The most recommended Samurai books

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to Samurais, and here are their favorite Samurai books.
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Book cover of Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

Chris Bradford Author Of The Way of the Warrior

From my list on samurais and ninjas.

Why am I passionate about this?

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!

Chris' book list on samurais and ninjas

Chris Bradford Why did Chris love 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!

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.…


Book cover of The Samurai's Gift

Astrid V. J. Author Of The Companion's Tale

From my list on uplifting and transformational stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning and USA Today bestselling South African author, social anthropologist, and transformational life coach. Human transformation and the question of human social nature are key themes in all of my writing, which explores the experiences of people on the margins or with a background of overlapping cultures. I am a book dragon who loves reading adventures in almost every genre and that broad scope of my reading explorations has wormed its way into my writing style which, though broadly defined as fantasy, encompasses elements from other styles in a rich and ‘aromatic’ blend.

Astrid's book list on uplifting and transformational stories

Astrid V. J. Why did Astrid love this book?

Don’t be fooled by the cover! This might be marketed as a children’s book, but the message about the mind-body connection is so beautifully and brilliantly portrayed, this becomes a book for everyone. We have more power than most of us believe, and many have no idea how to tap into that power, but this book, if used correctly, can become a focal point for the most powerful mental shift you’ve ever taken. It’s a beautiful story with absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant illustrations that bring the whole thing alive and crystalize the visualization that you could implement into your own life.

By Kristi Shimada, Eko Setiawan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Yoshi's illness transports him into another world, where he journeys with his favorite Samurai and encounters a dragon! It is a magical story that uses imagination and visualization to help children heal their bodiy, mind, and spirit.


Book cover of Katsuno's Revenge and Other Tales of the Samurai

Alina Lee Author Of Paper Crane Memories

From my list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I was introduced to Japanese culture and history through anime. But I decided to dig a little deeper, reading history books and looking up more and more information. I was fascinated by what was presented of “Old Japan,” both the misconceptions that were spread by pop culture and by the surprising details that it gets right that no one would believe. This fascination is one of the most consistent things about me through the years, and the idea of delving into works of my own that merged samurai drama with lesbian relationships has been a recurring desire of mine for years.

Alina's book list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan

Alina Lee Why did Alina love this book?

These eight short stories are samurai-focused historical fiction done with an appreciation for the traditions and the legacy of the warrior class of Old Japan. They all come from the years of the Warring States period, which many argue was the heyday of the samurai and the height of their prowess. These stories capture the values and emotions that drove these warriors, even outside the battlefield. These stories are framed almost like snapshots or sketches, capturing the moment and the character of that moment in vivid fashion.

By Asataro Miyamori,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Katsuno's Revenge and Other Tales of the Samurai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These eight compelling stories offer valuable insights into Japanese culture. Recounted by a distinguished scholar, they feature scenes from samurai life that embody the concept of Bushido, the "way of the warrior." Their portrayals of loyalty, romance, passion, and heroism offer a true reflection of the values of the Japanese knighthood.
Largely fact-based, these fables originated among the traditional storytellers of Japan and were later adapted into romances and historical dramas. Asataro Miyamori, a professor of English at the Oriental University in Tokyo, drew upon authentic sources in compiling this volume, which first appeared in 1920. In the preface, Miyamori…


Book cover of An Imperial Concubine's Tale: Scandal, Shipwreck, and Salvation in Seventeenth-Century Japan

Anne Walthall Author Of The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration

From my list on amazing women during the age of the samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was studying Japan in graduate school, my advisor once told me that he hoped I wouldn’t pursue research in women’s history, calling it a fad. He was wrong, but it took me well over ten years to figure that out. Thanks to colleagues and friends, I helped build the field of Japanese women’s history in English, especially for the early modern period. As professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine, I remain committed to the possibility of uncovering the lives of yet more amazing women who challenge the stereotypes of docile wife and seductive geisha all too prevalent in fiction set in Japan.

Anne's book list on amazing women during the age of the samurai

Anne Walthall Why did Anne love this book?

In recounting Nakanoin Nakako’s history, Rowley affords us insight into three worlds—the imperial court in Kyoto, a remote village on the Izu Peninsula, and a Buddhist convent. Born into a family of court nobles in early seventeenth-century Kyoto, Nakako’s life of privilege as an imperial concubine came to an abrupt end when the emperor discovered that she participated in wild parties and sexual escapades. Furious, he wanted her killed. Instead the shogun, his titular subordinate and de facto boss, sentenced her to exile on a distant island. She ended up working as a teacher for farmers before returning to the city of her birth fourteen years later and becoming a nun. Hers is the remarkable story of a resilient woman and her war-torn world.

