How Do You Live? By Genzaburo Yoshino is Wonderful

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino is an important book. It’s a book that I wish I had read when I was younger. I think it would have helped me with quite a few things that caused me to suffer. I think this will be true for most people too. That isn’t to say that there is only something here for younger audiences. Everyone can take something from this novel. It is lovely. It’s a lovely and positive book that celebrates humanity and how one might grow to be a better person. We’re never too young for lessons like that and this book is suffused with them. 

How Do You Live was published in 1937 and this year marks the very first time it has been translated into English and published very kindly by Random House in a beautiful hard cover edition. It is a best seller in Japan and has been beloved for decades and now English speaking audiences can find out for themselves why. 

How Do You Live follows the life and learnings of a young man named Honda Junichi. We chart his life and discoveries as a teenager in an increasingly militaristic Japan. The book takes two perspectives – the first is that of Junichi or Copper, a nickname that quickly becomes his moniker – the second is that of Copper’s Uncle who fulfils the roles of father figure, elder brother and spiritual guide. 

The book weaves between events in Copper’s life as they occur and his Uncle’s journal. The journal is written to Copper and filled with wisdom, analysis and teachings in reference to the things that he has experienced. His uncle’s love and respect for Copper is plain, as is his admiration for his budding intelligence and empathy. It’s clear that he wishes for Copper to live a good life and to fully realise what it is to be a good person. 

The result of these segments is a meditation on life and learning through the lens of a young man and all of the turbulence and melancholy of one’s teenage years. His uncle’s advice is critical without being negative, it’s supportive and nurturing while also piercing, but most of all it is true. The truth in the story is so redolent because of their faith in each other. It’s honest and true and brave. 

The book is a baring of ones soul. Nothing is hidden, it is all revealed in its beauty and ugliness. Copper is a precocious and intelligent boy but he is not without his flaws. The book reveals a few of them, almost painfully at times. The virtue lies in his realisation of them, his Uncle’s sage advice, and Coppers willingness to face it. The book is perfect in its imperfections. 

One thing that I’ll take away from this book and hopefully take to heart is the message that no matter how badly you may feel in a moment of regret, be it of an action or words, the other party or parties will have forgotten or forgiven it long before you will. There are a few moments in the book that beautifully illustrate this and it felt like a gift to me. Nobody will ever be harder on you than you are on yourself. It’s good to be reminded of that. 

This book is filled with little moments like that. 

I didn’t know how badly I needed to read a book like this, or how badly I needed to forgive myself for the innumerable things that I’ve lashed myself over that were, in the end, negligible or inconsequential. Copper’s uncle would suggest that we aren’t defined by mistakes. We are instead defined by what we do after we make them. In that is one of the keys to being a good person, I think. 

It should come as no surprise that this book was a childhood favourite of Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli and will soon become a Ghibli Film. The Ghibli tradition of heart and warmth will fit this story perfectly. Miyazaki has stated that he is making the film for his Grandson, almost as an epitaph to remain after he is gone. This film will remain with the world in legacy, as Yoshino Genzaburo’s book did before him. It’s a wonderful tribute. 

Having read this now I feel a responsibility to spread word of it in my own small way. If one more person reads this book because of my post I’d consider it an honour.

You must read Sleeping Giants

sleeping-giantsSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is the first book in a series that he has dubbed The Themis Files. I found this one entirely by chance while browsing a bookstore, and after reading the blurb I knew I had to experience it. At this stage it is looking to be at least a trilogy, with Sylvain Neuvel implying that there could be more. Sounds great to me. The sequel, Waking Gods, is due for release in April this year. So this is the perfect time to jump in and grab this one. The wait will be far less agonising for you.

Like glimpses of bafflingly advanced alien technology? Giant robots? Ambitious scientists? Enjoy enigmatic G-men with complex agendas and suspiciously vast resources? This book delivers.Read More »

You must read Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

I was incredibly excited to dive into this book. After the tremendous impact of A Head Full of Ghosts, it was an immense relief to know that I had another one of Paul Tremblay’s books up my sleeve. So, it was with extreme anticipation that I dived in to A Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, and I was not disappointed. This book is every bit as complex, nuanced and emotional as A Head Full of Ghosts, and in some ways it pushes the boundaries even further. The ambiguity and unique readings of Ghosts is present here too; it’s becoming a signature, and one I relish the opportunity to experience. Paul Tremblay’s fascination with the parallels between the supernatural and psychosis make for thrilling reading.Read More »

