I wanted to learn to increase my strength, flexibility, and grace — not just for now, but for long into the future. I realized that Tai Chi offered everything I was looking for, but I’m not ready to go out and join a group in the park or anything. I just wanted to learn here at home. So this helpful guide is just what I needed! It includes helpful illustrations of the movements and clear directions. The tips are helpful, too. The simplified forms include 24 forms, or movements, from commencing to closing forms.

I love the descriptions of each movement, like “Grasp the Bird’s Tail,” “Wave Hands Like Clouds,” or “Needle at the Bottom of the Sea.” What I hadn’t realized is that, since the forms relate to ancient martial arts, that my strength and memory movement has not only left me with more flexibility, but I feel like I’m ready to defend myself in a pinch, should the need arise. In other words, it’s helped me feel more confident, too. It’s a very helpful guide for anyone wanting to learn Tai Chi!

I wanted to learn how to do some basic yoga routines to help me exercise and gain more flexibility, strength, grace, and vitality. But I’m not ready to run off to an expensive yoga class… yet! So this helpful guide is just what I needed. I love how there is no impact and so the risk of injury is almost nil. There are 20 chapters in the 200-page book, which range from the history and background to yoga, how to get started, the basic elements, practice sequences, and more. I appreciate that the authors are well qualified, and this authoritative book is still easy to read and approach. There are photos and tips for each of the different movements. And I appreciate the chapter on creating your own routine, too.

At over 300 pages, I was a little confused why this was titled “a brief history” — even giving the comparably rich and lengthy history of China. With its length, the book reaches across the entire scope of that history. Yet, in a sense, the book is “brief” in that the writing is artful, clear, yet easy-to-read, flowing along nicely in an engaging style, even through dense parts of Chinese history. So it is “brief” in that it is so well-written, I was able to breeze through the book quickly. In terms of structure, the book begins with an extended preface, which includes a description of naming conventions, and a list of the dynasties of China. Then, the book’s chapters largely follow those dynasties chronologically.

The chapters cover the mythical and prehistoric China, the Bronze Age up into the Qin dynasty, the Qin and Han empires, “China Divided,” the Tang dynasty, the Song and Yuan dynasties, the Ming dynasty, the Qing dynasty, “From the Opium War to the Long March,” “The People’s Republic,” and a brief chapter on the current situation and forces at work in China today. The text is complemented by numerous black-and-white maps, along with two sections of 46 color photos. Readily accessible to western readers, I found this to be an excellent guide to China, past and present, whether your interest is casual or professional.

Back in the day, I didn’t learn from my distinguished Korean professor very long, but I remember him explaining how learning from history frees us to act today. Because we know better. And although his references to Korea were limited in class, I now hear things on the news — regularly — that I recognize are misguided, beside the point, or even flat wrong. I’m not a historian but I truly appreciate the insights this great book on Korean history offers. At 250 pages, it isn’t what I would call “brief,” but it does breeze along and is easy to read and compellingly written. The insights are really valuable and would help anyone gain a better understanding of why things are the way they are, today, for scholars, students, pundits, government officials, would-be government officials, and casual learners (like me).

The book helps me see the current Korean situation — and its possibilities — in a new (and better informed) perspective. The book follows a basic chronology, from ancient history to coping with the Trump administration. I should note that the book reaches the year 1945 on page 107, so it focuses on the modern era and its reasons for the current difficulties. For instance, I hadn’t realized that only two days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, the Soviet Union declared war on the Japanese Empire — which was occupying Korea. In the next few days, hasty (and desperate) agreements led, not only to the Korean War, but the current stalemate today and the threat of nuclear annihilation today. These insights are truly valuable, as is the entire, fascinating book.

I once knew some coworkers who went to live in Japan for a year. They’d spent years preparing, carefully saving, learning to speak Japanese and growing more excited about all-things-Japan, every day. Yet, despite all their preparation, they returned in a few weeks, dejected, their visit both overwhelming and an utter failure. Like many otaku/weebs, their preparations had left them misguided, especially in regards to their interest in popular culture in Japan. If only they’d had this wonderful book to guide them! The information here is not only needed by any would-be traveler, especially fans of Japanese pop culture, it’s also delightful in its own right. The author seems to explain Japanese culture so well, with fascinating facts that help make sense of it all. This lively book is exceptionally well designed, with many full-color photos, high-quality printing, a compelling layout, and engaging text. I will try to list the chapters, which are filled with numerous sub-sections. Each chapter has about 10 or 12 sections in it.

