Sometimes books come at the right time, and this is one of them. And coincidentally, it truly came to me. You may not know, but I mostly pick the books I want to read and review for you. Rarely do we wait for publishers to come to us with a book. But this book by Michiko Aoyama was suggested, and it sounded sweet. After all, don’t we readers all believe the title to be true?

What you are looking for is in the library

So here we are, meeting five people, across different chapters, all having their individual “short story” of sorts in this book.

They have very little in common: There’s a young girl in her early twenties and someone in his sixties, some are employed, one currently without a job, and one recently retired.

Somehow, through very different paths, they all end up at the community centre library in their local suburb of Tokio. The same librarian asks each of them what they are looking for.

What they have in common is they want change in their life and have made the first step by entering. Or at least, they have come to the centre and wandered into the library.

Sayuri Komachi hasn’t always been a librarian, she was a teacher for children with additional needs for a while. Yet now here she is, helping people find the books they need; and the ones they don’t know they need.

In seemingly every person, she hears more than just their words when they describe the books they are looking for. Every list she hands out includes another book that seems a little obscure or at the very least random. Why would an adult need a children’s book? Or an antrepreneur a book about gardening?

Each book contains a lesson… if the reader is willing to learn it. Along with the random book comes a bonus gift from Komachi and from there, it is down to each person.

The stories are sweet, heart-warming, and the small connections you discover between the five characters make it extra special.

What made this extra special however was the context. This book was translated from its Japanese original by Alison Watts. You notice the difference between (well) translated books and books set abroad but originally written in English. This is a nice change. The beauty of reading is that you can be transported. It shouldn’t however feel like a lesson or non-fiction book. Here, rather than someone trying to teach us about Japanese culture and making it the centre of the story, the cultural element is simply there. Because it was originally written and published in Japan, there is no emphasis. We as Western readers are getting small reminders of this slightly foreign world: A bow here, a rice cake there, a futon at day care or shoes removed. This is truly an immersive read.

‘What You Are Looking For Is in the Library’ was published by Transworld Publishers Ltd on 10th August 2023. ISBN: 9780857529121

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