Welcome to the third chapter of our lockdown library—a series of great recommendations from our book exchange group.
Times are strange, there’s no denying it, but one thing that never changes is the charm of a good book. Check out our first chapter (Trevor’s picks) and Chiara’s picks in chapter 2 for more background and reading ideas!
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
Tell us about yourself (and your reading habits).
I came to Japan on a Japan–US Creative Artist Fellowship last August to do research for a new novel. In fiction I’m looking for the sorts of characters and sentences that both surprise me and linger with me. I have a lot of beloved reading spots in Tokyo, almost too many to name, but a few off the top of my head: The cafe Weekenders is attached to Kamome Books in Kagurazaka. Perfect for book browsing and caffeinating. I also love Cafe Gotto (the best pie and coffee) and the library at the International House of Japan. When the weather is nice, I would head to some of my favorite garden spots: Koishikawa Korakuen and Higo-Hosokawa Garden especially.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve been rereading Shirley Jackson’s fabulous We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Without further ado: the books
1. Toddler Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kono
I actually picked this one up at a Tokyo Cheapo book exchange! These stories are psychologically haunting, with intelligent and quietly subversive female protagonists.
Order it here
2. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
I guess you might describe this book by saying it’s “told from the point of view of a woman in her late thirties who begins an unexpected romance,” but Strange Weather in Tokyo is so much, well, stranger than that. It often feels simultaneously hilarious and melancholic and tender. Also, and importantly: the best descriptions of bar food.
Order it here
3. The Emissary by Yoko Tawada
I also recommend Tawada’s The Bridegroom Was a Dog and Memoirs of a Polar Bear, but given the strange times we’re living in now, The Emissary‘s dystopic take on a Japan that has closed its borders may provide some peculiar comfort. Language itself seems to be falling apart in the world of this novel, but Tawada’s language and wild imagery takes off again and again.
Order it here
If you’re looking for more ideas, we have our own top picks for your consideration as well as a great guide on where to buy cheap books in Tokyo. While it’s not recommended that you go out right now, they’re good for future reference. Also, it’s worth checking if your local library has a delivery service like Saitama. If all else fails, your trusty Kindle is always an easy option!
Why we’ve chosen the book depository: They offer free worldwide delivery, ship from the UK (so still ok to get to Japan for the time being) and use far less packaging than the likes of Amazon! Of course a Kindle offers the most package-free (and paper-free) option, but if you’re after the real thing, the Book Depository is a great choice.