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message 1: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 756 comments Out of all the Japanese literature you read in 2017, which was your favorite? This isn't intended to be solely about books published this year; it can be anything you read this year, no matter how old. Hopefully answers here will spur others (including me) into giving these books a chance.

I'm torn between Nan-Core for it's intricate, original plot, and Isle of Dreams for its otherworldly quality. In deference to the considerable negative reviews of Nan-Core, I'll go with Isle of Dreams.

In Isle of Dreams a middle aged man breaks out of the mundane routine of his daily life after an encounter with a unusual woman in an unusual place, and she leads him past the edge of civilization into a world all her own. The book gets stranger as it goes along, leading the protagonist down the path to darkness or perhaps freedom.


message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael | 51 comments i would say for fiction a surprise, a crime procedural: Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama and for nonfiction a philosophy text: Nishida and Western Philosophy by Wilkinson...


message 3: by Christie (last edited Dec 26, 2017 02:31PM) (new)

Christie (firerabbit830) | 23 comments This year I enjoyed reading: Naomi by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki; Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai; and The Lake by Yasunari Kawabata. A common thread between these three books (I found) is that they are more character centered, rather than plot centered (which was secondary in each of the stories). I enjoyed that common facet of these three titles (this might say something about my reading preferences/tastes....). Individually, these are all unique works that I would definitely recommend to interested readers and lovers of Japanese fiction! Also, these all happened to be fairly short reads. In 2018 I plan to read: The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby, and both Sputnik Sweetheart and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. :)


message 4: by Scott (new)

Scott The only one I read this year was Goth by Otsuichi. It was very good but very grim.


message 5: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) | 4 comments @_@ So hard to choose. For 2017, I was on a thriller/horror kick and SF&F manga will always be an interest of mine. So, out of about the 10 or so Japanese books I read in 2017, these are my picks:

Chain Mail: Addicted to You
The Devotion of Suspect X
Ring
Battle Angel Alita, Volume 01: Rusty Angel


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments For me, Makioka Sisters was the most compelling and enjoyable book I read this year.

Runners up would include Ghosts of the Tsunami (not J-lit, but certainly J-centric) and I've been enjoying most of Ariyoshi Sawako's work this year.


message 7: by Scott (new)

Scott Alex wrote: "@_@ So hard to choose. For 2017, I was on a thriller/horror kick and SF&F manga will always be an interest of mine. So, out of about the 10 or so Japanese books I read in 2017, these are my picks:
..."


I *love* Ring. Haven't read Battle Angel since Viz released the monthly comics, should give it another look.


message 8: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) | 4 comments Scott wrote: "I *love* Ring."

Me too, but then Suzuki's sequel and the final one in the trilogy were just not up to the same level as the first.


message 9: by Simon (new)

Simon Fletcher | 7 comments Has to be Shusaku Endo's, The Samurai by Shūsaku Endō . An absolutely amazing book.
A close second and third were, Silence by Shūsaku Endō and The Sea and Poison by Shūsaku Endō


message 10: by Dioni (Bookie Mee) (last edited Dec 27, 2017 01:29AM) (new)

Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments It's so weird for me to see Battle Angel Alita making a comeback. I assume it's because of the upcoming movie. I read it some 20-25 years ago back in high school!


message 11: by Rhea (new)

Rhea (rheashell) It's definitely hard to choose. Looking at them, I mostly went by books that won't get out of my head, so not rating (and of course that I read them this year).

So I came up with three.
A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
Child of Fortune by Yuko Tsushima

A Personal Matter is deeply, well, personal to me (I got into this in my review). It's a very emotional book and you feel like garbage reading most of it.
I should probably make it a yearly read.

The Guest Cat, I don't even know why this book stays in my thoughts. It's a weird book. Keep in mind, I would not pitch it as a "cat book" to cat people. It's not. It's an interesting book though.

Child of Fortune is an interesting one, a Japanese feminist novel about pregnancy. It made me want to read more Tsushima, and I think a novel of hers is coming out in 2018.

I don't think I read anything by Yoko Ogawa this year and that makes me sad orz


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments Rhea wrote: "It's definitely hard to choose. Looking at them, I mostly went by books that won't get out of my head, so not rating (and of course that I read them this year).

So I came up with three.
A Persona..."


Never heard of Yuko Tsuhisma, and I'm adding her now, thanks for sharing. Just had a brief look on her bio: "She is the daughter of famed novelist Osamu Dazai, who died when she was one year old." (Osamu Dazai real name is Shūji TSUSHIMA). Wow it'd be interesting to read them as companion books =]


message 13: by Scott (new)

Scott Alex wrote: "Scott wrote: "I *love* Ring."

Me too, but then Suzuki's sequel and the final one in the trilogy were just not up to the same level as the first."


