10 books like Iron & Silk

By Mark Salzman,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Iron & Silk. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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From the Land of Green Ghosts

By Pascal Khoo Thwe,

Book cover of From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey

"Nearly every night I dream of the Shan State, of Mandalay, of the jungle. The landscapes of my dreams resemble real ones, yet they shift like images on silver screens…" Pascal Khoo Thwe’s mesmerizing biography stretches from his grandmother’s creation stories to civil war and a chance conversation about James Joyce which leads to a new life in Britain. A minor masterpiece.

From the Land of Green Ghosts

By Pascal Khoo Thwe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked From the Land of Green Ghosts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The astonishing story of a young man's upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge.

In lyrical prose, Pascal Khoo Thwe describes his childhood as a member of the Padaung hill tribe, where ancestor worship and communion with spirits blended with the tribe's recent conversion to Christianity. In the 1930s, Pascal's grandfather captured an Italian Jesuit, mistaking him for a giant or a wild beast; the Jesuit in turn converted the tribe. (The Padaung are famous for their 'giraffe women' - so-called because their necks are ritually…


A Fortune-Teller Told Me

By Tiziano Terzani,

Book cover of A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

Warned by a Hong-Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for a whole year, the author – a vastly experienced Far East war and revolutions correspondent of the German Der Spiegel – took what he called “the first step into an unknown world.” It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years he ever spent: he was marked by death and instead he was reborn. Geography expanded under his feet. Magnificently written in the best traditions of travel literature. A full immersion into the invisible world and belief systems that shape Southeast Asian cultures.

A Fortune-Teller Told Me

By Tiziano Terzani,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Fortune-Teller Told Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Warned by a fortune-teller not to risk flying, the author - a seasoned correspondent - took to travelling by rail, road and sea. Consulting fortune-tellers and shamans wherever he went, he learnt to understand and respect older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity.

William Shawcross in the Literary Review praised Terzani for 'his beautifully written adventure story... a voyage of self-discovery... He sees fortune-tellers, soothsayers, astrologers, chiromancers, seers, shamans, magicians, palmists, frauds, men and women of god (many gods) all over Asia and in Europe too... Almost every page and every story…


The Lover

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of The Lover

This classic of illicit passion is so beautifully written, so mesmeric in its poetic prose and recreation of a long-gone world, it blew my mind when I first read it and changed my ideas about the possibilities of writing. The young Duras meets a Chinese man on a ferry crossing the Mekong at the start of this autobiographical novel. Their differences in age, wealth, class, race, and expectations, all play out, and it’s a novel as much about exploitation as sexual desire. It’s multi-layered, experimental, but has a real narrative tug. I love it!

The Lover

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Lover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sensational international bestseller, and winner of Frances' coveted Prix Goncourt, 'The Lover' is an unforgettable portrayal of the incandescent relationship between two lovers, and of the hate that slowly tears the girl's family apart.

Saigon, 1930s: a poor young French girl meets the elegant son of a wealthy Chinese family. Soon they are lovers, locked into a private world of passion and intensity that defies all the conventions of their society.

A sensational international bestseller, 'The Lover' is disturbing, erotic, masterly and simply unforgettable.


Survival in the Killing Fields

By Haing Ngor, Roger Warner,

Book cover of Survival in the Killing Fields

There are beach reads and there are must reads. Ngor’s memoir is the latter, preferably consumed in the secure comforts of one’s own home. Known for his Oscar-winning role in the movie The Killing Fields, Ngor is a Cambodian doctor who survived the country-wide massacre committed by the Khmer Rouge (who were funded by the Chinese Communists). He narrates his personal journey through the deepest horrors in human history, full of savagery, unrelenting brutality, and often sheer madness. It is a heavy story, difficult and disturbing, but also a story of the human spirit. We do not need to look far to find the true heart of darkness.  

Survival in the Killing Fields

By Haing Ngor, Roger Warner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Survival in the Killing Fields as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an autobiographical account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, written by the Oscar-winning actor from "The Killing Fields", whose own experiences under the Khmer Rouge were more shocking than those of Dith Pran, the character he played. The Khmer Rouge, led by Maoist fanatics, laid waste to the social fabric of Cambodia, forcing the entire population into agricultural labour camps and murdering those they considered bourgeois or intellectual. As a doctor, Haing S. Ngor was a special target of the Khmer Rouge; his family was wiped out, his wife died from starvation in his arms, and…


Tao of Jeet Kune Do

By Bruce Lee,

Book cover of Tao of Jeet Kune Do

At first glance this book would seem to have nothing to do with Vikings at all, and it doesn’t. Regardless, this fascinating book is a classic when it comes to understanding approaches to researching combat in general. It shows how to break the mold of preconceived notions and ideas related to researching combat, a skill crucial for those studying any field of direct and dynamic violence.

