Asia Bookroom's Book Group

Asia Bookroom runs a Book Group! Join a friendly, informal group of people interested in reading and discussing books of Asian interest.
 
When Does the Group Meet?
Book Group members meet every 6 - 8 weeks at Asia Bookroom's premises in Macquarie in Belconnen. We welcome new members.
 

What Types of Books Does the Group Read?

Asia Book Group reads a wide variety of books on all parts of Asia. The books are chosen by the group and might be fiction or non fiction, literary or popular - all of them have in common interesting Asia related themes and ideas which are ideal for discussion. From time to time we are privileged to have the author present.

The list of the books we are reading this year together with dates of this year's meetings can be found below.

Who Can Join?

Everyone is welcome. We know how daunting it can be to join a new group but rest assured everyone is welcome in our friendly group. We really value everyone's input - the more disparate the views the more interesting. Members come from a variety of different backgrounds and include people who have travelled or lived in Asia, people with an Asian family background, people who have studied an Asian language or culture, as well as people who have never left Australia but are interested in reading and discussing something different! The group size varies from time to time but usually about 15 - 20 people attend a meeting.

Does It Cost to Belong?

No, there is no charge to belong to the group but we do ask that you buy the Book Group book from Asia Bookroom. The good news is that Book Group members receive a 10% discount on all Book Group books.

When Does Asia Book Group Meet?

Our meetings are held between 6pm and 7.30pm on a Thursday every 6 - 8 weeks but can occasionally vary from this. At the foot of this page you will see the names of the forthcoming books and the dates we will be meeting to discuss them.

I Am Not Sure That I Can Attend Every Meeting - Does This Matter? No it doesn't matter, you are welcome to come as regularly or irregularly as you like. We understand that members' lives are busy and we welcome you when you can come but understand when you can't. RSVPs for seating and refreshment purposes are appreciated but not essential.

How Do I Know What Books to Read and the Date of the Next Meeting? Contact Asia Bookroom by email books@AsiaBookroom.com or phone 6251 5191. Our Book Group email list which you are now subscribed to will keep you up-to-date with book details and meeting dates.

 

The Waiting Years - Fumiko Enchi

Thursday May 27, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

In the late nineteenth century, Tomo, the faithful wife of a government official, is sent to Tokyo, where a heartbreaking task is awaiting her. From among hundreds of geishas and daughters offered up for sale by their families she must select a respectable young girl to become her husband's new lover. Externally calm, but torn apart inside, Tomo dutifully begins the search for an official mistress.

The White Book - Han Kang

Thursday June 24, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

From the author of The Vegetarian and Human Acts comes a book like no other. The White Book is a meditation on colour, beginning with a list of white things. It is a book about mourning, rebirth and the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

Translated from Korean by Deborah Smith.

Musashi - Eiji Yoshikawa

Thursday September 23, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Please note that the date for Musashi has changed to the 23rd of September.

 

The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.

 

Miyamoto Musashi was the child of an era when Japan was emerging from decades of civil strife. Lured to the great Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 by the hope of becoming a samurai -- without really knowing what it meant -- he regains consciousness after the battle to find himself lying defeated, dazed and wounded among thousands of the dead and dying. On his way home, he commits a rash act, becomes a fugitive and brings life in his own village to a standstill -- until he is captured by a weaponless Zen monk.

 

The lovely Otsu, seeing in Musashi her ideal of manliness, frees him from his tortuous punishment, but he is recaptured and imprisoned. During three years of solitary confinement, he delves into the classics of Japan and China. When he is set free again, he rejects the position of samurai and for the next several years pursues his goal relentlessly, looking neither to left nor to right.

 

Ever so slowly it dawns on him that following the Way of the Sword is not simply a matter of finding a target for his brute strength. Continually striving to perfect his technique, which leads him to a unique style of fighting with two swords simultaneously, he travels far and wide, challenging fighters of many disciplines, taking nature to be his ultimate and severest teacher and undergoing the rigorous training of those who follow the Way. He is supremely successful in his encounters, but in the Art of War he perceives the way of peaceful and prosperous governance and disciplines himself to be a real human being.

 

He becomes a reluctant hero to a host of people whose lives he has touched and been touched by. And, inevitably, he has to pit his skill against the naked blade of his greatest rival.

 

Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese story telling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and absolute dedication to the Way of the Samurai, it depicts vividly a world Westerners know only vaguely. Full of gusto and humor, it has an epic quality and universal appeal.

 

Originally published in serialized form between 1935 and 1939 by Asahi Shinbun, this classic historical novel has been in book form many times, has been produced as a film at least 7 times, on the stage repeatedly and has been made into a mini-series by three networks.

Mr Selden's Map of China. The Spice Trade, a Lost Chart & the South China Sea - Timothy Brook

Thursday November 4, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

In 1659, a vast and unusual map of China arrived in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was bequeathed by John Selden, a London business lawyer, political activist, former convict, MP and the city's first Orientalist scholar. Largely ignored, it remained in the bowels of the library, until called up by an inquisitive reader. When Timothy Brook saw it in 2009, he realised that the Selden Map was 'a puzzle that had to be solved': an exceptional artefact, so unsettlingly modern-looking it could almost be a forgery. But it was genuine, and what it has to tell us is astonishing.

It shows China, not cut off from the world, but a participant in the embryonic networks of global trade that fuelled the rise of Europe - and which now power China's ascent. And it raises as many question as it answers: how did John Selden acquire it? Where did it come from? Who re-imagined the world in this way? And most importantly - what can it tell us about the world at that time? Brook, like a cartographic detective, has provided answers - including a surprising last-minute revelation of authorship.
From the Gobi Desert to the Philippines, from Java to Tibet and into China itself, Brook uses the map (actually a schematic representation of China's relation to astrological heaven) to tease out the varied elements that defined this crucial period in China's history.

The Great Derangement - Amitav Ghosh

Thursday December 2, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Are we deranged? The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming?

 

In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability -- at the level of literature, history, and politics -- to grasp the scale and violence of climate change. The extreme nature of today's climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel; they are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications; Ghosh shows that the history of the carbon economy is a tangled global story with many contradictory and counterintuitive elements. Ghosh ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost.

 

The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence -- a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer's summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.

We have read well over 80 books since the book group began.