I am a stress-shopper, particularly a stress-book-shopper. When my anxiety and overall stress from life becomes too much to bear, I go on unhealthy shopping sprees. Luckily, ever since I have obtained a library card, this bad habit of mine has been reigned in quite miraculously. However, over the past few weeks life has kicked into high gear and those nasty little phalanges of mine have begun itching to buy more books. So, this past weekend, I went into the library after quite a bit of time and checked out more books. The recent demise of a reading slump also made me feel motivated to jump head-first into the biblio party. Since this trip was mostly for therapeutic reasons, I made sure to snag as many Japanese novels as I could find as it is my favourite genre to read from.
I’m here to share my latest library loot with you! I am SO excited about this haul in particular because I managed to find a couple of books by one of favourite authors ever: Jun’ichirō Tanizaki! Oh yes, not only has the over-bearing feelings of stress and anxiety been lessened, my anticipation for reading as much as I can before school starts (three weeks to go!) just skyrocketed! In addition to the books I checked-out on Saturday, I’ve included the two or three young adult books that I picked up a while back.
Last Winter We Parted: A Novel by Fuminori Nakamura
Last Winter We Parted is an #OwnVoices Japanese hard-boiled psychological thriller that is about a young writer that is commissioned to write a full account of a bizarre and grisly crime. He arrives at a prison to interview the convict, a world-renowned photographer named Kiharazaka, who has a profoundly unsettling portfolio, one that is filled with photographs of an acutely obsessive fascination for his subjects. Standing accused for the murder of two women, both burned alive, Kiharazaka will likely face the death penalty. But something isn’t quite right. As the writer digs deeper into the case, he begins to doubt the photographer as a killer at all. An inner struggle of maintaining reason and justice starts to brew in the young man. Is Kiharazaka truly guilty, or is he simply protecting someone else?
Genocide of One: A Thriller by Kazuaki Takano
Genocide of One is an #OwnVoices Japanese political suspense thriller about at three-year-old boy named Akili who is the smartest being on the planet. Representing the next phase of human evolution, Akili can perceive patterns and predict future events better than most super-computers, and he can also manipulate grand-scale events such as the pieces on a chess board. Regardless of his power, he has the emotional maturity of a child, making him the most dangerous threat to humanity as well. Then we have an American soldier named Jonathan Yeager who is the leader of an international team of operatives located deep in the heart of the Congolese jungle. His orders are to destroy the threat before Akili’s full potential can be realised. However, Yeager has a very sick child and Akili may be the kid’s only hope for survival, placing Yeager between his orders and saving a creature who may have a treacherous hidden agenda.
Popular Hits of the Showa Era: A Novel by Ryu Murakami
Popular Hits of the Showa Era is an #OwnVoices Japanese satirical psychological thriller that revolves around six aimless youths and six tough-as-nails ladies who battle for control of a Tokyo neighbourhood. The young men seem louche and harmless with their activities ranging from drinking, snacking, peering at naked neighbours via a window, and performing karaoke. The six women are fiercely independent career people. When one of the boys lethally ambushes one of the women, chaos ensues. The women band together to find the killer and exact their revenge, while the boys buckle down, begin studying, and plot to take out their collective nemeses with a single blow.
Devils in Daylight by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Devils in Daylight is an #OwnVoices Japanese psychological thriller from one of the most brilliant minds in modern literature, and it follows a writer named Takahashi who has stayed up all evening working. One night he received a phone call from his old friend, Sonomura. Sonomura is oozing with excitement, claiming to have cracked a secret cryptographic code based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Gold-Bug, and knows exactly when and where a murder will take place. He persists that him and Takahashi must hurry to that location as the murder will be taking place that very same evening. Sonomura is known for spewing lunatic notions, and Takahashi is reluctant to agree, but in the end decides to accompany Sonomura. They stake out a secret location and via tiny peepholes in the woods, become voyeurs of a shocking crime.
The Maids by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
The Maids is an #OwnVoices Japanese satirical psychological thriller that is not only a complement to Tanizaki’s masterful The Makioka Sisters, but it is also his final novel before his demise in 1965. It takes place in the same house and same turbulent decades as The Makioka Sisters. You can read a synopsis for The Makioka Sisters here. I won’t provide a synopsis for The Maids, as it has spoilers for the first novel.
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Pale View of Hills is an #OwnVoices British-Japanese fiction literature novel about a woman named Etsuko, who is a Japanese woman now living alone in England, where she spends time ruminating over her daughter’s suicide. Her past and present collide, as she begins to relive scenes of Japan’s devastation in the wake of the Second World War, while recounting the weirdness and calamities of her own life.
Picking Bones from Ash: A Novel by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
Picking Bones from Ash is an #OwnVoices Japanese-American fiction literature novel that follows Satomi, an eleven-year-old who doesn’t know who her father was, and the women of her 1950s Japanese mountain town find her mother’s restless sensuality a threat. Satomi’s success in piano competitions has always won respect, saving both her and her mother from total ostracism. But when her mother’s growing ambition tests the delicate social balance, her talent is not enough to save them. Eventually Satomi is pushed towards making a drastic decision in order to start her life anew. Many years later, Satomi’s choices echo in the life of her American daughter, Rumi.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
American Panda is an #OwnVoices Taiwanese-American young adult contemporary novel following a seventeen-year-old MIT freshman named Mei, who is on track with following her parents preferred predetermined future for her. However, there are many things about this plan that Mei doesn’t care for, but since they worked hard at giving her a comfortable life, Mei is extremely reluctant at being honest with her parents, such as falling in love with a boy who is decidedly not Taiwanese. When she reconnects with her estranged brother, Xing, Mei begins to contemplate if secrets truly are worth their hassle.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Emergency Contact is an #OwnVoices Korean-American young adult contemporary novel that follows a girl named Penny Lee, who is pretty average. Her grades were fine, her friends were okay, and while she managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a million light years away from everything that she can’t wait to leave behind. Enter Sam, who is stuck in life in more ways than one. He knows that this awful chapter of his life will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous film director, but right this second, the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are pushing his buttons to their limits. When Penny and Sam collide, it’s less cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still they share numbers and after some time find themselves to be digitally inseparable.
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Picture Us in the Light is an #OwnVoices Chinese-American young adult contemporary novel that is about Danny Cheng. He always knew that his parents have secrets, but when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realises that there is much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined. When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed façade his parents have maintained begins to crumble, threatening everything that Danny holds dear of being stripped away.
That does it for this round of library loot! All of these sound so fabulous and so utterly up my alley that I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out which ones to read after American Panda, which is my current read. Please, let me know in the comments section if any of these sound good to you, or if you have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of reading these books.