What Kirstin Chen reads

Kirstin Chen

Award-winning author of Soy Sauce for Beginners and her most recent release, Bury What We Cannot Take gave She Reads an exclusive look at the books she’s currently reading, the books she’s most excited to read next and the works she reads over and over again.

Currently Reading:

FEAST by Hannah Howard

Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard

Hannah Howard has an eating disorder so working in the frantic food scene doesn’t initially seem like the best career path to follow. Couple that with trying to find her place in the world through traversing college classes, unlucky relationships and her obsession with food, and you have the makings of a riveting memoir.

Summer vacation pick:

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

The Beijing Duck House is a beloved neighborhood restaurant that provides the perfect setting for great food and celebrations. Even more outstanding than the food and ambiance are the history of the restaurant and the lives of those who work there. The story, told from different perspectives, is touching and funny throughout and holds your attention from the first to the last page.

The latest book from an author that inspires my work:

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li suffered from debilitating depression and struggled with thoughts of suicide. Her memoir shares her painful journey and chronicles how she lost herself in books as a sort of therapy. Her account of the most difficult time in her life bounces from personal experiences to homages to those literary figures that have influenced her and helped her to heal.

Books I read over and over again:


Waiting by Ha Jin

Lin Kong is in love with a woman who matches his education, passion and drive, but then there’s the complication of his wife. His wife (by arranged marriage) and daughter live in a small village, and each time he visits, he asks her for a divorce and while she initially agrees she always changes her mind by the time he leaves again. Waiting is a picture of what life is like when everyone is waiting; waiting for things to end or begin and for people to act.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Edward P. Jones transports you to Manchester County in Virginia, a fictional locale, to the point that you could smell the sweet air blowing through the plantation fields. The Known World follows Henry as he transitions from slave to slave owner, spanning different timeframes and relationships throughout his community.

Books I can’t wait to get my hands on:

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

After an affair with her boss, Scarlett finds herself pregnant. The only problem is that her boss is married and has three daughters. To help keep his secret hidden she is sent to a secret maternity home in California which feels like it couldn’t be further from her home in China. When an unexpected doctor’s visit reveals a surprise, she flees to San Francisco’s Chinatown only to find she has a stowaway in the van she’s stolen.

The Incendiaries by Reese Kwon

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Will has recently lost his faith and is struggling to come to terms with what that means for where he thought his life was headed… and then he meets Phoebe. Phoebe, harboring some seriously heavy guilt, has recently gotten involved in a small religious faction that is gradually becoming more and more radical. A significant split in faith is established when Phoebe’s group becomes violent and Will has to grapple with his desire to save her and the reasons she feels the need to be so embroiled in the group.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Sisters Chula and Cassandra seem immune to the threats affecting their gated community in Bogota. When their mother hires Petrona, a new live-in maid, the young girls are immediately entranced, wanting to know everything about her. The relationship between the three delves deep into cultural obligations and the strength women possess, especially when facing danger.


Kirstin Chen

Kirstin Chen‘s new novel, Bury What We Cannot Take, has been named a Most Anticipated Upcoming Book by Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar and InStyle, among others. She is also the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners, a Kindle First selection, an O, The Oprah Magazine “book to pick up now” and a Glamour book club pick. She was the fall 2017 NTU-NAC National Writer in Residence in Singapore, and has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, Sewanee, Hedgebrook, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Her short stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Hobart, Pank, and the Best New Singaporean Short Stories. She holds an MFA from Emerson College and a BA from Stanford University. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently resides in San Francisco, where she is working on a novel about the counterfeit handbag trade.

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