Oddball Review: “Just Enough”

This is probably one of the strangest book reviews I've done.

"Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green From Traditional Japan" By Azby Brown
ISBN-10: 4770030746
ISBN-13: 978-4770030740

This is a strange book to review, because I'm not really reviewing it as a progeeky career book.  I'm reviewing it as an example of a book that is a product of a very geeky mind and passionate interest.  It may not be a book you want to read – but it's an example of a book you may want to write.

This book takes a look at the sustainability practices of Edo Japan – in short, how Edo Japan dealt with recycling, reuse, keeping the land viable, and keeping the economy going without doing lasting damage to the environment.  If that sounds oddly modern, there's really nothing modern about surviving, and Japan had suffered it's times of devastating war and waste.  Those periods of history make you think about how to avoid them in the future.

Of course the subject also sounds like one that wouldn't be, well, interesting to many people outside of folks like the artist/designer author and people deep into environment sciences and issues.  Yes, issues of green technology are vital, but the core idea of the book sounds highly academic.

That's where the book's unique take comes in.

The book is written as half-travelouge, half-discussion.  The author takes the reader on a fictional tour of Edo Japan, starting in a small town and ending in the big city.  Along the way various fictional characters are met  and their tales illustrate the practices and culture that make the economy and society sustainable.  Illustrations (some based on traditional books) help communicate more information.

In between the fictional accounts, there are discussions of what lessons we can learn from the various levels of society.  Oddly, these aren't as disruptive as one may expect.

In the end, the book is quite good at communicating the practices the author wants to illustrate and its usually non-preachy and rather realistic.  The author has some moments where he over-idealizes the Edo period or makes a few questionable leaps of logic, but overall the book is an impressive job (it certainly made me think).

So really what you're reading is a kind of historical fanfiction based on real-life practices and research, written by a person with a deep passion for the subject.  In short, a project of pure distilled geekery.

So here's the odd thing.

I can't recommend this book as a general career book or even a specific one – because it's not.  It's a book on environmental practices.

The thing is I can recommend this book to you, the current or future professional geek, because this is an absolutely perfect example of turning what you're enthused about into a work.  It's a fantastic example of someone turning passion into something real and solid.

In short it's something you should want to create.

So should you buy this.  Well . . . if you are into Japanese culture, sustainability, and interesting writing, you'd enjoy it.  If you think you'd enjoy it, then you'll enjoy reading a book that is a great example of the kind of things you'd want to create.  Otherwise . . .  I'm not so sure.

As I said, one weird review.  But then again hey, do we do things "normally " here?  I think not . . .

Steven Savage

P.S. And of course there's the questions "Is this a good book for understanding sustainability," and the answer is actually "yes."  I gained quite a lot from it, as it fits a lot of my interests.  It may also be a good gift book.