You must read A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay is a book that I needed to read. I’ve seen it mentioned on my twitter feed for a while, and now I’m kicking myself because I’ve been deprived of one of the best novels that the horror genre has had to offer in years. You really should read this book too. Read on and let me convince you.Read More »

You must read the Ferryman Institute – Here’s why

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl, published by Gallery Books, is a delight to read. The cover and the blurb drew me in while I was browsing books, so I was expecting something interesting. It was Colin Gigl’s excellent plot, world building and characterisation that kept me reading, though. This book is fantastic. It is thoughtful, complex, frustrating and often hilarious. Gigl delivers on every promise the jacket blurb offers, but he enhances it, elevates it, and ascends the book with his strategic use of emotional highs and lows and an enviable control of conflict. This book, suffused with death, becomes more about the gift that life is; something that really resonated with me.Read More »

You must read The Fifth Season By N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, published by the ever awesome Orbit Books, won the Hugo award this year for best novel. Hype often repels me, I have been disappointed before, but the premise sounded great. So, with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation, I bought a copy and waded in.

So, straight into it. My impression? This book is wonderful. It is beautifully written, with a vivid but light and accessible style. It is utterly unpretentious, and fiercely intelligent. Read More »

The Lazarus War: Origins – A Retrospective

I haven’t written about the same series twice before. I like to write about them once they are completed, so that I can come at the review and analysis with the full picture and a resolved plot. It is definitely a neater way to do it so I’ve tried to maintain that. This becomes a problem with a series, especially an ongoing one, so I suppose this will be something I face on this blog again in the future. Especially when I read a book that is so good, that gets me so excited about it, that I just have to write about it, to tell people about it. The Lazarus War: Artefact was one of those. You can read my initial review here.

So, I blasted my review off after finishing Artefact, in the afterglow. I was immensely excited by the knowledge that the third book in the trilogy had recently been released. The full trilogy was ready for me to binge on. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but now that I’ve finished Origins, I need to come back to it and write about it again, as a whole. Read More »

You must read The Lazarus War: Artefact

The Lazarus War is a Sci-Fi trilogy by Jamie Sawyer. The first book is called Artefact, published by Orbit Books.

Artefact is a pure, concentrated page-turner. It is compulsively readable and incredible fun. Sawyer is clearly a huge fan of Sci-Fi subculture, and that works just fine for me. He evokes the tense and powerful Marine group dynamic of Aliens, the interstellar travel and stacked odds of Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, while tossing in the awesome notion of armoured space marines fighting repellent and hyper aggressive alien civilisations. It soars.

The first book is an explosion of conflict, intrigue and world building. Read More »

If you loved The Stand, you must read The Dead Lands – Here’s why

The post-apocalyptic novel, since 1978, has lived in the shadow of a titan – Stephen King’s The Stand. Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is the first book that I’ve truly felt had temerity to pick up the gauntlet. I’ve been waiting for a book like this. It is a reinterpretation of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition in a post-apocalyptic United States, a United States that has been decimated by an epidemic and twisted by radiation. The land is crippled, broken and mutated. Creatures have evolved and changed. Hairless wolves, giant spiders and other nightmares stalk the boundaries of human settlements. Humanity cowers inside their walls. It is a compelling premise, and Percy packs an incredibly ambitious work of imagination into just under 400 pages.Read More »

The Dresden Files demands your attention: Read it!

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher began publication with Storm Front, the first novel in the series, in April 2000 through Roc Books. As of today there are 15 novels published, with Skin Game being the most recent and the upcoming novel Peace Talks TBD. When I thought about making a new style of post, a spotlight, the Dresden Files sprung immediately and irresistibly to mind as the best possible way to inaugurate it. So while I’m finishing the book I’m going to review next, I’m going to talk instead about one of my all-time favourite series of novels.

The Dresden Files follow the titular lead, Harry Dresden. He is a Wizard. He is a private investigator. He is a black sheep. He flouts secrecy, thumbs his nose at the conservative and secretive hegemony of the White Council of Wizards, and you can find him in the Chicago phonebook under W for Wizard. Harry is an antiauthoritarian in the eyes of the White Council, a thorn in their side, a potentially deadly foe. But he is also a new Wizard for a new age. He not only wields mysterious and arcane powers, he also doesn’t mind revolvers.Read More »