Short books: digestible in one sitting (think a cup of coffee or, in this instance, the final hour before school pick-up) and self-contained. The idea that few(er) words still pack a big punch. Increasingly, short books and series of short books are becoming more popular, their bite-sized format appealing to readers, writers and publishers alike.
“How did Ibn Battuta support himself on his travels?”, asked a student once. It’s hard to imagine a world where erudition and charm enable a man to travel the world as the honored guests of kings and scholars as well as humble folk, but that is how things worked in those days. It also helped to be able to sleep as soundly in silk sheets as on a crofter’s mat. A world like that, a man like that, does not belong to a remote past, but it may belong to a past that is fading fast. Tales from the Life is an outpouring of praise and sadness on the occasion of the death earlier this year of Bruce Wannell, the last great English traveler in the Orient.
Ten years ago, a spate of suicides at Foxconn’s factories in Shenzhen thrust the company into global headlines. These workers, part of a million-strong workforce, were involved in making Apple’s iPhone, the world’s premier status symbol smartphone. While the suicides are now mainly in the past, the issues raised in Dying for an iPhone remain pertinent to China’s labor situation and global manufacturing generally.
Asia has recently, and somewhat unexpectedly, been the source of some of the most exciting, and bemusing, discoveries in human evolution. In the context of the history of human evolution, or even the history of the study of human evolution, “recent” is a relative term; these developments date back to the first years of the new century when the discovery of Homo floresiensis, “Flores Man” aka “the hobbit”, put Asia back on the evolutionary front burner.
In his introduction to Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan, editor John Grant Ross promises this collection will not play into “wacky” Japan. There will be no treatises on love motels, maid cafes, or parades of fertility idols. Instead, Ross sets out to show rural Japan in all its splendor.
It probably goes without saying that there will be no solution to what has come to be called “climate change” without China’s active participation. (The same holds for the United States, but that’s another matter.) In their new book China Goes Green, Judith Shapiro and Li Yifei view China’s environmental policies and practices, both domestically and internationally, as—goes the subtitle—“Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet”.
In Crime, Justice and Punishment in Colonial Hong Kong, authors May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn use the intersection of the city’s former main police station, magistracy and jail—now the photogenic and commercial Tai Kwun—to tell a unique history of the city under British rule.