Five books that may make you question reality

We are not entering spooky season, as we get close to Halloween and immerse ourselves in the fall spirit. In honour of spooky season, I’ll be sharing a variety of books that could be considered “spooky” either by having supernatural elements or having thriller/horror elements. Enjoy!


For this week, I wanted to share some fiction books that may make you question reality.

Most of these books deal with some aspect of society and paints it in a new light. I find they make you question reality because the books shift the way you think about societal norms.

I believe that some of the best books are the ones that leave you thinking about them for long after you’ve finished them. If a book has made a big impression on you, then it has accomplished a lot.

Each of these books lingered in my mind and made me re-evaluate something significant. Maybe you’ll have a similar experience.

I’ve included a range of books, most of them translated. Also, three of them would be considered novellas, so there’s some shorter options if that’s what you’re looking for.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Five books that may make you question reality

Here’s a list of five books that may make you question reality. I’ve listed them in order of when they’ve been published.

  1. The Outsider/The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
  2. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2006)
  3. Confessions by Kanae Minato (2006)
  4. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (2018)
  5. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Outsider/The Stranger (1942)

by Albert Camus Translated by Joseph Laredo

  • Year Published: 1942
    English version published in 1946
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, literary, dark, reflective, medium-paced

Published in 1942 by French author Albert Camus, The Stranger has long been considered a classic of twentieth-century literature. Le Monde ranks it as number one on its “100 Books of the Century” list. Through this story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on a sundrenched Algerian beach, Camus explores what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”

Links:

The Three-Body Problem (2006)

by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

  • Year Published: 2006
    English version published in 2014
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, science fiction, adventurous, challenging, mysterious, slow-paced
  • Hugo Award winner & best selling Chinese Science Fiction

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience the Hugo Award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu .

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Links:

Confessions (2008)

by Kanae Minato Translated by Stephen Snyder

  • Year Published: 2008
    English version published in 2014
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, crime, mystery, thriller, dark, mysterious, fast-paced
  • It won both the Hanya Taisho Award and the Alex Award.

Her pupils killed her daughter.Now, she will have her revenge.

After calling off her engagement in wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.

But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.

Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you’ll never see coming, Confessions explores the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You’ll never look at a classroom the same way again.

Links:

Earthlings (2018)

by Sayaka Murata Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

  • Year Published: 2018
    English version in 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, horror, literary, magical realism, challenging, dark, medium-paced
  • Note, this novel deals with many difficult themes, I would recommend checking content warnings before reading if there are any subjects you want to avoid.

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

Links:

The Test (2019)

by Sylvain Neuvel

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, dystopian, challenging, dark, emotional, fast-paced

Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future.

Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.

He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.

How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Beloved Uncle

This is a quote from the book Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Quote by Sayaka Murata, “The tensions of meeting after such a long time was beginning to dissipate, and I could feel the beloved uncle who had always spoiled me as a kid coming through.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

Earthlings – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

Copyright © 2018 by Sayaka Murata.

Translated by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

More details here on Goodreads and on Storygraph.

Welcome to Akishina!

Excerpt from Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Uncle Teruyoshi was waiting at the ticket gate when we arrived at Nagano Station.

“Thank you for going to the trouble of coming out to meet us,” I said.

His hair was now completely white, and for a moment I didn’t recognize him. The figure waving to me and calling out “Natsuki!” looked more like my grandfather than the uncle I’d known twenty-three years before.

“I’ve heard all about Akishina from Natsuki. Being able to actually go there is like a dream come true! Thank you so much.”

“Oh, the pleasure is all mine. These days it’s what you call a critically depopulated village, with lots of empty houses. It’s a bit bleak, really. Grandpa will be happy that you youngsters have come all this way to pay him a visit.”

Uncle Teruyoshi looked smaller than I remembered. I’d probably also grown a bit since elementary school, but I didn’t think that was the only reason.

“Shall we go and have lunch somewhere? Once we get to Akishina, there’s no stores or eateries or anything, so it’s best to do some shopping for food before we go.”

“Thank you, but we already brought pretty much everything we need with us,” I said, showing him the big bag I was carrying over my shoulder.

“You haven’t changed at all, Natsuki. You always were well prepared,” he said with a smile.

“Do you mind if I go to the bathroom before we set off?” my husband asked.

