100 books like The Little House

By Kyoko Nakajima, Ginny Takemori (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Little House fans have personally recommended if you like The Little House. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Thief

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From my list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

From the start, the reader can’t help but notice a tower looming in the distance.

The image has something threatening about it, and also deeply significant; the tower will continue to surface over the course of the novel’s unfolding, when certain fateful moments in the plot become clear, as well as the inescapable and hopeless nature of the main character entangled in it.

For me this book is so much more than “just” a crime novel, like it says on the cover. It is an existential masterwork. Slim, though so much is contained within its pages! The reader stays close at the pickpocket’s heels, following him breathlessly through a maze of streets, at the end of which stands the tower, appearing and disappearing in the distance. Nakamura has been compared to Dostoyevsky.

In my opinion, he doesn’t need that ascription. He is Nakamura – through and through. And for anyone…

By Fuminori Nakamura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nishimura is a seasoned pickpocket, weaving through Tokyo's crowded streets, in search of potential targets. He has no family, no friends, no connections ...But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime reappears and offers him a job he can't refuse. Suddenly, Nishimura finds himself caught in a web so tangled and intricate that even he might not be able to escape. Taut, atmospheric and cool, The Thief will steal your breath away.


Book cover of A Journal of My Father

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From my list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

Now, I am no friend to graphic novels. As a novelist I prefer a story told in long strokes. For Taniguchi Jiro, however, I make an exception.

When I stumbled across A Journal of My Father, I was initially skeptical. Page after page, however, with an almost cinematic panorama laid out before me, I found myself in complete awe of the fine power of observation that Taniguchi brings to the small things in life. The simple and still finds artistic expression in his work, the every day suddenly seems notable, and anyone who – like me – often finds themselves reaching for a handkerchief, consider yourself warned: this touches you, though without a show of sentimentality.

After the death of his father, a man travels to his hometown and, through various conversations and encounters, pursues memories that have stayed with him since childhood. That doesn’t sound all that exciting. But…

By Jiro Taniguchi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Journal of My Father as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

KNOW THY FATHER The book opens with some childhood thoughts of Yoichi Yamashita spurred by a phone call at work informing him of his father’s death. So, he journeys back to his hometown after an absence of well over a decade during which time he has not seen his father. But as the relatives gather for the funeral and the stories start to flow, Yoichi’s childhood starts to resurface. The Spring afternoons playing on the floor of his father’s barber shop, the fire that ravaged the city and his family home, his parents’ divorce and a new ‘mother’. Through confidences…


Book cover of Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From my list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen sometimes: you start a book only to find you simply can’t put it down. This was the case for me with Lonely Castle in the Mirror, a coming-of-age story.

At first glance the book seems like an entertainment novel with a fantasy element. Six teenagers slip through their respective bedroom mirrors and find themselves in a surreal castle with a mission to complete. Only at second glance does it become clear what this book is really about.

It is about loneliness and friendship, and about the painful process of growing up. None of the teenagers are really any good at forming relationships. And yet: by taking the risk and accepting commitments, the sense of responsibility within them grows, and they surpass themselves.

A magical parable. And who actually says that good literature can’t also be entertaining? It’s ideal when both happen at…

By Mizuki Tsujimura, Philip Gabriel (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lonely Castle in the Mirror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD, fairy tale and magic are weaved together in sparse language that belies a flooring emotional punch.

'Strange and beautiful. Imagine the offspring of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle with The Virgin Suicides' GUARDIAN
'Genuinely affecting. A story of empathy, collaboration and sharing truths' FINANCIAL TIMES

Translated by Philip Gabriel, a translator of Murakami
_______________________________

Would you share your deepest secrets to save a friend?

In a tranquil neighbourhood of Tokyo, seven teenagers wake to find their bedroom mirrors are shining.

At a single touch, they are pulled from their lonely lives to a…


Book cover of Go: A Coming of Age Novel

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From my list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

This is a fast-paced story about a young man named Sugehara.

He is a so-called Zainichi Chosenjin who falls in love with a Japanese woman. Through him, the North Korean minority is given a face and a voice, and what the reader learns, namely, that every step he takes is a step against an invisible wall of racism and marginalization, is more evident here than practically anywhere else.

“Go!” you want to scream at him. “Run up against the wall! Knock it down!” The weight of the subject matter goes hand in hand with language that masterfully expresses the hunted but determined nature of the main character and his closest circle.

Not a book that can be put lightly aside after reading. It stays with you for a long time, and its reverberations – of Sugehara’s running, of his footsteps – remain in the ether for a long time, like…

By Kazuki Kaneshiro, Takami Nieda (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A Freeman Award Winner for Young Adult Literature

For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.

