Top 10 Samurai Books
Although what we receive most on social networks about katanas are queries about our swords, from time to time a very specific request pops up: “Do you have recommendations for samurai books?”
It’s always a compliment to be asked this question, so we can have a good time giving recommendations of books about ancient Japan in which there are samurai and all kinds of warriors.
So here are the top 10 books about samurais.
Note: Although Bushido: The Soul of Japan, is one of the most influential books on samurai culture in the West, we leave it out of this list because of its historical errors.
N° 10: The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn
The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most important true stories of Japan; an example of that unwavering honor that characterized the samurai. This samurai book is an excellent choice if you want to immerse yourself in one of the most representative events of samurai culture.
Narrated from a historical rather than a fictional point of view, 47 Ronin by John Allyn recounts the events from Asano’s death to the end of an epic revenge.
N° 9: The Blade of the Courtesans by Keiichiro Ryu
The Blade of Courtesans is a romantic novel with thrilling action scenes, but it could have been better translated. This is a pleasant samurai book if you’re looking to have a good time reading something that moves away from the stories of samurai to focus on romance and the importance of freedom.
N° 8: The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
The Samurai’s Garden is a unique book, which speaks of beauty from a purely Japanese point of view and invites reflection on life’s issues. Amid poverty, calm, and illness, the question arises: What is beauty?
N° 7: Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa
Taiko is one of the most epic samurai books written about feudal Japan, and more specifically the “Sengoku” period. It follows the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man who went from being a poor warrior to a street vendor, to the leader of an entire clan. A cunning samurai who achieved what Oda Nobunaga had long sought; to unite Japan in a time of violent chaos and endless war.
No. 6: Lust, Commerce, and Corruption by An Edo Samurai
This samurai book is not a romanticization of ancient Japan, but rather the opposite. It is a critique of society by a samurai of the Edo period, as its title suggests. Corruption, degeneration, deceit— this book is the view of someone who believed that Japanese society was founded on rotten pillars and that, therefore, only chaos could emerge from it.
No. 5: Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Hagakure can be taken in many forms: as a love letter for ancient Japan, as an idealization of what a samurai should be, or as a manual for living. Whichever way you take it, you will be in front of a samurai book whose philosophy and reflections will be able to alter the way you see the world forever.
N° 4: Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
Cloud of Sparrows is a rare samurai novel. It’s a gripping story that mixes an intriguing plot of conspiracies, spies, and samurais with an accurate reflection on the clash of religions caused by Western Christianity and how someone from a foreign culture is perceived. Also, it knows how to make you laugh. It knows how to make you cry. And it knows how to keep you hooked page after page. It’s just great.
No. 3: Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa
Considered one of the best historical fictions, Musashi is a very entertaining and easy to read novel that tells the story of one of the most famous samurai of ancient Japan: Miyamoto Musashi. It’s a great way to get into the life of one of the most important figures in Japan.
No. 2: Shogun by James Clavell
One of the most loved and recommended novels by every lover of samurai culture. Shogun is a bestseller that inspired an entire generation of amateur authors; its descriptions, plots, and characters are magnificent, and its ending will leave you longing for more.
No. 1: The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
The Book of Five Rings should be a must-read for any modern samurai. Why? Because it’s a book written by Miyamoto Musashi himself, perhaps the most important samurai. Here, he shares his philosophy on life, his experiences, and teaches the profound art of swordplay with a katana. In short, if there’s only one samurai book you should read before you die, it would be this one.
And if at some point you get tired of reading and want to bring ancient Japan to your life, we’ve got just what you need. Tale a look at our collection of samurai swords.