As he ran off to find the bathroom, Uncle Teruyoshi said, it’s quite a bit cooler here than in Tokyo, isn’t it? You can wait inside the car if you like.”

“No, I’m fine. I also anticipated that and brought a coat with me.”

“You did? I guess you know the Akishina weather well, too, Natsuki,” he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I told Yuu that you were coming. He himself said it would be better if he stayed somewhere else, but it’s not easy at such short notice.”

“I’m sorry to have caused such a fuss.”

“No, it’s fine. That house had been lying empty ever since Granny died and was a bit desolate. There had been talk of demolishing it since it’s so run-down, so I was happy when Yuu said he wanted to stay there. It somehow felt a bit like the old days. The two of you always did love that house, didn’t you?” Uncle murmured, narrowing his eyes as he reeled in the memories. Then he looked down. “I felt really bad about what happened back then, you know.”

I looked at him in surprise.

“You were both just children and didn’t know any better. And all of us adults totally overreacted. We tried to put a lid on it to cover it up. Adults are so violent and overbearing, they really are.”

“Not at all…well now that I’ve grown up I can understand the circumstances better. You didn’t do anything wrong, Uncle Teruyoshi.”

“Does your husband know about what happened? Sorry if I’m sticking my nose in where it’s not wanted.”

“You don’t need to worry about him,” I said flatly.

He looked a little relieved and smiled. “You married well, didn’t you?”

“Are you okay? You don’t look too good,” I said to my husband.

“I’ll be okay,” he groaned, holding a handkerchief over his mouth.

Uncle Teruyoshi drove skillfully around the hairpin bends. The mountain road was steeper and narrower than I remembered, with a cliff dropping off to one side, and there weren’t any guard rails. Every time we went around a curve, our bottoms slid over the back seat and squashed our bodies against each other.

“It’s tough for people who aren’t used to it. Shall I stop somewhere for a rest?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Really? If you can cope, then it’s definitely better to get it over and done with. These bends are really hard to deal with when you don’t know them. Are you doing okay, Natsuki?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I said bravely, although actually I was feeling quite uneasy about falling off the edge. I didn’t want Uncle to think I’d gone soft living in the metropolis and had forgotten how wild the Akishina mountains were.

“You haven’t changed at all, have you, Natsuki?” Uncle said, looking pleased.

The tensions of meeting after such a long time was beginning to dissipate, and I could feel the beloved uncle who had always spoiled me as a kid coming through.

“Just three more bends to go, and we’ll be there. Hold on just a bit longer!”

Leaves scratched against the window. I had the feeling that the greenery was pressing in on us with a greater intensity than it had long ago. I was up against the window gazing at the trees like I’d done as a child. We climbed up and up the unfamiliar winding tunnel of green until my ears started popping painfully, then suddenly the vista opened out before us.

“We’re here! Natsuki and Tomoya, welcome to Akishina!” he announced, bringing tears to my eyes.

And there, just beyond the familiar small red bridge, was the Akishina that I had replayed in my mind time and time again over the years.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Earthlings – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

Copyright © 2018 by Sayaka Murata.

Translated by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

More details here on Goodreads and on Storygraph.

Women in Translation: 5 books to read from North/East Asia

This month, August, is a chance to celebrate women in translation, specifically women authors who’s works have been translated. There’s so much good translated literature out there. For this month, I’ll be sharing some inspiration for women authors from around the world who have had their work translated into English.

I know a lot of people read works translated from English into their own language, and there’s so many languages that works need to be translated into. But since I only read in English, I’m going to be highlighting works that have been translated into English.


This week we’ll be visiting North/East Asia. Depending on the source, it may call the region either North or East Asia. This area typically includes countries like China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Countries like Japan and South Korea are very prominent in translated literature because their governments actively support translation efforts. Their governments have prioritized translating their national literature as a way of cultural preservation and enabling their local talent to gain international recognition. I think this is amazing, and I would love to see more countries supporting their local talent in this way.

Due to this additional support, you’ll often see a lot of books recommended from these countries, especially when talking about books in translation. I’ve included a few books from Japan and South Korea, but I’ve also included a few others to diversify the list.

Photo by Uchral Sanjaadorj on Unsplash

Five books from North/East Asia

Here’s a list of five books of translated literature with women authors from North/East Asia.

