Book Review List

Here is my list of Japanese literature reviews. From time to time I will add a new book title. This is only a personal selection of books I have read during my free time because I enjoyed them or found them otherwise interesting. I am an independent reader who reads books regardless of their publishing date, book hypes or literature trends. I would like sharing my thoughts about Japanese literature with you.


Japanese authors (A-Z)

Abe Kôbô: The Ruined Map
Abe Kôbô: Secret Rendezvous
Abe Kôbô: Woman in the Dunes
Akutagawa Ryûnosuke: Rashômon
Arikawa Hiro: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Higashino Keigo: Naoko
Higashino Keigo: The Devotion of Suspect X
Hiraide Takashi: The Guest Cat
Imamura Natsuko: The Woman in the Purple Skirt
Ishiguro Kazuo: An Artist of the Floating World
Ishiguro Kazuo: Klara and the Sun
Kawabata Yasunari: The Master of Go
Kawabata Yasunari: The Old Capital
Kawabata Yasunari: Snow Country
Kawabata Yasunari: Thousand Cranes
Kawaguchi Toshikazu: Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Kawakami Hiromi: The Briefcase
Kawakami Hiromi: Manazuru
Kawakami Hiromi: The Nakano Thrift Shop
Kawakami Hiromi: People from My Neighborhood
Kawakami Hiromi: A Record of a Night Too Brief
Kawakami Hiromi: The Ten Loves of Nishino
Kawakami Mieko: Breasts and Eggs
Kawakami Mieko: Heaven
Kawakami Mieko: Ms Ice Sandwich
Kirino Natsuo: The Goddess Chronicle
Matsuda Aoko: Where the Wild Ladies Are
Matsumoto Seichô: Tokyo Express
Mishima Yukio: After the Banquet
Mishima Yukio: Spring Snow
Mishima Yukio: Thirst for Love
Miyabe Miyuki: All She Was Worth
Mizumura Minae: An I-Novel
Motoya Yukiko: The Lonesome Body Builder
Murakami Haruki: After Dark
Murakami Haruki: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Murakami Haruki: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Murakami Haruki: Dance, Dance, Dance
Murakami Haruki: First Person Singular
Murakami Haruki: Hear the Wind Sing
Murakami Haruki: Kafka on the Shore
Murakami Haruki: Killing Commendatore
Murakami Haruki: Men Without Women
Murakami Haruki: Pinball 1973
Murakami Haruki: The Strange Library
Murakami Haruki: A Wild Sheep Chase
Murata Sayaka: Convenience Store Woman
Nagai Kafû: Geisha in Rivalry
Nakamura Fuminori: The Thief
Natsume Sôseki: And Then
Natsume Sôseki: The Gate
Natsume Sôseki: Kokoro
Natsume Sôseki: Sanshirô
Natsume Sôseki: The Three-Cornered World
Natsume Sôseki: To The Spring Equinox and Beyond
Ôe Kenzaburô: The Changeling
Ôe Kenzaburô: Death by Water
Ôe Kenzaburô: A Personal Matter
Ogawa Yôko: The Housekeeper and the Professor
Ogawa Yôko: Revenge
Okakura Kakuzô: The Book of Tea
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Diary of a Mad Old Man
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: The Key
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Kin to Gin (Gold and Silver)
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: The Makioka Sisters
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Naomi
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Quicksand
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Seven Japanese Tales
Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: Some Prefer Nettles
Tsumura Kikuko: There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job
Yamada Taichi: Strangers
Yoshimoto Banana: Dead-End Memories
Yoshimoto Banana: Kitchen
Yoshimoto Banana: The Lake
Yoshimoto Banana: Lizard
Yoshimoto Banana: Moshi Moshi

Short story collections
March was made of Yarn. Writers Respond to Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown. Published by Elmar Luke and David Karashima in 2012.

Books about Japanese Art
Graham, Patricia J.: Japanese Design. Art, Aesthetics & Culture. Tuttle 2014.

Have you read one of these books? How do you like it? Do you have a suggestion for a Japanese book which is not on the list right now? Thank you very much.

26 thoughts on “Book Review List

  1. I am so impressed by your list. I have read a number of these books in English. But, I have to admit I think many of the Japanese modern classics are a bit weird. I can only attribute this to the fact that I need guidance.

    I love Japan, the Japanese people and Japanese culture. I have for a long time. I come back here to be reborn. I have lived in Japan 3 times, returning over and over. Many years ago, I graduated from Jochi Daigaku in Tokyo and majored in Far East Area Studies. My field is history and law. But, I continue to have trouble understanding Japanese literature. I will be following your blog to learn from you and your followers. Do you read these books in Japanese?

    I love Kawabata’s Snow Country, because the language and haiku-type language is beautiful. I like the unicorn-like creature chapters of Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I recently read Ogawa Yoko’s The Housekeeper and the Professor. This was refreshingly charming. I loved it. Was it because it seemed to have a beginning and an end?

    I am studying Japanese (again!). My lifetime goal is to finally be able to read the news and some literature in Japanese. I do a bit of that now with a great deal of help from my kanji dictionary. (I love my “Midori.”) Perhaps, there is some Japanese literature that translators are not interested in translating, that would be more to my taste.

