In contrast to "Memoirs of a Geisha" by A. Golden, Liza Dalby lived for 14 months within Geisha communities and can provide a more authentic and broader view than beforementioned Golden, whose publication received a lot of critics by his geisha, who felt misunderstood in some aspects.
Whereas Golden has the view of a westerner on something exotic, Dalby interviewed geisha, ex-geisha, owners of geisha houses etc., worked as a Geisha and shows us the life from within the Japanese society.
I especially like how Dalby's research questions are often interwowen by funny anecdotes and stories not only of herself but the history of her trainers and Kyoto. The book is easy to read and hard to lay down after you started. What it means to be a geisha has a lot of answers, and this ethnography will challenge popular opinions like "they are playthings for men!" "Better prostitutes!" "Isolated and can't have their own will!".
The only drawback could be that Dalby's research took place in the mid-1970s, but the author explains what has changed since then and guides the reader well.
I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.