful leaderships modern China has ever seen. In CEO China, the noted China expert Kerry Brown reveals the hidden story of the rise of the man dubbed the ‘Chinese Godfather’. Brown investigates his relationship with his revolutionary father, who was expelled by Mao during the Cultural Revolution, his business dealings and allegiances in China’s regional power struggles and his role in the internal battle raging between the old men of the Deng era and the new super-rich ‘princelings’. Xi Jinping’s China is powerful, aggressive and single-minded and this book may become a must-read for the Western world.

A Billion Voices: 

China’s Search for a Common Language

by David Moser, Penguin Books China,

ISBN 9780734399595, £7.80

Mandarin, Guoyu or Putonghua? ‘Chinese’ is a language known by many names, and China is a country home to many languages. Since the turn of the century linguists and politicians have been on a mission to create a common language for China. From the radical intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement, to leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao Zedong, all fought to push the boundaries of language reform. Now, internet users take the Chinese language in new and unpredictable directions. David Moser tells the remarkable story of China’s language unification agenda and its controversial relationship with modern politics, challenging our ideas of what it means to speak Chinese.

Dragons in Diamond Village: 

Tales of Resistance from Urbanizing China

by David Bandurski, Melville House Publishing, ISBN 9781612195711, £17.56

As China grows richer and becomes more powerful, many of its most vulnerable citizens have been left behind – especially those who live in the shadows of the country’s rapidly developing mega-cities. Never could this be truer than in Xian Village on the outskirts of the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. Ahead of the 2010 Asia Games a voracious demand for land exploded. It turned the ground beneath the villagers’ feet into a commodity as valuable as diamonds, a treasure too rich for local officials to ignore, no matter the costs to the locals. But the villagers would not give up their land and their heritage without a fight.

The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China

by Philip Ball, Vintage,

ISBN 9780226369204, £9.99

From the Yangtze to the Yellow River, China is traversed by great waterways, which have defined its politics and ways of life for centuries. Water has been so integral to China’s culture, economy, and growth and development that it provides a window on the whole sweep of Chinese history.  Philip Ball opens that window to offer an epic and powerful new way of thinking about Chinese civilisation. Water, Ball shows, is a key that unlocks much of Chinese culture. Drawing on stories from travellers and explorers, poets and painters, bureaucrats and activists, all of whom have been influenced by an environment shaped and permeated by water, Ball explores how the ubiquitous relationship of the Chinese people to water has made it an enduring metaphor for philosophical thought and artistic expression. From the Han emperors to Mao, the ability to manage the waters to provide irrigation and defend against floods was a barometer of political legitimacy, often resulting in engineering works on a gigantic scale. It is a struggle that continues today, as the strain of economic growth on water resources may be the greatest threat to China’s future.

The 1929 Sino-Soviet War

by Michael M Walker, University Press of Kansas, ISBN 9780700623754, $39.95

For seven weeks in 1929, the Republic of China and the Soviet Union battled in Manchuria over control of the Chinese Eastern Railroad. It was the largest military clash between China and a Western power ever fought on Chinese soil, involving more than a quarter million combatants. Michael Walker’s book is the first full account of what UPI’s Moscow correspondent called ‘the war nobody knew’ a ‘limited modern war’ that destabilised the region’s balance of power, altered East Asian history, and sent grim reverberations through a global community giving lip service to demilitarising in the wake of World War I.

China: A History in Objects

by Jessica Harrison-Hall, British Museum Press, ISBN 9780500519707, £29.95

This illustrated introduction to the history of China offers a fresh understanding of China’s progress from the Neolithic age to the present. Told in six chapters arranged chronologically, through art, artefacts, people and places, and richly illustrated with expertly selected objects and artworks, it firmly connects today’s China with its internationally engaged past.

Chinese Wallpaper in Britain and Ireland

by Emile de Bruijn, Philip Wilson Publishers, ISBN 9781781300541, £30

Chinese wallpaper has been an important element of western interior decoration for three hundred years. As trade between Europe and China flourished in the 17th century, Europeans developed a strong taste for Chinese art and design. These beautiful wall covering were developed by Chinese painting workshops in response to western demand. In spite of their spectacular beauty, Chinese wallpapers have not been studied in any depth until relatively recently. This book provides an overview of some of the most significant Chinese wallpapers surviving in the British Isles. Well illustrated, it shows how these wallpapers became a staple ingredient of the elite’s homes while providing a touch of the exotic.

Collecting China: 

The Memoirs of a Hong Kong Art Addict

by Brian McElney, Earnshaw Books,

IBSN 9789888422487, £19.99

Brian McElney was born in Hong Kong in the early 1930s, and for more than two decades was one of the territory’s top lawyers. But in his spare time, he also put together one of the most comprehensive collections of East Asian antiques in the world, many of them spotted by him amongst the knick-knacks on Hollywood Road and Cat Street. His memoir, Collecting China, starts at the height of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s, when it was just not known whether the Red Guards would storm over the border and start smashing up porcelain on the Mid-Levels, and then tells tales ranging from the Hong Kong of the 1930s through to the establishment by Brian of what is today the only museum specialising in Chinese antiquities in the United Kingdom _ the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, UK.

Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World

by Alexandra Munroe and Philip Tinari, Guggenheim Museum Publications,

ISBN 978089207528, $75

Published on the occasion of the largest exhibition of contemporary art from China mounted in North America, and organised by the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, the catalogue explores recent experimental art from what is arguably the most transformative period of modern Chinese and recent world history. Featuring over 150 iconic and lesser-known artworks by more than 70 artists and collectives, this catalogue offers an interpretative survey of Chinese experimental art framed by the geopolitical dynamics attending the end of the Cold War, the spread of globalisation, and the rise of China. Critical essays explore how Chinese artists have been both agents and sceptics of China’s arrival as a global presence.

Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan

by Michelle Vosper, Columbia University Press, ISBN 9789881604705, $65

Creating Across Cultures is a collection of stories about visionary Asian women who have journeyed outside their comfort zones to expand their artistic horizons. It celebrates the achievements of 16 women in the arts from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan – a region of diverse cultures, languages, and histories. Creating in a range of literary, visual, and performing arts, these women must often defy cultural and social expectations in order to heed their artistic drive. Their personal histories open windows onto the larger, historical trajectory of Greater China over three generations while their art work delves into social realities and challenges of the day. The stories are based on personal interviews and professional archives and written by a team of arts specialists, journalists, and academics who bring these accounts to light in English for the first time. Richly illustrated with images of artworks and performances, as well as historical photographs, the collection reveals the vibrancy, relevance, and universality of the work of creative women in the region.

Modern Chinese Painting & Europe

Edited by Michaela Pejcochova and Clarissa von Spee, Reimer, ISBN  9783496015635, $29

Twentieth-century China experienced the collapse of its imperial system and the rise of a modern nation state. It was a century of war and revolution, as well as a time of reorientation and renewal. In their search for inspiration and reform, Chinese artists travelled abroad, making Europe one of their foremost destinations. Artistic exchange and international interaction at the beginning of the 20th century allowed museums and scholars in St Petersburg, Prague, Berlin, Paris and the UK to be among the first in the West to exhibit, collect and study modern Chinese paintings. The book explores these early encounters, friendships and exchanges between artists and scholars in China and Europe, including Zhang Daqian’s famous visit with Picasso.


Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

by Timothy Clark and Roger Keyes,

Thames & Hudson, ISBN 9780500094068, £35

Hokusai created sublime works during the last 30 years of his life, right up to his death at the age of ninety. Publications have hitherto presented his long career as a chronological sequence. This book takes a fresh approach based on innovative scholarship: thematic groupings of works are related to the major spiritual and artistic quests of Hokusai’s life. Hokusai’s personal beliefs are studied here through major brush paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books. The book draws attention to the contribution of Hokusai’s daughter Eijo (Oi), an accomplished artist in her own right. Hokusai continually explored the mutability and minutiae of natural phenomena in his art. His late subjects and styles were based on a mastery of eclectic Japanese, Chinese and European techniques and an encyclopaedic knowledge of nature, myth, and history. Mount Fuji was the most significant model for Hokusai in his quest for immortality. This collection of Hokusai’s works draws on the finest to be found in Japan and around the world, making this the most important publication for years on Hokusai, and a uniquely valuable overview of the artist’s late career.


by Matthi Forrer, Citadelles et Mazenod,

ISBN 9782850887451, £99

This survey of Hiroshige tells the fascinating story of the last great practitioner of ukiyo-e, or ‘pictures of the floating world’. Hiroshige is considered to be the tradition’s most poetic artist and his work had a marked influence on Western painting towards the end of the 19th century. Arranged chronologically, this book illustrates through text and magnificent reproductions Hiroshige’s youth and early career; his artistic development in the genre of landscape prints; his depictions of Edo and the provinces; the flower and bird prints; and his many popular books and paintings. It discusses the historic and cultural environment in which Hiroshige flourished and the many reasons his art continues to be revered and imitated.

Japan on the Silk Road

Edited by Selcuk Esenbel,
Brill, ISBN 9789004274303, £100

This scholarly book provides the historical background indispensable for understanding today’s Japan perspectives and policies in the vast area of Eurasia. For the first time, it brings a detailed account of the history of Japanese activities along the Eurasian landmass across the Middle East and Central Asia in modern history. Japanese diplomats, military officers, archaeologists, and linguists traversed the Silk Road, involving Japan in the Great Game and exploring ancient civilisations. The book exposes the entanglements of pre-war Japanese Pan-Asianism with Pan-Islamism, Turkic nationalism and Mongolian independence as a global history of imperialism. Japanese connections to Ottoman Turkey, India, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, and China at the same time reveal a discrete global narrative of cosmopolitanism.

Ghosts of the Tsunami: 

Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone

by Richard Lloyd Parry, Jonathan Cape,

ISBN 9781911214175, £10

On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,000 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned. It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis, and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways. Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings. He met a priest who performed exorcisms on people possessed by the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village which had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.

Hell in Japanese Art

by Ryouji Kajitani, Naoki Nishida et al,

Pie International,

ISBN 9784756249234, £43

This art book showcases depictions of hell in Japanese art from the 12th century to the 19th century.  The book focuses primarily on works designated as Japanese National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties and features the various depictions of hell by prominent artists such as Kazunobu Kano, Nichosai, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka and Kyosai Kawanabe.  Also featured are 19th-century woodblock-printed edition of Ojoyoshu (The Essentials of Rebirth in the Pure Land) written by the mediaeval Buddhist monk Genshin (942-1017) and is accompanied by modern bilingual text. Written in 985, this influential Buddhist text is often compared with Dante’s Divine Comedy. Its brutal scenes of underworld realms display the suffering and cruelty one might endure as a consequence of harmful acts committed in life or the judgement by the Ten Kings of Hell. These ideas of hell in Ojoyoshu have played an enduring role in inspiring Japanese Buddhist paintings and other subsequent texts, particularly from the mediaeval period onward, and are vividly portrayed in the paintings featured in this volume. Essays from historians of both Japanese art and Buddhism are also included in the text.

Kuniyoshi X Kunisada

by Sarah E Thopson, MFA,

ISBN 9780878468478, US$50

Rival ukiyo-e masters Kuniyoshi and Kunisada were the two most admired designers of figure prints in 19th-century Japan. Famous for the realism of his portraits of Kabuki actors, the sensuality of his beautiful women and the luxurious settings he imagined for historical scenes, Kunisada was the popular favourite during his lifetime. Kuniyoshi is loved today for his dynamic action scenes of warriors and monsters (which foreshadowed present-day manga and animé), his comic prints, and even a few especially daring works that included forbidden political satire in disguise. With scores of illustrations in colour, this volume presents Kuniyoshi and Kunisada’s artistic rivalry through a selection of outstanding works from the well-known Japanese art collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Around Chigusa

Edited by Dora CY Ching, Louise Allison Cort
& Andrew M Watsky, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691177557, $75

An in-depth look at the dynamic cultural world of tea in Japan during its formative period Around Chigusa investigates the cultural and artistic milieu in which a humble jar of Chinese origin dating to the 13th or 14th century became Chigusa, a revered, named object in the practice of formalised tea presentation (chanoyu) in 16th-century Japan. This tea-leaf storage jar lies at the nexus of interlocking personal networks, cultural values, and aesthetic idioms in the practice and appreciation of tea, poetry, painting, calligraphy, and Noh theatre during this formative period of tea culture. The book’s essays set tea in dialogue with other cultural practices, revealing larger cultural paradigms that informed the production, circulation, and reception of the artefacts used and displayed in tea. Key themes include the centrality of tea to the social life of and interaction among warriors, merchants, and the courtly elite; the multifaceted relationship between things wa (Japanese) and kan (Chinese) and between tea and poetry; the rise of new formats for display of the visual and calligraphic arts; and collecting and display as an expression of political power.

The Japanese Garden

by Sophie Walker, Phaidon Press,

ISBN 9780714874777, £30

The most comprehensive exploration of the art of the Japanese garden published to date, this book covers more than eight centuries of the history of this important genre. Author and garden designer Sophie Walker brings fresh insight to this subject, exploring the Japanese garden in detail through a series of essays and with 100 featured gardens, ranging from ancient Shinto shrines to imperial gardens and contemporary Zen designs. Leading artists, architects, and other cultural practitioners offer personal perspectives in newly commissioned essays.

Kanban: Traditional Shop Signs of Japan

by Alan Scott Pate, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691176475, $49.50

A glimpse into the markets, crafts, and signage of early modern Japan Kanban are the traditional signs Japanese merchants displayed on the street to advertise their presence, represent the products and services to be found inside their shops, and lend a sense of individuality to the shops themselves. These unique objects evoke the frenetic market scenes of 19th- and 20th-century Japan, where merchants created a multifaceted world of symbol and meaning designed to engage the viewer and entice the customer. This beautifully illustrated book traces the history of shop signs in Japan, examines how they were created, and explores some of the businesses and trades they advertised.

New Trends in Japanese Photography

Edited by Filippo Maggia, Skira,

ISBN 9788857232799, £35

This volume brings together the works of 13 contemporary Japanese artists. The contemporary Japanese scene is remarkably complex, extremely varied, and even enticing. The fact that it is impossible to define one or more trends is extremely positive: there are so many different fields of research, all explored with equal intensity and with an originality that Western photography so often lacks. And this is another characteristic that makes Japanese images unique.

