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Year in review: Books

There is absolutely no doubt that the most impressive Taiwan-related book to appear this year was John Ross’s Taiwan in 100 Books (Camphor Press, reviewed July 23). This stupendous production is extraordinarily wide-ranging and, whereas it doesn’t actually constitute a history of the nation, it covers very many of its aspects. Ross goes into the background detail of his selected topics as well as of their authors, making this book something to read in its own right and to refer to. Incomparable.

The Flock of Ba-Hui And Other Stories, also from Camphor and reviewed on Feb. 20, was the most sensational — and lurid. It contains four long stories by a Chinese follower of H.P. Lovecraft, “Oobmab.” Translated by Arthur Meursault and “Akira,” the stories are awash with glutinous black substances found in unexpectedly familiar circumstances. All but one of the stories are set in China.

Simon Pridmore’s Dive into Taiwan, Sandsmedia, reviewed Jan. 16, is a treasure to read and to hold. It covers scuba diving in every conceivable location, and is beautifully illustrated by photographer Kyo Liu (劉守全). Pridmore is a diving specialist, but thinks Taiwan has been insufficiently appreciated as a diving location.

Camphor returns with Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan, reviewed on Sept. 17. A majority of Japanese now reside in cities, but if anything this makes the extremely varied Japanese countryside all the more attractive to anyone looking for lifestyles that were once more common than they are today.

Lastly, Taiwan Through Foreign Eyes, Deep World Publishing, reviewed on Aug. 13, is surprisingly memorable — surprisingly because most of its 18 short stories were penned over 10 years ago. I was warned about this, but nonetheless in the event found the collection well worth reading.

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