A glance at the list of nominees for this year’s 本屋賞, or Booksellers Award, provides an interesting counterpoint to the books translated from Japanese to English, a disproportionate percentage of which seem to be mysteries (with many of the blurbs claiming that here is the next Stieg Larsonn).
The Booksellers Award is a fairly young prize, launched in 2004. Booksellers and bookstore staff nominate three books that they would recommend, with a list of nominees compiled from the results. Booksellers must read all ten of the nominated books to vote in the next round. Looking through lists of nominees from past years is one of the ways I choose what to read next, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
You can read more about the prize and descriptions of the past winners (in English) here. The winner of this year’s award will be announced on April 12, 2016.
Books Nominated for the 2016 Booksellers Award
[None of these books have been translated into English yet.]
『朝が来る』Morning Will Come
辻村深月 Mizuki Tsujimura
A couple raising their child suddenly get a phone call from that child’s biological mother, saying that she wants her child back. This is described as a mystery with social themes, dealing with motherhood and what it means to be a family.
『王とサーカス』King and Circus
米澤穂信 Honobu Yonezawa
東京創元社 Tokyo Sogensha
A former journalist, now working for a travel magazine, is visiting Nepal when the royal family is massacred in 2001 (a true event). She begins reporting on the event, and comes across a body with the word “informer” cut into the skin.
『君の膵臓をたべたい』”I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”
住野よる Yoru Sumino
A boy finds a diary written by his classmate, who it turns out is suffering from a fatal disease of the pancreas and doesn’t have long to live.
中村文則 Fuminori Nakamura
In this story of cults, madness and global terrorism, the main character tries to find his girlfriend, only to discover that she belongs to a cult. In the process of his investigation, he is abducted and ordered to spy on another religious group. Meanwhile, the cult is planning an attack…
『世界の果てのこどもたち』The Children from the Other Side of the World
中脇初枝 Hatsue Nakawaki
This novel tells the story of three little girls who meet in Manchuria during WWII and become close friends. Their lives take very different paths after the war, with one orphaned during China’s civil war, the Korean girl experiencing prejudice in Japan, and the third losing her family in air raids in Yokohama.
深緑野分 Nowaki Fukamidori
東京創元社 Tokyo Sogensha
Set during WWII, this is a series of linked stories about Tim, Ed and Diego, cooks in the military who also solve everyday mysteries, such as who stole 600 boxes of powdered eggs.
『永い言い訳』The Long Excuse
西川美和 Miwa Nishikawa
This novel covers a year in the life of a successful author following the death of his wife in an accident, together with her friend. He copes with his guilt and his grief by helping the bereaved husband of his wife’s friend raise his children, with mixed results.
『羊と鋼の森』Forest of Sheep and Steel
宮下奈都 Natsu Miyashita
This is a coming-of-age story about a young man so fascinated by the piano that he trains to be a piano tuner. He learns as much from the customers as he does from his teachers.
又吉直樹 Naoki Matayoshi
This novel tracks the careers of two struggling comedians, one of whom eventually gives up and gets a day job. However, he continues to follow his friend, whose absolute dedication to his craft leads him into a downward spiral. The author is himself a comedian, and won the 153rd Akutagawa Prize for this novel.
東山彰良 Akira Higashiyama
This novel, which won the 153rd Naoki Prize last year, is a coming-of-age story based on the author’s grandfather’s experiences during the Communist uprising in mainland China. The author was born in Taiwan and came to Japan when he was five, and he explores that search for a sense of identity in his writing.