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Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008

Best of Asia books 2008 graphic

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 STEPHEN MANSFIELD
YOJOKUN: Life Lessons From a Samurai, by Kaibara Ekiken (Kodansha International)

STEPHEN MANSFIELD

This publisher has been bringing out some extremely interesting but commercially risky titles recently, including the wonderfully obtuse "The Structure of Iki." Now comes "Yojokun," another fascinating title from the vaults of specialization. Written by Kaibara Ekiken, a samurai physician with Buddhist inclinations, "Yojokun" concerns itself with how to nurture life and, with a knowledge of the physical, mental and spiritual intersections where holistic health and equipoise can engage, live out our years to the full. Over 300 years since it was written, it remains more relevant than ever.

THE FAITHFUL SPY by Alex Berenson (Arrow Books)

Alex Berenson, a correspondent for the New York Times, who also happens to have a degree in history from Yale, is a man who knows his Central Asia. CIA operative John Wells, the main protagonist of this fast paced but reflective thriller, needs the patience and aptitude of a samurai and the cunning of a modern spy to survive in the mountain wildernesses of Afghanistan. His mission? To avert the chillingly credible threat of a bioterror attack in New York.

AUTUMN COLORS OF KYOTO: A Seasonal Portfolio, photos by Hidehiko Mizuno, Kayu Mizuno, Yasutaka Ogawa (Kodansha International)

Western photographers, who publish illustrated books on the Japanese garden, tend to prefer well-lit landscapes. If their pages are illuminated like stained glass, their Japanese counterparts exult in subdued, even flat light, from which they tease out the subtleties of intermediate tones. The three Japanese photographers who have contributed to this Kyoto book do just that. The informative text and maps give what is essentially a coffee-table book the additional function of a guide to the city and this most venerated of seasons.

Stephen Mansfield is a photo-journalist with 10 books published. His latest work, "Tokyo: A Cultural & Literary History," will come out next month.



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