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Best Kanji Crash Course 

Crazy for Kanji by Eve Kushner

Impassioned otaku eager to devour their beloved manga in the original Nihongo have a friend in Eve Kushner. Although the Berkeley Japanophile adores every last downstroke and dot, she warns that studying these magnificent characters "can also bring one close to insanity." She should know. Published this year by Berkeley's Stone Bridge Press, her latest book, Crazy for Kanji, is funny as well as educational, offering hundreds of games, lessons, and believe-it-or-nots, such as a chart decoding the characters that create famous brand names. For example, the two kanji making up the word "Mitsubishi" mean "three" and "rhombus." (The car company's logo features three rhombi.) Kushner explains her attraction to the topic: "The child in us longs to decode. ... Teasing out the tangles in kanji provides endless entertainment, as well as thrilling epiphanies." Her book brilliantly merges the contemporary — sure to please not just otaku but J-Pop fans and Hello Kittenites — with the antique. Kanji are, after all, pictographs. "Studying kanji brings you into contact with Old Japan — with a pure form of the culture and the Japanese mind," Kushner writes. "Dating back about fifteen hundred years in Japan (and much longer in China), kanji provides a time capsule, giving us insight into the way people once made sense of the world."
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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