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Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

BEST BOOKS OF 2011

Light and dark shades from Burma and Japan


"The Lady and the Peacock," Peter Popham's lucidly written biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, provides an intimate portrait of the tenacious woman who has given the people of Burma hope and inspiration during their long nightmare under military rule.

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Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, believes the recent reforms are for real and intends to run for election after boycotting the sham elections in 2010 held twenty years after her party's landslide victory.

Popham draws on new material and wide-ranging interviews, including The Lady, as she is called by the Burmese, to help us better understand her struggle, strengths and influence.

Turning to Japan, "People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman," by Richard Lloyd Parry, is a harrowing tale, brilliantly told, about the murder of Lucie Blackman, a young British woman who came to work as a hostess in Japan.

Along the way we learn about her, how her family responded, and Joji Obara, the man sentenced for abducting, drugging and illegally dismembering Blackman, but not her murder. Diary entries and a cache of rape videos also lead to his conviction for multiple rapes and the killing of Carita Ridgeway, an Australian. This macabre saga sheds light on police investigations and judicial process in Japan, and the role of media.

The "Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society" is a tremendous book and should jump the queue of all those books on contemporary Japan you have been intending to read. The editors, Victoria and Theodore Bestor, with Akiko Yamagata, deserve kudos for putting together a stellar group of 22 specialists and our gratitude for making them abandon the usual scholarly trappings.

Mark D. West's "Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law" is a funny and entertaining examination of the courts peeping, prodding, moralizing and otherwise creeping into the bedroom in stretching the law and then some to adjudicate marriage, divorce, rape, stalking and pornography.

He draws on sex surveys and bizarre rulings to expose the assumptions of clueless judges eager to impose their version of commonsense and love.


BEST BOOKS OF 2011



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