The New Koreans

by Michael Breen, Rider,

ISBN 9781846045202, £12.99

In the course of a couple of generations, South Koreans took themselves out of the paddy fields and into Silicon Valley, establishing themselves as a democracy alongside the advanced countries of the world. Yet for all their ambition and achievement, the new Koreans are a curiously self-deprecating people. Theirs is a land with a rich and complex past, certain aspects of which they would prefer to forget as they focus on the future. Having lived and worked in South Korea for many years, Michael Breen considers what drives the nation today, and where it is heading. Through insightful anecdotes and observations, he provides a compelling portrait of Asia’s most contradictory and polarized country.

Unveiling the North Korean Economy: Collapse and Transition

by Byung-Yeon Kim,

Cambridge University Press,

ISBN 9781316635162, £28.99

Despite a high level of interest from the outside world, we have very little detailed information about how the country functions economically. In this valuable book for both the academic and policy-making circles, Byung-Yeon Kim offers the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of the present day North Korean economy in the context of economic systems and transition economics. It addresses what is really happening in the North Korean economy, why it has previously failed, and how the country can make the transition to a market economy. It takes advantage not only of carefully reconstructed macro data but also rich, new data at the micro level, such as quantitative surveys of North Korean refugees settled in South Korea, and the surveys of Chinese companies that interact heavily with North Korea.


Inglorious Empire: 

What the British Did to India

by Shashi Tharoor, C Hurst & Co,

ISBN 9781849048088, £17

In the 18th century, India’s share of the world economy was as large as Europe’s. By 1947, after two centuries of British rule, it had decreased six-fold. 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 for Britain’s interests alone. He argues that Britain’s Industrial Revolution was founded on India’s deindustrialisation, and the destruction of its textile industry. In this reassessment of colonialism, Tharoor exposes to devastating effect the inglorious reality of Britain’s stained Indian legacy.

Partition: The Story of Indian Independence and the Creation of Pakistan in 1947

by Barney White-Spunner, Simon & Schuster,

ISBN  9781471148002, £25

Between January and August 1947 the conflicting political, religious and social tensions in India culminated in independence from Britain and the creation of Pakistan. Those months saw the end of 90 years of the British Raj, and the effective power of the Maharajahs, as the Congress Party established itself commanding a democratic government in Delhi. They also witnessed the rushed creation of Pakistan as a country in two halves whose capitals were two thousand kilometres apart. From September to December 1947 the euphoria surrounding the realisation of the dream of independence dissipated into shame and incrimination. The events of those months would dictate the history of South Asia for the next 70 years, leading to three wars, countless acts of terrorism, polarisation around the Cold War powers and to two nations with millions living in poverty spending disproportionate amounts on their military. The roots of much of the violence in the region today, and worldwide, are in the decisions taken that year. Not only were those decisions controversial but the people who made them were themselves to become some of the most enduring characters of the 20th century. Yet it is not only the political players whose stories fascinate. Although most survivors today were only children, there are still some in their late eighties and nineties who have a clear recollection of the excitement and the horror.


The Life and Legacy of India’s
Most Controversial King

by Audrey Truschke,

Stanford University Press,

ISBN 9781503602571, £15.99

The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir is seen as one of the most hated men in Indian history. Widely reviled as a religious fanatic who sought to violently oppress Hindus, he is even blamed by some for setting into motion conflicts that would result in the creation of a separate Muslim state in South Asia. In her overview of his life and influence, Audrey Truschke offers her perspective on the public debate over Aurangzeb and makes the case for why his often-maligned legacy deserves to be reassessed.

Epic Tales from Ancient India

by Markika Sardar et al, San Diego Museum of Art, ISBN 9780300223729, £30

Exploring the topic of narrativity in Indian art, this beautiful and deeply researched book considers illustrations to the Bhagavata Purana, the Ramayana, the Ragamala, and a range of texts in the Persian language, notably the Shahnama. Featuring reproductions of paintings made between the 16th and 19th centuries from the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection at The San Diego Museum of Art, the publication includes explanations of the narrative of each text, including how that narrative is visually conveyed and why patrons chose to have a copy of a particular text made for their own collections.

A Mystical Realm of Love: Pahari Paintings from the Eva & Konrad Seitz Collection

by JP Losty and Konrad Seitz, Ad Illisium,

ISBN 9781912168057, £90

Eva and Konrad Seitz have put together over many years a collection of some of the most important 18th century Pahari paintings, including miniatures commissioned by the Rajput rulers of the Punjab Hill states (1650-1850). The book is not only an opportunity to explore Pahari painting through one couple’s lifelong passion and dedication to the subject, but represents a major addition to the scholarship through Losty’s pioneering research. He attempts a new approach in documenting their role as parts of illustrated manuscripts of religious and poetic texts, and also puts forward a revised view of the development and chronology of Pahari painting.

Precious Indian Weapons

and Other Princely Adornments

by Salam Kaoukji, Thames & Hudson,

ISBN 9780500970805, £45

This collection of nearly 200 jewelled weapons and priceless accoutrements from the Indian subcontinent was assembled over many decades by Sheikh Nasser and Sheikha Hussah al-Sabah for The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait. Produced for aristocratic patrons who valued the arts, these richly decorated edged weapons and other princely objects bear witness to the legendary opulence and refinement of the Indian courts during the 16th to the 19th centuries. Many incorporate decorative features originating in Central Asia, the Iranian world, China, and even Renaissance Europe, testifying to centuries of trade, travel and warfare.

India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity

by Vijay Joshi, Penguin,

ISBN 978-0670086825, £22.99

India’s economic resurgence has been the subject of many extravagant predictions and hopes. In this powerful and wide-ranging book, distinguished economist Vijay Joshi lays out a penetrating analysis of the shaky foundations of the country’s performance, and charts the course that it should follow to achieve widely shared prosperity. Joshi argues that for India to realise its huge potential, the relation between the state, the market, and the private sector must be comprehensively realigned. Deeper liberalisation and more extensive privatisation will be necessary. However, to achieve India’s economic objectives, the state needs to perform much more effectively many core tasks – India needs more of the market as well as more of
the state.

John Lockwood Kipling: 

Arts & Crafts in the Punjab and London

by Julius Bruant and Susan Weber, et al,

Yale University Press,

ISBN 9780300221596, £50

John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) started his career as an architectural sculptor at the South Kensington Museum (today the Victoria and Albert Museum). Much of his life, however, was spent in British India, where his son Rudyard was born. He taught at the Bombay School of Art and later was appointed principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan’s National College of Art and Design) as well as curator of its museum in Lahore. Over several years, Kipling toured the northern provinces of India, documenting the processes of local craftsmen, a cultural preservation project that provides a unique record of 19th-century Indian craft customs. This book explores the full spectrum of artistic, pedagogical, and archival achievements of this man of letters, demonstrating the sincerity of his work as an artist, teacher, administrator, and activist.

Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

by Sujatha Gidla, North Point press,

ISBN 978-0865478114, £

This memoir relates how India’s  Dalits (untouchables) struggle to overcome poverty and social ostracism due to the rigid caste system in the country. Sujatha Gidla left the slums of Elwin Peta in Kakindada, Andhra Pradesh for a new life in the US where she began work as a subway conductor. For this book, she spent years researching the lives of her close family and relatives – and produced an account of lives in India that is haunting and hard to forget.

