Japan Society Staff Summer Reading Picks



Search no more - your Summer Reading List is here!

Whether you’re heading out to the beach or just spending some quality time at home, stay connected to Japan this summer by reading books specially hand-picked by Japan Society staff. From classical literature to contemporary fiction, historical chronicles to avant-garde manga, there's something for everyone from our roster.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

An engaging story that ties together contemporary culture in Japan, Zen Buddhism, the aftermath of 3/11, and more.  - Recommended by Christy Jones





Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

An essential read for Japanophiles interested in the making of modern Japan.  From the kyodatsu condition and post-war black markets to McArthur’s relationship with Hirohito and the influence of the Cold War, Embracing Defeat is an amazing feat of scholarship. - Recommended by Micah Fukazawa

 My Life in Japanese Art and Gardens: From Entrepreneur to Connoisseur by Zenko Adachi


A scrappy and impoverished boy from rural Japan turns the profits from his flair for daring and deal making into a world class museum and garden. - Recommended by Manuel Martinez



Seiichi Hayashi: Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi, edited by Ryan Holmberg

A fantastic English introduction to 1960s and '70s avant-garde manga, Gold Pollen and Other Stories collects a selection of Hayashi’s most challenging, haunting and beautiful stories. - Recommended by Katie Skelly


The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

A heartwarming story of the relationship between a brilliant math professor -- who has only 80 minutes of memory -- and a kind caretaker and her young son. Despite “meeting for the first time” each morning, the characters form a unique and special bond, as depicted through Ogawa’s simple yet alluring writing. - Recommended by Lara Mones

 Tokyo Rose: Orphan of the Pacific by Masayo Duus

A non-fiction account of a Japanese-American woman who inadvertently and falsely identified herself as “Tokyo Rose,” a notorious broadcaster working for a propaganda radio program streamed by the military Japan. She was later prosecuted by the U.S. government for treason, but was eventually pardoned by President Ford in 1977.  An amazing and shocking historical tale.  (Stay tuned for Japan Society’s presentation of a theatrical work based on this story in January, 2015!) - Recommended by Yoko Shioya


Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella Bird

In 1879, the intrepid Isabella Bird was one of the first foreigners to venture beyond the foreign settlements in Japan. She chronicled her adventures in a series of letters to her sister as she traveled from Tokyo to Nikko, through the mountains of Tohoku, and on to Hokkaido, where she visited Ainu villages, giving readers a unique view of a side of Japan as-yet untouched by western influence. Her writings reveal as much about her western, 19th-century worldview as they do about the people and places she visited, offering fascinating insights into the relationship between Japan and the west in the early Meiji period. - Recommended by Lydia Gulick

 Other picks include:

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (More on cats to come…)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Chushingura translation by Donald Keene

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - English release on August 12

Essays in Idleness by Kenko, translated by Donald Keene

Kiseki wa Tsubasa ni Notte (奇跡はつばさに乗って ) (Miracles On the Wings) by Kazuko Minamoto ( 源和子 )(Japan Society Staff)

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn

Tales of the Heike translated by Helen Craig McCullough

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

The Inland Sea by Donald Richie

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War by Louise Steinman

Voracious reader? Click here for even more Japan-related books if you make it through these!

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