Christopher Harding

Book cover image

Narrated By: Christopher Harding

Duration: 16 hours and 45 minutes

What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Chris Harding's enormously enjoyable new book distils Japan's long, complex and fascinating history into the stories of twenty remarkable individuals. These vivid and entertaining portraits take the reader from the earliest written accounts of Japan right through to the life of the current empress, Masako. We encounter shamans and warlords, poets and revolutionaries, scientists, artists and adventurers - each offering insights of their own into this extraordinary place.

For anyone new to Japan, this book is the ideal introduction. For anyone already deeply involved with it, this is a book filled with surprises and pleasures.

© Christopher Harding 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020


Collected biographies, Biography: historical, political and military, Asian history

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Skilled, ambitious, mightily impressive ... Harding turns out to be as adept at describing the country's artistic development as he is at unpicking its brutal politics. Another of his talents is a sharp eye for the telling quote that makes these distant presences tangible ... a marvellous read, full of startling information.

Sunday Times

Splendid ... It's an effective way of telling an unfamiliar story, leavening the course of social change with plenty of enjoyable individual details.

Sunday Times

The people included in this look at the lives of 20 of Japan's most notable characters are not, it's fair to say, household names, but historian and broadcaster Christopher Harding brings them to life with warmth and insight. Together, they offer a great primer to the nation's expansive, dynamic story.

History Revealed, Book of the Month

An enjoyable romp through the ages across the Japanese archipelago ... Harding is in his element ... A tour de force, this imaginative book may well be the "ideal introduction" for anyone new to Japan ... Vividly written, there are certainly some interesting surprises to savour along the way.

BBC History Magazine

A fresh and fascinating perspective ... By shifting focus without losing the renowned figures or the sweeping trends but rather leavening them with formerly unsung individuals, Harding is able to say something new about the history of Japan and reinvigorate old stories. As such, this book can act as a primer for the archipelago's long and complex story, or as a refreshing take on familiar periods for those already well-versed in the emperors, shoguns and battlefields.