The Epic City: 

The World on the Streets of Calcutta

by Kushanava Choudhury, Bloomsbury Circus,

ISBN 9781408888889, £10

When Kushanava Choudhury arrived in New Jersey at the age of twelve, he had already migrated halfway around the world four times. After graduating from Princeton, he moved back to the world which his immigrant parents had abandoned, to a city built between a river and a swamp, where the moisture-drenched air swarms with mosquitoes after sundown. Once the capital of the British Raj, and then India’s industrial and cultural hub, by 2001 Calcutta was clearly past its prime. Why, his relatives beseeched him, had he returned? Surely, he could have moved to Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, where a new Golden Age of consumption was being born. Sifting through the chaos for the stories that never make the papers, Kushanava Choudhury paints a soulful, compelling portrait of the everyday lives that make Calcutta.

The Tiger and the Ruby: 

A Journey to the Other Side of British India

by Kief Hillersby, Oneworld Publications,

ISBN 9781786071590, £9.99

In 1841, Nigel Halleck left Britain to become a clerk in the East India Company. He served in the colonial administration for eight years before leaving his post, eventually disappearing in the mountain kingdom of Nepal, never to be heard from again. A century-and-a-half later, Kief Hillsbery, Nigel’s nephew many times removed, sets out on a quest to discover what happened to his ancestor. Through beguiling prose, he transports us to a time and place deep in the heart of British and Indian history, weaving together a clash of civilisations and uncovering the moving tale of one man.

Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains: A Journey across Arunachal Pradesh

by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, Simon & Schuster,

ISBN 9781471156564, £9.99

The author sets out to chronicle this forgotten corner of Asia. Travelling some 2,000 miles she encounters shamans, lamas, hunters, opium farmers, fantastic tribal festivals and little-known stories from the Second World War. In the process, she discovers a world and a way of living that are on the cusp of changing forever.

Tibetan Dress in Amdo and Kham

by Gina Corrigan, Hali Publications,

ISBN 9781898113584, £40

This book takes a textile-centric viewpoint, but also branches out into the lives of local Tibetan people who share their stories through interviews Exploring the vast range of materials and techniques used in the making of Tibetan clothing and ornaments, this book takes a closer, more intimate look at the different cultural groups within this diverse country, discussing how national costume relates to their everyday life.

House of Snow: An Anthology of the Greatest Writing About Nepal

by Ranulph Fiennes, Head of Zeus,

ISBN 9781788541534,£20

In 2015, Sagarmatha frowned. Tectonic plates moved. A deadly earthquake devastated Nepal. In the wake of this disaster, House of Snow brings together over 50 excerpts of fiction and non-fiction celebrating the breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage of this fascinating country. Here are explorers and mountaineers, poets and political journalists, national treasures and international celebrities. Featuring a diverse cast of writers such as Michael Palin and Jon Krakauer, Lakshmīprāsad Devkoā and Lil Bahadur Chettri – all hand-picked by well-known authors and scholars of Nepali literature including Samrat Upadhyay, Michael Hutt, Isabella Tree and Thomas Bell. All profits from the sales of this book will be donated to the Pahar Trust Nepal to fund earthquake relief projects.

White Mountain

by Robert Twigger, W & N,

ISBN 9781780228402, £9.99

Home to mythical kingdoms, wars and expeditions, and strange and magical beasts, the Himalayas have always loomed tall in our imagination. Overrun at different times by Buddhism, Taoism, shamanism, Islam and Christianity, they are a grand central station of the world’s religions. They are also a plant hunter’s paradise, a climber’s challenge, and a traveller’s dream.
In his quest to explore the region’s seismic history, Twigger seeks out the Nagas, who helped his grandfather build a camp for Allied soldiers near Imphal during the Second World War and takes the most scenic bike ride in the world from Lhasa to Kathmandu. The result is a sweeping, fascinating and surprising journey through the history of the world’s greatest mountain range.


Blood and Silk: 

Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia

by Michael Vatikiotis, W&N,

ISBN 9781474602006, £8.99

This is a first-hand account of what it is like to sit at the table with Thai Muslim insurgents, mediate between warring clans in the Southern Philippines and console the victims of political violence in Indonesia – all in an effort to negotiate peace, and understand the reasons behind endemic violence. Why are the region’s richest countries such as Malaysia riddled with corruption? Why do Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines harbour unresolved violent insurgencies? How do deepening religious divisions in Indonesia and Malaysia and China’s growing influence affect the region and the rest of the world? Vatikiotis tells the story of modern Southeast Asia using vivid portraits of the personalities who pull the strings, mixed with revealing analysis that is underpinned by decades of experience in the countries involved, from their silk-sheathed salons to blood-spattered streets.

House of Maskati

by Sarah Rooney, River Books,

ISBN 9786167339931, £27

House of Maskati chronicles a unique textile legacy, weaving together pan-Asian cultural threads and shifting patterns of trade over five generations and 160 years.  The story begins in 1856, when Abdul Tyeb Maskati started a small business exporting block-printed cloth from India to Siam (as Thailand was then known). Before long, the cloth was being made to order, with Indian block-makers carving intricate designs especially for the Siamese market. Known as saudagiri in India and pha lai in Siam, this unique art form blends South Asian and Southeast Asian artistry and design. As one of its first and biggest producers, the Maskati firm expanded from Siam to Singapore, Cambodia, and Burma, and the name ‘Maskati’ became synonymous in Southeast Asia with this type of block-printed cloth.

Vietnam: A New History

by Christopher E Goscha, Basic Books,

ISBN 9780465094363, £9.50

In Vietnam, Christopher Goscha tells the full history of Vietnam, from antiquity to the present day. Generations of emperors, rebels, priests, and colonizers left complicated legacies in this remarkable country. Periods of Chinese, French, and Japanese rule reshaped and modernized Vietnam, but so too did the colonial enterprises of the Vietnamese themselves as they extended their influence southward from the Red River Delta. Over the centuries, numerous kingdoms, dynasties, and states have ruled over – and fought for – what is now Vietnam. The bloody Cold War-era conflict between Ho Chi Minh’s communist-backed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the American-backed Republic of Vietnam was only the most recent instance when war divided and transformed Vietnam. The book offers the grand narrative of the country’s complex past and the creation of the modern state of Vietnam.

Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence
and the Making of a Muslim ‘Other’

by Francis Wade, Zed Books,

ISBN 978-1783605279, £14.99

For decades Myanmar has been portrayed as a case of good citizen versus bad regime – men in jackboots maintaining a suffocating ruleover a majority Buddhist population beholden to the ideals of non-violence and tolerance. But in recent years this narrative has been upended. In June 2012, violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in western Myanmar, pointing to a growing divide between religious communities that before had received little attention from the outside world. Attacks on Muslims soon spread across the country, leaving hundreds dead, entire neighbourhoods turned to rubble, and tens of thousands of Muslims confined to internment camps. This violence, breaking out amid the passage to democracy, was spurred on by monks, pro-democracy activists, and even politicians.

