This 2023 curated list unveils a selection of literary gems that capture the essence of Japan's storytelling prowess. From evocative tales of love and loss to mind-bending explorations of the human psyche, these novels navigate the intricate landscapes painted by Japanese authors.
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa; Translated by Eric Ozaw
With its exquisite prose, emotional depth, and compelling narrative, Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is both poignant and gripping, offering solace to those mending from heartbreak. A source of support, warmth, and joy, it is an ideal read for enthusiasts of Before the Coffee Gets Cold and The Cat Who Saved Books. Takako is taken aback by the discovery of new realms within the book-lined shelves of the shop. As summer transitions into autumn, Satoru and Takako realize they share more common ground than initially presumed. The Morisaki bookshop imparts valuable lessons about life, love, and the therapeutic influence of books.
Nipponia Nippon by Kazushige Abe; Translated by Kerim Yasar
Secluded in his Tokyo apartment, 17-year-old Haruo devotes his time to online research on the endangered Japanese crested ibis, Nipponia Nippon. Sustained by an allowance from his parents, he delves deeper into a fantasy realm where he perceives a unique connection with the last of these majestic birds, confined to a conservation center on the island of Sado. His conclusion is straightforward: freeing the birds from a society that fails to appreciate them is his destiny, using whatever means necessary.
The Devil’s Flute Murders by Seishi Yokomizo; Translated by Jim Rion
Locked room mysteries are experiencing a resurgence, and this classic from the golden age of crime introduces a mind-bending Japanese mystery by the renowned Seishi Yokomizo. His fictional detective Kosuke Kindaichi is a pop culture phenomenon akin to Sherlock Holmes. In this tale, the beloved scruffy sleuth Kindaichi delves into a series of gruesome murders within the feuding family of a brooding, troubled composer, whose most famous work sends shivers down the spine of all who hear it. Readers will be thoroughly captivated by one of Yokomizo’s most ingenious guessing games, where everyone harbors secrets.
What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama; Translated by Alison Watts
A restless retail assistant strives to acquire new skills, a mother endeavors to overcome a demotion at work following maternity leave, a conscientious accountant dreams of opening an antique store, and a recently retired salaryman searches for newfound purpose. In Komachi’s distinctive book recommendations, they will discover just what they need to achieve their dreams. What You Are Looking For Is in the Library revolves around the enchantment of libraries and the exploration of connections. This inspirational tale illustrates how, by listening to our hearts, seizing opportunities, and reaching out, we too can fulfill our lifelong dreams. Which book will you recommend?
Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Riku Onda; Translated by Philip Gabriel
Tender and intense, Honeybees and Distant Thunder unfolds the unflinching tale of love, courage, and rivalry as three young individuals grapple with the true meaning of friendship. Set in a small coastal town near Tokyo, a prestigious piano competition becomes the backdrop for two feverish weeks, during which these students navigate some of the most joyous and painful moments of their lives. Unaware of the profound impact they will have on each other, each character undergoes unexpected transformations, forever altering the course of their lives. Riku Onda, celebrated in Japan, intricately weaves a narrative immersed in the world of music, from piano masterpieces to the hum of bees and the distant thunder, building towards a surprising conclusion in this rich and vibrant novel.
Words Paridhi Badgotri