Books of the Month | Month of the Books #31

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero



Set in 1970s Japan, this tender and poetic novel about a young, single mother struggling to find her place in the world is an early triumph by a modern Japanese master.

Alone at dawn, in the heat of midsummer, a young woman named Takiko Odaka departs on foot for the hospital to give birth to a baby boy. Her pregnancy, the result of a brief affair with a married man, is a source of sorrow and shame to her abusive parents. For Takiko, however, it is a cause for reverie. Her baby, she imagines, will be hers and hers alone, a challenge that she also hopes will free her. Takiko’s first year as a mother is filled with the intense bodily pleasures and pains that come from caring for a newborn. At first she seeks refuge in the company of other women — in the hospital, in her son’s nursery — but as the baby grows, her life becomes less circumscribed as she explores Tokyo, then ventures beyond the city into the countryside, toward a mountain that captures her imagination and desire for a wilder freedom.



Yūko Tsushima is the pen name of Satoko Tsushima (1947-2016), a contemporary Japanese fiction writer, essayist and critic. She is the daughter of famed novelist Osamu Dazai, who died when she was one year old. She is considered one of the most important Japanese writers of her generation. She has won many major literary prizes, including the Kawabata for “The Silent Traders,” one of the stories in “The Shooting Gallery”, and the “Tanizaki for Mountain of Fire”. Her early fiction, from which “The Shooting Gallery” is drawn, was largely based on her experience as a single mother. Her multilayered narrative techniques have increasingly taken inspiration from the Ainu oral epics (yukar) and the tales of premodern Japan. Her work has been translated into a dozen languages.




Four mothers, four daughters, four families, whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s telling the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters’ futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mother's advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives - until their own inner crises reveal how much they've unknowingly inherited of their mothers' pasts.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.



Amy Ruth Tan (b. 1952) is an American author known for the novel “The Joy Luck Club”, which was adapted into a film of the same name, as well as other novels, short story collections, and children’s books. Tan has written several other novels, including “The Kitchen God’s Wife”, “The Hundred Secret Senses”, “The Bonesetter’s Daughter”, “Saving Fish from Drowning”, and “The Valley of Amazement”. Her latest book is a memoir entitled “Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir” (2017).




Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s darkly hypnotic first novel, “Neverwhere”, heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy.

It is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he discovers a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere — a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world — and may well die trying.



Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, He is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, nonfiction, audio theatre, and films. His works include the comic book series “The Sandman” and novels “Stardust”, “American Gods”, “Coraline”, and “The Graveyard Book”. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. Gaiman is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, “The Graveyard Book” (2008). In 2013, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. It was later adapted into a critically acclaimed stage play at the Royal National Theatre in London.

Neil Gaiman is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR and Professor in the Arts at Bard College. | @neilhimself




This is a sharp and funny addition to Daniel Woodrell’s collection of “country noir” novels, featuring anti hero Sammy Barlach and Jamalee Merridew, her hair tomato red with rage and ambition.

In the Ozarks, what you are is where you are born. If you’re born in Venus Holler, you’re not much. For Jamalee Merridew, Venus Holler just won’t cut it. Jamalee sees her brother Jason, blessed with drop-dead gorgeous looks ticket out of town. But Jason may just be gay, and in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks that is the most dangerous and courageous thing a man could be.



Daniel Woodrell (b. 1953) is an American writer of fiction. He has written eight novels, most of them set in the Missouri Ozarks. Woodrell coined the phrase “country noir” to describe his 1996 novel “Give Us a Kiss”. Reviewers have frequently since used the term to categorize his writing. Woodrell was born and now lives in the Missouri Ozarks. He left school and enlisted in the Marines the week he turned seventeen, received his bachelor’s degree at age twenty-seven, graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and spent a year on a Michener Fellowship.

Some of his novels were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and “Tomato Red” won the PEN West award for the novel in 1999. Based on his novel, “Tomato Red: Blood Money” is a 2017 Irish-Canadian crime film written and directed by Juanita Wilson and starring Jake Weary and Julia Garner.