Books / Reviews | BEST OF BOOKS: 2008

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

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

by Mark Schreiber

THE FOURTH WATCHER by Timothy Hallinan (William Morrow)

American Poke Rafferty is not a martial arts expert, secret operative or private investigator, but rather a Bangkok-based travel writer who keeps winding up in interesting predicaments. Timothy Hallinan’s second novel featuring Rafferty — his first was “A Nail Through the Heart” in 2007 — features intrigues involving Chinese, North Koreans and Americans. This new breed of character for a series is a welcome addition to the thriller fiction set in Asia.

YOKAI ATTACK! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt (Kodansha International)

Japan has a rich folklore of weird and scary mythological creatures called yokai. This book presents 46 of them, depicted by illustrator Tatsuya Morino, in a formula that’s spooky and cute by turns, in a half-serious writing style as a “manual” that offers helpful advice concerning “Attack,” and “Avoiding an Encounter.” Its “Reality Check” section then explains the very real anxieties that foster beliefs in supernatural beings. Fun for all ages.

A SAMURAI NEVER FEARS DEATH by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Puffin)

We’re back in the 1830s and Seikei, an astute teenage boy with a knack for investigating strange situations, has been taken under the wing of Edo’s pre-eminent judge. Aimed at preteens, this latest episode in the Hooblers’ ongoing series presents feudal Japan in an entertaining but historically faithful manner. In the age of computer games and other electronic gizmos, kids need this kind of great storytelling to nurture a love of reading.

Mark Schreiber is a passionate collector of mystery and adventure fiction set in Asia and invites interested readers to visit for more information on this topic. These books are available on the Internet. For “L’Anniversaire de la Salade,” see