TW Book Club: What We’ve Read So Far

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We launched the TW Book Club last spring and we received an overwhelming response. It’s great to see that so many are interested in reading more about Japan. What started as a seasonal read turned into a monthly endeavor earlier this year, and now we even have our own Twitter and Instagram pages. If you’ve been wanting to join but didn’t know quite know what you’d be getting into, here are a few of our past reads to give you a good idea of what we’re trying to cover through our group.

The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Our inaugural book was inspired by summer and travel. We thought it would be great to start our journey with a light read. We dove right into the world of Hiro Arikawa headfirst through this fun tale of a cat owner and his pet. The story centers around Nana, a street cat-turned-house cat, and his human companion Satoru. This one is truly for animal lovers.

Our favorite quote: “Cats the world over prefer to discover things they like on their own and rarely go for anything that’s been provided for them.”

The Emissary by Toko Tawada (translated by Margaret Mitsutani

Our 2019 fall read was The Emissary. This sci-fi novel is set in a dystopian Japan, in the aftermath of a massive unspecified disaster. The population is divided; while the young are dying, the elders are cursed with excessive longevity. Engrossing, unnerving and many times whimsical, this quick read was the highlight of our autumn reading.

Our favorite quote: “This life with his grandson was about all he could manage. And for that he needed to be flexible, in mind and body, with the courage to doubt what he had believed for over a century.”

Ms Ice Sandwich by Meiko Kawakami (translated by Louise Heal Kawai)

During our Christmas break, we read Meiko Kawakami’s Ms Ice Sandwich. Tender, warm, yet unsentimental, this story is about new starts, parents who have departed, and the importance of saying goodbye. Best enjoyed with a cup of hot cocoa and a box of tissues on the side.

Our favorite quote: “And then when she looks straight at me, she has these enormous eyes which are so big I feel like I get swallowed up in them.”

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa (translated by Alison Watts)

We started 2020 with Sweet Bean Paste. This poetic and moving book delves into deep-set societal prejudices and their consequences. Main characters Sentaro and Tokue help navigate our thoughts on the meaning of life, relationships and the perfect way of cooking the Japanese staple sweet. Great if you share a love for Japanese sweets, but also incredible character development.

Our favorite quote: “The world hasn’t changed. It’s just as cruel as it always was.”

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

This March, we read Richard Lloyd Parry’s Ghosts of the Tsunami. We picked this touching and unsettling book to commemorate the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that cost over 15,000 lives. Slowly, the region has been recovering, notably Fukushima. An inspiring read full of moving and humbling stories, to say the least.

Our favorite quote: “There was no advance warning, no marginal area of incremental damage. The wave had come in with full force, spent itself and stopped at a point as clearly defined as the reach of a high tide. Above it, nothing had been touched; below it, everything was changed.”

How to Participate?

Check out our master post here for how to join and participate. For our April read, check us out on Goodreads. You can join any time, from anywhere. If you have any ideas for future reads, holla at us using the #TWBookClub hashtag across social media.

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