2018 Reading challenge!

Back from Kyoto with a lot of fantastic memories and a lot of books in my suitcase!

Kyoto in December was very calm, we were even almost alone in some temples! Very touristic places were full of people but not crowded with noisy groups. Less touristic places were very quiet and sometimes quasi-deserted. Temple gardens in winter are very beautiful, too.

Anyway, what interests us here is that I went to Maruzen, Jukundo and another bookshop in Kyoto whose name I forgot and made a stock of reading material for 2018. I can buy Japanese books in some big bookshops in Seoul but they usually focus on the same successful authors like Higashino or Murakami and don’t offer the same range of choice than Japanese bookshops concerning bestsellers and newly published works. This trip to Kyoto was an opportunity to see what is currently popular in Japan and buy titles that I can’t find in Korea. It may sound strange to buy so many books in advance, but it is also very exciting. I feel like a part of my bookshelf has become a mini bookshop where new books are waiting for me.

I mainly chose “mystery” novels because it is easier to keep reading and go through challenging parts when the story is thrilling.

I also chose several books that have or will have a film adaptation. I think that if I am stuck at some point in the novel, I can watch the film to help me. Even if I am pretty confident that I can read and understand any book by Higashino Keigo, I still am very unsure about other authors. It is also hard to judge if a book will be hard or not when buying it…

My reading challenge for 2018 is to read at least one book a month. I first have to finish the ones I started this year and then, I will simply pick one from the following list and of course, publish an article about it on this blog.

(The descriptions that follow are from the summary of each book. I hope I understood them well because summaries being very concise, I always find them harder to understand than the book itself!)

Reading list for 2018

放送禁止 by 長江俊和(ながえ・としかず)

放送禁止Among the best-sellers I saw in Japanese bookshops, there was a book by the same author called 出版禁止. I was tempted to buy it, but I finally chose this other one, 放送禁止, because the wrapping band says that this is the first book of the series “禁止”. It seems that this author wrote several similar books titled “something禁止”.

The book is about radio programs which, even though they were recorded, were never broadcasted. It is hard to tell what exactly is the form of the book. It looks like some horror documentary. I don’t know if it is based on true events or if it is a pure fiction written in the form of a reportage to make it look real. Anyway, the book is short and full of dialogues, so I hope it will be easy to read!

Update – April/May: This book contains three short stories that are a written adaptation of a television series. It was very easy to read an quite enjoyable. I didn’t find the stories to be especially scary but the mysteries were good enough and I must admit that I haven’t solved any… (book review)

彼女がその名を知らない鳥たち by 沼田まほかる(ぬまた・まほかる)

彼女がその名を知らない鳥たちThis is a mystery book that was adapted into a film. The summary doesn’t give furigana for the character’s names so I will say simply that a girl, who can’t forget her former lover, lives with an older man to avoid loneliness. She doesn’t like him but can’t leave him neither. One day, the police come and say that her former lover has disappeared. The girl begins to suspects the man with whom she lives to have killed him.

I don’t know if this novel is more a psychological thriller or a love story…

Update – March: A very challenging book to me. The author uses a large range of vocabulary, which certainly participates in the novel quality but makes it hard to read for a non-native reader. It took me some time to get involved in the story. See my book review.

リカーシブル (Recursible) by 米澤穂信(よねざわ・ほのぶ)

リカーシブルI hesitated before choosing this novel because at first, the story didn’t really appeal to me. But then, I started reading the first pages and I found it quite easy to read in Japanese. The protagonist is a young girl, I don’t know her age but I think she is a teenager. I always tend to think that stories told from the point of view of children or young people are easier to read, but I may be mistaken.

The story takes place in a town suffering from underpopulation. It may be a good occasion to learn things about Japan, as this novel does not seem to be entirely focused on the protagonists, but also on the city (it’s just an impression I have from reading the summary).

往復書簡 by 湊かなえ(みなと・かなえ)

往復書簡I am very excited about this book because it is an epistolary novel (collection of short stories) and I have never read one in Japanese yet. I can’t help but think that it will be easy to read, as the novel (stories) contains nothing but letters that the protagonists write to each other. I imagine that the style will be more casual than in other novels.

It’s a mystery novel (The second short story of the book is a mystery story) where a professor and her former students exchange letters. The summary says that an accident that happened 20 years ago binds them, and it seems that the reader will learn more about the past and what really happened through the letters. I like this kind of story where the past reveals itself throughout the novel (story)!

Update: currently reading.

悪と仮面のルール by 中村文則(なかむら・ふみのり)

悪と仮面のルールThis novel has a recent film adaptation, it will come out in Japan in January (2018). It tells the story of a murderer who killed his father when he was young and then completely changed his identity.  For some reason, he becomes active again. At the same time, murders are being committed and a detective who seems to know about his past pursue our protagonist.

I watched the film’s trailer, which seems to be somewhat dark… I don’t know if the novel will also convey this kind of atmosphere… Anyway, I fear that it will be a little harder than the others so I may keep it for the end of the year.

Update – August: Might not be the kind of book I enjoy reading. I started it but couldn’t go farther as the first pages.

噓を愛する女 by 岡部えつ(おかべ・えつ)

噓を愛する女This time, if I am not mistaking, this novel was written after the film of the same title. The story is about what seems to be a perfect couple, together for 5 years. Here again, no furigana on protagonists’ name on the summary, sorry… One day, the man has an accident and loses consciousness. The woman then learns that everything she thought she knew about him was fake: fake name, fake job… She then tries to understand who he really is and why he lied to her.

