I’ve been reading a lot this year and having a blast with it. I’ll surpass my Goodreads goal of 15 books this year, and next year I’ll be setting a higher goal. I wanted to run through some of the books I’ve been reading this year, in case you might fancy something new to read yourself.
I do try to avoid spoilers, but read at your own discretion.
All the Lovers in the Night — Mieko Kawakami
Mieko Kawakami’s All the Lovers in the Night, published by Picador books, is a gem. Kawakami has such a beautiful and descriptive way of writing, and it sucked me in. I saw a lot of myself in our protagonist, Fuyuko, and have similarly spent many nights pouring over editing and writing, preferring my own company, and learned how to enjoy alcohol, alone, in my own time — don’t worry, I don’t even drink on a weekly basis, and when I do, it is not very much!
I loved this book and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, and although I didn’t expect the ending I got, I’m glad it’s the one that happened. I loved Fuyuko’s personal growth, and it reinforces the hope that I have that life can get better, and we can become better people. I also got to see Mieko Kawakami talk about her novel at Foyles, which was a pleasure to see.
Klara and the Sun — Kazuo Ishiguro
I did a disservice to myself by not getting to this sooner. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, published by Faber and Faber, is a book I knew I’d love. I adore works that explore the human rights of AI, and how humanity can so wildly differ in how they approach AI that looks and acts human, but is not human.
Our protagonist, Klara, is a delight, and I simply wanted to sit with her and answer whatever questions she had to become the best Artificial Friend to her new friend Josie. I did find myself becoming increasingly angry with many of the humans in this novel, many of which did not treat Klara or other AI nearly as well as they should have, and I feel Klara deserved better. Klara is great.
Cursed Bunny — Bora Chung
I loved most of the short stories in Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny, with only two of them being ones that I didn’t quite enjoy. It’s worth pointing out that if you’re going to read this, the short story Snare covers many sickening topics that might act as a trigger for you — it dealt with several topics I don’t enjoy in media, and in such a short span of time, but I can’t deny that it had me hooked still.
My favourite stories were the more supernatural ones, the weird and obscure, rather than the ones that felt like they were grounded a bit more in realism. Regardless, I’m eager to see more of Chung’s work localised, and I’m happy I decided to give this one a go.
I Who Have Never Known Men — Jacqueline Harpman
Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men, where do I begin? It’s a hard one to talk about without spoiling it, and it’s such a brief read I encourage you to check out. Set in a world without men, and women who have been detained for no reason they’re aware of, this story follows a small group of women who somehow escape and are able to see the outside world — some of who are seeing it for the first time.
I’m not sure I could read this one again. I absolutely loved it, but a piece of media has rarely made me sob so much like this one did. It still plays on my mind now, months after reading it. A fantastic story, and one not lacking in humanity despite its lack of humans.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold — Toshikazu Kawaguchi
A quick and breezy read that you perhaps could devour before your coffee gets cold! Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold is another book I knew I’d love, but just was slow to getting around to. I love coffee and cafes, and knowing that this would be quite an emotional journey appealed to me. Following different (and often recurring) characters as they come to a certain cafe due to a rumour floating around, one that says you can return to a moment in the past, is a great idea, and one that’s executed brilliantly.
I enjoyed all of the stories here, and each person has a differing and understandable reason for why they want to go back — although it’s made clear that they cannot change the future — but it’s nice seeing people have hope and square things away that they once thought they’d never be able to. I’ve got the second book ready to go!
There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job — Kikuko Tsumura
Kikuko Tsumura’s There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job is one of the drier reads on this list, and it’s fair to say that this won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure the direction it was going, but I was pleasantly surprised and very happy for our protagonist (who is unnamed) as she searches for an easy job after her previous one gave her such intense burnout.
Also, there’s a chapter where she works at a senbei cracker factory, and Tsumura makes senbei crackers sound SO good that I bought some myself. I’ve now had a few different varieties and they’re one of my favourite go-to snacks — I’m particularly fond of soy flavour and seaweed flavour.
Never Give Up — Jackie Chan
You might not know this about me, but I love Jackie Chan. Reading Never Grow Up proved to be inspirational and informative, and I was surprised to see that we actually have some stuff in common — unfortunately, not the martial arts prowess…
Jackie Chan struck me as quite an anxious person, one who thinks about death and doing good, and I relate to that. If you’re a fan of the man then this is a must, as it really does share a lot I wasn’t aware of. This is the year I’ve gotten into auto-biographies, and my enjoyment with this has helped with that a lot.
Disrupting the Game — Reggie Fils-Aimé
I miss Reggie at Nintendo. He was always delightful to watch, and it’s clear he was very passionate and kind. Reading his book, From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo, only reinforced that. It has a lot to say in how you should approach work both professionally and personally, and as someone who’d love to be a manager some day and to help raise others up, it’s been a great read to learn from one of the best. Thanks, Reggie.