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Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

Find out what our reviewers recommend for this year's Best of Asia books

by Donald Richie

BASHO: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold (Kodansha International)

Japan’s most revered poet has never before had all of his haiku translated into English and gathered into one volume. Translator Jane Reichhold spent nearly 10 years at this task and our reward is all 1,012 poems, smartly translated, finely edited, nicely printed.

SACRED KOYASAN by Philip L. Nicoloff (State University of New York Press)

Koyasan is the general name for the Buddhist monastic complex atop Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture and often regarded as one of the most sacred sites in Japan. Philip L. Nicoloff’s splendid account of the place can be used as a guide, but it can also serve as a Buddhist breviary. It is captivating reading and you will certainly take your copy with you on the eventual pilgrimage to Koyasan that this book will impel you to make.

KABUKI’S FORGOTTEN WAR: 1931-1945, by James R. Brandon (University of Hawai’i Press)

The role that the kabuki played during the 15-year “Sacred War” is undiscussed, even in Japan itself. Indeed, as the author of this fascinating account says, “that era of military horrors is so embarrassing or painful, even after some seventy years, that most Japanese do not wish to confront it.” Yet, confronting is precisely what historian James Brandon accomplishes in this brilliant book.

Donald Richie served in the Maritime Service during World War II and in 1947 came to Japan where he eventually became a film critic for The Japan Times. He has been a resident for over 60 years and written a number of books. At present, he is an arts critic for The Japan Times and was named by TIME magazine “the dean of Japan’s art critics.” Susan Sontag once said, “Donald Richie writes about Japan with an unrivaled range, acuity and wit.”

BEST OF BOOKS: 2008



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