We often post new book announcements on Sundays here at Shinpai Deshou, but we rarely have the time to review books we’ve read, especially not recent or up and coming works. Today’s resource does just that, and in convenient podcast form, no less! New Books in East Asian Studies (http://newbooksineastasianstudies.com/), a subsection of the much larger and extremely diverse New Books Network, compiles web interviews of authors recently published on East Asian topics. The webmaster, Carla Nappi, is an assistant professor of History at the University of British Columbia. Her work focuses on early modern China (specializing in the study of translation, science, and medicine in early modernity), but all walks of East Asian studies are welcome in her podcast channel.
In her author interviews, Nappi attempts to engage the books differently than a regular scholarly review might. As she states:
The spirit of an interview for NBEAS is completely different from that of a book review. Rather than critiquing a work to ferret out its potential flaws (and what work cannot be criticized in this way?) and generally talking smack, I aim to read carefully enough to try to bring out some of the major elements of craft, the conceptual commitments, the nifty anecdotes, the goals of the author. The interview is meant to be a kind of introduction, a little celebration.
The books discussed are given a summary page describing their content and each interview is approximately an hour in length. You can either access the audio via an embedded player right on the site or download each individual mp3 for your own convenience.
This is a great way to gain introductory knowledge of new works emerging in the field. Of interest to members of Japanese Studies are recent books such as Ethan Segal’s book on economic growth and the coin trade in early medieval Japan, Luke S. Robert’s work on political space in Tokugawa Japan, Peter Mauch’s biographical account of Nomura Kichisaburo and the Japanese-American War, or Mark Rowe’s study of death customs in contemporary Japanese Buddhism, to name a few. Other, non-Japanese topics include epidemics in late imperial China, the history of tobacco in China, or Shanghai cabaret culture.
As demonstrated above, thus far the focus has been primarily on Japan and China, and unfortunately only about 25 interviews are currently published. However, considering that the site appears to be just getting off its feet (with the first post appearing in March of last year), this is already an impressive array of reviews. One can only hope that the New Books in East Asian Studies podcast will continue to grow in popularity. Already it’s a great place to find new books, books whose announcements slipped under your radar, books that will expand your knowledge of other fields, and new perspectives on the writing and research processes of recent scholars. Be sure to check it out!