Welcome to the sixth chapter of our lockdown library—a series of great recommendations from our book exchange group to keep you entertained.
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 few chapters for some great ideas:
- Chapter One: Trevor’s Picks
- Chapter Two: Chiara’s Picks
- Chapter Three: Lee’s Picks
- Chapter Four: Vo’s Picks
- Chapter Five: Branden’s Picks
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
Tell us about yourself (and your reading habits).
Hi, readers! I’m Michelle, a photographer who’s been living and working around Tokyo and Kyoto for around 5 years. My preferred reading flavors are sci-fi and fantasy for being the most evocative and forward-thinking, while literary fiction and mountaineering stories nourish my brain and soul. Recently, I’ve found seeking out female authors, in particular, has proven especially revelatory and rewarding.
When I’m in need of a dreamy, bookish afternoon, the tree-framed courtyard of Ristorante ASO in Sarugakucho is another world inside the city. Its antique tiles, sun-dappled light and delicious coffee feel literary in and of themselves.
You can see Michelle’s beautiful photography here.
What are you reading right now?
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Without further ado: the books
1. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Even if city life has left you jaded or worn, this whimsical and charming story is going to make you fall in love with Tokyo. Reading SWIT feels like drifting through a lavender haze after the magically exact right amount of haibōru from your favorite neighborhood izakaya. It will also make you hungry—Kawakami’s lovingly written descriptions of food are lush and plentiful.
There are two main characters, each seeking belonging: one representing “old” (pre-WWII) Japan, the other acting as “modern” Tokyo. There is romance, humor, melancholy, a relatable and wonderful female lead and, finally, our city itself, captured gracefully in every interaction, season and meal. It feels distinctly Japanese, distinctly Tokyo, and distinctly delightful. Bonus points if you read it in a traditional restaurant or recommend it to a bittersweet former love.
Order it here.
2. The Blue Bear by Lynn Schooler
The Alaskan wilderness is an ethereally gorgeous and thrilling land very far from Tokyo, but Lynn finds and makes a connection nonetheless. This book documents his friendship with the infamous and inspirational Japanese wildlife photographer, Michio Hoshino, their journeys together, and the sudden, tragic loss of his friend. Lynn’s descriptions of North American landscapes, of grief, of connection and adventure—even of Japanese language and culture—are poetic and astonishing.
His decades of wilderness guide experience and uniquely, genuinely open heart come through in his words and make this book a wholly new genre of literature in my eyes. If you have ever sought healing, love or nature’s splendor…you will find them here.
Order it here.
3. Black Box by Shiori Ito
While the love I feel for my adopted country runs deep, I believe an essential component of “true love” is keeping our eyes open to what’s difficult and wanting as much as to what’s beautiful or inspiring—Black Box will show you both.
Here, journalist Shiori Itō bravely recounts her experience of being raped and the ensuing years she’s spent seeking justice. Her case made international news, brought unprecedented attention to failures within the legal system and helped to spark and empower the #metoo movement within Japan. Her book details the enormous and mostly hidden struggles victims of such crimes face in our country. Sexual assault survivors and discussion are most often, at best, swept under the rug, at worst, punishable. In mine and countless others’ opinion, this is one of the most pressing, damaging and important issues facing Japan.
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.