East Asian Books
June 28, 2005 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Book recommendations for a bored East Asian Studies major...

I work about 30 hours a week, and during that time I spend, roughly, 25 hours reading, and for the first time in god knows when my 'to-read' pile is tapped. So I need some recommendations. What I want are sort of light(er) weight books dealing with recent historical (opium war onward) and contemporary Asia. Books I've read that I would consider to fit the bill would be...Speed Tribes by Karl Taro Greenfeld, The Asian Mystique by Serridan Passos, In the Realm of a Dying Emperor by Norma Feild, hell, even John Dower's WWII histories. Basically, I want something relatively easy to read (no weighty policy journals...) but still with some substance. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by MostHolyPorcine to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
 
Don't read Speed Tribes unless you're willing to take it with a big grain of salt. It's too fictionalized to be non-fiction.

I recommend Shadow Shoguns instead. It's a great account of postwar Japanese politics and reading it made the different parties and political landscape much easier to remember.
posted by Alison at 3:40 PM on June 28, 2005


I'm reading The Pacific War by Saburo Ienaga right now, and it's pretty excellent. He gives a pretty detailed account of the political situation leading up to the war and keeps it engaging by providing lots of interesting details and first-hand accounts.
posted by cloeburner at 3:40 PM on June 28, 2005


I'm guessing you've tried Johnathan Spence?
posted by kensanway at 4:06 PM on June 28, 2005


Second cloeburner above and add Higher Than Heaven: Japan, War and Everything.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:34 PM on June 28, 2005


I know this is off the path of your question, but would some fiction be welcome? Haruki Murakami and Ha Jin come to mind.
posted by matildaben at 6:30 PM on June 28, 2005


RE Murakami, he wrote a non-fiction account of the 1995 Tokyo gas attack, called Underground : The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. I haven't read it myself (I can vouch for his fiction, tho) but it has been recommended to me.
posted by ori at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2005


Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons : Tales form the Dark Side of Modern Japan is a good hard look at the myth that Japan actually works. Not unrelentingly negative, and not all accurate, but an interesting read. Almost everything he says applies almost as well to the situation in Korea (which, although you should never say this to a Korean you don't know well, emulates Japan in many many things, even though the Japanese occupation ended more than half a century ago), in my experience.

A good, lightish (if slightly depressing) read.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:50 PM on June 28, 2005


Here are two histories that were assigned in two different courses. They were fairly brisk and I enjoyed them way more than I should for assigned readings:

The Limits of Empire, by Robert McMahon; talks about American and Southeast Asian relations after WWII.

Origins of the Chinese Revolution, by Lucien Bianco, written in the 1960s and on the (suprise) Chinese Revolution.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:49 PM on June 28, 2005


I too am an East Asian Studies major. One of the more enjoyable books I've been assigned in the past year or so is Hagen Koo's Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, a history of Korean labor politics. It's written almost like a story, and incorporates many interesting events and personal accounts. The book is much more readable than your typical class materials, and yet still very informative.
posted by swank6 at 12:10 AM on June 29, 2005


At nearly 900 pages, it's by no means 'light-weight', but Bradley K. Martin's Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is a good, quick read, nonetheless.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:13 PM on June 29, 2005


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