The Rohingyas: 

Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide

by Azeem Ibrahim, C Hurst & Co,

ISBN 9781849046237, £10.78

The Rohingya face regular violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion, and other abuses, a situation that has been particularly acute since 2016 in the wake of a serious wave of sectarian violence that is now broadcast on screen around the world. Yet the authorities refuse to recognise this group as one of the 135 ethnic groups or ‘national races’ making up Myanmar’s population. Rohingya individuals are denied citizenship rights in the country of their birth, and face severe limitations on many aspects of an ordinary life,
such as marriage or movement around the country.

Thai Art: Currencies of the Contemporary

by David Teh, MIT Press,

ISBN 9780262035958, $32.95

The interplay of the local and the global in contemporary Thai art, as artists strive for international recognition and a new meaning of the national.Since the 1990s, Thai contemporary art has achieved international recognition, circulating globally by way of biennials, museums, and commercial galleries. Many Thai artists have shed identification with their nation; but ‘Thainess’ remains an interpretive crutch for understanding their work. In this book, the curator and critic David Teh examines the tension between the global and the local in Thai contemporary art.  Among the national currencies of Thai art that Teh identifies are an agricultural symbology, Siamese poetics of distance and itinerancy, and Hindu-Buddhist conceptions of charismatic power.


The Man Who Created the Middle East

by Christopher Simon Sykes,

William Collins, ISBN 9780008121938, £9.99

At the age of only 36, Sir Mark Sykes was signatory to the Sykes-Picot agreement, one of the most reviled treaties of modern times. A century later, Christopher Sykes’ lively biography of his grandfather reassesses his life and work, and the political instability and violence in the Middle East attributed to it.The Sykes–Picot agreement was drawn by the eponymous British and French diplomats in 1916 to determine the divide of the collapsing empire in the event of an allied victory in World War I. Excluding Arab involvement, it negated theirearlier guarantee of independence made by the British –and controversy has raged around it ever since.

Poisoned Well: 

Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East

by Roger Hardy, C Hurst & Co Publishers

ISBN 9781849049542, £12.99

Almost 50 years after Britain and France left the Middle East, the toxic legacies of their rule continue to fester. To make sense of today’s conflicts and crises, we need to grasp how Western imperialism shaped the region and its destiny in the half-century between 1917 and 1967. Roger Hardy unearths an imperial history stretching from North Africa to southern Arabia that sowed the seeds of future conflict and poisoned relations between the Middle East and the West. Drawing on a rich cast of eye-witnesses – ranging from nationalists and colonial administrators to soldiers, spies, and courtesans – The Poisoned Well brings to life the making of the modern Middle East, highlighting the great dramas of decolonisation such as the end of the Palestine mandate, the Suez crisis, the Algerian war of independence, and the retreat from Aden. Concise and beautifully written, The Poisoned Well offers a thought-provoking and insightful story of the colonial legacy in the Middle East.

Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities

by Bettany Hughes, W&N,

ISBN 9781780224732, £10.98

Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact. From the Qu’ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names – Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul – resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries – real and imagined. For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but, as Bettany Hughes reveals, Istanbul is not just a city, but a story. In this epic new biography, Hughes takes us on a dazzling historical journey through the many incarnations of one of the world’s greatest cities. At the latest count archaeologists have measured forty-two human habitation layers. Phoenicians, Genoese, Venetians, Jews, Vikings, Azeris all called this place their home.

The Islamic Enlightenment

by Christopher de Bellaigue, Bodley Head,

ISBN 9781847922410, £12.99

The Muslim world has often been accused of a failure to modernise and adapt. Yet in this sweeping narrative and provocative retelling of modern history, Christopher de Bellaigue charts the forgotten story of the Islamic Enlightenment – the social movements, reforms and revolutions that transfigured the Middle East from the early 19th century to the present day. Modern ideals and practices were embraced across the region, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from purdah and the development of democracy.

The Moor’s Last Stand: How Seven Centuries of Muslim Rule in Spain Came to an End

by Elizabeth Drayson, Interlink Books,

ISBN 978-1566560047, £15

The first full account in any language of the last Muslim king of Spain. An action-packed story of betrayal, courage, intrigue, heroism, and tragedy. The book presents the poignant story of Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Granada. Betrayed by his family and undermined by faction and internal conflict, Boabdil was defeated in 1492 by the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of the newly united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. The Christian victory marked the completion of the long Christian re-conquest of Spain and ended seven centuries in which Christians, Muslims, and Jews had, for the most part, lived peacefully and profitably together. Five centuries after his death, Boabdil continues to be a potent symbol of resistance to the forces of Western Christendom, and his image endures in contemporary culture.

Affect, Emotion, and Subjectivity in Early Modern Muslim Empires: New Studies in Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Art and Culture

by Kishwar Rizvi, Brill,

ISBN 9789004340473, $140

Presenting a new approaches to Ottoman Safavid and Mughal art and culture, the book takes an artistic agency as a starting point, where the author considers the rise in status of architects, the self-fashioning of artists, the development of public spaces, as well as new literary genres that focus on the individual subject and his or her place in the world. Rizvi considers the issue of affect as performative and responsive to certain emotions and actions, thus allowing insights into the motivations behind the making and, in some cases, the destruction of works of art. The interconnected histories of Iran,Turkey and India thus highlight the urban and intellectual changes that defined the early modern period.

Blood and Faith: 

The Purging of Muslim Spain, 1492-1614

by Matt Carr, C Hurst & Co,

ISBN 9781849048019, £11.95

In 1609, the entire Muslim population of Spain was given three days to leave Spanish territory or else be killed. In a brutal and traumatic exodus, entire families were forced to abandon the homes and villages where they had lived for generations. In just five years, Muslim Spain had effectively ceased to exist: an estimated 300,000 Muslims had been removed from Spanish territory making it what was then the largest act of ethnic cleansing in European history. It offers a window onto a little-known period in modern Europe-a rich and complex tale of competing faiths and beliefs, of cultural oppression and resistance against overwhelming odds.

The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu

by Charlie English, William Collins,

ISBN 9780008126636, £9.99

To Westerners, the name ‘Timbuktu’ has long conjured up a tantalising paradise. Beginning in the late 18th century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for discovery tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city. Timbuktu was rich in another way, too, as a mediaeval centre of learning, as it was home to tens – according to some, hundreds – of thousands of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: 

And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer, Simon & Schuster,

ISBN 9781476777412, £9.99

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door. With bravery and patience, Haidara organised a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.

Revolutionary Ride: 

On the Road in Search of the Real Iran

by Lois Pryce, Nicholas Brealey Publishing,

ISBN 9781473669987, £10.99

The author decided to ignore the official warnings against travel (and the warnings of her friends and family) and sets off alone on a 3,000 mile ride from Tabriz to Shiraz, to try to uncover the heart of this most complex and incongruous country. Along the way, she meets carpet sellers and drug addicts, war veterans and housewives, doctors and teachers – people living ordinary lives under the rule of an extraordinarily strict Islamic government.