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

By Bruce Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tao of Jeet Kune Do as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Compiled from Bruce Lee's notes and essays and originally published in 1975, Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the best-selling martial arts book in the world. This iconic work explains the science and philosophy behind jeet kune do—the art Lee invented—and includes hundreds of Lee's illustrations. Topics include Zen and enlightenment, kicking, striking, grappling, and footwork. With introductions by Linda Lee and editor Gilbert Johnson, Tao of Jeet Kune Do is essential reading for any practitioner and offers a brief glimpse into the mind of one of the world's greatest martial artists.


The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts

By Raúl Sánchez García,

Book cover of The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts

The Eastern tradition of "sports" is entirely different from the Western (indeed, many practitioners of martial arts in the East don't regard them as competitive sports at all, but disciplines where one competes, in a sense, with oneself). I wrote a piece on the history of karate for Smithsonian Magazine, since it is making its debut in Tokyo in August, and found this book (despite its dry and academic title) to be a fascinating introduction to the surprising growth of Japanese martial arts around the world.

The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts

By Raúl Sánchez García,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Historical Sociology of Japanese Martial Arts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first long-term historical-sociological analysis of the development of Japanese martial arts.

Uses the theoretical framework of figurational sociology and draws on rich empirical data.

A new contribution to our understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics of state formation.

Considers the neglected role of women in martial arts.

Girl Fights Back

By Jacques Antoine,

Book cover of Girl Fights Back: An Emily Kane Adventure Book 1

This is a book for Japanese martial arts lovers like me. Every fight is described in realistic detail so I can ‘see’ every fighting technique. Emily is a half-Japanese teenager whose American father is ex-military and trying to hide his family from some mysterious threat. Of course, Emily is taught a bunch of special skills in case she ever needs them, such as various martial arts and bushcraft. Unlike other books like this, I find her training feels natural. She learned martial arts at a local dojo and her days in the woods with her dad were ‘camping,’ not obvious paramilitary training, so when she started fighting back, it felt right to me. This isn’t a true urban fantasy novel, but there’s enough intrigue and strange events that it seems imaginary. 

Girl Fights Back

By Jacques Antoine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Emily Kane has gone missing…

…and the world’s spy agencies are determined to find her.

They think she’s been genetically modified as a human weapon. Now, she'll need all her skills to make it to tomorrow.

Her father taught her everything he knew, how to hide, how to live off the land… and how to fight like a demon, without mercy or remorse.

When the mercenaries came, her family fled. But Emily Kane has had enough of running. Can she take the fight to her enemies and survive… and if she can, will she still be human?

If you love…


When Buddhists Attack

By Jeffrey K. Mann,

Book cover of When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts

Geoffrey Mann does a great job of laying out the history of Buddhism and Zen and its links to the martial arts. Thoroughly researched and widely referenced, it’s definitely the place to start, and the hardback edition makes a handsome addition to any martial arts library.

When Buddhists Attack

By Jeffrey K. Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uncover the historical truth about Buddhist warrior monks with this informative and enlightening book.

Film, television and popular fiction have long exploited the image of the serene Buddhist monk who is master of the deadly craft of hand-to-hand combat. While these media overly romanticize the relationship between a philosophy of non-violence and the art of fighting, When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts shows this link to be nevertheless real, even natural.

Exploring the origins of Buddhism and the ethos of the Japanese samurai, university professor and martial arts practitioner Jeffrey Mann traces the close…


The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

By Bodhidharma, Red Pine,

Book cover of The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

A succinct insight into the Bodhidharma legend and some of the sutras he may have written or taught. Nothing much about martial arts, but a good insight into the man, and more importantly the thinking behind the study of the Way.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

By Bodhidharma, Red Pine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fifth-century Indian Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma is credited with bringing Zen to China. Although the tradition that traces its ancestry back to him did not flourish until nearly two hundred years after his death, today millions of Zen Buddhists and students of kung fu claim him as their spiritual father.

While others viewed Zen practice as a purification of the mind or a stage on the way to perfect enlightenment, Bodhidharma equated Zen with buddhahood and believed that it had a place in everyday life. Instead of telling his disciples to purify their minds, he pointed them to rock walls,…


The Book of Five Rings

By Miyamoto Musashi,

Book cover of The Book of Five Rings

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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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