100 books like The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

By Yukio Mishima, John Nathan (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea fans have personally recommended if you like The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. 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 Driver's Seat

Iain Hood Author Of This Good Book

From my list on Scottish reads about moments of madness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Scotland’s greatest poet since Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid, said that there were no traditions in writing, only precedents. He was thinking that, were traditions followed, adhered to, applauded, and praised, and prized too highly, then the danger of slavish repetition rather than creative divergence was too high. We need the mad moments, when all bets are off and something truly unpredictable will happen. I write with Scots modernist, postmodernist, and experimental precedents in mind. I want there to be Scots literature that reflects a divergent, creative nation, willing to experiment with words and life, and, in Alasdair Gray’s formulation, “work as though in the early days of a better nation.”

Iain's book list on Scottish reads about moments of madness

Iain Hood Why did Iain love this book?

Is there a madder moment of madness in all of literature than that of The Driver’s Seat’s protagonist Lise?

A firecracker of a novel (most editions come in under one hundred pages of breakneck-speed story), and yet a whole firework display of literary techniques (most startlingly a third chapter opening prolepsis – flashforward – to the suicidally-invited murder of Lise). It’s the technique itself that is the star. Is this satire, parody, comedy? Can comedy be so dark?

Spark noted both that this book was an existential ‘whydunnit?’ without feeling the need to provide us with anything so simplistic as a ‘why’, and also that it was her favourite of all her novels. There is no reason on Earth why it shouldn’t also be one of your favourites.

By Muriel Spark,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Driver's Seat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Driven mad by an office job, Lise flies south on holiday - in search of passionate adventure and sex. In this metaphysical shocker, infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.


Book cover of The Castle: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text

David Leo Rice Author Of Drifter, Stories

From my list on being a drifter or solitary wanderer at large.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the experience of being at large in the world without a definite goal or obligation—that is, the state of drifting—to be a profound and intense way of communing with yourself and the place you’re in. If you’re hurrying someplace, or caught up in internal worries, you miss something about the world that only becomes clear if you let yourself drift, no matter how scary that can be.

David's book list on being a drifter or solitary wanderer at large

David Leo Rice Why did David love this book?

This book is an obvious choice perhaps, but one that can't be omitted. The tragicomic frustration of the surveyor who can't complete the job he's been sent to do no matter how hard he tries is massively influential for a number of very good reasons. Also, the way that the castle is both a literal place and a potent metaphor is crucial—as ever in Kafka, it's never just a metaphor, just as it's never just a dream, but rather a dream or a metaphor that also develops out of and into a very concrete situation. This is crucial writing advice for anyone interested in working with dreamlike or surreal elements.

By Franz Kafka, J. Underwood (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'He is the greatest German writer of our time. Such poets as Rilke or such novelists as Thomas Mann are dwarfs or plaster saints in comparison to him' Vladimir Nabokov

The story of K. and his arrival in a village where he is never accepted, and his relentless, unavailing struggle with authority in order to gain entrance to the castle that seems to rule it. K.'s isolation and perplexity, his begging for the approval of elusive and anonymous powers, epitomises Kafka's vision of twentieth-century alienation and anxiety.


Book cover of Molloy

David Leo Rice Author Of Drifter, Stories

From my list on being a drifter or solitary wanderer at large.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the experience of being at large in the world without a definite goal or obligation—that is, the state of drifting—to be a profound and intense way of communing with yourself and the place you’re in. If you’re hurrying someplace, or caught up in internal worries, you miss something about the world that only becomes clear if you let yourself drift, no matter how scary that can be.

David's book list on being a drifter or solitary wanderer at large

David Leo Rice Why did David love this book?

There are several Beckett books that belong on my list, as Beckett I think is one of the great authors about vagrants and castoffs, but Molloy is ground zero for me in terms of my relation to Beckett's work. The strangeness of Molloy's solitary relation to the world, and to the room he's confined in, was a big influence on my books as well.