I thought they were all strong...the third one was mind-blowing for me.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) | 4 comments You’ve led me to think more. I guess, I was a little quick on the draw (especially since I haven’t rated the 2nd and 3rd ones yet). The 2nd one , Spiral, was good in terms of characterization and horror, but lacked the same pacing and drive of Ring. The third one, Loop, only really had characterization going for it—oh, and the writing quality was, as usual excellent—but his story world just lapsed into pseudoscience—without the horror, which the first two definitely had and so I felt like I’d been led-on.


message 15: by Scott (new)

Scott Yeah, I did feel Loop was more SF than horror.


message 16: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments My favorite Japanese reads this year were:

In Praise of Shadows
Some Prefer Nettles
Hotel Iris, and
Audition

Two contemporary. Two not. One nonfiction. Each quite different than the other. All memorable.

I also enjoyed The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura (and am looking forward to reading Cult X in 2018), Inspector Imanishi Investigates, Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo, Revenge and In Black and White.


message 17: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments I only read 3 Japanese novels last year and I really enjoyed all of them.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Malice
Goth

I tend to go for darker horror/thriller books so it pleasantly surprised me that Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was actually my favourite of those.

I'm hoping for more good reads this year, any recommendations would be great, even if I do already have a massive backlog to get through.

Also, hi... I'm Jess.


message 18: by Rhea (new)

Rhea (rheashell) Jeshika wrote: "I'm hoping for more good reads this year, any recommendations would be great, even if I do already have a massive backlog to get through. "

Welcome!

Well, it's not like I've read his entire set of books, but every Murakami book seems to be somewhat different, though you'll never escape his love of music.
I've come to really love his non-fiction because it's relaxing.
What I talk about When I talk about Running Did not inspire me to run, but did lift my spirits when I was depressed.

I encourage you to read more Yoko Ogawa, she's the best. The Diving Pool Maybe this one?

Kenzaburo Oe will wreck you. A Personal Matter This book will make you feel like rotten garbage but it's one of my favorites.

The Crimson Labyrinth is already on your to-read list, I recommend reading it (but never when eating).

You should get some Yukio Mishima in your life. The bookclub just did The Sound of Waves, but I think I was recommended to start with Confessions of a Mask (what I did start with) or Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Hope this helps!


message 19: by Jeshika (last edited Jan 02, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments Rhea wrote: Welcome!"

Thank you. :D

I recently bought Underground by Haruki Murakami, I'm guessing technically that's not what you mean by his non-fiction, but I'm looking forward to it a lot, haha.

I have The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa waiting to be read, is this a good one??

I hadn't heard of A Personal Matter but it does sound brutal, I will have to try and get a copy. And The Crimson Labyrinth is definitely still on my radar.

I'm sure I bought a Mishima book recently too... I -think- it was The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea. Should I start with this one or try one of the others first?


message 20: by Rhea (new)

Rhea (rheashell) ^
I haven't read Underground, but it looks pretty good.

The Housekeeper and the Professor was the first Ogawa book I read, I recommend it.

As for The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, I haven't read it, but it looks good. As to if you should start with it, I'd see what others say. It's probably fine though.


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments Underground is good. Murakami lends just enough understanding to the terrorists to allow the book to be more than a simple condemnation of cults and more of a look at trouble with Japanese society as a whole.

The Sailor who is great, but many people can't handle the odd sexuality and animal torture... so, open with care.


message 22: by Carol (last edited Jan 02, 2018 12:15PM) (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments One man's "can't handle" may be another man's "didn't consider the pay off of the entire work to be worth it." :)

Jeshika, if you've friended or follow several members here --such that our reviews are in the mix of the Friend's Reviews that populate the beginning of reviews for books -- you'll get a sense of various perspectives on Sailor. I'm an outlier in disliking it intensely, but even fans generally promote other Mishima novels more often.
Not that it's a big investment of time, in any event.

Housekeeper generally is liked by all. I haven't gotten to it yet, but read in 2017 and am a big fan of Hotel Iris and Revenge (loosely connected short stories).

Now I must find copies of Diving Pool and Personal Matter. Thanks @Rhea!


message 23: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments @Josh - I think Underground may have to be my next non-fiction read. &&Thanks for the warning about The Sailor Who, I'll keep it in mind.

@Carol - I read Revenge and loved it a lot, I'm hoping the rest of her books will be equally as good. I'll have to start following people on here to learn where all the hidden gems are. :)


message 24: by Michael (last edited Jan 02, 2018 08:49AM) (new)

Michael | 51 comments these are often works i have read yes but often years ago, so i am always looking for ones that are new, modernist, literary, even some genre. i work on the theory that a reader starts with an interest of certain sort of book, genre, locale, then moves to authors, then narrows it to specific books, this is the way it has been for me...

so i have read many other cultures lit, japanese after French and english, mostly lit names, then moved through nobel winners like kawabata, oe, and others like mishima, but my individual favourites are older books like Snow Country by Kawabata, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Spring Snow both by Mishima, Silence by Endo, Woman in the Dunes by Abe Kobo... Of the more recent would be Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami Haruki, In the miso soup by Murakami Ryu, but i was surprised this year with Six Four by Yokoyama...


message 25: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments the gift wrote: "these are often works i have read yes but often years ago, so i am always looking for ones that are new, modernist, literary, even some genre. i work on the theory that a reader starts with an inte..."

