Novels To Cinema: Celebrating Timeless Adapted Flicks That Define Excellence – Choosing the fifty best Japanese books ever written is a huge task, leaving out many great books. In fact, Japan has produced some of the world’s greatest writers, past and present, whose styles have evolved from more sophisticated Western literature. But here are 65 books that together tell the rich history of literature in Japan.
The list includes classic novels, contemporary novel adaptations, biographies, single collections, and manga excerpts. These books are presented in no particular order – so what would be your top 10?
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All books are independently researched and recommended, although we may receive a commission on purchases made from links we select.
Baltimore,: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier And The Vampire: Amazon.co.uk: Mignola, Mike, Golden, Christopher: 9780553804713: Books
Murasaki Shikibu was an educated woman of the Heian period in Japan and author of what many consider the world’s first novel.
It is widely considered to be the greatest work of literature in Japanese history, so much so that ukiyo-e artists of the Edo period devoted their lives to depicting scenes from the book of shikibu on woodblock prints (see The Tale of Genji in Japanese. Art). Few jobs are held in such high esteem
Why should I read this book? This is the story of Meiji period Japan through the perspective of Japan’s beloved pet.
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It is a satire on society’s preferences and is the strangest of all. Written in the early 1900s, Soseki’s novel is also a portrait of the uneasy East-West mix in Japan during the Meiji period. From the point of view of the cat protagonist as he walks around listening to the neighborhood gossip, Soseki creates a vivid Japanese novel that has stood the test of time.
The skirt is as funny as it is thought-provoking. The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan is our narrator, a curious, obsessive fan of the woman in the purple skirt. The story is built around the dynamics between the narrator and his subject, who are entangled in a world of office politics and social pressure. These advances in style and prose helped Imamura win the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for the book in 2019.
Why should I read this book? A compelling crime novel that stands out for its complex characters, unexpected twists and excellent storytelling.
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Keigo Higashino’s most popular detective novel, selling over 800,000 copies the year it was published. It’s a cerebral mystery book, full of plot twists and sleight of hand, subverting the whodunit format. Yasuko Hanaoka finds herself in a desperate situation when her ex-husband, Togashi, arrives at their apartment, resulting in a violent fight that results in his death. Yasuko’s neighbor, the brilliant mathematician Ishigami, begins to find a way to hide. And there’s only one man who can unravel the mystery of what happened that fateful day: Detective Galileo.
It gives a deep insight into the mind of those diagnosed with his condition. Using a “cardboard keyboard”, Higashida learns to communicate his thoughts, feelings, and his ability to feel, which is described in this tragic story; A study of the inner workings of the autistic mind. Author David Mitchell and his wife Kay Yoshida’s translation is painful, because Higashida’s story has allowed them to understand their autistic son in a way they never imagined.
Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata is one of Japan’s most beloved and respected novelists. Because of his amazing ability to use words, he wrote some of the best stories ever written. Although there is endless debate as to which is his best work,
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It’s a love story between a man in Tokyo and a geisha who lives and works in the mountain village of Osen. It is dark, direct and poetically smooth.
Kenzaburo O was one of Japan’s Nobel laureates, and his books are often intimate family matters that touch on politics but mostly focus on family pain.
His best and most comprehensive example of this theme is the story of two brothers in their 60s who return to their childhood hometown. One is from Tokyo and the other is from America. They both have new furniture and bring it into the house that has been transformed in a wave of modernity. It is a book of personal and national change; A brutal and difficult novel but a true masterpiece.
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Why should I read this book? A dark and atmospheric journey through Tokyo, The Thief offers a fresh perspective not found in other crime novels.
It is, at its heart, a morality tale. Following the titular protagonist Nishimura, who targets wealthy commuters in the Tokyo subway, this short novel explores the complex nature of vigilantism. Society has given Nishimura a short term and he has acted accordingly. Then a chance encounter with a boy from a broken family sets him on a path to personal redemption. But will his past catch up with him before he succeeds?
Why should I read this book? A unique and touching story of friendship, self-discovery and imagination
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But instead of the dressing room acting as a portal to another space, it’s a Tokyo teenager’s bedroom with a total of seven meaningful mirrors each. The youth are led into the impressive halls of the great castle with their mirrors, where they can be granted a wish as they complete their quest. But this book is really about the vulnerability of youth; Dealing with loneliness and anxiety, being rejected and bullied, and accepting that we have more in common than we sometimes think.
It is Japan’s most popular novel and the country’s most beloved author, Natsume Soseki. This charming novelist has written many important books, but his best is Truth
(Heart). Set between Kamakura and Tokyo, the book explores in three parts the relationship between a charming young man and his mind, which he adores. It focuses on these men and their relationships, providing an emotional, detailed and vivid three-dimensional look at the center. For more information, see 20 Best Japanese Writers.
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Why should I read this book? This is a short story about Japanese honor and the fight to survive.
Named after a ruined gate in southern Kyoto (which was also named after a famous Noh play). Akutagawa’s short story tells the story of a servant who finds himself inside a broken Rashomon, torn between the choice between starving and fighting for his life, until he meets an old woman at another gate, choosing himself. The story, which is often sold as part of a collection, was written by Akutagawa who has Japan’s most prestigious literary award named after him.
This novel is like some others. Written as a series of illustrations and essays; The first is Copper, a teenager in wartime Tokyo; and the latter was written by his uncle, Tambe, as a letter to his guiding grace in life. Genzaburo Yoshino wrote How Do You Live? As an act of betrayal, glorifying private lessons and exposing himself to the Japanese. The facade of the children’s story was merely a pretense, invented as a way to evade the imposed literary constraints.
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Why should I read this book? It is a dramatic story of crime and corruption, which offers a thought-provoking examination of Japanese society.
Detective begins with a multiplayer mode. Two dead bodies have been found on the beach. The corpse advises love suicide with cyanide. But two detectives, a wise old head and a new kid on the block, believe there’s more to it than meets the eye. But what sets this short, sharp Hitchcockian thriller apart is Matsumoto’s careful plotting and bare-bones prose, which leaves a lot to be desired as it carries you from start to finish.
Why should I read this book? It is a profound and uncompromising examination of societal pressures, individual freedom and the complexities of human relationships.
The Old Dark House (1932)
This is probably the weirdest book on this list, and it’s hard to come by. Natsuki, the gay protagonist, feels that there is no place for her in this world – or “the factory”, as she ironically refers to it. Despite family pressure to marry and lead a “normal” life, Natsuki slowly retreats from reality with the help of two former sinners. Along the way you will encounter adultery, pedophilia, cannibalism, murder, and most amazingly, deep and sincere compassion.
Why should I read this book? This is a semi-autobiographical novel by one of Japan’s most important, yet most troubled, writers of the Meiji period.
The idea of traditional life colliding with Western culture was a common theme in 20th-century Japanese literature and.
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Deals with this trope in such an enduring manner that it remains one of Japan’s best-selling books of all time. Narrated in the novel by the antagonist Oba Yozo (in many ways a figure of the author), she presents a troubled figure hiding behind the mask of a clown as he battles himself.
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