My favorite books to understand modern Asia

Why am I passionate about this?

Hawkes (MD, BScN, MGA) is a novelist, YouTuber, and former analyst for the NATO Association of Canada. His writings have appeared in Heater, The Raven Chronicles, ArabLit, and many other magazines and publications. His recent espionage novel, The Haze, is set in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

I wrote...

The Haze

By Burnaby Hawkes,

Book cover of The Haze

What is my book about?

Set against the backdrop of a CIA operation in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, The Haze follows CIA agent Hector Kane as he finds his career and marriage at stake when he receives a phone call from a Saudi prince who claims that Hector’s wife is a Chinese spy.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific

Burnaby Hawkes Why did I love this book?

If you want to know more about the politics of Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, this is the book for you. International relations expert and topnotch global thinker (according to Foreign Policy magazine) Robert D. Kaplan does an excellent job at contrasting Southeast countries against one another and explaining why some have prospered while others failed. A very intriguing read that is recommended for everyone interested in Asia, period.

By Robert D. Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Asia's Cauldron as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


From Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a penetrating look at the volatile region that will dominate the future of geopolitical conflict.
Over the last decade, the center of world power has been quietly shifting from Europe to Asia. With oil reserves of several billion barrels, an estimated nine hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and several centuries’ worth of competing territorial claims, the South China Sea in particular is a simmering pot of potential conflict.…

Book cover of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power

Burnaby Hawkes Why did I love this book?

Have you ever wondered what makes China “China”: why it is so confident about history, present, and foreseeable future? This book, written by competent NYT correspondent Howard W. French, sheds some light on the way Chinese leadership sees things from their own point of view. You will learn about the history of China, and how this relates to its flagrant ambitions for world domination. An invaluable unicorn in today’s book-publishing anti-intellectual crisis.

By Howard W. French,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything Under the Heavens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A book of the year for The National.

An incisive investigation of China's ideological development as it becomes an ever more aggressive player in regional and global diplomacy.

For many years after Deng Xiaoping initiated the economic reforms that began in 1978 and led to its overtaking the USA as the world's economic powerhouse, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That diffidence has now been set aside. China has asserted its place among the global heavyweights, revealing its plans for pan-Asian geopolitical dominance by building up its navy, fabricating new islands to support its territorial claims…

Book cover of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

Burnaby Hawkes Why did I love this book?

I first heard about this book when it won the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction. After reading it, it became clear to me this was one of the best books written about China. Evan Osnos, a staff writer at the New Yorker, has delivered a coup de force that unravels the social dynamics of Chinese society. In recent memory, no serious book has attempted to do the same. You will learn about the clash of individualism vs. plutocracy in present-day China and how that manifests on the street. You will also understand the economic ailments that afflict modern China. It is beautifully written.

By Evan Osnos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Age of Ambition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction finalist
Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction.

As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval.

Age of Ambition provides a vibrant, colorful, and revelatory inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation.

From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see…

Book cover of From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000

Burnaby Hawkes Why did I love this book?

No one can deny that the story of Singapore is a modern-day miracle. From a third-world port city in the mid-20th century to the first-rate nation we know today, Singapore has adopted progress as a creed. Lee Kuan Yew, the very founder of modern Singapore, reflects on his achievements and the many challenges he’s faced along the way in this enticing book.

By Lee Kuan Yew,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Third World to First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Singapore's amazing transformation told by it's charismatic and controversial founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew is one of the most influential leaders in Asia. In this illuminating account, Lee writes frankly about his disapproving approach to political opponents and his often unorthodox views on human rights, democracy, and inherited intelligence, aiming always "to be correct, not politically correct." Since it's independence in 1965, tiny Singapore -- once a poor and decrepit colony -- has risen to become a rich and thriving Asian metropolis. From Third World to First is a fascinating and insightful account of…

Book cover of America: A Singapore Perspective

Burnaby Hawkes Why did I love this book?

A confession I have to make from the get-go: I met Tommy Koch in person in 2013, on a professional visit to Singapore. Koch struck me as the kind of Asian intellectual seldom seen in the West nowadays. He is competently versed in his civilization’s (Chinese) supremacy discourses and at the same time, is a global citizen of the first class. He knows where myth ends and reality strikes. We rarely see Western intellectuals of this sort any longer. The nearest we’ve ever had was Kissinger—and he’s too controversial to be a functional counterpart to Koch. In this book, Koch and his editorial partner compile a vision of America as seen by Singaporean decision-makers. This book is not only important to know how Asian nations have viewed us over recent years, but is a fundamental read for any international-relations buff interested in gauging the future ahead.

By Tommy Koh (editor), Saljit Singh (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The United States of America is the largest investor in Singapore. And in 2019, it channelled more resources into the city state than what it put into both China and Japan. That year, the value of US direct investments in Singapore was US$288 billion, or about 4.8 per cent of US direct investments abroad. This sum exceeded the combined value of those in China (US$116.2 billion) and Japan (US$131.8 billion), based on data from the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

This illustrates the economic significance of the US to Singapore. Beyond…

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Book cover of Adventures in the Radio Trade: A Memoir

Joe Mahoney Author Of Adventures in the Radio Trade: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Broadcaster Family man Dog person Aspiring martial artist

Joe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Adventures in the Radio Trade documents a life in radio, largely at Canada's public broadcaster. It's for people who love CBC Radio, those interested in the history of Canadian Broadcasting, and those who want to hear about close encounters with numerous luminaries such as Margaret Atwood, J. Michael Straczynski, Stuart McLean, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gzowski, and more. And it's for people who want to know how to make radio.

Crafted with gentle humour and thoughtfulness, this is more than just a glimpse into the internal workings of CBC Radio. It's also a prose ode to the people and shows that make CBC Radio great.

By Joe Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adventures in the Radio Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In dozens of amiable, frequently humorous vignettes... Mahoney fondly recalls his career as a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio technician in this memoir... amusing and highly informative."
— Kirkus Reviews

"What a wonderful book! If you love CBC Radio, you'll love Adventures in the Radio Trade. Joe Mahoney's honest, wise, and funny stories from his three decades in broadcasting make for absolutely delightful reading!
— Robert J. Sawyer, author of The Oppenheimer Alternative''

"No other book makes me love the CBC more."
— Gary Dunford, Page Six
Adventures in the Radio Trade documents a life in radio, largely at Canada's…

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