    • Thank you very much for your comment on my reading list.
      I think I understand your point with Japanese literature. But the so-called weirdness is maybe the speciality of it. Consider that Japan was isolated from any other country for a very long time, it had been nearly 250 years. Influences from Western countries are to be seen since the 19th century.
      I agree, that many novels are very different in structure and composing compared to European or American literature. Often it has been stated, that novels by Murakami Haruki are well understood apart from the Japanese, because he adopted themes and storytelling techniques, which are more easy to understand outside Japan. I think the younger the Japanesese author the better we can understand the Japanese literature, because of the globalization effect.

      I read the books in Japanese and in English. Although I must admit, I am very much faster in English. By the way my native language is German. Sometimes I like to compare the Japanese text with the given translation. That is a good way to start reading Japanese books.

      I envy you for living in Japan, because I very much love the country. With studying Japanese it takes a very long time, but one day there is a breakthrough.

  2. A very good looking list! Admittedly, I should have more of these on my list, too, though I would prefer to read them in English. Abe Kobo’s three part essay about snakes was probably the most dense and difficult to understand pieces of modern Japanese prose I’ve ever attempted, and it was exhausting and therefore hard to appreciate.
    A couple works by Endo Shusaku might be good to add to your list. “Silence” is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.
    I look forward to following your progress and your thoughts!

    • Thank you for your recommendation. I read Shusaku Endôs “Silence” some years ago and remember, that it was a very good book. I will list it here. Thanks for following. I hope you will enjoy it in the future.

  3. Perhaps another important novel is Takiji Kobayashi’s – Kanikosen, I’ve only read extracts from it, but am very much looking forward to reading the whole novel, – there are indeed so many great books to read!.

  4. I must congratulate you on your English. Just want to thank you so much for your blog. Another addition to your reading list might be “In Praise of Shadows” by Tanizaki Juni’chiro. I am surprised not to find anything on your list by the haiku master Matsuo Basho. I recently read Shusaku Endo’s “Deep River”. It was very moving.

    • Thank you very much for your compliments. At the moment I am reading Tanizaki Jun’ichirô and the upcoming book reviews will be about two of his works. In “Praise of Shadows” is still on a waiting position, but I will add it to the list! Shusaku Endo and Basho for sure are great Japanese authors!

  5. I never had the breakthrough you write so hopefully about! So I gave up. But I learned a great deal about Japan and its culture through the study.
    Right now I am planning a course for senior learning (older people) on Japan in the spring. I’m calling it, “Art and Nature Thus Allied: The Cultural Arts of Japan.” And one of the books I’m reading in my own preparation for it is Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s In Praise of Shadows. I read it a long time ago and was much impressed, but need to be fresher on it now.

  6. Hi —- a nice reading list. I read in English translations so mostly titles published by Kodansha or Tuttle. Kawabata’s Snow Country got me hooked, but any of his are heights of reading pleasure (Thanks to translator Edward Siedensticker, I often think). In recent years I’ve enjoyed translations of books by Masako Togawa (I’m looking forward to her Lady Killer) and Shotaro Ikenami 1923-1990 Master Assassin books.

  7. I’ve read a few from the list! A Personal Matter, Real World, Kitchen and 1Q84. This year, I plan to read Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool and The Housekeeper and the Professor. Have you read Banana Yoshimoto’s “The Lake”? I enjoyed that book very much.

    I’ll be coming back to refer to this list so I can read more books from Japanese authors. Thanks for sharing it 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your comment. You have read a lot of Japanese authors. Yoko Ogawa is a good choice, I adore her books. Speaking of Banana Yoshimoto I have not read ” The Lake” yet. I will go and find out. Thank you for your recommendation.

  8. Hi, thank you for the reading list and the art. I am enjoying both very much. I found your blog when I was doing some reading in preparation for a first trip to Japan. I have always loved the fabrics and the art, so now am excited to be exploring the literature. I have dipped into some contemporary (1Q84, Norwegian Wood, Artist of the Floating World..) and back a bit (Thousand Cranes). Black Rain by masjid Ibuse was a favourite of many years ago. Not only a powerful theme presented in an understated highly effective voice.
    Your list looks diverse and will provide a great guide together with your thoughts and those of your readers. Sad to say, I will only ever read in translayption so value the opinions on who is good as a translator too. So lucky to have found your blog. Thank you again.

    • Hello Denise, thank you for your comment. Good to hear that you enjoy Japanese art and literature and like to read my blog. There are many excellent translations on the market, not easy to make a choice …

  9. By the way, I’ve read Akutagawa, Murakami, and Revenge by Yoko Ogawa. I also have Natsume Soseki’s I am a Cat, but I’ve not finished it yet. I am interested in other writers like Kenzaburo..which of his novels would you recommend I read first?

  10. Ho letto, molti anni fa, qualcosa su Yukio Mishima, un articolo dal titolo “Mischima: Il corpo, la bellezza, la morte.”, comparso sulla rivista : L’illustrazione Italiana, del Dicembre- Gennaio 1982
    (sempre sullo stesso numero della rivista, compare un saggio di Roland Barthes, sullo splendido giardino del monastero Zen di Daitokuji a Kyoto).
    Poi il libro “La Via del Samurai” e il saggio su di lui della Marguerite Yourcenar ” Mischima o la visione del vuoto.
    Della Banana Yoschimoto ho letto molte cose e mi piace come autrice.
    Chiedo scusa per la lingua, ma non conosco l’inglese.
    Cordiali saluti.
    P.S. Amo le legature dei libri alla giapponese.

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