Did you like Six Four? I bought it a couple of years ago, and was pleasantly surprised to see it longlisted for the Tournament of Books, but still haven't heard from any friend who has read it. Given its heft, I admit I've been guilty of choosing shorter works first. Thumbs up?


message 26: by Michael (new)

Michael | 51 comments Yes i did enjoy Six Four-i did review it here too, but how much of the pleasure was surprise i am not sure, though i read it quickly and easily...


message 27: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments Six Four interests me because of the amount of mixed reviews. Every time I go into a bookshop I pick it up and then end up putting it down again, maybe next time...


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 157 comments Mm seems the mixed/negative reviews might come from people expecting a fast paced thriller, but it's not actually a thriller book despite being a crime book. Sounds more like my cup of tea. Putting it on my list :)


message 29: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments I stalled at about p400 of 6-4. I have enjoyed much of it, but needed a break because I thought the author was being a bit too cutesy at hiding what his
main characters were actually searching for (I'm vague to avoid any spoilers, but I really hope that it will have a strong satisfying ending...)


message 30: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "Mm seems the mixed/negative reviews might come from people expecting a fast paced thriller, but it's not actually a thriller book despite being a crime book. Sounds more like my cup of tea. Putting..."

Exactly.

Thanks @the gift!


message 31: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments Don't think I've ever read any police procedural type books, sounds like an interesting experience.


message 32: by Carola (last edited Jan 08, 2018 04:36AM) (new)

Carola (carola-) | 119 comments I'm sorry for disappearing near the end of the year! I didn't read that much last year (well, a bunch of graphic novels and short stories) in general, and definitely not a lot of Japanese literature specifically. Out of the six titles I read, none of them really stood out. If I really have to make a choice, I guess it'll have to be Some Prefer Nettles.

Also a special mention to House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories for being memorable. My review:
2 stars for creepy old men and 4 stars for brilliant writing.
I have to be fair: interesting concept, and much more captivating than I'm willing to admit. But oh boy, how uncomfortable.

Yep.

I hope 2018 will be a better reading year!


message 33: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 756 comments House of the Sleeping Beauties was a disturbing book. I didn't know what it was about when I bought it in a used book store; it was by Kawabata, so I picked it up.

The book is novel for being mostly introspection for the main character, with very little dialog. The plot follows a 'descent into darkness'. At least that's how I think of it; I don't know the official literary criticism term for it. A neophyte is thrust into an abnormal situation which he initially finds repellent, but over time gets acclimated to it and finds it less and less abnormal. The ending of such a story isn't predetermined, though, so can still surprise the reader. The main character could fall completely into depravity. He could die of it. Or he could be shocked out of it and return to the normal world. I won't spoil this novel by telling people which of those three endings it contains.

I like some descent into darkness novels. Isle of Dreams is one. Others are so repulsive (e.g. Crash) that I can't get through them.


message 34: by Carola (new)

Carola (carola-) | 119 comments Bill wrote: "I won't spoil this novel by telling people which of those three endings it contains."
The funny (or horrible) thing is: I don't even remember which ending it was! I just remember feeling extremely uncomfortable while reading it, hating certain characters a lot, but also being unable to stop reading.


message 35: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments This sounds intriguing, will have to add it to my list, haha.


message 36: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments Jeshika wrote: "This sounds intriguing, will have to add it to my list, haha."

I know. Right?


message 37: by Ana (new)

Ana PF | 7 comments Hi! I'm new in this group and hoping to share my love of Japanese literature with all of you. :)

2017 has been the year in which I started to learn more about Japanese female authors and the huge influence they have had on their country's literature and language, I'm still very much learning, but I loved Yosano Akiko's poetry, particularly those of her poems that followed a modern style, even though I know that she brought tanka back to its former glory.


message 38: by Tim (new)

Tim | 152 comments Oh wow, didn't see this thread until now.

My favorite Japanese novel read in 2017 was The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. A great mystery that wasn't so much a "who done it" but a "how the hell did they cover it up?" Very enjoyable from start to finish and I'm looking forward to checking out the other books in the series.

In terms of our club, I think the winner for me was Some Prefer Nettles.


message 39: by Jeshika (new)

Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 213 comments @Ana Welcome! Who is your favourite Japanese author so far? What's your favourite book?

@Tim I have The Devotion of Suspect X yet to read. I'm looking forward to it.


message 40: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments Jeshika wrote: "@Ana Welcome! Who is your favourite Japanese author so far? What's your favourite book?

@Tim I have The Devotion of Suspect X yet to read. I'm looking forward to it."


Devotion rocks. It's one of my favorite novels of the last 5 years.


message 41: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 756 comments This is turning into quite a recommendation thread. I'll have to remember to do this again!


message 42: by Dimitra (new)

Dimitra | 3 comments Hi everyone and happy new year! I am also new to this group and to the topic in general.

Last year the book I found really fascinating was In the Miso Soup. I think it was intense and captivating.


message 43: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1285 comments Dimitra wrote: "Hi everyone and happy new year! I am also new to this group and to the topic in general.

Last year the book I found really fascinating was In the Miso Soup. I think it was intense an..."


Ah, yes. And I’ll never forget it either.


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