As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.…


Book cover of Floating Clouds

Nadine Willems Author Of Ishikawa Sanshiro's Geographical Imagination: Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

From my list on Japan’s postwar years.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic historian in the UK, and before that, I was a journalist in Tokyo, where I lived for twenty years. To me, Japan is one of the most intriguing and sensuous places on earth. I never tire of its smells, sounds, signs, and flavours. The language is mesmerizing. The landscapes are stunning. The culture is endlessly surprising. I research and write about Japan’s past – its transformations, upheavals, and traditions – to make sense of the incredible array of experiences I have encountered while living there. 

Nadine's book list on Japan’s postwar years

Nadine Willems Why did Nadine love this book?

Floating Clouds tells the story of a young woman who returns to Tokyo from Japan’s ex-colony in Indochina after the war and resumes the love affair with the man she met there. Their relationship is tormented and ultimately broken, like Japan’s dreams of empire and the promises of youth. The author, who had experienced destitution when she was young, weaves into the story the contrasting luxuriance of the colony’s tropical forests and the grime and spiritual emptiness of post-war Tokyo. This is such an honest and heart-wrenching novel.  

By Fumiko Hayashi, Lane Dunlop (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Floating Clouds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking novel, Fumiko Hayashi tells the powerful story of tormented love and one woman's struggle to navigate the cruel realities of postwar Japan. The novel's characters, particularly its resilient heroine Koda Yukiko, find themselves trapped in their own drifting, unable to break out of the morass of indecisiveness. Set in the years during and after World War II, their lives and damaged psyches reflect the confusion of the times in which they live. Floating Clouds follows Yukiko as she moves from the physically lush and beautiful surroundings of Japanese-occupied French Indochina to the desolation and chaos of postwar…


Book cover of Neighborhood and Nation in Tokyo, 1905-1937

Blair A. Ruble Author Of Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka

From my list on for understanding Japanese urban history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a comparative urban specialist who came to Japanese urban history through my aspiration to place Russian urban studies within a comparative context.  Several Japanese and Western Japan specialists encouraged me to advance this exploration by examining capitalist industrial urbanization in Japan.  Historians and political scientists -- particularly at Kyoto National University -- provided a platform for me to expand my engagement with Japanese urbanization; relations which have continued for some three decades.  More recently, I included Kabuki in The Muse of Urban Delirium, a collection of essays that seeks answers to the challenges of urban diversity, conflict, and creativity using various performing arts – opera, dance, theater, music – as windows onto urban life.

Blair's book list on for understanding Japanese urban history

Blair A. Ruble Why did Blair love this book?

Cities often look quite different from the bottom up than from the top down. The practical demands of making cities work often rest on the shoulders of the most local of officials.  Consequently, neighborhood officialdom often engages with citizens and residents more openly, even in authoritarian systems. Such engagement may hold the seeds of future democratic change. Hastings’ study of Honjo Ward and other proletarian Tokyo districts before World War II reveals a surprisingly robust participatory political and cultural environment across the early twentieth century.

By Sally Ann Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neighborhood and Nation in Tokyo, 1905-1937 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this pre-World War II analysis of working-class areas of Tokyo, primarily its Honjo ward, Hastings shows that bureaucrats, particularly in the Home Ministry, were concerned with the needs of their citizens and took significant steps to protect the city's working families and the poor. She also demonstrates that the public participated broadly in politics, through organizations such as reservist groups, national youth leagues, neighborhood organizations, as well as growing suffrage and workplace organizations.


Book cover of The Makioka Sisters

Connie Kronlokken Author Of Pulled Into Nazareth

From my list on siblings who help each other to evolve.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader, I am deeply interested in the real and complex lives of people. This often leads me to history and biography. Fiction shows both the interior and exterior lives of its characters and gives language to relationships, places, and the times in which they live. I am always looking for books with their feet on the ground and their pages crackling with the details of reality. Coming from a large family myself, I have found that, even if you live far apart, siblings make up each other’s world, and that, as my mother used to insist, our siblings may be our best friends throughout our lives.

Connie's book list on siblings who help each other to evolve

Connie Kronlokken Why did Connie love this book?

Set in Japan in the period just before World War II, this is the story of Sachiko and her three sisters.

Yukiko is in need of a husband, but she is stiff in her old-fashioned habits. Taeko, by contrast, is a rebel who sleeps with men and becomes pregnant. Sachiko, modeled by Tanizaki on his pretty and spirited wife, loves all of her sisters and feels responsible for them.