The novel is very short: only 260 pages with a somewhat big underline space. I think this is the kind of film that I would like to watch so I may start with this book so that I can watch the film after reading it.

Update – January: I enjoyed reading this book and read it very quickly. The Japanese level was not challenging, I found myself really wanting to know the truth and accompanied the protagonist in her quest. An easy and short novel that might not trigger an emotional storm in the reader’s heart but is still very enjoyable. Book review.

豆の上で眠る by 湊かなえ(みなと・かなえ)

豆の上で眠るThis book was among the best-sellers and top rankings of all the bookshops I have been to. I must admit that the summary is very appealing. Yuiko is now a university student but when she was a schoolgirl, her big sister mysteriously disappeared. She returned 2 years later. The whole family rejoiced but Yuiko had an uncomfortable feeling about her returning sister, a feeling that can be summed up in this question: お姉さん、あなたは本物なの?

I hadn’t realised that I bought two books by the same author (see 往復書簡). They both seem very interesting!

Update – January/February: Definitely a novel that moved me deeply. I thought I was reading a mystery novel, but it is much more than that. In this novel, the quest for the truth reveals forgotten traumas and disguised cruelty. As I watched the characters making their way through the tragedy, I felt like I was a part of this family too, and more than once my hands were shaking while I was reading. Book review.

私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にました by 日向奈くらら(ひむかな・くらら)

私のクラスの生徒が、一晩で24人死にましたI don’t usually read horror novels but I wanted to give it a try. I am just afraid that it might be a little difficult. The story is very mysterious: strange things happen in the class of our protagonist. Like the title suggests, one night, 24 students of her class mysteriously die…

Update – July: To me, this book was a page-turner. It was a mix between a horror story and a detective story and I liked it very much. The end might be too far-fetched but it does not spoil the overall enjoyment I had when reading this book.

赤い指 by 東野圭吾(ひがしの・けいご)

赤い指I took the opportunity to be in a Japanese bookshop to buy the next novel of the Kaga series by Higashino Keigo. All the books of the series were neatly piled up in one of the bookshops I went to, they also made promotion for the film adaptation of the last book of the series that will come out in January. I really do have the impression that the Kaga series is the most famous and appreciated series by Higashino. I still can’t understand why so few books of the series are translated into western languages…

Update – May: I loved this novel for many reasons. To anyone who enjoys Higashino’s style, 「赤い指」will look familiar. Contrary to other novels of the series which simply features detective Kaga without bringing much new information about him, this novel really participating in building Kaga’s character. Finally, the novel contains a social element that made it even more interesting. (book review)

探偵倶楽部 (クラブ)by 東野圭吾 (again)

探偵倶楽部To be honest, I didn’t want to buy books by Higashino Keigo because my goal was actually to try reading other authors and get used to other writing styles. But I couldn’t resist taking this one because it is a collection of short stories. As you might know, if you follow this blog, I recently read and enjoyed another short stories book by Higashino Keigo, 嘘をもうひとつだけ. Since I read this book, I am telling myself that I really would like to read more short stories by Higashino, so this is a good opportunity.

The detective club seems to be some kind of private club to which people turn to when they are not satisfied with the police’s investigation. A sort of club à la Sherlock Holmes maybe?

光 by 三浦しをん (みうらしをん)

光三浦しをん is the author of 「舟を編む」 (a book I really appreciate even though I am reading it very slowly) so I naturally paid attention to this book when I saw her name on it. 光 was published in 2013 but it has been adapted into films recently so the book was piled up on the bookshops’ table.

This is (again) a story where demons come back from the past and where crimes committed 20 years earlier find their way back into the present life…

Update: currently reading.

イノセントデイズ (Innocent days) by 早見和真 (はやみ・かずまさ)

イノセントデイズI am afraid that this book might be difficult to read in Japanese, but my goal is to improve my reading skills so I might as well pick up challenging books too.

I could not not take it because it was on top of the bestselling ranking of every bookshop I went to. A woman is facing the death penalty for the murder of her former lover’s wife and children while people around her try to understand what motivated her, or something like that. Even the summary is hard to understand for me…

Update – April: As I anticipated, this novel was one of the most challenging for me, but it also was one of my favourites. I enjoyed very much the structure of the novel that turns around a protagonist we can only know through the eyes of other characters. I saw the whole novel as a deconstruction of the rapid judgements, the cliché associations and condemnations people are prompt in doing. (book review)

ぶたぶたラジオ by 矢崎存美 (やざき・ありみ)

ぶたぶたラジオI just couldn’t resist the cute cover of this book. This is the most recent book of a rather long series of stories about ぶたぶたさん.

In our book, ぶたぶたさん invites himself on a radio broadcast and animates a program where people can ask for advice. His answers being different from what one may expect, he soon becomes very popular.

It is a very short novel of 208 pages and contains a lot of dialogues. I hope it will be a pleasant, easy to read and relaxing book.

Update – March: A simple, easy and funny novel. It made me smile and it encouraged me a lot in my reading adventure. I can’t wait to read other titles of the series!

That’s it! I will first have to finish the books I am currently reading before starting one of these. But you will soon see them appear in my “currently reading” section and hopefully in my “book review” section, too!

book cover