This will be a brief reading report. I finished just one book this week, as well as purchasing only one book.
The book that I finished was a translation of the Bansenshukai, which is a 17th century ninja manual written / compiled by Fujibayashi Sabuji. The Japanese title means “10,000 Rivers Flow into the Sea,” but this English translation by Anthony Cummins and Yoshie Minami was re-titled The Book of Ninja. I ran into a hard-copy of this book in a Kuala Lumpur bookshop, but ended up purchasing the much cheaper Kindle e-book. I read about half of the book months ago, and only got around to finishing it this week.
There’s much that will forever remain unknown about the ninja and their medieval practices. The Bansenshukai is one of three well-known manuals that survived into the modern era–along with the Ninpiden and the Shoninki (each of which also has at least one English translation.) It should be noted that these manuals were generally written after the heyday of ninja activity, and still the most common sentence in this book is some variant of the phrase “There is an oral teaching”, meaning that important details have been kept out to preserve secrecy. This is a book of tradecraft, don’t expect thrilling exploits of the ninja, much of the book deals with minutiae about medieval lock picking and recipes for incendiaries. While the English translation title may beckon images of black-clad ninja stealthily rolling over the top of a wall to dispatch an unsuspecting sentry via death from above, the bulk the material is much more mundane. This is a great book for people who geek out on Japan’s Warring States period or who are doing research regarding this topic (I fit in both categories as my novel takes place in part in medieval Japan.)
The book I bought is Sam Harris’s Free Will. Harris is a neuroscientist who studies issues that have historically been considered the domain of religion and spirituality, but he does so from a scientific point of view. What one believes about free will is likely to form the bedrock of one’s personal philosophy of life, so this is a very important topic, and I have high hopes for learning something new from this book.
The only other book that took a significant portion of my time is one that I introduced earlier:
Leader and Corfield explored the immune system and issues related specifically to cancer in the chapters that I read this week. It was a pleasant turn for the book into a more scientific and less psychobabbly landscape. I continue to be intrigued by this book and it’s title question.
That’s it for now. I’ll be posting reviews for The Book of Ninja as well as last week’s Antifragile in the upcoming week.