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Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  855 ratings  ·  168 reviews
Returning to his longtime home in Japan after his father-in-law's sudden death, Pico Iyer picks up the steadying patterns of his everyday rites: going to the post office and engaging in furious games of ping-pong every evening. But in a country whose calendar is marked with occasions honoring the dead, he comes to reflect on changelessness in ways that anyone can relate to ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  855 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who appreciate the blessing of life
It is good to meet life sometimes; not by seeing it in the eye but by interlocking fingers and walking by its side.

In this book, Pico Iyer finds himself undertaking such a walk, under the light-heavy shadows of autumn.

Twenty-five years after he first came to Japan as a 26-year old, enthusiastic, US-based journalist, he is compelled to make an unplanned visit back. The reason? Death of his father-in-law. His wife, Hiroko, conveys this news over phone and Iyer finds himself back in the quiet, un
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was such a quiet book, about autumn, about aging, and loss, and courage, and 'autumn light in a quiet room,' it was almost a meditation to read it--it creates its own environment, an emotional space in the reader quiet enough to unfold the book's philosophical and spiritual case. Japan is a culture of age, of preoccupation with time and season. In the book, age's presence is represented by the author's social circle, of which he is sort of a junior mascot to the seniors who gather to play p ...more
Madhulika Liddle
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The cover of Pico Iyer’s Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is adorned with a spray of spring blossoms. Pretty white flowers, picture postcard perfect: incongruous, at first glance, with even the very title of the book. These flowers belong in spring, not in autumn. But pay closer attention, and you see that the flowers are falling, shedding petals as they drift down. Dying already, the invisible parent tree above them already moving closer to the next season.

Autumn Light is a memoir th
William E.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Visiting Japan in March and I couldn't be more excited. This was a lovely little read that left me thinking while reinforcing my excitement. Although now I sorta kinda wish I was visiting in Autumn... ...more
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanophilia, memoirs
There are some lovely observations on the autumn of life here as Pico Iyer joins his wife Hiroko to farewell her just-deceased father, tend to her mother, and contemplate what it all adds up to. Recalling the loss of his parents' home in California to fire, he writes:
What do we have to hold on to? Only the certainty that nothing will go according to design; our hopes are newly built wooden houses, sturdy until someone drops a cigarette or match. As I climbed all the way up to our house, the day
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.’

‘I think of our own family and see how the story is the same: my father-in-law, after seven years in war and twenty years working for the government, saves up enough to send his son off to America for graduate school. The result is that his son barely speaks to him again. Hiroko longs to get a fo
Mar 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. It started out with some poetic writing, but that soon became overly-sentimental. The "story" itself wasn't really a story, which even the authors admits in the final couple of pages. I was hoping for more insight, but having lived in Japan for 26 years, there was nothing new for me here. Reading this book was kinda like listening to some guys long-winded and boring story that really has no point, and really no ending. OK, some people will tell me that is the point of ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author loves his wife, Japan and ping pong. Born to Indian parents who migrated to the USA he found Japan by mistake and has lived there with his Japanese wife for over 30 years. His recent book sums up his admiration and respect for the simple life, enjoying the pleasures of the mundane, the seasons and family. His serenity and openness is a joy given his job is to fly into war torn nations and report on the worse of humanity. Here is a book which celebrates autumn, the world of the ageing ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Very Japanese "eyes" to the impermanence of life and the physical world. But not utterly pessimistic in the telling. Not at all. It holds immense descriptive segments and reflects both the love of Japan and Japanese culture and his wife in particular that the author holds.

Most of it is surely true, and applies to the most beautiful season of autumn. And the autumn years of various outcomes. The contemplation, meditation ideal is held throughout the memoir too.

It's also too self-absorbed and "les
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book easily landed on my favorites list. Beautiful images of Autumn and Japan. It was just what I needed to take my out of a sad book reading trend. Lovely and highly recommended.
Nearly didn't finish. I don't have too many of those. Iyer is a really talented writer. But ugh. Most of his statements about this culture are total b. s., or should I say more diplomatically, not at all my experience having lived in Japan for three decades.
As a language teacher working in Tokyo, and with a Japanese spouse, I know a lot of Japanese people (see above, not bragging, I simply live and work here) and not. a. single. one.ever. speaks the way Hiroko does. I've known a lot of cool, int
Elvina Zafril
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pansing
Beautifully written. This is such a calm book to read. It’s about autumn, about aging, fear of change, about the loss of loved ones and about courage. A lovely meditation on time.

I’ve never experienced autumn. I don’t know what it feels like. I really want to visit Japan. I hope I can visit Japan one day. This book focuses more about the autumn and the deeper meaning of the autumn.

In the process, the author discusses more on the aspects of his life and people around him, the death of his father
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book because for me, it was the perfect book for this stage of my life. You don't read Iyer for his insight into people, but more for his insight into life and his observations and descriptions of his surroundings. He captured autumn in Japan perfectly and in a very Japanese way. He's both poetic and pragmatic and his book says nothing and everything. When he described places that I am familiar with my memories became brighter and fonder.

I am not sure how this book would appeal to a
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Okay, the thing that irritated me the most about this book was the mention of Starbucks selling Pumpkin Spice Lattes. For a book that’s supposed to be a keen observation of the passing of time and seasons, and for someone who has supposedly spent so much time in Japan, one would obviously know that this drink isn’t sold here. That aside, this was just a slow book about...nothing? If you want an interesting book about the passage of time that takes place in Japan and the he the author as a charac ...more
Is Autumn really the end? Do we have to feel bad when the leaves change color and fall off, my mother always says -it feels sad to know that all these beautiful colors will go away. Or do we think of it as prequel to the beautiful and vibrant spring?
Whatever it is, Autumn is beautiful, with its colors, smells and the chilling breezes. And that season is made all the more beautiful by Iyer in his book, which feels like it has no plot but makes you realize that, that is the whole point.