The New Sultan: 

Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey

by Soner Cagaptay, IB Tauris,

ISBN 9781784538262, £17.99

In a world of rising tensions between Russia and the United States, the Middle East and Europe, Sunnis and Shiites, Islamism and liberalism, Turkey is at the epicentre. And at the heart of Turkey is its right-wing populist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since 2002, Erdogan has consolidated his hold on domestic politics while using military and diplomatic means to solidify Turkey as a regional power. His crackdown has been brutal and consistent. In some senses, the nefarious and failed 2016 coup has given Erdogan the licence to make good on his repeated promise to bring order and stability under a ‘strongman’. Here, leading Turkish expert Soner Cagaptay looks at Erdogan’s roots in Turkish history, what he believes in and how he has cemented his rule, as well as what this means for the world


by Steve McCurry, Taschen,

ISBN 9783836569361, £59.99

The Afghans have always called their mountains ‘the land of rebellion’.Yet born of such chaos, such entrenched conflict are these most breathtaking and beautiful of images. Steve McCurry has travelled to Afghanistan regularly for more than 40 years: he is arguably the most accomplished photographer to work in the region. His famous 1984 portrait Afghan Girl – sad and haunting, but at the same time evoking remarkable grace and dignity published on the covers of magazines around the world is perhaps his single most striking portrait. In common with so much of McCurry’s work, it has a timeless, painterly quality – entirely at odds with the battle-torn backdrop of the region in which it was taken.

The Lost Kingdom: 

Memoirs of an Afghan Prince

by HRH Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan

ISBN  9781682615188 , £8.99

HRH Prince Ali Seraj, a member of the royal family of Afghanistan, brings four decades of history to life – from the Cold War era when his famed nightclub in Kabul was a hotspot for global celebrities, jetsetters, and spies, to the communist Soviet takeover that killed members of his family, put a price on Prince Ali’s head, and forced him to escape from his homeland in disguise with his American wife and family.  Prince Seraj’s intimate and historic portrait of modern Afghanistan tells the inside story of a proud, ancient culture grappling with a turbulent history of invasion and transformation. His passionate and adventure-filled story opens a door to understand a nation irrevocably linked to the stability and prosperity of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and to the United States.

The Mongols and the Islamic World: 

From Conquest to Conversion

by Peter Jackson, Yale University Press,

ISBN 9780300125337, £25

An epic historical consideration of the Mongol conquest of Western Asia and the spread of Islam during the years of non-Muslim rule. The Mongol conquest of the Islamic world began in the early thirteenth century when Genghis Khan and his warriors overran Central Asia and devastated much of Iran. Distinguished historian Peter Jackson offers a fresh and fascinating consideration of the years of infidel Mongol rule in Western Asia, drawing from an impressive array of primary sources as well as modern studies to demonstrate how Islam not only survived the savagery of the conquest, but spread throughout the empire. This unmatched study goes beyond the well-documented Mongol campaigns of massacre and devastation to explore different aspects of an immense imperial event that encompassed what is now Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan, as well as Central Asia and parts of eastern Europe. It examines in depth the cultural consequences for the incorporated Islamic lands, the Muslim experience of Mongol sovereignty, and the conquerors’ eventual conversion to Islam.

Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia: The Fabric of Life

by Fahmida Suleman, British Museum Press, ISBN 9780500519912, £29.95

From the intricate embroidery on a Palestinian wedding dress to the complex iconography on an Afghan war rug, textiles reflect the beliefs, practices and experiences of people from across the Middle East and Central Asia. This book explores the significance and beauty of textiles from across this vast area, and is arranged thematically to enable cross-regional comparisons of the function and symbolic meaning of textiles. Each chapter relates to a facet or phase of a person’s life in which textiles feature prominently: childhood, marriage and ceremony, status and identity, religion and belief, and house and homestead. The book also includes contemporary works that grapple with modern political issues.

Fahrelnissa Zeid: Painter of Inner Worlds

by Adila Laidi-Hanieh, Art Books,

ISBN 9781908970312, £19.95

The story of Fahrelnissa Zeid’s (1901-91) life is truly like no other.
A Turkish noblewoman by birth and Iraqi princess by marriage, she was the first female artist to have a solo exhibition at London’s prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts. Friend and relative of kings, queens, and statesmen, and busy wife of an ambassador, she was also a leading figure of Turkish modernism in the 1940s and a prominent member of the avant-garde in postwar Paris, praised by fellow artists and critics alike. Despite her privileged background, she fought personal tragedy, psychological turmoil, and social and artistic prejudice to chart a unique and innovative path all of her own. She became celebrated in her lifetime for her monumental and dynamic abstract compositions that engulf the viewer in fields of colour, light, and energetic movement, as well as for her later expressionistic portraits of family and close friends. These works reflect her conception of art as a ceaseless forward quest, driven by a spiritual need to produce painterly renditions of cosmic journeys and inner psychic universes.

Persian Art: Collecting the Arts of Iran in the 

Nineteenth Century

By Moya Carey, V&A Publishing,

ISBN 9781851779338, £40

This book tells the story of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of Iranian art, which spans at least 12 centuries of Iran’s sophisticated cultural history. The objects range from the Ardibal carpet – the world’s oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful, and historically important – to archaeological finds and architectural salvage, domestic furnishings and drinking vessels, and complete design archives. Through four case studies, the book investigates how architects, diplomats, dealers, collectors, and craftsmen such as William Morris and William De Morgan engaged with Iran’s complex visual traditions, both ancient and modern, with results that still resonate today in our continued fascination with pattern and form.

Letters to a Young Muslim

by Omar Saif Ghobash, Picador,

ISBN 9781250119841, $16

From the Ambassador of the UAE to Russia comes, a bold and intimate exploration of what it means to be a Muslim in the twenty-first century. In a series of personal and insightful letters to his sons, Omar Saif Ghobash offers a vital manifesto that tackles the dilemmas facing not only young Muslims but everyone navigating the complexities of today’s world. Full of wisdom and thoughtful reflections on faith, culture and society. This is a courageous and essential book that celebrates individuality whilst recognising it is our shared humanity that brings us together.

Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts: 

Codices Persici, Codices Eyseriani, 

Codex Persicus Add.

by Irmeli Perho, NIAS Press,

ISBN 9788776942168, £175

This new catalogue describes two collections of Persian manuscripts at the Royal Library, Copenhagen: 143 manuscripts originating mainly from India, 13 manuscripts collected by Johan S. Eyser in Turkey and one manuscript acquired by the Library in 1956. A large part of the Cod. Pers. collection is connected with India – the texts were copied in India or authored by Indian scholars or by Persian scholars who had settled in India. The manuscripts include poetry, history and medicine. The Eyser collection consists of classical Persian literature in prose and verse. Designed especially as an essential source of reference for scholars working in all aspects of manuscript studies, the catalogue includes over 340 full-page illustrations (many in colour) that help to identify the texts and give a glimpse of the calligraphic styles and decorative elements of the manuscripts.

Familiar Things

by Hwang Sok-yong, Scriber,

ISBN 9781925228991, £12.99

On the outskirts of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, there is a place few people know about: a vast landfill site called Flower Island. Home to those driven from the city by poverty, is it here that 14-year-old Bugeye and his mother arrive, following his father’s internment in a government ‘re-education camp’. Living in a shack and supporting himself by weeding recyclables out of the refuse, at first Bugeye’s life on Flower Island is hard. But then one night he notices mysterious lights around the landfill. And when the ancient spirits that still inhabit the island’s landscape reveal themselves to him, Bugeye’s luck begins to change – but can it last?