By Samuel Beckett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Molloy, the first of the three masterpieces which constitute Samuel Beckett’s famous trilogy, appeared in French in 1951, followed seven months later by Malone Dies (Malone meurt) and two years later by The Unnamable (L’Innommable). Few works of contemporary literature have been so universally acclaimed as central to their time and to our understanding of the human experience.


Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

Book cover of Kanazawa

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

New book alert!

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

What is my book about?

Emmitt’s plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of purchasing their dream home. Disappointed, he’s surprised to discover her subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo.

In his search for a meaningful life in Japan, and after quitting his job, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa’s most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English. He becomes drawn into the mysterious death of a friend of Mirai’s parents, leading him and his father-in-law to climb the mountain where the man died. There, he learns the somber truth and discovers what the future holds for him and his wife.

Packed with subtle literary allusion and closely observed nuance, Kanazawa reflects the mood of Japanese fiction in a fresh, modern incarnation.

Kanazawa

By David Joiner,

What is this book about?

In Kanazawa, the first literary novel in English to be set in this storied Japanese city, Emmitt's future plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of negotiations to purchase their dream home. Disappointed, he's surprised to discover Mirai's subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo, a city he dislikes.

Harmony is further disrupted when Emmitt's search for a more meaningful life in Japan leads him to quit an unsatisfying job at a local university. In the fallout, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa's most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English.

While continually resisting Mirai's…


Book cover of The Famished Road

V.G. Yefimovich Author Of This Enchanted Realm

From my list on for readers who want a story to challenge them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been a writer. Most recently, though, I have completed a PhD in philosophy and I decided to write a book that deals with the issues that I wrestled with over the course of my studies in a way that can be appreciated by a popular audience. This Enchanted Realm is my first book—though I'm the author of a dissertation on Charles S. Peirce and two academic papers on Peirce and Arthur Schopenhauer. Like Franz Kafka before me, I was employed in a job unrelated to creative writing which is where I realized that good poetry is only the right words in the right order—I decided to move from writing technical protocols to writing—technically—stories.

V.G.'s book list on for readers who want a story to challenge them

V.G. Yefimovich Why did V.G. love this book?

The Famished Road is often categorized as a novel of “magical realism” although the author rejects this categorization. Okri’s tale follows Azaro, a spirit child in Okri’s native Nigeria as he watches the post-colonial state transform with the acceleration of global technology. While Okri weaves the spiritual and physical realms into his narrative, the juxtaposition of the spiritual and physical realms for Okri is a cornerstone of traditional African religion (and is therefore not seen as “unrealistic”). More accurately, The Famished Road resembles Fyodr Doestoevsky’s Notes from Underground: a classic philosophical novel. In The Famished Road, Okri argues that there is no salvation on Earth—even for the spiritual realm that resides alongside us. Azaro sees the people of his village being exploited by politicians and foreign actors and there is nothing he—as a transdimensional creature—can do about it. Transforming Doestoevsky’s cynicism into something even more all-encompassing or…

By Ben Okri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize: “Okri shares with García Márquez a vision of the world as one of infinite possibility. . . . A masterpiece” (The Boston Sunday Globe).

Azaro is a spirit child, an abiku, existing, according to the African tradition, between life and death. Born into the human world, he must experience its joys and tragedies. His spirit companions come to him often, hounding him to leave his mortal world and join them in their idyllic one. Azaro foresees a trying life ahead, but he is born smiling. This is his story.
 
When President Bill Clinton first…


Book cover of Heaven

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

Thanks to its love/hate relationship with Western individualism, Japanese literature boasts the most sophisticated examples of the Nietzschean novel. This book's simple story about school bullying is really a philosophical meditation on friendship, courage, and meaning. 

The bully shares the contradictions of the stereotypical “overman,” declaring his right to immorality and feigning indifference while seeking others’ approval. His victim, in turn, mirrors “slave morality,” nursing bitterness rather than finding his own path. 

However, this predictable setup is upended by Kojima, a schoolgirl who takes defiant pride in her outcast status. Exploding the simplistic dichotomies of pop-Nietzsche, Kojima combines the inner strength of the “ascetic,” the compassion of the “slave,” and the courageous self-affirmation of the “noble” in a nuanced, critical Nietzscheanism that’s truer to Nietzsche in spirit than perhaps any other novel.

By Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett (translator), David Boyd (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE

“A raw, painful, and tender portrait of adolescent misery… This book is very likely to make you cry.”—Lily Meyer, NPR

With profound tenderness and sensitivity, Japanese literary superstar Mieko Kawakami turns her unique gaze onto the causes and effects of violence. Raw but revelatory, this novel stands as a dazzling confirmation of Kawakami’s standing as one of her country’s most insightful and compelling novelists.

In Heaven, a shy high-school student is subjected to bullying from his classmates and the only person capable of understanding his ordeal is a young classmate who suffers similar…


Book cover of The Gate

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

This book is a quiet, understated masterpiece about quiet, understated lives and a critical counterpoint to Soseki’s earlier I Am a Cat. That novel was a cruelly comic parody of Nietzscheanism, its arrogant feline narrator portraying his owner, a small-town schoolteacher, as embodying everything wrong with miserable, mediocre, insignificant humanity. 

This book is more ambiguous and sympathetic, portraying a similarly humble, childless couple. Initially, we feel contempt for their uneventful, indecisive, dispassionate lives. But their troubled past reveals, beneath their failings, a deep undercurrent of authentic courage and love.

They may even achieve something like Nietzsche’s “love of fate,” hinted in the title’s reference to the gate between past and future, where Zarathustra wills the “eternal recurrence” of every detail of his existence, whether joyful or painful, exciting or dreary, beautiful or ugly.  

By Natsume Soseki, William F. Sibley (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An NYRB Classics Original

A humble clerk and his loving wife scrape out a quiet existence on the margins of Tokyo. Resigned, following years of exile and misfortune, to the bitter consequences of having married without their families’ consent, and unable to have children of their own, Sōsuke and Oyone find the delicate equilibrium of their household upset by a new obligation to meet the educational expenses of Sōsuke’s brash younger brother. While an unlikely new friendship appears to offer a way out of this bind, it also soon threatens to dredge up a past that could once again force…


Book cover of The Man Without Talent

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

Like Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes, this graphic novel fuses Camus’s Sisyphus with Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” as a test of character: would you live your life over again for eternity?

Sukezo fails the test miserably. He’s a talented cartoonist, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so he shuffles through half-hearted money-making schemes (including an aptly Sisyphean rock-selling venture), succeeding only at making himself, his wife, and his young child miserable and increasingly hateful towards themselves and each other. 

Sukezo becomes the bad Nietzsche of popular misconception. If only success and esteem count, better to be nothing at all: a pseudo-Buddhism of disappointed, not transcended, ego. He could be beautifully and happily useless, like Zhuangzi’s tree that’s never cut down. But mistaking power for talent, he cuts himself down instead.

By Yoshiharu Tsuge, Ryan Holmberg (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Without Talent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Japanese manga legend's autobiographical graphic novel about a struggling artist and the first full-length work by the great Yoshiharu Tsuge available in the English language.

Yoshiharu Tsuge is one of comics' most celebrated and influential artists, but his work has been almost entirely unavailable to English-speaking audiences. The Man Without Talent, his first book ever to be translated into English, is an unforgiving self-portrait of frustration. Swearing off cartooning as a profession, Tsuge takes on a series of unconventional jobs -- used camera salesman, ferryman, and stone collector -- hoping to find success among the hucksters, speculators, and deadbeats…


Book cover of Schoolgirl

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

The most charming and subtly Nietzschean of Dazai’s usually bleak novels, this book plants readers directly inside the mind of a young girl over the course of a day. Some compare her to Catcher in the Rye’s Holden, a child pretending to be a grown-up. But schoolgirl’s a true contradiction: too childish and too mature, naive and wise, Holden’s little sister mixed with Mrs. Dalloway. 

Holden is a “bad Nietzsche,” overcoming internal strife with protective cynicism, but schoolgirl’s a bundle of possibilities: Nietzsche’s “undersouls” battle to control her identity, veering between “becoming what she is” or expected to be and “decadence.” 

