The Haiku Apprentice, by Abigail Friedman (Stone Bridge Press, $15), is both a gentle introduction to the art of haiku and a charming travelogue. The author was a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in Japan, when she stumbled upon a haiku-writing group. The book describes how she was welcomed into the group and, through it, learned to write and to love haiku–an art that is simultaneously easy to learn, wildly popular (in Japan anyhow, and to a lesser extent elsewhere), and yet contains enough subtlety and depth to reward decades of study. This book is infused with humor and with thoughtful observations and personal reflections, making it less pretentious and more accessible than most, even when it is discussing the subtleties of Japanese word play and haiku construction. It’s an excellent, companionable guide to haiku and the culture from which it springs.