I found the picture of the sisters’ daily life, which was by turns cosmopolitan, traditional, and modern, fascinating in its detail. One thing follows another, open-ended, surprising, and completely authentic in feel. I cannot recommend this book enough!

By Junichirō Tanizaki,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Makioka Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tanizaki's masterpiece is the story of four sisters, and the declining fortunes of a traditional Japanese family. It is a loving and nostalgic recreation of the sumptuous, intricate upper-class life of Osaka immediately before World War Two. With surgical precision, Tanizaki lays bare the sinews of pride, and brings a vanished era to vibrant life.


Book cover of Tokyo Year Zero

Nadine Willems Author Of Ishikawa Sanshiro's Geographical Imagination: Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

From my list on Japan’s postwar years.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic historian in the UK, and before that, I was a journalist in Tokyo, where I lived for twenty years. To me, Japan is one of the most intriguing and sensuous places on earth. I never tire of its smells, sounds, signs, and flavours. The language is mesmerizing. The landscapes are stunning. The culture is endlessly surprising. I research and write about Japan’s past – its transformations, upheavals, and traditions – to make sense of the incredible array of experiences I have encountered while living there. 

Nadine's book list on Japan’s postwar years

Nadine Willems Why did Nadine love this book?

Tokyo Year Zero follows detective Minami on the hunt for a serial killer in the immediate post-war period. It is a haunting and addictive journey inside the underbelly of Japan’s shattered capital city in the glaring light of defeat. There is crime, gang warfare, desolation, corruption, and decay. But Peace is above all a master of language, and his prose – fragmentary, truncated, hallucinatory – produces an idiosyncratic rhythm that mirrors the mental disintegration of a man and the convulsions of an entire city. A novel that will stick to your skin years after reading it.

By David Peace,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tokyo Year Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part one of David Peace's 'Tokyo Trilogy', and a stunning literary thriller in its own right, from the bestselling author of GB84 and The Damned Utd.

August 1946. One year on from surrender and Tokyo lies broken and bleeding at the feet of its American victors.

Against this extraordinary historical backdrop, Tokyo Year Zero opens with the discovery of the bodies of two young women in Shiba Park. Against his wishes, Detective Minami is assigned to the case; as he gets drawn ever deeper into these complex and horrific murders, he realises that his own past and secrets are indelibly…


Book cover of The Woman in the Dunes

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

From my list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto.

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

David Joiner Why did David love this book?

While the movie is admittedly a stunning achievement in cinema, the novel from which it is adapted surpasses it for the depths it plunges readers into the characters’ surreal and claustrophobic experiences and the life of the village in Tottori prefecture in which the story plays out. Truly frightening at times, the novel is of the legitimate can’t-put-down category and will stay with you long after you finish it. In my case it’s been 30 years! Kōbō Abe is a famous and influential Japanese writer, with many novels translated into English, but in my opinion this one is far and away his best.

By Kobo Abe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Woman in the Dunes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Woman in the Dunes, by celebrated writer and thinker Kobo Abe, combines the essence of myth, suspense and the existential novel.
 
After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd…


Book cover of Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World

Anne Walthall Author Of The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration

From my list on amazing women during the age of the samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was studying Japan in graduate school, my advisor once told me that he hoped I wouldn’t pursue research in women’s history, calling it a fad. He was wrong, but it took me well over ten years to figure that out. Thanks to colleagues and friends, I helped build the field of Japanese women’s history in English, especially for the early modern period. As professor emerita at the University of California, Irvine, I remain committed to the possibility of uncovering the lives of yet more amazing women who challenge the stereotypes of docile wife and seductive geisha all too prevalent in fiction set in Japan.

Anne's book list on amazing women during the age of the samurai

Anne Walthall Why did Anne love this book?

The fascinating tale of Tsuneno’s journey from respectable daughter and sister in a family of Buddhist priests to a hand-to-mouth existence in Edo—now Tokyo—could well have been titled “down and out in the city.” And she chose her fate. A fiery, headstrong woman, she endured three marriages that all ended in divorce, and when confronted with the possibility of a fourth, she ran away from her home in the storied snow country region along the Japan Sea to try her luck working as a maid. She detailed her adventures and her demands for money and clothes in letters to her brother, letters that Stanley has used to wonderful effect in recreating not only Tsuneo as an individual but also the world of people on the margin among whom she lived.  

By Amy Stanley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stranger in the Shogun's City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2020 **

A vivid, deeply researched work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman in Edo - now known as Tokyo - and a portrait of a great city on the brink of momentous change

The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in 1804 in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a life much like her mother's. But after three divorces - and with a temperament much too strong-willed for her family's approval - she ran away to make a life for herself in one…


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