Friend of My Youth

by Amit Chaudhuri, Faber,

ISBN 978-0571337590, £12.99

In Friend of My Youth, a novelist named Amit Chaudhuri visits his childhood home of Bombay. The city, reeling from the impact of the 2008 terrorist attacks, weighs heavily on his mind, as does the unexpected absence of his childhood friend Ramu, a drifting, opaque figure who is Amit’s last remaining connection to the city he once called home.

Amit Chaudhuri’s new novel is about geographical, historical and personal change. It asks a question we all grapple with in our lives: what does it mean to exist in both the past and the present?

Men Without Women

by Haruki Murakami,

Harvill Secker,

ISBN 978-1911215370, £8.99

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all. Marked by the same wry humour that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Three Daughters of Eve

By Elif Shafak, Penguin,

ISBN 9780241978887, £6.99

On a spring evening in Istanbul, Peri is on her way to a dinner party – a night of luxury a far cry from her upbringing. But when her handbag is stolen her world shifts violently. She starts to doubt how she got here: a traumatic Istanbul childhood, student years in Oxford, the rebellious professor who led her and best friends Shirin and Mona to question everything – Islam, love, life, even God – and the scandal that tore them all apart. Over one desperate night she tries to make sense of a past she has tried to forget – but can we ever escape who we once were? Shirin, Peri and Mona, they were the most unlikely of friends. They were the Sinner, the Believer and the Confused.

Home Fire

by Kamila Shamsie, Bloomsbury Circus,

ISBN 9781408886779, £8.99

Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London – or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love? A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is a compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide.

Exit West

By Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton,

ISBN 9780241290088, £8.99

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

The Explosion Chronicles

by Yan Lianke, Chatto & WIndus,

ISBN 9781784740481, £13.50

With the Yi River on one side and the Balou Mountains on the other, the village of Explosion was founded a thousand years ago by refugees fleeing a volcanic eruption. But in the post-Mao era, the name takes on a new significance as the rural community grows explosively from a small village to a town to a city to a vast megalopolis. Behind this rapid expansion are three rival clans linked together by a web of ambition, madness and greed. The four Kong brothers; Zhu Ying, the daughter of the former village chief; and Cheng Qing, who starts out as a secretary and goes on to become a powerful political and business figure in her own right, transform their hometown into a Babylon of modern times — an unrivalled urban superpower built on lies, sex and thievery.
Brimming with absurdity, intelligence and wit, The Explosion Chronicles considers the high stakes of passion and power, the consequences of corruption and greed, the dynamics of love and hate, as well as the seemingly boundless excesses of capitalist culture.

The Book of Chocolate Saints

by Jeet Thayil, Faber,

ISBN 9780571336104, £12.99

The Book of Chocolate Saints follows the unforgettable character Xavier and his journey towards salvation – or damnation – or perhaps both. In the swooningly hypnotic prose for which his Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel was acclaimed, Jeet Thayil paints a hallucinatory portrait of an ambiguous soul: a self-destructive figure, a charismatic contrarian, and a tortured damned artist battling with his conflicting instincts. Vividly set in both Delhi and Manhattan, The Book of Chocolate Saints explores our deepest urges in a novel that is both dangerous and entirely uncompromising.

The City Always Wins

by Omar Robert Hamilton, Faber,

ISBN 978-0571332663, £7.99

On the streets of Cairo, a violent uprising is transforming the course of modern history. Mariam and Khalil, two young activists, are swept up in the political fervour. Their lives will never be the same again. Brave, visceral, and electric with tension, Omar Robert Hamilton’s debut novel uniquely captures the feverish intensity of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. From the euphoria of mass protests to the chilling silence of the morgue, The City Always Wins is the only novel that allows readers to pierce to the bloody heart of the uprising.

The Traitor’s Niche

by Ismail Kadare, Harvill Secker,

ISBN 9781846558450, £8.99

At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. People flock to see the latest head and gossip about the state of the empire: the province of Albania is demanding independence again, and the niche awaits a new trophy…Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital – a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price.

Once Upon A Time in the East: 

A Story of Growing Up

by Xiaolu Guo, Vintage,

ISBN 9781784702946, £9.99

Xiaolu Guo meets her parents for the first time when she is almost seven. They are strangers to her. When she is born in 1973, her parents hand her over to a childless peasant couple in the mountains. Aged two, and suffering from malnutrition on a diet of yam leaves, they leave Xiaolu with her illiterate grandparents in a fishing village on the East China Sea. Once Upon a Time in the East takes Xiaolu from a run-down shack to film school in a rapidly changing Beijing, navigating the everyday peculiarity of modern China: censorship, underground art, Western boyfriends. In 2002, she leaves Beijing on a scholarship to study in Britain. Now, after a decade in Europe, her tale of East to West resonates with the insight that can only come from someone who is both an outsider and at home.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

by Madeleine Thein, Granta,

ISBN 978-1783782673, £8.68

In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming. As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent, to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to.

The President’s Gardens

by Muhsin Al-Ramil, Maclehose Press,

ISBN 978-0857056788, £12.99

On the third day of Ramadan, the village wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates by the bus stop. One of them belonged to one of the most wanted men in Iraq, known to his friends as Ibrahim the Fated.How did this good and humble man earn the enmity of so many? What did he do to deserve such a death?The answer lies in his lifelong friendship with Abdullah Kafka and Tariq the Befuddled, who each have their own remarkable stories to tell. It lies on the scarred, irradiated battlefields of the Gulf War and in the ashes of a revolution strangled in its cradle. And, above all, it lies behind the locked gates of The President’s Gardens, buried alongside the countless victims of a pitiless reign of terror.

Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag, Faber,

ISBN 978-0571336074, £10

In this novel, a close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator’s uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator – a sensitive young man who is never named – along with his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and encounter newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Their world becomes ‘ghachar ghochar’ – a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair.

A State of Freedom

by Neel Mukherjee, Chatto & Windus,

ISBN 978-1784740429, £8.99

What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into? This novel prises open the central, defining events of our century – displacement and migration – but not as you imagine them. Five characters, in very different circumstances, from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city, find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more. Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives –delivers a haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.

We That Are Young

by Preti Taneja, Gallery Beggar Press,

ISBN 9781910296783, £9.99

Ivan Singh, the bastard scion of the Bapuji family, returns to his childhood home after a long absence – only to witness the unexpected resignation of the ageing Devraj Bapuji from the vast corporation he founded, Company India. On the same day, Sita, Devraj’s youngest daughter, absconds – refusing to submit to the marriage her father wants for her. Meanwhile, Radha and Gargi, Sita’s older sisters, are left to run the Company… And so begins a brutal, deathly struggle for power, ranging over the Palaces and slums of New Delhi, the luxury resorts and spas of Amritsar and Srinagar. The book is a modern-day King Lear that bursts with energy and fierce, beautifully measured rage.Set against the backdrop of the Anti-Corruption Riots in 2011-2012.

When I Hit You: 

Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife

by Meena Kandaswamy, Atlantic Books,

ISBN 9781786491268, £12.99

Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.

The Refugees

by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Corsair,

ISBN  9780802127365, £12.99

In The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

A Necessary Evil

by Abir Mukherje, Harvill Secker,

ISBN 9781911215127, £12.99
The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a moderniser whose attitudes – and romantic relationship – may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.  As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules and those who cross their paths pay with their lives.

