The best books on Japanese aesthetics

Who am I?

I've spent the last three decades thinking about Japanese aesthetics, and in particular if and how they can be meaningfully used beyond Japan. I'm the author of several books on the subject: Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, Place Time and Being in Japanese Architecture, This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual, and most recently, The Constructed Other: Japanese Architecture in the Western Mind. I teach about Asian Pacific architecture at the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa.


I wrote...

This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual

By Kevin Nute,

Book cover of This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual

What is my book about?

This is the first book to analyze Japanese architecture from a phenomenological perspective, and to explain how buildings can be designed to help us both celebrate and overcome our individuality. It shows how buildings can not only serve as extensions of the body, to effectively help affirm what, where, and when we are, but can also enable us to share the normally subjective experiences of thishere and now with others.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Book of Tea

Kevin Nute Why did I love this book?

Okakura links Taoist and Zen philosophy to the tangible world by way of the aesthetics of tea, which are actually the aesthetics of life itself.  The title of this slim volume is disarmingly understated, then. It is the most approachable book on aesthetics I know.

By Kakuzo Okakura,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Book of Tea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available in a gorgeous hardcover slipcase edition, this "object d'art" will be sure to add grace and elegance to tea shelves, coffee tables and bookshelves. A keepsake enjoyed by tea lovers for over a hundred years, The Book of Tea Classic Edition will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the seemingly simple act of making and drinking tea.

In 1906 in turn-of-the-century Boston, a small, esoteric book about tea was written with the intention of being read aloud in the famous salon of Isabella Gardner, Boston's most notorious socialite. It was authored by Okakura Kakuzo, a Japanese philosopher, art…


Book cover of The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight Into Beauty

Kevin Nute Why did I love this book?

Yanagi argues that wabi and sabi are actually expressions of shibusa, and finds the essence of all three in directness and authenticity. Despite Elizabeth Gordon devoting two entire issues of House Beautiful to shibui in 1960, it remains largely overlooked today.

By Soetsu Yanagi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Unknown Craftsman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

craftsman working in a set tradition for a lifetime? What is the value of handwork? Why should even the roughly lacquered rice bowl of a Japanese farmer be thought beautiful? The late Soetsu Yanagi was the first to fully explore the traditional Japanese appreciation for objects born, not made.' Mr. Yanagi sees folk art as a manifestation of the essential world from which art, philosophy, and religion arise and in which the barriers between them disappear. The implications of the author's ideas are both far-reaching and practical. Soetsu Yanagi is often'


Book cover of In Praise of Shadows

Kevin Nute Why did I love this book?

Like The Book of Tea, In Praise appears to be a straightforward lament over the rapid loss of traditional values in modernizing Japan, but it repays multiple re-reading. On closer reading it is found to reflect the "both and" sentiment common in early 20th century Japan and summed up in the term wakon yosai, "Japanese spirit Western learning."

By Jun'ichiro Tanizaki,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In Praise of Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


An essay on aesthetics by the Japanese novelist, this book explores architecture, jade, food, and even toilets, combining an acute sense of the use of space in buildings. The book also includes descriptions of laquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure.


Book cover of Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden

Kevin Nute Why did I love this book?

This book was far ahead of its time in explaining the active manipulation of space and time in traditional Japanese gardens, from the diminutive tsuboniwa courtyard gardens that transported the city dweller to the heart of the wilderness, to the temple gardens that procured remote features of the natural landscape.

By Teiji Itoh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Photographs highlight this study of the history and creation of the Japanese courtyard borrowed-landscape gardens


Book cover of Wabi, Sabi, Suki: The Essence of Japanese Beauty

Kevin Nute Why did I love this book?

This beautifully illustrated book is difficult to find now. The images effectively speak for themselves, however, and make up for the inevitable shortcomings of even the most informed attempts to sum up these concepts verbally.

By Teiji Itoh (editor), Ikko Tanaka (editor), Tsune Sesoko (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wabi, Sabi, Suki as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essay on concepts which form the basis of traditional Japanese philosophy, art and culture.


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Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in aesthetics, Japan, and tea?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about aesthetics, Japan, and tea.

Aesthetics Explore 59 books about aesthetics
Japan Explore 462 books about Japan
Tea Explore 35 books about tea