100 books like The Makioka Sisters

By Junichirō Tanizaki,

Here are 100 books that The Makioka Sisters fans have personally recommended if you like The Makioka Sisters. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Loren Stephens Author Of All Sorrows Can Be Borne

From my list on the traditional and modern Japanese mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by family histories, and am the self-selected historian in my family. I wrote my mother’s memoir, I Turned a Key and the Birds Began to Sing, put together a newsletter for aunts, uncles, and cousins near and far, and became a ghostwriter to help other people mine their personal and family stories. I’ve worked with company CEOs, survivors of the Holocaust; World War II U.S. veterans, and Hollywood celebrities. In the midst of writing books for other people I turned my sights on my husband who was born in Osaka, Japan and asked his permission to write his family’s story.  

Loren's book list on the traditional and modern Japanese mind

Loren Stephens Why did Loren love this book?

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction, this book gives the reader an in-depth analysis of the effects of World War II on the political, economic, and social life of the Japanese people. It depicts the ways in which Japan moved into the twentieth century and gave up many of its feudalistic habits – some for the better and some for the worse. 

By John W. Dower,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Embracing Defeat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on a vast range of Japanese sources and illustrated with dozens of astonishing documentary photographs, Embracing Defeat is the fullest and most important history of the more than six years of American occupation, which affected every level of Japanese society, often in ways neither side could anticipate. Dower, whom Stephen E. Ambrose has called "America's foremost historian of the Second World War in the Pacific," gives us the rich and turbulent interplay between West and East, the victor and the vanquished, in a way never before attempted, from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes…


Book cover of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

Xaq Frohlich Author Of From Label to Table: Regulating Food in America in the Information Age

From my list on explain the origins of our industrial food system.

Why am I passionate about this?

People tend to think of food as being simple and self-evident, or at least feel it should be. In fact, almost every aspect of modern food has been dramatically reshaped by science and technology. Something that fascinates me as a historian is thinking about past transformations in our foodways and how they explain the social tensions and political struggles we live with today. My book From Label to Table tells a biography of the food label, using it as a prism to explore Americans’ anxieties about industrial foodways. I found these books to be an excellent primer for understanding the emergence of America’s packaged food economy and its many problems.

Xaq's book list on explain the origins of our industrial food system

Xaq Frohlich Why did Xaq love this book?

Nature’s Metropolis is a rare work that transforms scholarship, yet whose easy flow and engaging tone make it approachable for non-specialists.

Its main arguments —how humans and cities are embedded in nature, the interwoven, strained ties between rural and urban, and how technologies transformed our connection to nature— are guiding themes of my own work. 

Reading the passage in this book about a sack’s journey, on how grain moved from farm to market before and after the appearance of the train in the West, was the spark that lit my imagination on how packaging transformed modern foodways.

By William Cronon,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Nature's Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize


Book cover of In My Fashion

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a journalist for years, and to write my first book, I ended up doing a ton of original research and reporting about photography, fashion, the art world, and the magazine industry in midcentury New York. But certain passages in the twins’ interviews reminded me strongly of many books I’d read growing up, that address the challenges young women face as they confront choices in life. And their story, with its wild and colorful characters, begged to be structured like a novel. It also took place when American society was changing dramatically for women, as it is today. So, I kept books like these in mind while writing.

Carol's book list on best books about young women figuring out their lives while society is changing around them

Carol Kino Why did Carol love this book?

I find midcentury fashion memoirs inspiring because they’re filled with stories of strong, self-realized women who really managed to have it all. This one by Bettina Ballard, French editor for American Vogue in prewar Paris, goes one better because it also offers heartbreaking commentary on the war.

Alongside observations about great designers like Chanel and Dior, Ballard writes stirringly of the tragic, gruesome fates that befell many in her world and the courageous way some resisted the Germans to save their art form, couture. Vogue tries to bring her back to New York, but she swiftly returns to Europe as a Red Cross volunteer—albeit one who sneaks non-regulation eveningwear into her trunk. When she finally goes home to marry (for the second time), she mentions it in an aside.  

By Bettina Ballard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In My Fashion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bettina Ballard, Paris-based correspondent and later Fashion Editor for US Vogue, was at the centre of the fashion world from the 1930s to the ’50s and an intimate of Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli. With journalistic flair, she captures the spirit of pre-war Paris, the working methods of the fashion greats and the transformation of the post-war fashion industry with the arrival of Dior.


Book cover of Hiroshima

Rhys Crilley Author Of Unparalleled Catastrophe: Life and Death in the Third Nuclear Age

From my list on nuclear war and how to stop it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently spend my time researching (and worrying about) nuclear war and how to stop it from ever happening. I live about 25 miles away from where the UK’s nuclear weapons are based, so I have a very personal interest in making sure that nuclear war never becomes a reality! As a lecturer at the University of Glasgow I’m also embarking on a four-year research fellowship with over £1 million in funding where I will be leading a team of experts to research how to improve nuclear arms control and disarmament. So keep in touch if you want to reduce the risk of nuclear war and ban the bomb!

Rhys' book list on nuclear war and how to stop it

Rhys Crilley Why did Rhys love this book?

