The best books about samurai and ninja

Who am I?

I am a black belt martial artist and top ten bestselling children’s author with a life goal of ‘getting kids reading’. As an author, I practise what I term ‘method writing’. For my Young Samurai series, I trained in samurai swordsmanship, karate, ninjutsu, and earned my black belt in Zen Kyu Shin Taijutsu. This ensures my books are not only authentic but have the impact of a flying front kick. Hopefully, my stories will knock you out!


I wrote...

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

By Chris Bradford,

Book cover of Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

What is my book about?

Sword-wielding samurai, deadly ninja, and full-on martial arts action, The Way of the Warrior is an epic adventure story of courage, loyalty, and friendship. Inspired by my own martial arts journey, we follow the young Jack Fletcher as he is shipwrecked on the shores of 16th Century Japan where he learns the way of the warrior with the help of a samurai girl called Akiko in order to battle Dragon Eye, the mysterious assassin who murdered his father!

Over 1.5 million copies sold worldwide, the multi-award-winning Young Samurai is deemed one of Puffin's 70 Best Ever Books, alongside Treasure Island and Robin Hood.

The books I picked & why

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Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

By Lian Hearn,

Book cover of Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

Why this book?

After reading this magical book about a mythical clan of Japanese assassins, I visited the real nightingale floor in Nijō Castle, in Kyoto, and tried to cross it myself! Full of revenge, love, and the mystiques of the ninja, this book is a beautiful woven tale that partly inspired Young Samurai, since it not only excited me about Japan but made me want to tell the parts that weren’t revealed in this story, i.e. the actual true-life secrets of the ninja and samurai!

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

By Lian Hearn,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Across the Nightingale Floor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The most compelling novel to have been published this year' - Amanda Craig, "Observer". In his palace at Inuyama, Lord Iida Sadamu, warlord of the Tohan clan, surveys his famous nightingale floor. Its surface sings at the tread of every human foot, and no assassin can cross it. But 16-year-old Otori Takeo, his family murdered by Iida's warriors, has the magical skills of the Tribe - preternatural hearing, invisibility, a second self - that enable him to enter the lair of the Tohan. He has love in his heart and death at his fingertips...The stunningly powerful bestseller, "Across the Nightingale…


The Book of Five Rings

By Miyamoto Musashi,

Book cover of The Book of Five Rings

Why this book?

A classic of the ages and essential reading for any martial artist, The Book of Five Rings is a guide to self-discipline and learning. But you have to read between the lines, listen to the silences, and practice the way of the warrior yourself in order to get the most from it. The legendary swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi is the blueprint for Jack’s sensei and guardian Masamoto in my Young Samurai book.

The Book of Five Rings

By Miyamoto Musashi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Five Rings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The complete and official edition of the original Japanese text. Translated by Prof. Nabiki Imagawa and Prof. James Ashcroft in 2019 to fix all the previous mistakes present in the old public editions. This is the recommended edition for university specialists and experts in Japanese history who want the full uncensored version of The Book of 5 Rings as the samurai Miyamoto Musashi wrote it in 1645.


Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

By Giles Milton,

Book cover of Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

Why this book?

This historical biography reads like an adventure story. A brilliantly researched and wonderfully written book on William Adams, one of the few foreign samurai to have ever been bestowed such an honour. This figure is not only the starting point for my series (with William Adams re-imagined as a boy in Japan) but also the template for the most classic samurai novels of all time, Shogun by James Clavell. There is so much in this book by Giles Milton that I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Samurai William as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1611 an astonishing letter arrived at the East India Trading Company in London after a tortuous seven-year journey. Englishman William Adams was one of only twenty-four survivors of a fleet of ships bound for Asia, and he had washed up in the forbidden land of Japan.

The traders were even more amazed to learn that, rather than be horrified by this strange country, Adams had fallen in love with the barbaric splendour of Japan - and decided to settle. He had forged a close friendship with the ruthless Shogun, taken a Japanese wife and sired a new, mixed-race family.…


Essence of Ninjutsu

By Masaaki Hatsumi,

Book cover of Essence of Ninjutsu

Why this book?

The 34th grandmaster of ninjutsu, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi has written many books on the art of the ninja. This is one of his best and examines over 1,000 years of the history and legends of the shadow warriors. A seminal book that provided the foundation to my own ninjutsu practise under one of Hatsumi’s students, Sensei Peter Brown. The secrets I learnt proved crucial to writing book 4 of the Young Samurai series, The Ring of Earth when Jack is taken in by a ninja clan.

Essence of Ninjutsu

By Masaaki Hatsumi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Essence of Ninjutsu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looking back almost 1,000 years, the mists of Japan's chaotic past shroud the development of a way of life, an ancient struggle waged against fierce feudal lords who ruled the island nation with swords of steel and a code of death before dishonor. The people of the mountainous regions of what is now Iga prefecture wanted to live in peace, but their lords had other plans-so the people learned the martial arts of self-defense and used their meager farm tools as weapons against the samurai blades of their oppressors. Nine traditions of the ninja arts grew out of this seemingly…


Samurai: The World of the Warrior

By Stephen Turnbull,

Book cover of Samurai: The World of the Warrior

Why this book?

Stephen Turnbull is one of the foremost authorities on the samurai and this book covers all of their military history. Beautifully illustrated and full of intriguing facts about the samurai and their world, this was my go-to book when writing the Young Samurai series. A fascinating read, this makes a beautiful gift for anyone with an interest in samurai or Japan.

Samurai: The World of the Warrior

By Stephen Turnbull,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The world of the samurai, the legendary elite warrior cult of old Japan, has long been associated solely with military history and has remained a mystery to the general reader. In this paperback edition, Stephen Turnbull, the world's leading authority on the samurai, goes beyond the battlefield to paint a picture of the samurai as they really were. This book explores the samurai within the context of an all-encompassing warrior culture that was expressed through art and poetry as much as through violence. Using themed chapters, Turnbull illuminates the samurai through their historical development and their relationship to the world…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Samurais, Japan, and ninjas?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Samurais, Japan, and ninjas.

Samurais Explore 33 books about Samurais
Japan Explore 371 books about Japan
Ninjas Explore 18 books about ninjas

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