At the End of the Century 

by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Little Brown,

ISBN 9781408709528, £20

These multi-layered, subtle and insightful short stories from the late Ruth Prawer Jhabvala come from a selection of her writings from the 1960s until just before her death in 2013. From Delhi, her base for almost 25 years (she was German Jewish who first lived in the UK to escape WW2), she wrote with great feeling about her world in India where she lived after her marriage. The stories have a wide reach, from tenements and extended families to a rajah’s palace, with decriptions of temples and ashrams – all showing her skill in creating life-like characaters. Her fictional world explores life in all its forms: greed and oppression and love and happiness.

The Strange Disappearance of a 

Bollywood Star

by Vaseem Khan, Mulholland Books,

ISBN 9781473612334, £7.99

This is the third in the Baby Ganesh Agency series. Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

Dark Clouds over Nuala

by Harriet Steel, Stane Street Press,

ISBN 9780995693425, £6.98

This is the second in the series of dectective novels set in 1930s Ceylon. In this second book in the series, the arrival in the hill town of Nuala of the heir to an English earldom signals more trouble for the hapless Inspector de Silva and a new mystery to solve. Throw in a mega-rich Romanian count, his glamorous countess and an enigmatic British army officer and the scene is set for another entertaining mystery.

A Head in Cambodia

by Nancy Tingley, Swallow Press,

ISBN 9780804011853, $26.95

When the alluring, 11th-century Cambodian stone head of Radha, consort to Krishna, shows up at the Searles Museum, young curator Jenna Murphy doesn’t suspect that it will lead her to a murder.  Her immediate concern is simply figuring out whether the head is one famously stolen from its body, or a fake. When a second decapitation happens this time of an art collector, not a statue Jenna finds herself drawn into a different kind of mystery, and the stakes are life or death. She is certain the sculpture provides clues to help her solve the case, which takes her to Thailand and Cambodia. But the collectors, dealers, and con artists of the Bangkok art world only compound her questions.


Silk, Porcelain and Lacquer: 

China and Japan and Their Trade with Western Europe and the World, 1500-1644

by Teresa Canepa, Paul Holberton Academic, ISBN 9781911300014, £48

Focusing on the prolific trade, transport and consumption of Chinese silk and porcelain, and Japanese lacquer abroad between 1500 and 1644, this groundbreaking book shows how the material cultures of late Ming China and Momoyama/Early Edo Japan on one side of the globe, and Western Europe and the New World on the other, became linked for the first time, through an exchange of luxury Asian manufactured goods for currency. It offers new insight into these multi-layered long-distance commercial networks, which resulted in an unprecedented creation of material culture that reflected influences of both East and West. The book explores the influence that the European merchants and missionaries exerted on the goods made specifically to order for them in both China and Japan. It also traces the worldwide circulation of these luxury objects, which were intended for secular and religious use in European settlements in Asia, and their respective mother countries in Western Europe and colonies in the New World.

Narratives of Kingship in Eurasian Empires, 1300-1800

by Richard van Leeuwen, Brill,

ISBN 9789004340534, £96

An exploration of the constructions of authority in Eaurasian empires in fictional texts of various genres, showing remarkable parallels, and the fluidity of literary material as a repository of cultural/political values. The analysis shows how ideologies of power are embedded in the literary and cultural imagination of societies, their cultural values and conceptualisations of authority. By referring to examples from various empires (Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, European) the parallels between literary traditions are laid bare, revealing remarkable common concerns.


How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

by Roger Crowley, Faber,

ISBN 978057129090, £7.99

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. But Portugal’s navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East – then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire. In an astonishing blitz of thirty years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breath-taking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond

by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781408888841, £10.50

On 29 March 1849, the ten-year-old Maharajah of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the centre of the great Fort in Lahore. There, in a public ceremony, the frightened but dignified child handed over great swathes of the richest country in India in a formal Act of Submission to a private corporation, the East India Company. He was also compelled to hand over to the British monarch, Queen Victoria, perhaps the single most valuable object on the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i Noor diamond. The Mountain of Light.The history of the Koh-i-Noor that was then commissioned by the British may have been one woven together from gossip of Delhi bazaars, but it was to be become the accepted version. Only now is it finally challenged, freeing the diamond from the fog of mythology that has clung to it for so long. The resulting history is one of greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation told through an impressive slice of south and central Asian history.

Nirvana: The Spread of Buddhism 

Through Asia

by Jeremy Horner, Oro Editions,

ISBN 9781939621009, £35

This photographic guide follows Buddhism from its origins at Bodh Gaya on the plains of northern India, to the Himalayas and Ladakh, where Buddhism thrived and split in the five different sects. The journey enters Nepal, historically a receptive home for Buddhism, and goes on to Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala, then to Sikkim and Bhutan paying homage to the sacred sites of Mahayana Buddhism along the way. The book also explores the silk route and the mountainous region of Xinjiang in China, to the largest monastery in the Buddhist world at Labrang in Gansu Province, home to the Yellow Hat sect. Also looks at the Longman Caves and the legendary Shaolin Monastery, with its extraordinary Kung Fu monks, before eventually moving to Korea and Japan to trace Buddhism. The Theravada countries are also explored – Sri Lanka, Burma, and further into southeast Asia in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and central Java. Maps with references to the photographs guide the reader along the chosen routes.


by Sumedha V Ojha and JP Losty, Roli Books, ISBN 97893519411231, £45

Written by Valmiki, a dacoit-turned-sage who lived at the same time as Ram himself, Ramayana follows the path of Ram. From his birth, valorous deeds, winning of the hand of Seeta in marriage, exile and suffering from Ayodhya, battle with Ravan to his final triumphant return to his kingdom as the slayer of the demon of Lanka, this epic is a guide to navigating the complex pathways of life through the inspiration of paramatma taking an avatar to mingle with earthly beings and share their joys, sorrows and challenges. Illustrated with paintings from the Mewar Ramayana prepared for Rana Jagat Singh of Mewar (r 1628-52), this is the first time that paintings from different locations have been put together in one volume.

Rogues’ Gallery: 

The Rise (and Occasional Fall) 

of Art Dealers, the Hidden Players in the History of Art

by Phillip Hook, Experiment,

ISBN 9781615194162, £14.99

Philip Hook’s narrative takes us from the early days of art dealing in Antwerp, where paintings were sold by weight, to the unassailable hauteur of contemporary galleries in New York, London, Paris, and beyond. Along the way, we meet a surprisingly wide-ranging cast of characters, among them are Joseph Duveen, who almost single-handedly brought the Old Masters to America; Paul Durand-Ruel, the Impressionists’ champion; Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, high priest of Cubism; Leo Castelli, dealer-midwife to Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art; and Peter Wilson, the charismatic Sotheby’s chairman who made a theatre of the auction room.

New Guinea Highlands Art

by John Friede, Terence E Hays,

and Christina Hellmich,

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco,

ISBN 9783791350554, $120

The Jolika Collection of New Guinea Art of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco consists of thousands of objects and represents hundreds of clans and villages throughout New Guinea. Here are beautifully crafted masks, shields, headdresses, and ceremonial and personal objects, the majority of which have never before been published or exhibited. Archival and reference photographs, maps of key locations, and authoritative essays by more than a dozen preeminent scholars covering a wide range of subjects, from prehistoric agriculture to body art are all included.

Most of these books can be found on Amazon, or contact the publisher.