By G.G. Rowley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Imperial Concubine's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Japan in the early seventeenth century was a wild place. Serial killers stalked the streets of Kyoto at night, while noblemen and women mingled freely at the imperial palace, drinking sake and watching kabuki dancing in the presence of the emperor's principal consort. Among these noblewomen was an imperial concubine named Nakanoin Nakako, who in 1609 became embroiled in a sex scandal involving both courtiers and young women in the emperor's service. As punishment, Nakako was banished to an island in the Pacific Ocean, but she never reached her destination. Instead, she was shipwrecked and spent fourteen years in a…


Book cover of Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life

Anne Walthall Author Of The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration

From my list on amazing women during the age of the samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was studying Japan in graduate school, my advisor once told me that he hoped I wouldn’t pursue research in women’s history, calling it a fad. He was wrong, but it took me well over ten years to figure that out. Thanks to colleagues and friends, I helped build the field of Japanese women’s history in English, especially for the early modern period. As professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine, I remain committed to the possibility of uncovering the lives of yet more amazing women who challenge the stereotypes of docile wife and seductive geisha all too prevalent in fiction set in Japan.

Anne's book list on amazing women during the age of the samurai

Anne Walthall Why did Anne love this book?

Want to know how samurai women managed their high status but meager incomes? This engaging memoir takes us inside the nitty-gritty of their everyday life that was frugal by necessity. We learn how samurai women dressed, the importance they placed on meticulous grooming, and how they dealt with in-laws, concubines, and a runaway daughter. It shows how in principle samurai women were expected to practice the martial arts with the naginata (a long, thin halberd), but in fact, they were too busy with household chores to receive more than token training.

For the history buff, the memoir also paints a vivid picture of the civil war that erupted in the Mito domain in 1864 and its devastating consequences for the women whose families ended up on the losing side. 

By Kikue Yamakawa, Kate Wildman Nakai (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women of the Mito Domain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the recollection of the author's mother, other relatives, and family records, this is a vivid picture of the everyday life of a samurai household in the last years of the Tokugawa period.


Book cover of African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan

Uma Krishnaswami Author Of Book Uncle and Me

From Uma's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Knitter Ex-child Daydreamer Bird-watcher

Uma's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Uma Krishnaswami Why did Uma love this book?

I loved this deep dive into a history that I knew absolutely nothing about.

It’s the story of an enslaved man from East Africa transported by the Portuguese to Japan, left behind there with a Jesuit mission. He came to fight alongside feudal lord Odo Nobunaga to become Japan’s first foreign-born samurai. What? He’d been in India before that?

Every chapter yielded something new I didn’t know and it’s all really well contextualized. The writers make it clear where the gaps in documentation lie, even as they tell a gripping story and bring a larger-than-life character to the page.

By Thomas Lockley, Geoffrey Girard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A readable, compassionate account of an extraordinary life.” —The Washington Post

The remarkable life of history’s first foreign-born samurai, and his astonishing journey from Northeast Africa to the heights of Japanese society.

Warrior. Samurai. Legend.

When Yasuke arrived in Japan in the late 1500s, he had already traversed much of the known world. Kidnapped as a child in Northeast Africa, he served as a bodyguard to the head of the Jesuits in Asia, traveling to India and China, and eventually arriving in Japan, where everything would change.

Most Japanese people had never seen an African man before. Some believed he…


Book cover of Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan

Antony Cummins Author Of The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

From my list on hidden Japan and the real samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not the type of person who likes to say “you are wrong” in fact I am the type of person who likes to say “let us add this to the whole story”. When you picture Japan you do not picture: slavery, snake dancers, or even samurai removing their shoes outdoors in a gesture of politeness to a superior, you do not imagine Italian Jesuits, western traders, pirates, and Chinese samurai, but they are all a part of actual samurai life. It is my task to add those lost items to our understanding of Japan and the samurai, but of course, in addition to this, I have to correct the story of the ninja, simply because it is a false one. The shinobi as they should be known were disfigured in the 20th century and I want to reveal their true face.

Antony's book list on hidden Japan and the real samurai

Antony Cummins Why did Antony love this book?

At the moment Yasuke - the Black Samurai is very prominent in the samurai enthusiast community, and rightly so, he was an African samurai who made his way up the ranks. However, not much is known about his story, so while it is fascinating, there is too little documentation to delve further. This is not the case with William Adams, a Londoner who made his way to Japan, who not only became a samurai but then also became a banner-man (Hatamoto) and leader of a small state. We have so much historical documentation about him and his story is captivating.

While he only arrived at the end of the wars, he was still around at one of the most important times of Japanese history. He never made it back home, but this was one Englishman who made his mark on Japanese culture. Something I hope to do.