I really enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award-winning Oppenheimer movie, and this book is the perfect book to read after watching it. Hiroshima was the first widespread account of what Oppenheimer’s creation – the atomic bomb – did to the people of Hiroshima.

Written in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear bombing, Hiroshima tells the story of six men and women who survived amidst the destruction that killed over 100,000 other people. By focusing on these six survivors, Hersey makes the almost unimaginable scale of destruction achingly real and relatable. At one point, he describes "the wounded as silent as the dead around them," and this line sends shivers down my spine. 

Few writers can conduct such detailed investigative reporting and tell the story in such a human way that still resonates today, nearly 80 years after it was first published. 

By John Hersey,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Hiroshima as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of the great classics of the war" (The New Republic) that tells what happened in Hiroshima through the memories of survivors—from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. 

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey's journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic "that stirs the conscience of humanity" (The New York Times).

Almost four decades after the original publication of this celebrated book, John Hersey went back to Hiroshima in search…


Book cover of The Garden of Evening Mists

Erna Buffie Author Of Let Us Be True

From my list on grown-up time travelers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I vividly remember visiting our local museum as a little girl and being fascinated by the carefully displayed artifacts of the past, especially the ordinary things people had touched and used on a daily basis: a wooden bowl, a stone tool, an old bottle, its logo embossed on a blue glass surface. It made me want to travel through time, to touch the past, to be inside the hearts and minds of the people who came before me. I wanted to learn about their lives, their joys and suffering, and especially to learn from their mistakes. Each of the books I’ve suggested offers an opportunity to step into the shoes of another and time travel with them.

Erna's book list on grown-up time travelers

Erna Buffie Why did Erna love this book?

Eng’s novel serves up everything I love about time travel through historical fiction – it’s transportive and compelling and opens a window into a time and culture I knew little about.

Toggling back and forth in time from contemporary Malaysia to its Japanese occupation during World War 2 and into the immediate post-war period, the writing is stunningly lyrical, the central characters are beautifully drawn, and the author evokes a sense of time and place that is shrouded in both tragedy and mystery.

Even better, the book explores some of my favorite themes: memory, love and the secrets we keep in order to survive.

By Tan Twan Eng,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Garden of Evening Mists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself.…


Book cover of The Sheltering Sky

Stephen McCauley Author Of The Easy Way out

From my list on for readers to travel who hate to leave the house.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much of the 1980s, I worked at a travel agency in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The travel benefits back then were amazing. Like most of my hippie-ish colleagues, I’d return from one trip and immediately plan the next. I was on a tour of Egypt (ten days for $300!) when I acknowledged I liked the idea of travel more than the reality. I was reading Flaubert’s letters to his mother from Egypt, and his descriptions seemed more real than the landscape in front of me. I still like getting on airplanes, but traveling through literature is the cheaper and, for me, more broadening experience.  

Stephen's book list on for readers to travel who hate to leave the house

Stephen McCauley Why did Stephen love this book?

I first read The Sheltering Sky on a train to New York. I was so caught up in the book, I hated to get off at Penn Station.

It feels as if the novel sprang directly from the author’s subconscious,  and it has an eerie way of burrowing into the reader’s thoughts and dreams. An American couple (modeled on Bowles and his wife Jane) embark on a journey deep into the North African desert. To say they have a complicated marriage is an understatement.

The murky sexuality of the characters, the astonishing descriptions of the landscape and the sky, and the truly shocking events make this a journey no reader can ever forget, even if you’d like to.  

By Paul Bowles,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Sheltering Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Sheltering Sky is a book about people on the edge of an alien space; somewhere where, curiously, they are never alone' Michael Hoffman.

Port and Kit Moresbury, a sophisticated American couple, are finding it more than a little difficult to live with each other. Endeavouring to escape this predicament, they set off for North Africa intending to travel through Algeria - uncertain of exactly where they are heading, but determined to leave the modern world behind. The results of this casually taken decision are both tragic and compelling.


Book cover of Sense and Sensibility

Kate Brody Author Of Rabbit Hole

From my list on books that capture the love/hate relationship of sisters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Rabbit Hole is about Teddy’s obsession with her sister Angie’s cold-case disappearance. When Angie was alive, she was angry and difficult, but Teddy still misses her. While writing the book, I thought a lot about my relationships with my own sisters and how unique that particular bond is. I love books that capture the at-times-uncomfortable closeness of sisterhood and grapple with its power.

Kate's book list on books that capture the love/hate relationship of sisters

Kate Brody Why did Kate love this book?

Austen writes sisters like no one else, and the dynamic between tempestuous Marianne and practical Elinor is the template for so many novels that have followed.

Austen keeps the two sisters from becoming caricatures by making them more alike than different, and the love that anchors their relationship is at the heart of the novel.

I first read this as a freshman in college, and I still think about it every time I’m writing sisters. A classic.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Sense and Sensibility as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste' Virginia Woolf

Jane Austen's subtle and witty novel of secrets and suppression, lies and seduction, brilliantly portrays a world where rigid social convention clashes with the impulses of the heart. It tells the story of two very different sisters who find themselves thrown into an unkind world when their father dies. Marianne, wild and impulsive, falls dangerously in love, while Elinor suffers her own private heartbreak but conceals her true feelings, even from those closest to her.

