Hong Kong literature goes beyond stories written about or set in our vibrant city. There is a plethora of original works written in English by local writers—often hidden gems from a coastal city filled with rich history and a vibrant mix of cultures. So, if you are looking to support local authors writing in English, you have come to the right place. Here, we have compiled a list of 12 Hong Kong English literature books that you should read.
Winner of the 2016 “Gay Poetry” Lamda Literary Award, Nicolas Wong’s debut poetry collection explores his identity and the complexities of multiple communities in Hong Kong as a queer Asian, poet, reader, and lover. Through his lyrical prose and experimental poetry, Wong exposes the gaps between observing one’s physical body and the necessity of viewing one’s body from an external perspective.
Featuring a collection of prose, poetry, and artworks by 18 writers and artists, this anthology—edited by Nicolette Wong—explores how people navigate space in the bustling and dense city that is Hong Kong. From tackling issues of limited living and personal space to identity formation in a social space, this anthology confronts the possibility—or impossibility—of redefining space within the city and for ourselves, and how this ties into the life of those living in contemporary Hong Kong.
A poetry collection by Dorothy Chan, this book focuses on an East Asian “girl boss” who takes revenge on those who have fetishised her while slaying in her gold booty shorts. Narrating her parent’s love story, this collection explores her identity as a Chinese-American immigrant with her dream, Chinese zodiac fate, and sexual awakening. Chan depicts scenes of her Chinese-American experience while paying homage to her heritage.
If you are looking for a contemporary Asian spin on Sherlock Holmes, this book is for you. Written by Nury Vittachi, this novel centres around feng shui consultant Mr Wong, whose cases go beyond typical interior decoration with a focus on crime scenes.
When Mr Wong takes on his latest case involving a young woman who is doomed to die according to a psychic reading, him and his brash Australian-American intern find themselves desperate to save the young woman in the Sydney Opera House, a location known for appalling feng shui. Combining crafty storytelling and Asian philosophy, this humorous novel is bound to keep you turning pages to solve the mystery.
A poetry anthology by Louise Ho exploring life in Hong Kong in the past and present, Incense Tree showcases Ho’s whimsical style through abstract concepts conveyed in a blunt tone. Whilst almost all Hongkongers would know more than one language, English is not the most common to read in. Ho acknowledges the limitations of her works by producing this bilingual collection, written in English and Cantonese. Incense Tree also talks about the author’s relationship with writing through self-deprecating wit and humour.
Fans of the horror genre, you can put this on your to-be-read list. Written by Hong Kong horror novelist Stewart Sloan, this book focuses on three Englishmen who land on Hark Shek Chau, an imaginary island off the coast of Hong Kong, in 1908. While spending the weekend engaged in leisure activities, they inadvertently upset something on the island that releases a curse, claiming the lives of almost everyone who sets foot on the island.
Written by global bestseller Janice YK Lee, this novel continues the fame and popularity of her 2009 title, The Piano Teacher, serving as the inspiration for an upcoming Amazon Prime Video series starring Nicole Kidman. The novel follows the stories of three women living in the expat community of Hong Kong. Between a Korean-American university graduate, a wealthy housewife, and a mother-of-three, the three women struggle with their pasts and demons until their paths collide in ways that may change them for better or worse.
Written by Chinese-British poet Sarah Howe, this collection explores her dual heritage through a journey back to Hong Kong to explore her roots. Diving into the world of hybridity and intermarriage, this poetry collection dissects the concept of self through processes of migration while attempting to search for meaning in art, ourselves, and living in the world.
Mary Jean Chan’s second poetry collection continues to explore her queer identity, utilising multilingualism as an expression of herself. In this collection, she discusses the problems encountered in modern society, including acts of racism during the pandemic and queerphobia. Despite facing such hardship, her poetry also sheds a light into her journey of healing, self-acceptance, and seeking refuge in places both distant and near.
While not originally written in English, A Hero Born by Jin Yong (translated by Anna Holmwood) deserves an honorary mention as he plays a crucial part in Hong Kong literature, particularly in the wuxia (武俠; martial heroes) genre. Set in the Song dynasty, Guo Jing, the son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up being a part of Genghis Khan’s army. While humble and loyal, he is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way. Under the tutelage of The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must fulfil his destiny as his courage and loyalties are put to the test.