She’s confusing, endearing, and heartbreaking because everything’s still possible. She could as easily become Holden, a dutiful daughter, or a Dazai double-suicide, and any passing experience might decide that fate. 

By Osamu Dazai, Allison Markin Powell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essentially the start of Dazai's career, Schoolgirl gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language. Now it illuminates the prevalent social structures of a lost time, as well as the struggle of the individual against them–a theme that occupied Dazai's life both personally and professionally. This new translation preserves the playful language of the original and offers the reader a new window into the mind of one of the greatest Japanese authors of the 20th century.


Book cover of A Philosophy of Walking

Erin Leider-Pariser Author Of Get Lost: Seven Principles for Trekking Life with Grace and Other Life Lessons from Kick-Ass Women's Adventure Travel

From my list on inspiring authentic transformation.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a long-time meditator, wellness expert, and founder of a women’s adventure travel business, I am always grateful to discover books that offer insights about enhancing well-being. In my own book, Get Lost: Seven Principles for Trekking Life with Grace and Other Life Lessons from Kick-Ass Women’s Adventure Travel, I share personal stories of transformation that I and my fellow travelers have experienced on trips that include rituals to help us bond and express our authentic selves. Scientific evidence shows that connecting with others and practicing mindfulness are essential for a full, healthy life, and I loved recently sharing this message with students in the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University.  

Erin's book list on inspiring authentic transformation

Erin Leider-Pariser Why did Erin love this book?

I was gifted this book recently and it is the gift that keeps on giving.

I am an avid walker and the way the author interspersed poignant life stories with his own on walking was lovingly poetic. This quote “the walker is king, and the earth is his domain” is the one that defines the entire message of the book. I’ve been on many pilgrimages in life and witnessed many a transformation but none like the ones these philosophers uncover.

It was a joy to read the profound messages in staying present while walking as exercise. Grab a friend and enjoy walking together as you put one foot in front of the other and have meaningful conversation. 

By Frederic Gros, Clifford Harper (illustrator), John Howe (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.
- Nietzsche

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history ... The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frederic Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B-the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble-and reveals what they say…


Book cover of Nietzsche: The Man and his Philosophy

Anthony K. Jensen Author Of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

From my list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t especially like Nietzsche, and rarely agree with him. As a professor of philosophy, I find that he is less original than is popularly assumed and less clear than he should be—not out of some mysterious profundity—so much as a recalcitrance or maybe inability to make plain what he thinks. Even so, I find it quite impossible to break away from Nietzsche. For my part, and I suspect for many readers who came upon him during their formative years, Nietzsche’s thought is so close to me that I’m always wrestling with it. Maybe that’s not a ‘result of’ but a ‘condition for’ reading it?

Anthony's book list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche

Anthony K. Jensen Why did Anthony love this book?

Nietzsche studies are a cottage industry unto themselves. There are thousands of monographs, anthologies, and papers, which are conveniently searchable at the Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie. My “five best books” are not necessarily the interpretations I personally consider by some measure the ‘best’, in the sense of being the most ‘correct’. They are instead the ones I find most helpful for a reader to interpret Nietzsche in a responsible, well-informed way for themselves. 

R. J. Hollingdale is a great starting point for a novice. He was that rare combination of translator, biographer, and philosopher—and as such, his work is approachable for any intellectually curious reader. It was first published in 1965, at a time when one really did have to argue for Nietzsche’s place as a canonical philosopher rather than just a brilliant writer, bombastic iconoclast, or politically-dangerous driver of the pre-war German Zeitgeist. Even if somewhat dated, his book…

By R. J. Hollingdale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic biography of Nietzsche, first published in the 1960s, was enthusiastically reviewed at the time. The biography is now reissued with its text updated in the light of recent research. Hollingdale's biography remains the single best account of the life and works for the student or non-specialist. The biography chronicles Nietzsche's intellectual evolution and discusses his friendship and breach with Wagner, his attitude towards Schopenhauer, and his indebtedness to Darwin and the Greeks. It follows the years of his maturity and his mental collapse in 1889. The final part of the book considers the development of the Nietzsche legend…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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