The best books about samurai and ninja

The Books I Picked & Why

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Book One

By Lian Hearn

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!


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The Book of Five Rings

By Miyamoto Musashi

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.


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Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

By Giles Milton

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!


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Essence of Ninjutsu

By Masaaki Hatsumi

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.


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Samurai: The World of the Warrior

By Stephen Turnbull

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.


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