J-Library 2 Dept.

Some more stuff from the Japan-studies bookshelf for your perusal...

  • The Nobility of Failure, Ivan Morris: I've mentioned this book many times before, and it would be a huge mistake for me to omit mention of it in one of these "bookshelf" posts.  Morris's study of heroic failures throughout Japan's history is a classic of its kind: it tells you as much about how the Japanese see themselves reflected in their heroes (and vice versa) as it provides biographical overviews of figures that are sometimes emphasized in Japanese history precisely because of their psychological, rather than historical, importance.  The book is out of print and copies are not easy to come by at decent prices; I'm hoping this is one of the many titles on Japan that can be brought back through the magic of print-on-demand or similar technologies.
  • Feudalism in Japan, Peter Duus: A very good, concise overview of the history of the feudal governments in Japanese history; it's only about 120 pages including endnotes, so it's a fine way to get a bird's-eye survey of the topic without dropping tons of money.  (Note that there are multiple editions of this book available; I have just linked to the most recent one.)
  • Legends of the Samurai, Hiroaki Sato: A very readable and accessible (even for the layperson) cache of samurai tales, as translated from contemporaneous sources with commentary.  I picked up my copy while on my way through an airport, believe it or not, and I devoured the whole thing on the plane shortly afterwards.
  • Sources of Japanese Tradition: A multi-volume set that mines historical documents to explain Japanese tradition in context.  There's relatively minimal editorializing; the compilers have done their best to let the documents speak for themselves.  This is one of the more advanced books to have on your shelf since it presupposes familiarity with the history in question, but it provides a perspective that I haven't been able to match through just about anything else in my library.

Tags: books Japan library

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