What I’m reading!

The current pile of books on my coffee table:

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Hit the jump and I talk a bit about the books!

I hadn’t even realized my local library had a manga section…  It’s over in the teens area where I rarely venture.  But they’ve been re-arranging, and the new location made them visible as I was walking back to the food & cooking section.  (One of my other hobbies is making ice cream – and I’m currently researching recipes.)

I picked up Seki-Kun because I’ve watched the series on Crunchy (and enjoyed the heck out of it) and was curious about the manga.  Vol 2 was the only volume available and it’s not like there’s an ongoing plot…  Turns out the manga is just as funny as the anime.  I’ve got volumes 1, 3, and 4 (all the library has) on hold.

I also picked up the first three volumes of My Hero Academia and have several more on hold.  The current plan is to catch up to the anime.  I don’t know if I’ll read ahead or not.  So far what I’ve heard has been true, the anime is a very faithful adaptation though it does re-arrange some bits to make the narrative flow a little smoother.  There are spots where the manga jumps around a little bit that wouldn’t flow quite as well on the screen…  Different media have different demands after all.


The more intellectual part of the pile…  :)

Mountain Tasting is exactly what it says on the cover…  Translated haiku and journal entries from Taneda Santōka, a poet who lived from the 1880’s to the 1940’s.  I picked it up as it’s deucedly hard to even find the names of haiku poets that aren’t the Big Three, let alone any material on/by them in English.  I don’t care much for his poetry though, as its free verse haiku – a style I don’t care much for.  I get the feeling the translation is… dodgy.  The author has an impressive body of work, but it’s not at all clear that he has any actual poetry chops or experience.  (Shambhala publishes him though, which is a mark in his favor.)

I discovered Mountain Tasting because it was referenced in Walking the Kiso Road (Amazon link, no affiliate code).  Walking was an interesting travelogue, comparing the history along the kisokaido with what the author found there today and what he’d found on previous journeys along the same road.

You might recognize Everyday Things in Premodern Japan from my previous post on books…  Yep, still plowing my way through it.  It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped because less about Japan and more about comparing Japan’s physical culture in the Edo period with Europe’s in the same time frame.

It’s also a bit annoying to read, the author is overwhelmingly knowledgeable about physical objects and their production…  But she seems to be on much shakier ground when it comes to context, or at least much of what she says doesn’t quite align with other sources.  (She’s broadly general in some very annoying places.)

I just picked up Japanese Castles, and it’s another case of the contents matching the label…  A broad overview of the history of castles in Japan and their architectural features.

Kyoto – Seven paths, I’ll have more to say on in a moment…

Japanese Detail – Architecture, is pretty much just that – page after page of photographs of architectural details.  I’ve flipped through it a couple of times but I really need to return it…   If I were a student of design or art it would be much more valuable, but I’m a student of history.    Lacking any descriptions to provide context or any kind of references or bibliography it’s not very useful to me.

Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy has some discussion on calligraphy and philosophy, but it’s mostly about individual kanji or short aphorisms and how to write them.  It’s interesting as each entry has a short section describing how and why you might choose a particular style of calligraphy for a given painting and how to compose the painting and weight the individual lines.

I’ve given up trying to pretend I’m not going down that particular rabbit hole.  If I can find a teacher here on the west side of the Sound, I’m going to practice calligraphy for at least a little bit.

Kyoto – Seven Paths popped up when I was searching for other things so I picked it up on a whim.  I love reading travelogues and pondering going there someday…  But as it turned out, there was a fun anime connection.  One of the walking tours described in the book is of the Uji district – which of course is also home to North Uji High School.  :)

And, there you have it…  A quick roundup of what I’m reading right now, or at least what relates to anime and Japanese culture.

7 thoughts on “What I’m reading!”

  1. Library manga is a wonderful thing, especially for someone like me who doesn’t want to buy a lot of manga – it takes a lot of shelf space to store a 20+ volume series I might never re-read. I read all of Rurouni Kenshin and most of Naruto from library books back in the day, and right now I’m reading Food Wars and Horimiya through the library as they come out. Of course, since I also work at the library, it’s easy for me to keep track of what’s available.

    You might want to check the children’s and adults’ graphic novel sections someday too. Most manga is probably in teen, but at my library we have manga in all three areas. Our children’s area has stuff like Pokemon, of course, but also some light comedy manga like Yotsuba and Chi’s Sweet Home. Our adult graphic novels area has more “mature” series like Tokyo Ghoul and Haganai.

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    1. Well, not just shelf space… There’s also budget, paying $12.95+tax for a book I can read in under an hour just doesn’t pencil out. Most of the teens I know who buy manga have a group that’s worked out who buys what series and they swap and lend among themselves.

      Near as I can tell, it’s all in one spot, but I’ll double check.

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  2. I’m sort of happy that three volumes of Seki-kun are out. It means someone’s reading it.

    Pity about the Everyday Things book. I remember it was one of the books that looked the most interesting to me. So it’s more useful for artisans than people who are primarily interested in culture?

    I’ve just finished Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris for the first time, and I’m right now reading (an early 20th Century translation of) Beowulf. Have to catch up on genre classics. The solaris in Solaris is perhaps the most alien alien I’ve ever read about. It’s at the same time utterly incomprehnsible and very tangible. With regards to Beowulf… well, I don’t much like the Danes (nor Beowulf), so I’m tempted to side with Grendel, until I realise that he’s really not much better. Makes me want to read John Gardner’s Grendel to see how he handles the material.

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    1. Everyday Things though production and distribution is covered, is more cultural/sociological than anything else. Looking back, I didn’t make that as clear as I might have. The authors thesis, backed up with statistics and analysis, is that the Japanese were better off (in terms of goods, health, lifespan) than Europeans of the same era. Goods and their production and distribution is just the proxy for the other things.

      I never did get around to Solaris before I all-but-stopped reading SF and fiction… I grew up on the ‘old masters’ of SF (back in the 70’s), and as the 80’s wore on I found less and less that I enjoyed. When I realized that I was just re-reading the same stuff, I just gave up entirely. Honestly, there’s so much non-fiction out there, I don’t have time for fiction.

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  3. I really love how the My Hero Academia book covers are styled like western comic book covers. Its a lovely touch. That Kyoto travel book sounds like an interesting read, I’ve always wanted to visit Kyoto specifically :)

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    1. AIUI, All Might is inspired by Western style superhero comics so it only makes sense…

      There are so many places we want to visit in Japan! Need to hit the lottery and then hit up one of those companies that will assemble custom itineraries.

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