Folding screen representing a scene from the Tale of Genji. Source

My most-recommended-Japanese-book list

I’ve been reading books written by Japanese authors for a few years now, and for a French man I can say that I’ve read a fair amount of them, maybe more than French books actually. Still, I could also say that there are many Japanese books I haven’t read, many classics, many new sensational novels and many recommended reads from friends. I’m also just starting reading them (very slowly) in Japanese, so I’m still very much dependent on translators’ choices to complete my reading list. So for today I compiled a small and humble list of the Japanese books that marked me. I came up with a top 10, here is what it looks like:

10. And then それから by Natsume Sôseki

9. Silence 沈黙 by Shûsaku Endô

8. Grave of the Fireflies 火垂るの墓 by Akiyuki Nosaka

7. In a Grove 藪の中 by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa


6. Coin Locker Babies コインロッカー・ベイビーズ by Murakami Ryû

5. The Thief 掏摸 by Fuminori Nakamura

4. After Dark アフターダーク by Haruki Murakami


3. Confession of a mask 仮面の告白 by Yukio Mishima

2. Fill in the Blanks 空白を満たしなさい by Keichirô Hirano

1. M/T and the Narrative About the Marvels of the Forest M/Tと森のフシギの物語 by Kenzaburô Ôe.

There are so many more authors I could have mentioned on my list, I am thinking especially about Junnichirô Tanizaki, Higuchi Ichiyô, Project Itoh, Kenji Miyazawa and Osamu Dazai, and also many more books from the authors I mentioned, but that’s my top 10 for today! I think that if I were to make a list again in, say, 5 years from now, chances are that most of the titles would be different. I hope that some people who are not particularly interested in Japan will see this post and try reading a book or two from it!

One thing I’m convinced is that Japanese literature is not that different from French literature, American literature, or any literature. I enjoy the exotic, historical, particular elements connected to Japanese culture in those novels, but I think that what I enjoy even more is that I can easily relate to them. I believe one does not need to live in Japan or to know about Japanese culture in order to feel that way. Each author, each book has its own uniqueness that echoes to all of us universally. The book just needs to find the right reader, and vice-versa. That’s why now that you’ve seen my list, I’d be very happy if you contact me saying “Hey I saw you liked this book, I think you should try reading that one too!”

As I am about to finish my undergraduate studies in Japan, I am planning to come back to France to start a Master in comparative literature. I wish to explore the books of many diverse cultures, periods and authors in order to understand better the differences and similarities that we feel around the globe, but also to receive some influence from all those sides of the world. Majoring in Japanese culture and literature in Tokyo definitely shaped who I am today, and I am very excited to keep exploring Japanese books, while I’m also starting to look more and more into other cultures too.

Liberal Art Master student, I write my small answers to the big issues that obsess me in politics, development, literature, art, LGBTQ, …