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Recommended by your ABC Bookseller: Evelien

width=The Asia Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the Continent

This is a perfect book to pull from your bookshelves on a rainy Sunday afternoon, just to dream of far away places and journeys still to be made.

The editors of the famous Lonely Planet guidebook series have compiled this beautiful book of photographs, facts and anecdotes of every country on the Asian continent. Learn about century old traditions, festivals and ways of life or let this book serve you as an inspiration to future incounters with this beautiful continent.

Also available: The Europe Book, The Africa Book, and the more general The Travel Book.

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Effort to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly

The cynical title of this critique on decades of Western aid is a reflection on the latter’s failure to bring substantial relief to the poor. Easterly describes the West’s arrogant and sometimes painfully Utopian plans to bring wealth to ‘the rest’. Easterly argues for a different approach to Western aid: one of grassroot organizations, immediate feedback and most of all a keen eye that really sees the on-the-ground problems and from there on works to find a long-lasting solution. I think this book gives a refreshing and helpful view to all those who are interested in aid and development and the state of our world.

width=Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami

Though Haruki Murakami is most famous for his works of fiction, this non-fictional book describing the Tokyo gas attack of 1995 and its aftermath might be one of his most compelling books. Members of a Japanese religious cult released the deadly sarin gas on various line of the Tokyo subway during rush hour, killing more than ten commuters and leaving dozens of them badly injured. Murakami has set out to interview the witnesses – from the businessmen who rode the train to work that unfaithful morning to subway workers and even ex-members of the cult that initiated the attack. His work resulted in a chilling account of what happened that Monday morning, and indeed offers us a glimpse into the Japanese psyche.

Yes, the guy’s a hype these days (finally, after being a highly succesful author in Japan for decades), but with good reason. Murakami’s novels are sometimes delicate and realistic (Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart) but often downright weird and thought-provoking (A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore). Often they deal with lonely, whiskey-drinking, spaghetti-eating men and mysteriously missing women, set in some desolate urban Japanese milieu. Add talking cats, fish falling from the sky, and KFC’s Colonel Sanders come to life, and  you have a typical Murakami novel.

What I really like about Murakami is that despite all the weirdness going on in his books, he never makes you scratch your head. In Murakami’s world, it is acceptable that the impossible and inexplicable happens. His protagonists are mostly solitary and melancholic, and the people they meet are often funny but just as often insane or even tragic. Every Murakami novel is a treat, despite the weirdness, the loneliness, the melancholy and the frantic searches for missing lovers who are most of the time sadly never found. Good Murakami books to start with would be The Wind-up Bird Chronicle if you’re in for the unrealistic, or Norwegian Wood if you prefer realistic love stories (however sad, of course).