Intermediate Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: セーラー服と機関銃 // Next: 変な家

Before y’all disappear into the seasonal holidays, winter sports or summer sports activities, this is just a quick heads up that I will run the next book club poll early next year, probably from January 2nd!

In other words, if you have a book you would like to read with the club, now is a good time for proposing it. We currently have 10 (!) free slots for books unless I overlooked some nominations again :sweat_smile:, so please go wild :blush:

5 Likes

How do you all feel about me nominating a book that is part of a pair, but recommending the better of the two on its own rather than reading both, knowing that the one I’m recommending is better read second if you choose to read both? Technically there’s no set order, but I think the weaker one should be read first based on loose plot connections between the two, or skipped entirely. They are both on the shorter side, but combined they are definitely too long for IBC. So should I nominate the weaker of the two to accommodate people likely to read both? Should I nominate the better of the two knowing that it’s not ideal for people who end up reading both? Should I skip the nomination entirely because this is way too confusing?

5 Likes

禎子の千羽鶴

Author: 佐々木 雅弘
Page count: 156 pages
Natively: 禎子の千羽鶴 戦争ノンフィクション

Summary

Japanese

広島で原爆にあい、10年後に原爆症となった少女・佐々木禎子さん。12歳で亡くなるまで、周囲の人を思いやり、明るくふるまいながら千羽鶴を折り続けた禎子さんは「原爆の子の像」のモデルとなりました。実の兄がはじめて書いた禎子さんと家族の物語。

English

This is the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 years old at the time when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and years later became severely sick from side-affects of the radiation and while hospitalized folded a thousand paper cranes because of the legend that doing so would grant the folder a wish. This book is written by her older brother.

Availability

Paperback (Amazon JP)
Paperback (Kinokuniya)
eBook (Kindle)

Personal Opinion

True take on the life of a girl that has become famous in Japan (and worldwide). See Wikipedia page for more history in English. Her story is often told to school children in Japan on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. This book covers from her birth through her death through the eyes of a family member and shines a more personal light on what would become almost a legendary story.

I struggle to read non-fiction sometimes and most often find myself sticking to only fantasy or sci-fi stories, but I picked this up on a visit to Hiroshima years ago and have wanted to read it ever since.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • well-known story
  • available in both hardcopy and ebook
  • on the shorter side
  • furigana for all kanji make it more accessible than the vocabulary would otherwise indicate
  • contains footnotes for potentially unfamiliar terms (kindle version links directly to these)
  • lovely charcoal illustrations

Cons

  • some difficult vocabulary terms early on (not many after the first couple chapters except for some medical terms near the end)
  • it’s a sad story

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One

Taken from Amazon preview because I’m horrible at taking pictures of books:



Additional Pages



Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

First time nominating anything, I hope this looks okay! Let me know if I need to make any edits.

9 Likes

The kindle version has some slightly more legible samples btw

1 Like

How about making one nomination and then if it wins we can vote on whether we read the first book or skip it? Only with the caveat that you only vote for it if you are willing to read together either way. Though I suppose the caveat might artificially reduce the votes it gets if, say, everyone just wants to read the 2nd book :confused:

Having 2 different nominations may be good for more accurately judging who wants to read what. But it’s not great that it can eat up 2 votes, and it might be hard for people to judge whether they want to read the 2nd book while avoiding spoilers. Splitting up the votes might also reduce the chance of one of them winning :slightly_smiling_face::sweat_drops:

Seems like the best option depends on how flexible voters are, which we can’t know a priori…unless—why not have a poll! EDIT: this poll is apparently not really relevant :upside_down_face: sorry for the confusion

  • I only read books in order
  • I don’t mind sequence breaking
  • It depends on which book it is
0 voters

Disclaimer: Poll results are not conclusive and enforces no action from any actor, legal or otherwise.

Whatever you go for I hope you don’t skip the nomination. What if it’s something everyone wants to read??

The problem is that the tone is so different between the two books. I’m not sure I’d even know how to write a joint nomination.

Well again, there’s not technically an order. They were published on the same day and take place in alternate universes. I read the one I consider second first and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Spoiler in case you were intentionally avoiding the titles

Your description is making me think of the 僕が愛したすべての君へ and 君を愛したひとりの僕へ movie pair. :sweat_smile:

Were those based on a novel/got novelized, or is it just two similar gimmicks?

Oh I misunderstood then. So why do you recommend reading the ‘weaker’ one first if you’re reading both?

oh damn, I have this book actually. Bought it at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima in 2018, the year before I seriously started JP studies. Tried reading it early in my studies but it was tough even with all the furigana, so I didn’t get very far. Remained in my tsundoku pile ever since.

