By Stephen Turnbull
Thames & Hudson, $19.95, 192 pages

“So…you want to be a samurai?” Imagine yourself as a potential samurai in the year 1615. In order to gain the wisdom of a warrior, you’ll need to prepare for the future. Samurai: The Japanese Warrior’s Unofficial Manual is the perfect place to start. This guide is the creation of author Stephen Turnbull. He begins with a brief history of Japan up to 1615. You’ll learn about the lords of the region and get an introduction to Japan’s geography…and then the fun begins. Training chapters focus on armor, clothing, swords, martial arts, battle and religion. You’ll especially enjoy Turnbull’s humorous quizzes (“Am I a Real Samurai?”), frequently asked questions, ins and outs of bowing and tea ceremonies and tips from experts (like how to prepare a severed head). Turnbull’s approach to storytelling is a very clever way to raise cultural awareness. Over 125 black and white illustrations complement the witty and fact filled text. Drawings depict historical figures, family crests, weapons and torture techniques. Beautifully modern day battle reenactments add to the magic. Humor is abundant. The guide is so detailed and feels very authentic. It is no surprise that the author is a scholar, teacher, writer and one of the leading authorities on Japanese and samurai culture. By the time you finish reading this book, you’ll be ready to be a great warrior. You’ll certainly have a smile on your face. If only all history was this exciting!

Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin,