Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, December 21, 2009

Year End Reading Life Review-Part II-Best Japanese Reads

Before I began the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 on August 9, 2009 I had never in fifty plus years of near compulsive reading read a Japanese novel.   Long ago I read a number of the so called "wisdom texts" of Asian writers so it was not simply a question of my being very Euro-centered in my reading habits.    When I went to school, there were basically no Japanese novels yet translated into English.   The challenge required only that you read one book and it had a big list of suggested reads.   The Japanese Literature 3 challenge became my first ever reading challenge. So far I have read 42 Japanese works.  It will end Jan 31, 2009 at which time I plan now to write two posts.   One will be an attempt to see where the Japanese writers belong in the context of world literature.   There are big questions that can arise.  Is there really a Japanese novel in more a sense than there might be a distinctly Dutch, Canadian or even American novel?   I think there is and will give my thoughts on this then.   I will also write something like "The Reading Life Starter Guide to the Japanese Novel" in which I will list what I think are the first 3, 6 and 12 Japanese novels one should read and why I think it.    Here are my "ten best" -out of 42-Japanese reads for 2009.   (The order is not of import)

Best Japanese Reads 2009

  1.      Out  by   Natsuo Kirino 2004-exciting slice of lower life crime novel
  2. Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki    1904-beautiful work that teaches us a lot about how to approach literature and art.
  3. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness by Kenzaburo Oe-I love the four stories in this volume. 1969
  4. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.   Centers on the lives of four sister in preWorld War II Osaka-1948
  5. The Woman in the Dunes by Kobe Abe-1964-
  6. Crazy Iris and other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath (stories from eight authors selected and introduced by Kenzaburo Oe)  Most of the authors are atomic bomb survivors.  1985 
  7. Quick Sand by Junichiro Tanizaki-an excellent choice for the GLBT challenge for 2010-it does not seem like a nearly 90 year old novel  1928
  8. The Flower Mat by Sugoro Yamanto -an historical novel of 17th century Samurai life centering around the wife of a samurai   1948
  9. One Man's Justice by Akira Yoshimara-story of a soldier returning home in defeat and disgrace.   A universally applicable story that gives us a good look at conditions in Japan right after WWII. 1978
  10. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto-most of those who have posted on this and Kitchen like Kitchen better-you will not go wrong with any of her works. 1989
List of The Reading Life Japanese Posts

I explicitly proclaim myself as a neophyte in terms of the Japanese novel and put this list forth with that understanding.   Japanese novels will be an important part of my reading life (and my blog) from now on.   I will always be grateful to Dolce Bellezza for introducing me to the Japanese novel.   As far as The Reading Life and Japanese literature, please send me any ideas or suggestions as to new directions to go in.   I hope I have only just begun a very long reading relationship. 

I was motivated by a great post on Wuthering Expectations to do a series of best of 2009 posts.   I will do at least one more post, the next will center on the my best reads since I began my blog (less the Japanese works).

Mel u


Unknown said...

I'm so pleased to see Out at the top of your list, as it was my favourite too.

I'm planning to read The Woman in the Dunes soon, so am pleased to see that on your list too.

verbivore said...

Wonderful that Woman in the Dunes and The Makioka Sisters made your top ten! I'm incredibly impressed with how many books you read for this challenge. Japanese literature is one of my first loves, but I haven't read as broadly yet. I've taken note of the titles here that I don't know and look forward to reading them sometime in The New Year.

claire said...

I'm surprised you had never read any Japanese literature before this year, as you seemed just the opposite! 42 books since August is amazing! I haven't even read nearly as much and I've been reading Japanese lit since over 15 years ago, in college. (My first was Yoshimoto's Lizard, I think. Next was Kawabata's Snow Country.)

From your list I've only read The Makioka Sisters and Goodbye Tsugumi.

Mel u said...

Farmlanesbooks-I hope to read her Grotesque in 2010

Verbivore-I would love to see your reaction to The Makioka Sisters or his Quicksand

Claire-in truth when I was in college-there was nearly no translated Japanese Lit-of my 55 years or so of near complusive reading at least 45 of those years I read little fiction other than classics-I mostly read philosophy, history, poetry and biograhies-collections of essays, journals etc-In he last few years I am kind of making up for lost time! To a large extent I have learned via bookblogs how to find modern (to me that means after WWII) fiction I can read with enjoyment

mee said...

I'm quite surprised that there's not a single Haruki Murakami's on your list. I can't remember if you have read his work for this challenge or not (since you have read so many!).

I'm intrigued by the Makioka Sisters and Quicksand. I recommend The Key by Tanizaki (which is his only book that I have read).

Mel u said...

mee-I read Murakami's Dark and his Dance Dance Dance-maybe once I read his "big books" I will alter my rankings- I will Read both the Key, Diary of a Mad Old Man and Naomi soon, I hope.

Novroz said...

Welcome to the world of Japanese Literature :)

I've been reading them long enough before I found the challenge (Tho my interest in writing book reviews started a bit late).

But I have to admit that, the challenge does make me read it more frequent than before.

42books in a year is WOW...haha I can't read that many in a year...tho I want to but time is againts me :(

Color Online said...

Great list. I love reading literature set in different countries or about different cultures yet I have a big gaping hole when it comes to Japanese literature. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Mel, your enthusiasm for this genre continues to amaze me...I've only read five book myself, and it's my challenge! However, you inspire me to pick up so many works which have thrilled you, and of course to add them to the Must Read/Suggested list in the review site's sidebar. I'll be ever grateful to you for your participation.

Becca said...

You have really found the key to a whole new world of reading through the challenge! That is wonderful! Your story is like a success story for challenges. I actually haven't read any of the books in your top ten and I really, really must because they look fantastic. Especially Out. Thanks for the great list. You've just increased my TBR list. :)

Ali said...

Love the way you reached out and grabbed this challenge. Sounds like it was a wonderful and enriching reading year for you.

Kimberly said...

What a great list! I have always loved Haruki Murakami, but would love to give some other Japanese authors a try. I'll definitely be checking some of these out. Thanks!