Would join the book club if this book gets picked :slight_smile:

4 Likes

They were based on novels.

Because while I think they can work read in any order, it feels more natural based on their plots and tone. Short version (no plot spoilers): the one I consider weaker made me feel depressed the whole time I was reading it. Granted, I don’t know if that is the common/intended feeling or if it just hit me that way for some reason.

Longer version (still no plot spoilers) can be seen in my reviews of the books. Review 1, Review 2.

3 Likes

Phew, difficult question. Of course if we were sure that the first book would spawn a spin-off club, then my vote would be to nominate the first one (if you think it’s still a good book and an interesting read, of course). But history shows that while we had successful and long-lasting spin-off clubs, we also had books that were dropped after the club read the first volume. So it’s a bit of a gamble.

In reality we also read books out-of-order in the clubs (e.g. the ABC read Yougisha X which technically is the 3rd book in a series of loosely connected books revolving around the same main characters) so I’d say it’s not a bad thing in and of itself to nominate just the second one.

Also, if somebody really wants to read the first book first, they might even choose to do so out-of-club (time permitting of course).

Bottom line: I can’t really give a decisive answer, sorry! I’d suggest you pick whichever one you think is more entertaining for the club (and therefore more likely to win at some point).

5 Likes

It’s a shame it’s such a complicated thing with having two books, because otherwise they are the perfect difficulty and length for this book club.

3 Likes

I was just checking the books on Amazon and there is now a spin-off sequel too, it seems. 僕が君の名前を呼ぶから

1 Like

Yeah, I saw that. I decided to not read it though.

1 Like

Ahh, I so wanted to check out those movies (I think I first heard about them on Crunchyroll news)! Alas, not living in Japan currently.

@seanblue I would be up for reading whichever you would recommend more

5 Likes

西の魔女が死んだ

Author: 梨木なしき香歩かほ
Page count: 226 (Bookwalker says 177)
Natively: 西の魔女が死んだ | L27

Summary

Japanese

二度と再び、まいの世界が元に戻ることはなかった。

学校に足が向かなくなった少女が、大好きな祖母から受けた魔女の手ほどき。何事も自分で決めるのが、魔女修行の肝心かなめで……。

English (tl by me)

Mai, a girl who just couldn’t bring herself to go to her new school, spent a month or so under the care of her favourite grandmother—secretly the Witch of the West—as the seasons changed to summer. During her stay Mai undergoes training to be a witch. But her training is not quite what she expected…The Witch has her learn that she must decide things for herself, and take her happiness into her own hands.

Availability

Amazon jp (also has kindle version)
Bookwalker eBook

Personal Opinion

This was my first (non-manga) book that I actually managed to finish. I think the biggest reason for this was that it is really easy to follow what is going on, even if you don’t understand (or want to bother looking up) all the words. It’s a sweet story basically about a girl hanging out with her grandma in the countryside who turns out to be a witch. Somewhat Ghibli vibes. I’m eager to give it another read.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Easy to follow (written for a younger audience?)
  • Good amount of furigana; all the difficult words have, but not so much that you don’t get to practice your kanji reading knowledge
  • Has at least one recommendation to the book club from another WK member! [2022] 多読/extensive reading challenge - #975 by NathaLire
  • 新潮文庫 best 文庫

Cons

  • Not very eventful story (but not uninteresting! idk, some may find it boring)

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One

16 pages can be read on Bookwalker’s 試し読み


Additional Pages


Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

7 Likes

The beginner book club is currently voting on what to read next. If you want to read something a bit easier head over there to participate!

5 Likes

小説 はたらく細胞

Author: 時海 結以 (著), 清水 茜 (原著)
Page count: 176
Natively: Manga version is rated L29

Summary

Japanese

体内をめぐって酸素お届けしている赤血球(主人公)は、方向音痴。侵入した細菌を駆除するのは、クールで強い白血球(好中球)。大ベストセラーの体内細胞擬人化漫画『はたらく細胞』が小説で楽しめる!

累計150万部を超えるベストセラーとなった体内細胞擬人化漫画、『はたらく細胞』。その数一人あたり、およそ37兆個。細胞の数だけ仕事(ドラマ)がある!そのおもしろさをぎゅーっと詰め込んだ小説ができました!

English

Auto-translated: The red blood cell (protagonist) that delivers oxygen around the body has no sense of direction. It is cool and strong white blood cells (neutrophils) to get rid of invading bacteria. You can enjoy the best-selling in-body cell anthropomorphic manga “Cells at Work” in a novel!

