Cosy translated fiction for the soul
As we approach the end of the year many of us have begun to feel a little jaded or fatigued by the pace of life. Thankfully, we have cosy literature – complete with token cats – to lean on. The below books are some of our favourites, and they're waiting on our bookshelves for you to discover or perhaps even gift to a friend.
What You Are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama & Alison Watts (trans.)
What are you looking for? So asks Tokyo's most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. She is no ordinary librarian. Naturally, she has read every book on her shelf, but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of anyone who walks through her door. Sensing exactly what they're looking for in life, she provides just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.
Every borrower in her library is at a different crossroads, from the restless retail assistant – can she ever get out of a dead-end job? – to the juggling new mother who dreams of becoming a magazine editor, and the meticulous accountant who yearns to own an antique store. The surprise book Komachi lends to each will change their lives for ever.
The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai & Jesse Kirkwood (trans.)
Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto exists a very special restaurant called the Kamogawa Diner run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare. Customers who can find the hidden diner are treated to an extravagant meal, but it's not the main reason for visiting . . .
The father-daughter duo have started advertising their services as 'food detectives', capable of recreating a dish from their customers' pasts that may well hold the key to forgotten memories and ongoing happiness. From the widower looking for a specific noodle dish that his wife used to cook to a first love's beef stew, the restaurant of lost recipes provides a link to the past and a way to a more contented future.
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa & Eric Ozawa (trans.)
Hidden in Jimbocho, Tokyo is a booklover's paradise. On a quiet corner in an old wooden building lies a shop filled with hundreds of second-hand books.
Twenty-five-year-old Takako has never liked reading, although the Morisaki bookshop has been in her family for three generations. It is the pride and joy of her uncle Satoru, who has devoted his life to the bookshop since his wife Momoko left him five years earlier. When Takako's boyfriend reveals he's marrying someone else, she reluctantly accepts her eccentric uncle's offer to live rent-free in the tiny room above the shop.
Hoping to nurse her broken heart in peace, Takako is surprised to encounter new worlds within the stacks of books lining the Morisaki bookshop.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi & Geoffrey Trousselot (trans.)
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
We meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold …
Welcome to the Hyuman-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum & Shanna Tan (trans.)
Yeongju did everything she was supposed to, go to university, marry a decent man, get a respectable job. Then it all fell apart. Burned out, Yeongju abandons her old life, quits her high-flying career, and follows her dream. She opens a bookshop.
In a quaint neighbourhood in Seoul, surrounded by books, Yeongju and her customers take refuge. From the lonely barista to the unhappily married coffee roaster, and the writer who sees something special in Yeongju – they all have disappointments in their past. The Hyunam-dong Bookshop becomes the place where they all learn how to truly live.
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa & Louise Heal Kawai (trans.)
Bookish high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookshop he inherited from his beloved grandfather. Then, a talking cat named Tiger appears with an unusual request. The cat needs Rintaro’s help to save books that have been imprisoned, destroyed and unloved.
Their mission sends this odd couple on an amazing journey, where they enter different labyrinths to set books free. Through their travels, Tiger and Rintaro meet a man who locks up his books, an unwitting book torturer who cuts the pages of books into snippets to help people speed read, and a publisher who only wants to sell books like disposable products. Then, finally, there is a mission that Rintaro must complete alone.
How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino & Bruno Navasky (trans.)
The streets of Tokyo swarm below fifteen year-old Copper as he gazes out into the city of his childhood. Struck by the thought of the infinite people whose lives play out alongside his own, he begins to wonder, how do you live?
Considering life’s biggest questions for the first time, Copper turns to his dear uncle for heart-warming wisdom. As the old man guides the boy on a journey of philosophical discovery, a timeless tale unfolds, offering a poignant reflection on what it means to be human.
She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai, Naruki Nagakawa & Ginny Tapley Takemori (trans.)
On the outskirts of Tokyo, in a neighbourhood crossed by a commuter railway, local cats weave their way through the lives and homes of their owners as they navigate difficult times.
A cat named Chobi sends silent messages of courage to a young woman, willing her to end a faltering relationship; a gifted artist fatally misunderstands her boss's enthusiasm for her paintings; a manga fan shuts herself away after the death of her friend, while her cat Cookie hatches a plan to persuade her outside; a woman who has dedicated her life to a distant husband learns a lesson in independence from her cat.