I’m here to write about my other love, besides travelling and exploring places – books. I haven’t written about them in a while, which in a sense it’s good, it means I’ve been doing more “travelling”, yet most of that travelling has been to go eat brunches, to have drinks or walk in parks. It’s definitely been busy times since I got back to London, starting a new job, making my new flat my home…. as a result, my reading rhythm has slowed down greatly. And for some reason, when I spend a few days without picking up a book, I feel guilty.
Interestingly, I finished a book I bought from a local bookshop that reflects upon some of the things that keep me awake at night when it comes to books. The Cat who Saved Books, by Sosuke Natsukawa. It was lying on top of other books just by the front door. It had a black label that distinguished it as a “signed copy”. I immediately felt drawn to the book. I love cats. I love books. I do typically really like Japanese writers and their style. And well, if books need to be saved…with a cat…I’m totally down for that adventure.
The book has a humble size, just over 200 pages, and my edition is a hardcover indeed signed. But I already explained that was not the reason I bought it. I judged the book for its title, looked at the price, and happily took it to the till to bring this new title home.
After finishing the book I can say I have only given it three stars in Goodreads – simply because it often felt I was reading a book that had been written for children. I can’t say what it was… the simple, basic dialogues, the poor character development, or perhaps I just wanted something a bit more challenging to read. However, this book has all the elements I like about Japanese fiction. A sort of magic realism to it, almost candid, innocent, but with a dark side, not always disclosed but lurking in the corner.
What I most enjoyed about this book, and the reason I’m writing about it is that it was indeed written by a book lover for book lovers. The main character, a high school boy who has just inherited a bookshop from his grandad, meets a talking tabby cat that takes him to three adventures, labyrinths as it’s described in the book, placed in a parallel dimension inside the bookshop, always with the aim of saving books. And all of these address “issues” that all book lovers have faced or at least reflected upon. Some of them, related to guilt.
- The imprisoner of books
The man who read 100 books a month and displayed them in enclosed cases, without any signs of worn, like artefacts in a museum, to be shown, but not touched. The man had forgotten about his love for books since he was so focused on the idea of simply reading how many books he could, no matter the subject or genre. His reputation and high position in society had come from the great number of books he read. But he never re-read a book. The books were enclosed in glass shelves to never be read again.
Have you felt that you’re often too focused on reading as many books as you can, and almost forget why you enjoy reading? Do you ever look at the books you only read once on your shelf and fill a pit in your stomach? I know I have and I do. I have started donating books to charity shops, especially the ones I know I won’t be re-reading. Books are to be read. Not simply displayed.
2. The book mutilator
So many books, so little time, right? On this challenge, our protagonist needs to face a man who acquires books and literally shreds them into pieces. The visual of this in my vivid imagination was indeed terrifying.
But the whole point of this man was to ensure people could read famous books, classics, hard to read, into easy consumable quick reads. He had written a book on Recommendations for a Whole New Way of reading. His argument was that we live in a world where people simply have no time for books. So making them smaller, easier would solve the problem. However, by doing that, he was actually killing the book. It’s not the same, is it? I’d rather spend weeks reading and digesting the same book, than trying to rush through it, skipping pages, finding shortcuts. There was a point I kept being suggested videos on YouTube about how to read faster. I don’t want to read faster. I simply want to read for the simple pleasure of doing it. It’s like travelling – you can tick off multiple places in a short period of time, or you can really explore a single place in the same amount of time. I prefer the latter, if possible.
3. The Seller of Books
This one is a reflection of what we see these days. “Best Sellers” are simply that. Best sellers. I hope I’m not coming across too much of a snob here, but most times when I read a “best seller” I end up disappointed. Well, it was a best seller because the book was written using the recipe of sales. I often encounter simple plots, basic characters, cliches. And to be fair, there is nothing wrong with that. I sometimes enjoy an easy read, like I often will find myself watching a rom-com. So I don’t have to tire my brain too much. But when all it drives publishers is money… when any celebrity becomes an author? No, please.
Yet the point raised was that reality was hard, and people needed books that tell them the stories they want to hear. I often feel like reading certain books does not contribute to my happiness. But it makes me a better person, more educated about different realities and perspectives, someone more equipped to evaluate the world around me. It makes me more knowledgeable, and that is the real power of books.
It’s now time for me to switch off and go to do some reading. Hope you enjoyed my quick reflection on this book and happy reading for any other book lovers out there!