It became a bestseller with a total of more than 1.5 million copies. Internal cell anthropomorphic manga, “Cells at Work”. There are about 37 trillion per person. There is as much work (drama) as the number of cells! I made a novel packed with that fun!

Availability

Amazon JP including Kindle edition
Publisher Kodansha has links to many online bookstores and e-book options

Personal Opinion

ABBC is reading manga version. It is a very fun read! ABBC nomination post for reference.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • It is quite scientifically accurate! With proper vocabulary!

Cons

  • Some biology and immunology words if you are not into them

Pictures

Both Amazon and Kodansha links above have preview.

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

3 Likes

パレード

Author: 吉田 修一
Page count: 282
Natively:パレード | L30?? (not graded yet)

Summary

Japanese

都内の2LDKマンションに暮らす男女4人の若者達。「上辺だけの付き合い? 私にはそれくらいが丁度いい」。それぞれが不安や焦燥感を抱えながらも、“本当の自分”を装うことで優しく怠惰に続く共同生活。そこに男娼をするサトルが加わり、徐々に小さな波紋が広がり始め…。発売直後から各紙誌の絶賛を浴びた、第15回山本周五郎賞受賞作。

English

In a crowded two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo, four Japanese twenty-somethings are waiting for their lives to begin. They have come from all over Japan, bringing with them dreams of success and romance, but life isn’t exactly going as planned. Kotomi waits by the phone for a boyfriend who never calls, Ryosuke is sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend, and Mirai’s drinking has become a serious problem. Only Naoki, an aspiring filmmaker and the glue that keeps them all together, seems to be on the right track. Meanwhile, their next door neighbors are up to something suspicious, and a mysterious attacker is terrorizing the neighborhood.

When a homeless teenager suddenly appears, his arrival sets off a chain of events that will bring to light dark secrets the tenants of Apt. 401 have kept from one another—and from themselves. Parade—from Shuichi Yoshida (“Japan’s Stieg Larsson” —The Wall Street Journal), the wildly popular author of Villain—is a shocking story of life in the big city.

Availability

Amazon paperback
Amazon Ebook
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

I was idly browsing for Japanese crime fiction recommendations and I happened upon this in translation. It looked interesting, so I got it when it was on offer on Bookwalker, but haven’t read it yet. Apparently it’s not really a crime novel, although there is some tension, but rather a portrayal of the lives of a group of youths sharing an apartment in Tokyo. We get to see the points of view of all the roommates, which is always an interesting approach for me.
The author has won the 山本周五郎 award, a literary award given to novels and literary works with excellent storytelling, for this book, and the Akutagawa prize for another book of his, パーク・ライフ.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Award winning book and author
  • Multiple points of view
  • Good character portrayals and tension (reportedly)
  • It’s been translated into English (and Italian, possibly other languages too?)

Cons

  • Although it is framed as a crime novel, some reviews complained that it was more slice-of-life and led nowhere. (this may also be a pro of course)
  • The situations described may be a little outdated, according to reviews. For what it’s worth, the book was written in 2002. (which still feels like last year to me, but that’s neither here nor there)
  • I’m not sure about any content warnings. I haven’t seen any mentioned in reviews but I haven’t searched too deeply.

Pictures

You can read the first 26 pages on Bookwalker.

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

6 Likes

掏摸

Author:中村文則
Page count:192
Natively:掏摸(スリ) | L30??

Summary

Japanese

お前は、運命を信じるか?東京を仕事場にする天才スリ師。彼のターゲットはわかりやすい裕福者たち。ある日、彼は「最悪」の男と再会する。男の名は木崎―かつて一度だけ、仕事を共にしたことのある、闇社会に生きる男。木崎はある仕事を依頼してきた。「これから三つの仕事をこなせ。失敗すれば、お前を殺す。もし逃げれば…最近、お前が親しくしている子供を殺す」その瞬間、木崎は彼にとって、絶対的な運命の支配者となった。悪の快感に溺れた芥川賞作家が、圧倒的な緊迫感とディティールで描く、著者最高傑作にして驚愕の話題作。

English

The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes he doesn’t even remember the snatch. Most people are just a blur to him, nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims. He has no family, no friends, no connections… But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears in his life, and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It’s an easy job: tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt. Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle even he might not be able to escape.

Availability

Amazon paperback
Amazon ebook
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

Another book that I grabbed because it was on offer and looked interesting. It has won the Kenzaburo Oe award, and the author has also won the Akutagawa Prize for his book 土の中の子供. It’s been translated into English and seems to have been well received.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • On the short side.
  • Translated into English.
  • Suspense and good characterization (reportedly)

Cons

  • None that I’m aware of

Pictures

Sample on Amazon

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

8 Likes