Reading List 2007

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This is an expanding list of current books I have read (mostly for my own use). Starting from most recently read.

You can also find my 2008 and 2009 lists..

  1. Shopping For Buddhas (1996) by Jeff Greenwald. Framed by Jeff’s quest for the perfect Buddha statue, the author deftly paints a vivid depiction of modern Nepal, warts and all. The book does show it’s age a bit being a few years old and some things have changed (horrific slaughter of the royal family by royal son) but its still a great read and does much to explain the backdrop of Hindu culture for the uninitiated.
  2. Dharma Bums (1958) by Jack Kerouac. Unofficial sequel to On the Road, I read this story about mountains and Buddhism in the hills of the Nepal Himalayas, the perfect setting. Another classic that left me wanting more.
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004) by Jack Weatherford. Though not quite as fluid as the Magellan book below, this is still a fantastic read that I think everyone should pick up. The Mongols controlled the largest empire in human history, and despite their infamy for violence, their rule was marked by sweeping and beneficial changes in economics and government from China to Europe. They invented the first paper money, introduced political office based on merit and not heritage, made the Silk Road possible, founded modern Beijing and the Forbidden City (though don’t count on any Chinese you know confirming this), tried to create an international language, and were generally successful rulers by not setting up their own puppet governments. Like all great civilizations, their immense wealth and vast land proved to much responsibility and they splintered into 3 entities and eventually faded away.
  4. Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson. Cyberpunk at its finest. With a deadly new virus on the loose, Hiro Protagonist (great name) struggles to make sense of it all. Loved it.
  5. Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (2004) by Laurence Bergreen. Great story with a fast pace. Many explanatory asides on peripheral topics. A bit glossy on some things and it definitely needs more maps, but this is one really good book. It is a shame most people are hammered with stories of conquistadors and explorers at about age 12 and then write these stories off for the rest of their lives. To me these are some of the most tragic and interesting stories and are building blocks of our current modern world.
  6. In the Miso Soup (1997) by Ryu Murakami. Deranged and psychotic triller by the “other Murakami.” An American shows up in Tokyo the same time someone is committing heinous murders. Hmmm….. Really enjoyed it and will be reading others by him.
  7. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985) by Haruki Murakami. I liked this one much better than Norwegian Wood. An inventful and interesting sci-fi adventure with two parallel narratives.
  8. Hiking in Japan (1988) by Paul Hunt. A bit older and out of date, but still holds a lot of useful info. The author has a geology background and expells some interesting stuff there.
  9. Hiking in Japan. Part of the Lonely Planet Walking/Trekking Guides. Great resource to some great trips. My buddies dog chewed the crap out of it. Damn it.
  10. The Satanic Verses (1988) by Salman Rushdie. For a book so well known, it’s not that good. I officially give up on this one. Just couldn’t get into it though it is very well written and intelligent. Maybe if there was no fatwa issued against it hardly anyone would have read it?
  11. The Subtle Knife (1997) by Phillip Pullman. Gave in and read the second of the trilogy. Turned a bit too Christian theology on me for my tastes. I guess I have to read the last one now.
  12. Lonely Planet: Cambodia (2005). Might swing through while I am in Vietnam. UPDATE: or not.
  13. Lonely Planet: Vietnam (2005). Planning a trip April 2007. UPDATE: Trip was spectacular, photos here.
  14. Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry. My first Barry book, I found it enjoyable and a quick read (1 day). My only complaint is the purpose of his trip was to write this book, which seems to me to make the whole thing rather contrived. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I read it before I moved to Japan. He is right on about most things, though he is solidifying stereotypes that not to embrace. I guess he has to sell books though.
  15. The Golden Compass (1995) by Philip Pullman. Slightly juvenile fantasy tale about a little girl who will (presumably) save the world. Some interesting aspects and ultimately plagued by bad dialog, but I think the intended audience is about the same age as the main character. Considering reading the next book of the trilogy.
  16. Long Way Round (2004) by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. McGregor and pal travel from Europe, across Asia, and over North America on BMX motorcycles. Fast paced travel literature that makes you want to go to Mongolia. Also a documentary made of their trip. I hear they are planning a follow up trip down the length of Africa.
  17. Shantaram (2003) by Gregory David Roberts. Quite a vivid real life tale of an Australian man who escapes prison and flees to India to go on a series of adventures. Great depiction of Bombay and the bar Leopold’s. So good it’s now becoming a movie with Johnny Depp. If you want to be cool read this one now and look good when the movie is out in ’08.
  18. Vagabond (vol 1 of ?) by Takehiko Inoue. Manga version of Musashi. True to the book and amazing art work.
  19. Death Note (vols 1 – 9 of 12) by Tsugumi Ohba (story) and Takeshi Obata (art). One of the most popular manga titles in Japan right. Great story about a guy who finds a Death God’s (shinigami) notebook. Anyone whose name is entered consequentially dies, provided certain rules are followed. Death Note is also a new anime series and has been made into two (!) live action movies. Only a matter of time before this hits the States big time.
  20. Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori, 1987) by Haruki Murakami. A sad coming of age novel set in modern Japan. One of the most popular current writers in Japan today, I look forward to more of his books.
  21. Once While Traveling: The Lonely Planet Story (2006) by Maureen and Tony Wheeler. The publishers of my usual travel guide series relate how they came to be. While much of the book reads like a grocery list of names and places they visited, the narrative still manages to be interesting and enviable. Working for Lonely Planet would be a dream job so the books was especially provocative to me. I don’t think this one is available in the US yet. UPDATE: Its now available in the US under a different name, Unlikely Destinations.
  22. Lonely Planet: Trans-Siberian Railway. Bought in India. One day… Oh yes, one day…
  23. Lonely Planet: India (2005). Planning a trip in December 2006. The biggest LP they make. UPDATE: Trip was awesome and you can check my photos here.
  24. Musashi (1935) by Eiji Yoshikawa. This hefty epic has been called The Gone With the Wind of Japan. It recounts a fictionalized tale of the real life swordsman Miyamoto Musashi who wrote The Book of the Five Rings. I’m a sucker for this genre and this is the best I have read so far. The climax takes part on an island not far from me called Ganryu Island with another ronin, Kojiro Sasaki. This one makes my top 10 list.
  25. The Roads to Sata (1985) by Alan Booth. The author makes a 128 day/2000 mile walking trip from the top of Japan (Cape Soya on Hokkaido) to the bottom (Cape Sata on Kyushu) in the 1980s. Insightful and humorous, the writing is honest and depicts Japan warts and all.
  26. Lonely Planet: Japan (2005). Surprisingly sparse for area. LP drops the ball a little on this one.
  27. A Traveller’s History of Japan. A quick and enjoyable read, this overview of Japanese history manages to fit about 2000 years into 200 pages. Many aspects are touched upon and it provides a good place to start if you’re interested in the topic. I will look for more in the series.
  28. Life of Pi (2003) by Yann Martel. Picked up in Vietnam and finished on the plane back. Enjoyable story about Pi, who is stranded on a boat with a tiger, among other animals… or is he?