Bookshelf: East meets West

Easternisation: War And Peace In The Asian Century by Gideon Rachman
Easternisation: War And Peace In The Asian Century by Gideon Rachman
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Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century by Gideon Rachman. Bodley Head, £20 (ebook £9.99). Review by Will Ennett

Since 1500 “Western” nations have dominated the world economy. Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, cogently puts forward the case that Easternisation is the trend of the 21st century. In this study, the fate of Europe is rather bleak, a continent struggling with ageing populations and sluggish economies. However, living standards will remain the envy of the world. Some of the major tumultuous events of our era, such as mass migration, climate change and even Brexit, are all the better understood when taking in this bird’s-eye, long-range geopolitical book. Required reading for interesting times.

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakani. Portobello Books, £12.99 (ebook £8.54). Review by Rachel Howdle

Hiromi Kawakani is one of Japan’s most popular novelists and, thanks to Allison Markin Powell’s translation, we get to enjoy this meandering and innocent novel. Kawakani’s tales of a small thrift shop, where Hitomi works on the till, form a collection of short stories. The delightful nature of the story comes from the magic of the ordinary and the everyday goings on in the shop owned by the enigmatic Mr Nakano. Through Hitomi’s cautious, watching eyes, we see a relationship grow between herself and Takeo, who is more affected by the 30-something “girl” than even he is aware. This book is a definite slow burn, but totally worth the perseverance.

Hide by Matthew Griffin. Bloomsbury, £16.99 (ebook £10.04). Review by Heather Doughty

This debut novel from Matthew Griffin is a deliberately paced, poignant story of two men in love against all the odds. Narrated over a considerable number of years, Hide tells the tale of taxidermist Wendell Wilson and veteran Frank Clifton, who meet after the Second World War in a run-down North Carolina mill town. Unsurprisingly, due to the climate of the time, the pair are forced to hide their love and live in fear, never exchanging love notes or speaking in public. Despite some rather gruesome descriptions of taxidermy which may put some readers off, this is quite a remarkable novel. Deeply touching and thought provoking.

The Book: A Cover-to-cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time by Keith Houston. WW Norton & Company, £18.99 (ebook £10.44). Review by Tory Lyne-Pirkis

A love letter to the physical book, this is a fascinating and erudite telling of how it came into being. From the different ways that paper has been made for over four millennia, to the machines that first made mass-produced books possible, the mechanics of bookbinding and the history of book illustration from woodcut through to photography, Houston’s history of the book is hugely enlightening. Stuffed full of quirky anecdotes, such as how, up until the mid-19th century, the paper used for books in Europe and America was made from discarded linen underwear and how a paper shortage in the US caused manufacturers to recycle the shrouds of Egyptian mummies.