  1. Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang (China)
  2. Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (Taiwan)
  3. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yōko Ogawa (Japan)
  4. Human Acts by Han Kang (Korea)
  5. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (Japan)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published in their original language.

Love in a Fallen City (1946) – China

by Eileen Chang
Translated by Karen S. Kingsbury

  • Year Published: 1946
    (English version in 2006)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, short stories, emotional, mysterious, reflective, slow-paced

Eileen Chang is one of the great writers of twentieth-century China, where she enjoys a passionate following both on the mainland and in Taiwan. At the heart of Chang’s achievement is her short fiction—tales of love, longing, and the shifting and endlessly treacherous shoals of family life. Written when Chang was still in her twenties, these extraordinary stories combine an unsettled, probing, utterly contemporary sensibility, keenly alert to sexual politics and psychological ambiguity, with an intense lyricism that echoes the classics of Chinese literature. Love in a Fallen City, the first collection in English of this dazzling body of work, introduces American readers to the stark and glamorous vision of a modern master.

Links:

Notes of a Crocodile (1994) – Taiwan

by Qiu Miaojin
Translated by Bonnie Huie

  • Year Published: 1994
    (English version in 2017)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, dark, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Qiu Miaojin was posthumously awarded the China Times Literature Award in 1995 for this book

Set in the post-martial-law era of late 1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon.

Links:

The Housekeeper and the Professor (2003) – Japan

by Yōko Ogawa
Translated by Stephen Snyder

  • Year Published: 2003
    (English version in 2009)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, literary, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • It received the Hon’ya Taisho award and a film adaptation was released in January 2006

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem–ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities–like the Housekeeper’s shoe size–and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

Links:

Human Acts (2014) – South Korea

by Han Kang
Translated by Deborah Smith

  • Year Published: 2014
    (English version in 2016)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, dark, emotional, sad, medium-paced
  • It won Korea’s Manhae Prize for Literature and Italy’s Malaparte Prize

Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend’s corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma.

Human Acts is a universal book, utterly modern and profoundly timeless. Already a controversial bestseller and award-winning book in Korea, it confirms Han Kang as a writer of immense importance.

Links:

Earthlings (2018) – Japan

by Sayaka Murata
Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

  • Year Published: 2018
    (English version in 2020)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, horror, literary, magical realism, challenging, dark, medium-paced
  • Note, this novel deals with many difficult themes, I would recommend checking content warnings before reading if there are any subjects you want to avoid.

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

Links:


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books written by North/East Asian authors.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. If you have a favourite book written by a North/East Asian author, please feel free to share it in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of the book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

The long-forgotten silence

This is a quote from the book Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Quote by Sayaka Murata, “The long-forgotten silence sounded like music I’d never heard before.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

Convenience Store Woman – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person.

However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Copyright © 2016 by Sayaka Murata.

Translated from the Japanese by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

A convenience store is a world of sound

Excerpt from Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Photo by Li Lin | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the book Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

A convenience store is a world of sound. From the tinkle of the door chime to the voices of TV celebrities advertising new products over the in-store cable network, to the calls of the store workers, the beeps of the bar code scanner, the rustle of customers picking up items and placing them in baskets, and the clacking of heels walking around the store. It all blends into the convenience store sound that ceaselessly caresses my eardrums.

I hear the faint rattle of a new plastic bottle rolling into place as a customer takes one out of the refrigerator, and look up instantly. A cold drink is often the last item customers take before coming to the checkout till, and my body responds automatically to the sound. I see a woman holding a bottle of mineral water while perusing the desserts and look back down.

As i arrange the display of newly delivered rice balls, my body picks up information from the multitude of sounds around the store. At this time of day, rice balls, sandwiches, and salads are what sell best. Another part-timer, Sugawara, is over at the other side of the store checking off items with a handheld scanner. I continue laying out the pristine, machine-made food neatly on the shelves of the cold display: in the middle I place two rows of the new flavor, spicy cod roe with cream cheese, alongside two rows of the store’s best-selling flavor, tuna mayonnaise, and then I line the less popular dry bonito shavings in soy sauce flavor next to those. Speed is of the essence, and I barely use my head as the rules ingrained in me issue instructions directly to my body.

