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.

Spotlight: Raven’s Shadow Trilogy by Anthony Ryan – THIS IS A TRILOGY OF BADASSES!

17693064The Raven’s Shadow trilogy is a fantasy series by Anthony Ryan. The first book is Blood Song (first published in 2011), followed by Tower Lord (2014) and Queen of Fire (2015). The books chronicle the life of Vaelin Al Sorna, the son of the King’s famed and feared Battle Lord, after he is severed from his family and deposited into the Sixth Order. A religious sect dedicated to transforming children into elite and deadly warriors. They are bound to the tenants of their faith, and famed for their prowess.

The brothers of the Sixth Order are wherever the fighting is the hottest and wherever the deadliest foes threaten the realm. They are trained to show up, outclass, and annihilate foes – then mic-drop on the way out. This series delivers.

Blood Song is the academy book of the series. The formative years. One of the best of its kind. Blood Song delves into the training of Vaelin and his peers as they are moulded into men who will be the vanguard in combat and conflict throughout the realm. It is a coming of age story, and it is a vital book. It forms the foundation, the relationships, and the personalities that prop up and propel the story over the course of the trilogy.

It is amazing. I loved the trilogy, but Blood Song is something special. I’m going to keep this a spoiler free review, as usual, so Blood Song (Book One) will be the book I focus on here. So, what does the synopsis say? Read More »

You must read SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson: Here’s why

sevenevesNeal Stephenson is a challenging and erudite author. He is the writer responsible for Snow Crash, one of my favourite books, along with classics like The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle and Anathem. Lauded, celebrated and awarded – Neal Stephenson has many laurels. When SEVENEVES hit shelves around the world Barack Obama, then POTUS and leader of the free world, earmarked it for his summer reading. When the POTUS dedicates time to kicking back and reading a Sci-Fi novel, you know that it isn’t an ordinary book.

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Should you read Dawn of Wonder? Find out

Dawn of Wonder is the first book in a fantasy series by Jonathan Renshaw called The Wakening. The book follows Aedan, a precocious but damaged boy, in a coming of age story amidst a backdrop of strange events, political threats and turmoil.
It’s notable to mention that Dawn of Wonder is a self-published work. That is nothing new, but Dawn of Wonder belongs to a qualitative batch of polished and compelling books that have emerged in the past few years without the initial backing of a publisher. This is really exciting, as good stories deserve to be told, with or without the approval and support of a traditional publishing house.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 Stranded By Bracken MacLeod

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod (published by Tor Books) drew me in immediately. The book is complex, dark and unapologetically cryptic. The book is atmospheric, tense and mysterious in the tradition of some of the greats in horror fiction. This book will sneak up on you, twist you with dread and suspicion, and then fade away leaving you wondering if it’s truly gone or still out there in the darkness.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 »