Edited with an Introduction by ROS BALLASTER


Book cover of The Group

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a journalist for years, and to write my first book, I ended up doing a ton of original research and reporting about photography, fashion, the art world, and the magazine industry in midcentury New York. But certain passages in the twins’ interviews reminded me strongly of many books I’d read growing up, that address the challenges young women face as they confront choices in life. And their story, with its wild and colorful characters, begged to be structured like a novel. It also took place when American society was changing dramatically for women, as it is today. So, I kept books like these in mind while writing.

Carol's book list on best books about young women figuring out their lives while society is changing around them

Carol Kino Why did Carol love this book?

I read this 1963 novel in college, adored it, and have re-read it many times since.

The book opens in 1933, as a group of eight women are graduating from Vassar during the Great Depression, and one announces her engagement. From there, the book functions almost like a work of journalism, following their lives until they gather again for the bride’s funeral in 1940, just as America is on the verge of war. In between, their stories demonstrate the different possibilities for women during a time of enormous social change (the period parallels the Makioka Sisters).

McCarthy’s writing has great range: while describing some figures, she’s biting and acerbic; with others, she’s empathetic, and they all seem very real, even today. I’m still looking for a love story like Polly’s.

By Mary McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Group as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'I consider it a masterpiece' HILARY MANTEL
* 'A brilliant novel: honest, engaging and sharp as a tack' SARAH WATERS
* 'One of my favourite books ever' INDIA KNIGHT

When first published in 1963, The Group was on a bestseller for almost two years. This groundbreaking novel, with its frank depiction of friendship, sex, and women's lives, was a revelation, and continues to inspire today.

Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives and aspirations of eight Vassar graduates. 'The group' meet in New York following graduation to attend the wedding of one of their members - and reconvene…


Book cover of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Gary Griggs Author Of Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge

From my list on the crisis at the shoreline.

Why am I passionate about this?

Virtually my entire life has been spent within a few minutes or perhaps an hour from the shoreline and whether surfing, lifeguarding, beach combing, or traveling coasts around the planet, this narrow zone is one of constant change and energy that continues to inspire and intrigue me. My career as a professor has focused on coastal change and the challenges that shoreline processes pose to our coastally-focused civilization. Fifty-five years of teaching at the University of California Santa Cruz on the shoreline of Monterey Bay has led to 14 books and over 400 newspaper columns on Our Ocean Backyard focused on the coast and its changes, and there is always more to observe, study, and enjoy.

Gary's book list on the crisis at the shoreline

Gary Griggs Why did Gary love this book?

I enjoyed the way Elizabeth Rush ventured out into some diverse and remote places where sea level rise has had a profound impact on long-term residents.

She writes eloquently about people and their lives and homes and avoids the climate change politics and debates. This is not a future problem—it’s real, it’s now, and it’s everywhere, as her conversations so clearly and soberly illustrate.

By Elizabeth Rush,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL OUTDOOR BOOK AWARD

A CHICAGO TRIBUNE TOP TEN BOOK OF 2018

A GUARDIAN, NPR's SCIENCE FRIDAY, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, AND LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2018

Hailed as "deeply felt" (New York Times), "a revelation" (Pacific Standard), and "the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing" (Chicago Tribune), Rising is both a highly original work of lyric reportage and a haunting meditation on how to let go of the places we love.

With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change…


Book cover of The Commoner

Loren Stephens Author Of All Sorrows Can Be Borne

From my list on the traditional and modern Japanese mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by family histories, and am the self-selected historian in my family. I wrote my mother’s memoir, I Turned a Key and the Birds Began to Sing, put together a newsletter for aunts, uncles, and cousins near and far, and became a ghostwriter to help other people mine their personal and family stories. I’ve worked with company CEOs, survivors of the Holocaust; World War II U.S. veterans, and Hollywood celebrities. In the midst of writing books for other people I turned my sights on my husband who was born in Osaka, Japan and asked his permission to write his family’s story.  

Loren's book list on the traditional and modern Japanese mind

Loren Stephens Why did Loren love this book?

A historical novel based on the true story of a commoner who marries the Japanese Crown Prince. She is treated so cruelly that she eventually loses her voice. When her son intends to marry a commoner history repeats itself. The novel portrays Japan’s reverence for the Imperial Crown, which lies heavily on the head of those who wear it. Beautifully written, it is a surprising endeavor following on the heels of another of Schwartz’s novels – a murder mystery set in a small Connecticut town – Reservation Road.

By John Burnham Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this national bestseller from the author of Reservation Road, a young woman, Haruko, becomes the first nonaristocratic woman to penetrate the Japanese monarchy.

When she marries the Crown Prince of Japan in 1959, Haruko is met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress, and controlled at every turn as she tries to navigate this mysterious, hermetic world, suffering a nervous breakdown after finally giving birth to a son. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with tragic consequences. Based on extensive research,…


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