A hesitant thumbs up for Trying Not to Try: The Science and Art of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland. History/philosophy.
Well…huh. I didn’t read this book that long ago, but I must have read it too late at night, because I remember nothing about it except the fact that it is about the concept of wu-wei, “non-doing,” and that it contains a pretty good overview of the differences and similarities between ancient Chinese philosophers.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Threads of Life: A History of the World through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter. History/Memoir.
A worthwhile but flawed book. Each chapter explores the history of needlework via one lens– “Power” talks about Mary Queen of Scots; “Captivity” discusses the quilts made in POW camps in WWII Singapore; “Journey” investigates Miao/Hmong story cloths; and so on.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley. History.
Thumbs (a little hesitantly) up for The Artisans: A Vanishing Chinese Village by Shen Fuyu. History.
I read these two books simultaneously and comparison is inevitable, so I will review them together. Stranger is a history of mid-19th century Edo through the life of one woman, the headstrong priest’s daughter Tsuneno, who was not historically important in any way except that she wrote a lot of letters which survived.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Kokeshi, from Tohoku with Love by Manami Okazaki. Nonfiction.
Sometimes I like reading books about craftspeople. I knew nothing whatsoever about kokeshi dolls, but this was an interesting book, and I now know much more than I did.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu. History.
An absolutely fascinating history of the technical and political problems faced by the men who brought the written Chinese language into the modern age. By which I mean, how to make a typewriter that can handle thousands of unique characters, while still being portable and easy to use?… >> Read more
Thumbs up for I Am Maru by Mugumogu. Picture book.
Maru, the cat who loves to squeeze into boxes. I remember Maru videos from early YouTube days. You know what, they still make me happy. So did this book.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman. Science.
Two things I like: civil engineering and materials science! This is the type of book that will stand or fall depending on the skill of the writer, and it stood very tall indeed. While not out-and-out funny like Mary Roach, Waldman is incredibly engaging and slyly witty. (I laughed every time he itemized the moustaches in a room of engineers.)… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture by Euny Hong. Pop culture.
It’s a bit out of date now, but I found the author’s look at the relationship between state and pop culture in Korea to be absolutely fascinating. (No review quote for this one because I immediately gave it to a friend.)… >> Read more