Alerted by a faint clink of coins I turn and look over at the cash register. It’s a sound I’m sensitive to, since customers who come just to buy cigarettes or a newspaper often jingle coins in their hand or pocket. And yes: as I’d thought, a man with a can of coffee in one hand, the other hand in his pocket, is approaching the till. I quickly move through the store, slide behind the counter, and stand at the ready so as not to keep him waiting.

“Irasshaimasé! Good morning, sir.”

I bow and take the can of coffee he holds out to me.

“Oh, and a pack of Marlboro menthol Lights.”

“Right away, sir.” I take out a pack of the cigarettes and scan the bar code. “Please confirm your age on the touch screen.”

As he does so, I notice him glance at the hot-food cabinet. I could ask him whether he’d like anything else, but when a customer appears to be dithering over whether or not to buy something, I make a point of taking a step back and waiting.

“And a corn dog.”

“Right away, sir. Thank you.”

I disinfect my hands with alcohol, open the hot cabinet, and take out a corn dog.

“Shall I put the hot food and cold drink in separate bags?”

“Oh no, don’t bother. Together’s fine.”

I put the can of coffee, cigarettes, and corn dog into a small-size bag. Until then the man had been jingling the coins in his pocket, but now he suddenly moves his hand to his breast pocket as though something has just occurred to him. Instantly I deduse that he will use electronic money.

“I’ll pay by Suica.”

“Certainly, sir. Please touch your card here.”

I automatically read the customer’s minutest movements and gaze, and my body acts reflexively in response. My ears and eyes are important sensors to catch their every move and desire. Taking the utmost care not to cause the customer any discomfort by observing him or her too closely, I swiftly move my hands according to whatever signals I pick up.

“Your receipt, sir. Tank you for your custom!”

“Thanks,” he says, taking his receipt and leaving.

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting,” I say with a bow to the woman next in the queue. “Irasshaimasé. Good morning!”

The morning period is passing normally in the brightly lit box of the convenience store, I feel. visible outside the windows, polished free of fingerprints, are the figures of people rushing by. It is the start of another day, the time when the world wakes up and the cogs of society begin to move. I am one of those cogs, going round and round. I have become a functioning part of the world, rotating in the time of day called morning.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Convenience Store Woman – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person.

However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko’s thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amélie.

Copyright © 2016 by Sayaka Murata.

Translated from the Japanese by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

On the way to Granny’s house

Excerpt from Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Photo by Greg Rakozy | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the book Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Deep in the mountains of Akishina where Granny and Grandpa live, fragments of night linger even at midday.

As we wound our way up steep hairpin bends, I gazed out the window at the swaying trees, at the undersides of the leaves so swollen they looked as though they would burst. That was where the pitch-black darkness was. I always felt an urge to reach out to that blackness, the color of outer space.

Next to me, Mom was rubbing my sister’s back.

“Are you okay, Kise? These mountain roads are so steep, no wonder you’re feeling carsick.”

Dad gripped the steering wheel, saying nothing. He was driving slowly to keep the car as steady as he possibly could, glancing anxiously at Kise in the rearview mirror.

I was eleven and in year five of elementary school. I could take care of myself. Looking out of the window at the fragments of the universe was the best way to avoid getting carsick. I’d worked that out when I was eight and hadn’t been sick on this road since. My sister was two years older than me, but she was still just a child and wouldn’t survive the journey without Mom’s help.

As we drove up and up around endless bends, ears popping, I felt like I was gradually moving toward the sky. Granny’s house is high up, close to the universe.

I hugged my backpack to me. Inside it was my origami magic wand and my magical transformation mirror. At the very top of the backpack was my best friend, Piyyut, who gave me these magical objects. Piyyut can’t speak human since the evil forces put a spell on him, but he’s looking after me so I won’t get carsick.

I hadn’t told my family, but I was a magician, a real one with actual magical powers. I’d met Piyyut in the supermarket by the station when I was six and had just started elementary school. He was right on the edge of the soft toy display and looked as though he was about to be thrown out. I bought him with the money I’d received at New Year’s. Piyyut was the one who’d given me my magical objects and powers. He was from Planet Popinpobopia. The Magic Police had found out that Earth was facing a crisis and had sent him on a mission to save our planet. Since then I’d been using the powers he’d given me to protect the Earth.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Earthlings – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

Copyright © 2018 by Sayaka Murata.

Translated by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

More details here on Goodreads and on Storygraph.