Reading List for Japanese Culture!
Joe's Top Ten Must Reads:
- Ki no Tsurayuki's Tosa Nikki (土佐日記) 935
- Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji Translated by Royall Tyler (源氏物語) 11th century
- Mori Ogai's The Dancing Girl (舞姫) 1890
- Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (心) 1914
- Tanizaki Junichiro's Naomi (痴人の愛) 1924-1947
- Kawabata Yasunari's Snow County (雪国) 1935-1937
- Mishima Yukio's Confessions of a Mask (仮面の告白) 1948
- Dazai Osamu's No Longer Human (人間失格) 1948
- Oe Kenzaburo's The Catch (飼育) 1957
- Murakami Haruki's A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険) 1982
- Donald Keene: Donald Keene the godfather of Japanese literary criticism. Arguably, there is no one who has contributed more to the interpretation of Japanese literature than this man.
- Tanizaki Junichiro: Not only was he a talented writer, but Tanizaki also had a very good understanding of Japanese aesthetics. The book below is a great book to read in order to further understand many of the subtle aesthetics of Japanese culture, which will in turn help you understand many of the deeper meanings of the themes in the works above.
- In Praise of Shadows (1933)
- Theodore W. Goossen: He has written extensively on the matter of short stories. In, arguably, his most popular book you will find a great selection and interpretation of Japanese short stories. He also has a great book he wrote with Ryusaku Tsunoda about Japanese literary traditions.
- Shirane Haruo: Shirane has a well-respected amount of published works. One of his works offers an excellent literary criticism of Tale of Genji.
- John Dower's Embracing Defeat : Japan in the Wake of World War (1999) - A great book detailing the recovery of Japan after WWII.
- Andrew Gordon's A Modern History of Japan : From Tokugawa Times to the Present (2003) - I think I read this book twice while I was in college. It was used in two separate Japanese history courses I took. It is a very good read.
- Conrad Schirokauer's A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations (1978) - As all histories are connected in some form or manner, this book offers a great look into how the histories of Japan and China influenced each other.
- Delmer M. Brown's The Cambridge History of Japan Vol. 1-6 (1993) - This is a pretty difficult read. I got through volume 1 and parts of volumes' 2-6. It is extremely thorough so be prepared.
- Roger Davies & Osamu Ikeno's The Japanese Mind (2010) - This is book offers a number a essays that attempt to define some of Japanese most culturally rich terms.
- Senko K. Maynard's Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context (1997) - A great read that attempts to explain much of the Japanese culture through language. She has song sharp criticism of Nakane (see below) but overall a great perspective on Japanese communication.
- Chie Nakane's Japanese Society (1972) - A foundational work, for sure, on Japanese societal practices and the reasons behind them.
This was a difficult list to come up with as there is so much missing from it. But this should give you a good start.
Especially with regard to the earlier works I have listed above, it's very important you supplement your reading of these works with literary criticism and interpretation. I cannot emphasis how important this is especially with Japanese literature as there are so many hidden meanings within each of these powerful texts.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think if you have read or will read any of these, thanks!