Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017: The Discovery of Asia



For several years now I have dared myself to take on a formidable challenge:  Asia.  Prior to the 20th century, it is a historical black hole for me. I have caught glimpses of it from time to time, but have never considered it at length, in its own right. Its sheer size -- in geography, abundance of cultures and life -- are daunting. This is the year I'm taking my own dare; and, borrowing from Jawaharlal Nehru's book, The Discovery of India, I've dubbed this personal challenge The Discovery of Asia.

The plan: My minimum target is two books a month, alternating between India and China who will carry Korea and Mongolia in their wake.  I took a course in Japanese history while at uni, but it will still appear here.  While history will reign, I hope to find a good book on Asia's natural geography and intend on looking for at least one read into Chinese philosophies. Then I will attempt books on modern Asia. While I don't have a fixed list of books, I do have some possibilities posted in a public Worldcat list.

As with the 2014: Year of the Great War, I will review my progress every three or four months to see if I'm short-changing one area or the other.



11 comments:

  1. Stephen,

    An interesting starter to Chinese philosophy might be Arthur Waley's _Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China_.

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    1. Thank you! My university library has a copy, so I will take a look at it.

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  2. Now there's a REAL challenge! The best of luck with that.

    You might find interesting:

    The Fishing Fleet – Husband Hunting in the Raj by Anne De Courcy (FP: 2012)

    Modern China – A Very Short Introduction by Rana Mitter (FP: 2008)

    and...

    A Brief History of The Samurai – The Way of Japan’s Elite Warriors by Jonathan Clements.

    If I can think of anything else I'll let you know.

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    1. Thanks! That first one is definitely unusual. I've read Mitter before, I believe..he wrote "Forgotten Ally" about China's role in WW2. Definitely interested in reading a general history since he has one!

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  3. Stephen, as has always been in the past, I look forward to your odyssey through different territories. Will be you limiting yourself to nonfiction? Or will you also include some fiction and poetry? If you are including the latter, may I recommend three of my favorites: _Heat and Dust_ by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, _Midnight's Children_ by Salman Rushdie, and E. M. Forster's _A Passage to India_ (but you might object to the third title because of the author).

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    1. Once I put myself to rights regarding history, I may consider reading a little fiction. For instance, I have a copy of Kokoro that I haven't read since 2008 or so.

      Thank you for the recommended authors. I don't know anything about Forster, but I rather like his epitaph: "Connect — connect without bitterness until all men are brothers."


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  4. i remember reading about the awesome and fearless exploits of the early Jesuits in China; and also about how the first man to ride a bike around the world(in 1896) was almost murdered by violent chinese villagers... whatever, asian geology has had an immeasurable impact on the culture of China, but i don't know of any books about that... i wish i did...

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    1. Was that fellow Thomas Stevens?

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    2. Stephen: yes, it was; truly an amazing book, riding a penny farthing around the world... mostly, anyway; he had some trouble with some of it...

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  5. Just the other day I was hunting for Asian history books to read, feeling (especially being half-Vietnamese) woefully ignorant on the topic. I might steal some ideas off your list for my TBR pile. Good luck on this challenge!

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    1. Thank you! It should prove an interesting year, to say the least.

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