My wife is so awesome. I've been working a lot of overtime and she felt kinda bad for me so Mrs. SB bought me a couple of books to sooth my doldrums.
The first book is Yokai Attack! It's a nice guide to traditional Japanese monsters. I've always enjoyed creature tomes but this is the best one I've come across. It has the more famous yokai like the the onibaba, the Kappa and the Tengu but also contains weirder stuff like the woman with a mouth in the back of her head, the hand washing demon and the tree with human faced peaches. My personal favorite is the slash-mouthed woman. Yokai Attack is presented as a survival guide, but what really makes this work so well is that it concisely describes the various monsters while putting them in a cultural context that's easy for a westerner to understand. The readability of the test is due to the biracial husband and wife team that wrote the book. It's worth noting that the art is wonderful too. It's a nice cross of modern manga styles and traditional wood block printing. Highly recommended to creature fans and folks interested in Japanese culture.
Here is a video about the writers of Yokai Attack! (and uh Halloween in Japan)
Yokai Attack also makes a nice companion volume for fans of Japanese horror films.
The 2nd book Mrs. Swinebread got for me was a volume of Oishinbo (the Japanese Cuisine story). Oishinbo is one of the most popular manga series of all time. I was quite surprised that portions of it are now being adapted into english because, well, Oishinbo is about food. It had a huge affect on Japanese culture so I guess, now that I think about, it was just a matter of time for Viz to publish it. Now when I tell folks that comics can really tell any kind of story I'll have an edition of Oishinbo to prove it. One of the guys I work with is a Gourmet, and he's salivating to to borrow my this book once i'm done with it. here's copy from VIZ website:
Each volume of Oishinbo follows Yamaoka and his colleagues through another adventure on their quest for the Ultimate Menu. Now, the highlights from the hundred-plus volume series have been selected and compiled into A la Carte editions: bite-sized chunks of story arranged by subject that add up to a full-course manga meal!
Japanese Cuisine introduces us to the fundamental ingredients--rice, sashimi, green tea, and dashi (cooking stock)--that constitute the soul of the Japanese kitchen. In each story we learn about the proper preparation and presentation of different dishes, as well as their history and cultural significance. The result is a moveable feast of a book, as informative as it is engaging.
Now those of you that love food but say you don't like comics no longer have any excuse.