In this boo
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
This is the type of book you read when you have a lot of time on your hands and are not looking for something overly stimulating. I thought it was a beautiful, sad and nostalgic piece of writing. It’s a real slice of life so don’t expect fireworks.
It’s a type of meditative reading experience that reminds you to be in the now and observe your surroundings, accepting it the way it is.
Reading this book made me feel like I was drinking a cup of tea, staring out a window, observing everyday life in
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Some days you need that quick read. That fast paced, heart-racing, blood-pumping kind of book. This is not that. Autumn Light is the gentle kind of read that takes days, weeks to wander through and ponder, and to appreciate Iyer’s gentle musings and observations about life in Japan, issues about aging, and the fragility of life. A beautiful and thoughtful read. Highly recommended!
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a followup to the author's book (I thought when it came out it was categorized as a novel) the Lady and the Monk. If that was spring--new love, possibilities, growth-- this is autumn--maturity and the realization that things end, people die, everything can't be fixed. The lady and the monk had this wonderful beginning (pure Pico Iyer!) of him wandering around the town of Narita--he was in Tokyo on a layover and decides to take advantage of the free shuttle to go see the famous Shingon te ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is a love-letter to the author's wife, Hiroko, as well as an attempt to come to terms with the process of aging and the loss of loved ones. The book starts on the day Iyer learns that his hale and hearty father-in-law has been taken into hospital. A few days later, the old man is dead, leaving Hiroko to care after her mother. Hiroko's only brother, Masohiro, who rejected his entire biological family decades before, supposedly because of Hiroko's divorce, doesn't show up at the funeral ...more
tasya (the literary faerie)
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would like to thank Pansing for sending me a copy of Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer in exchange for my review.

The fact that the book takes place mostly in Japan made it more interesting. His expository of Nara, a beautiful historical city in Japan, was also very meticulous and makes me wishing so badly that I could be there during the autumn season 🍂

The author's writing style is somewhat refreshing and flows nicely. I almost shed tears at the very last sentence of the
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars!

I had never heard of this guy before, until stumbling upon an interview with him on the radio and I have to be honest I actually thought it was a woman talking for most of the interview, and not only that, it turns out that he has been rather busy of late and has published two books this year. I happened to pick up the wrong one. There’s lessons there for everyone!.

Anyway, in many ways this is a story of death, decline, dementia and deterioration, we learn some grim facts such as more
Ian Josh
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Full Review:

Very much a sequel to The Lady and the Monk, with very much similar issues.

Megha Chakraborty
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My first Pico Iyer, my friend gifted it to me on my birthday and I am so glad that he did. It's such a tender book, part journal part travelogue, Autumn Light is a Literary voyage to Japan. We follow Iyer to Kyoto, a small town in Japan, after his father-in-law’s demise, overcoming the aftermath of death, loss and change.
The first few pages where a little confusing for me as Iyer doesn't follow any fixed timeline, at times he describes the changing season and suddenly recalls a memory from somew
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Autumn - Pico Iyer

This such a lovely book about seeing and living life. It was beautiful. Pico Iyer is a very talented writer. The scenes of the autumn leaves are exquisite. He captures the myriad ways people respond to life and the season. The book is filled with grace because the author is.

The book, as the title says, is about Autumn and the autumns in life. About the natural periods of change in life and how they are met and change, as they do, over time. It’s about family. It’s about Japan
Leonard Davis
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Cherry blossoms, pretty and frothy as schoolgirls’ giggles, are the face the country likes to present to the world, all pink and white eroticism; but it’s the reddening of the maple leaves under a blaze of ceramic-blue skies that is the place’s secret heart. We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness to their beauty.”

“We’re so convinced we’re moving forwards when all I seem to do is go round and round with the seasons, c
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Might be biased, given how it’s about my favourite season, but Pico Iyer’s writing truly is special.
Meisha Lee-Allmond
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Struggled with the pacing/structure of this book at times, but there is such lovely imagery and sentiment woven throughout it compelled me to keep reading.
Jt O'Neill
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading everything Pico Iyer writes. We may have some differences from time to time but his prose often reads like poetry and that makes up for any differences. I did have a little trouble getting into this book as he is more circular and I was looking for linear. Once I adjusted my reading to his writing, I was able to take my time and absorb the truths about which he was writing.

Pico put a whole new spin on autumn for me in this book. Historically, I have not liked autumn. I've though
Apurva Nagpal
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
“Cheery blossoms, pretty and frothy as schoolgirls’ giggles, are the face the country like to present to the world, all pink and white eroticism; but it’s the reddening of the maple leaves under a blaze of ceramic-blue skies that is the place’s Secret heart.”

Part memoir part travelogue, Autumn Light is a Literary trip to Japan😍 We follow Iyer to Kyoto, a small town in Japan, after his father-in-law’s demise, overcoming the aftermath of death, loss and change.

The book doesn’t follow a particular
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A nicely flowing kind of read with musings and descriptions of life in Japan, or could be applied to any older person’s “autumn” years. The comfort of this daily sort of actions plus the author’s feelings, all seems natural even with containing undertones of meaning for his specific behaviors and philosophies.
A good 3.5 stars.
Note: page 206 “ . . . the river’s always the same, as they say round here, even though the water’s always in motion.”
And page 207 “ . . . only way to be happy is to mak
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of ...more

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