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?

An eye-opening account of the first encounter between England and Japan, by the acclaimed author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg.

In 1611, the merchants of London's East India Company received a mysterious letter from Japan, written several years previously by a marooned English mariner named William Adams. Foreigners had been denied access to Japan for centuries, yet Adams had been living in this unknown land for years. He had risen to the highest levels in the ruling shogun's court, taken a Japanese name, and was now offering his services as adviser and interpreter.

Seven adventurers were sent to Japan with orders to…


Book cover of The Shogun’s Queen

Peter Popham Author Of Tokyo: The City at the End of the World

From my list on modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teenager, I became fascinated by Japan – by the mysteries of Zen, the exotic atmosphere cooked up by its great novelists, the serene beauty of the countryside captured in old photographs. Then I moved to Tokyo and for eleven years was immersed in Japanese culture. It was like getting to know a complex human being, I went from bafflement and revulsion through fascination and infatuation, arriving at a degree of understanding and affection. I love Japan and feel I know it quite intimately. But the variety of books on my list give an idea of how many different ways this great, elusive civilization can be approached.

Peter's book list on modern Japan

Peter Popham Why did Peter love this book?

Japan was ejected from centuries of tranquil isolation by the arrival of the American Commodore Perry’s menacing ‘Black Ships’ in 1853, and then began the tumultuous decades from which modern Japan emerged. With deep knowledge born of many years living in Japan, Lesley Downer has wrested four wonderfully romantic yarns from this fascinating era, of which The Shogun’s Queen is the first: the tale, rooted in true events, of how a brave woman from Japan’s deep south risks all to save the old regime.

By Lesley Downer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shogun’s Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year is 1853, and a young Japanese girl's world is about to be turned upside down.

When black ships carrying barbarians arrive on the shores of Japan, the Satsuma clan's way of life is threatened. But it's not just the samurai who must come together to fight: the beautiful, headstrong Okatsu is also given a new destiny by her feudal lord - to save the realm.

Armed only with a new name, Princess Atsu, as she is now known, journeys to the women's palace of Edo Castle, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. Behind…


Book cover of The Book of Five Rings

Tobias Hurwitz

From Tobias' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Guitar shredder Teacher Mentor Creator

Tobias' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Tobias Hurwitz Why did Tobias love this book?

Japanese Samurai culture has been dumbed down by film and TV until it’s not much different from Hollywood’s portrayals of the Wild West. What of the real 16th-century Samurai? What does he have to say? What of the deepest Zen wisdom that enabled him to survive and stay calm while fighting against overwhelming odds?

According to legend, the greatest Samurai swordsman of all time was Miyamoto Musashi, who penned this book. Musashi’s Zen wisdom – straight from feudal Japan - reads like fine poetry and can be applied to today’s world, much like Sun Zu’s The Art of War. Zen is a part of Buddhism and yet, paradoxically, a part of combat.

This book makes me think, makes me feel, makes me ponder the nature of life, spirituality, and death. Highly recommended! 

By Miyamoto Musashi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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.


Book cover of Seppuku: A History of Samurai Suicide

Antony Cummins Author Of The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

From my list on hidden Japan and the real samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not the type of person who likes to say “you are wrong” in fact I am the type of person who likes to say “let us add this to the whole story”. When you picture Japan you do not picture: slavery, snake dancers, or even samurai removing their shoes outdoors in a gesture of politeness to a superior, you do not imagine Italian Jesuits, western traders, pirates, and Chinese samurai, but they are all a part of actual samurai life. It is my task to add those lost items to our understanding of Japan and the samurai, but of course, in addition to this, I have to correct the story of the ninja, simply because it is a false one. The shinobi as they should be known were disfigured in the 20th century and I want to reveal their true face.

Antony's book list on hidden Japan and the real samurai

Antony Cummins Why did Antony love this book?

Who does not know about Seppuku, or Hara-kiri (also incorrectly said as Hari-Kari)? Andrew in his book gives a great in-depth discussion about its history, its customs, and its position in Japanese society. I have no idea why this book is not a best seller. I know I have used it in my own books more than once. People think they know about ritual suicide in Japanese culture, but more often than not it is “movie knowledge” and Andrew’s book is a solid piece of research on the subject, it should be in every samurai fan’s book collection. 

By Andrew Rankin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of thrilling samurai tales tracing the history of seppuku from ancient times to the twentieth century. The history of seppuku -- Japanese ritual suicide by cutting the stomach, sometimes referred to as hara-kiri -- spans a millennium, and came to be favoured by samurai as an honourable form of death. Here, for the first time in English, is a book that charts the history of seppuku from ancient times to the twentieth century through a collection of swashbuckling tales from history and literature.