So I will just list a few of the sections. I know this will be kind of long, but I want to share just how much down-to-earth information the book has to offer. There is a preface that includes sections on why Japan is different and the initial culture shock. The first chapter, on the origins of Japanese culture, includes an extremely brief history of Japan, the samurai, the real geisha, religion and philosophy, and visiting a temple or shrine. Chapter 2 is on the traditional arts and disciplines, which include sections on Kabuki, Zen, martial arts, and more. Chapter 3 is about the unique Japanese character. It includes sections on humility, aesthetic values, and male-female relations in Japan. Chapter 4 is on curiosities and symbols including animal figures, cherry blossoms, pachinko, the Naruto phenomenon, and why people wear face masks in Japan. Chapter 5 is on the workplace in Japan with sections on the economy after World War II, Japanese agriculture, the notion of constant improvement, the Japanese automobile industry, workplace manners, and daily life in a Japanese company.

Chapter 6 is on Japanese society and daily life. There are sections on the delights of Japanese cuisine, Japan’s train culture, the life of a retiree, and family living. In chapter 7, the book pivots from historical background to Japan today. The sections include Japanese cities and architecture, the lives of otaku, students, career women, the “Salaryman,” the Yakuza, and so on. Chapter 8 is on the world of manga and anime, so it includes sections on the origins of manga, manga today, publishing cycles and formats, and Japanese anime. Chapter 9 is on modern Japanese music. Chapter 10 is on movies and television in Japan and chapter 11 is on video games, with sections on the major video game companies. Chapter 12 is about visiting the larger municipal area of Tokyo, so it describes Tokyo’s various districts and goes through various walking tours, along with sections on each of the different regions of Tokyo. Chapter 13 is on visiting Kyoto and covers the different districts.

Chapter 14 is about traveling around Japan with sections on “General Advice for Travelers,” essential places to visit in Japan, the author’s favorite places, and basic Japanese phrases for travelers. As you can see, alongside an introduction to Japan generally, about half of the book focuses on modern living and popular culture in Japan. This is more than just a travel book, and would be an ideal gift for anyone who loves Japan and its exciting contributions to the world. I think it’d be perfect for anyone traveling to the upcoming Olympics, too.

This is a fantastic travel guide especially for manga comic lovers — designed as a comic book, itself! That said, the printing is top-notch, including the high-quality paper, softbound cover, and excellent printing overall. The text is, of course, brief and punchy, with real-life details, a welcoming tone, and a gentle sense of humor throughout. For example, the author describes what it’s like visiting on the hot springs (no tattoos allowed, bring a friend so it’s not boring), and how to actually eat at different restaurants (I prefer Yoshinoya for beef bowl/gyudon). I love the specific details, like how much the different each plate costs at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. She explains not just the “what,” but also the “why,” like at Ueno — a park, museum, and zoo complex — where there is so much to see you really have to hurry along (don’t skimp on the zoo because the animals are surprisingly close to where you see them).

I don’t want to be the typical rude westerner so I appreciate her clear descriptions of the (many) rude things she did there, so we don’t have to. The illustrations are cute and helpful, and the book is well-organized, too. There is a good introduction on what to bring and how to get around Japan. The first chapter is on exploring traditional Tokyo with 8 different historical sites that many would want to visit. The second chapter is “Animanga Tokyo,” where it describes how to visit a maid cafe, a butler cafe, the Ghibli museum (describing specific exhibits), the Sanrio theme park (closes at 5 pm!), and more. Chapter 3 is about eating at different kinds of restaurants and chapter 4 is about shopping.

I really appreciate how she explains what to look for and buy at different kinds of stores — from Tokyo’s main shopping districts, to Akihabara (including what is unique at specific stores), to Japan’s fancy convenience stores, and even the 100 yen shops (their version of dollar stores). The specific suggestions on what and where to get souvenirs from is the icing on the cake. This is an excellent guide for nerdy visitors to Tokyo. This will be a great help for the upcoming Olympics! Can’t wait!

What a beautiful book! I think placing it on my coffee table just raised the actual value of my home! The full-page photos are gorgeous, and the descriptive captions are laid out beautifully. Very sophisticated, clean design. The decor, which ranges from traditional Japanese to Modern, is so elegant and lovely, it’s really inspiring. They revolve around a clean, understated design that is rooted in ancient design yet seems Modern-with-a-capital-M at the same time. The interiors are from real homes, yet are so beautiful, they defy description.

The chapters include: Zen and the Art of Japanese Design, A Tea Masters Home in Achi, Elegant Style in a Kyoto Machiya, Exuberant Spontaneity in Osaka, House of Ikebana, A Kago-style Tea House, A Celebration of Lacquer Craft, Coming Home to a Kyoto Machiya, An Antique-filled Minka, and more. The book is even more beautiful than those titles suggest. This is a must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in interior design, carried to the ultimate degree. The binding and printing are of the highest quality.