Cover Image: How Do You Live?

How Do You Live?

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Member Reviews

his is a beautiful book that I read so quickly, I loved the layout of the childhood of Copper and then his Uncle passing down learning and wisdom. There are so many thoughts and lessons to take from this book. A real treasure to share with your children, brothers and sisters and so on.

#GenzaburoYoshino focuses on the most poiniant life lessons for early teens or young adults as well as bigger questions about self and what it means to be successful.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to think and learn and certainly order it to read alongside a younger person to share that, wisdom.

I am so happy this has been translated and I have been able to read it, thank you #netgalley
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This book is absolutely fantastic. It became my bedtime relaxing book because it really makes you think about your place in the world. It also felt very personal due to the way the story would jump between the tale of Copper and his life, and his Uncle writing him letters in a book. I really was in awe of the novel and I miss reading it! It's something I will absolutely pick up again in the future.
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I understand why this is a classic of Japanese litterature and i think it could be great for children. But the life lesson aspect was a bit too much for me especially because even though some moments of the story were good, i was bored most of the time
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I have a soft spot for Japanese novels. I always seem to finish them with a sense of having learned something about both myself and the world and this one was no different.

First published in 1937, How Do You Live? follows the story of a young boy named Copper who goes on a journey of self-discovery, guided by the wise words of his uncle. From pondering life’s big questions to dealing with the betrayal of his best friend, Copper learns what it really is to be human.

Copper’s uncle’s journal is full of lessons on history, politics, philosophy and art and he comes up with some fascinating thoughts. There is a degree of cynicism when it comes to human nature and I think most of us would relate to this. As humans, we tend to be extremely self-centred and this is something that we should acknowledge and be aware of as soon as possible.

There is a great appreciation for the arts and the power it can hold. Connecting with a piece of art, theatre, cinema or literature can change a human life for the better and it’s only you that can find that special thing that makes your heart happy. As readers, we can probably all instantly identify at least one instance where a piece of creativity has lit up our lives. 

Although How Do You Live? was written in 1937, disdain for the state of human relationships never changes. In fact, you could argue that human conflict has only got worse, despite the fact we’re much better ‘connected’. We see more examples of humans being terrible now than ever and that’s probably something that will continue to haunt the human race for as long as we exist.

I have actually been learning Japanese for a year and I had no idea that this is where the root of the word for ‘thank you’ comes from. It’s quite a depressing notion that the Japanese actually say thank you for good things because good things are rare. However, there is somewhat of a dark truth to it, don’t you think?

Copper learns many lessons throughout the book. His friend Mizutani lives in a nice house in a wealthy family and Copper thinks that this must mean he has the perfect life. It’s only when Copper starts to delve into Mizutani’s reality that he learns that his friend is actually very lonely. How the lives of others appear to us is often very different to how it really is for them. Learning to look beneath the surface is something that we should all be doing, in order to become better, more compassionate humans.

Every stranger you meet while on a walk or simply glance at in your day to day life has their own individual set of dreams, fears and problems that you will probably never know about. I’ve always found this idea completely fascinating and it’s actually something that I think about quite regularly. It puts my own life into perspective too and actually makes me realise how insignificant and brief it is. I am literally just one person amongst billions and in the grand scheme of things, my problems are tiny.

How Do You Live? was a wonderful, philosophical, coming-of-age story that both spoke to my soul in a soothing, friendly tone and forced me to think of the big questions. There is also a lovely story of friendship embedded in this lovely, uplifting novel. I believe it is the inspiration for an upcoming Studio Ghibli film and I can definitely see how well that could translate. I’m really looking forward to watching it!
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How Do You Live?, translated from Japanese for the first time, with a foreword by Neil Gaiman, who notes it was a favourite childhood story of Hayao Miyazaki.

The book mainly focuses on Copper: his friendships at school, his thoughts and feelings, and his personal growth while growing up. Parts are also narrated by his uncle, usually in the form of journal entries addressed to Copper.
I enjoyed some of the topics covered, which ranged from philosophy to science to history. I wasn't a huge fan of the journal sections; I found them too long and in-depth.

I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either!
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I was drawn in by the knowledge that this book was a favourite of Miyazaki's, and that it had a foreword by Neil Gaiman, but I really struggled to engage with it. It's a sort of philosophy book presented as a coming of age story, with young Copper learning from his uncle, who writes him letters and shares his wisdom. There are some nice ideas here and it has a positive feel, but I just couldn't get into it.
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Firstly, a huge thank you to Ebury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of How Do You Live? in exchange for an honest review. 

One day on a trip into Tokyo, Copper is amazed by the amount of people that are walking around, living lives completely separate from his. With his eyes opened to infinite possibilities, Copper finds himself considering life’s biggest questions for the first time. Turning to his Uncle for guidance, Copper begins his philosophical journey on discovering what it means to be human.  

Copper was such a delightful protagonist. I loved his outlook on life and how he was determined to understand everything and make discoveries surrounding life and humanity. He was always eager to learn new things about the world around him and about himself. Copper’s relationship with his Uncle was particularly touching, the way that his Uncle would encourage him with his discoveries and his progress into becoming a great human was lovely to see. I especially enjoyed the notes the Uncle would write to Copper with the intention of giving them to him one day. Not only was the idea that he wanted to ensure that his wisdom and guidance would always be readily available to Copper through his journal; but it goes further in showing just how much that his Uncle cared for him to continue to think about their discussions from that day or that week and want to teach him more about them whilst giving Copper the opportunity to learn things for himself. 

I also loved the bond between Copper and his friends Kitami, Mizutani and Uragawa which only strengthened throughout the novel. Their bond seemed to be more than just friends and almost brotherly in the way they were all protective over each other, especially Uragawa who is relentlessly bullied for his family being poor. It was enjoyable to see how this group of boys would go from being stereotypically cheeky with their baseball antics or their snowball fights, but yet they would have insightful discussions and tell stories about Napoleon. Not only this but, it is clear how much their friendship means to each other and that they aren’t afraid to express this either. 

Whilst a relatively short novel, it explores in depth the growth that Copper is going through from a boy into a young man and the importance of ensuring that he becomes a great man at that. Each chapter wonderfully weaves in his day-to-day life at school with his friends, or with his family, but each chapter has a very well crafted philosophical message for you to take from this. The reader is learning and growing just as Copper is, regardless of how old they are or what they have experienced in their own lives. The contrast between the sections of Copper’s life and his Uncle’s notebook entries was also really well done - especially as it provides more of an adult explanation to some of the thoughts and discussions that Copper is having which makes the message of the chapter even more insightful. 

Overall, I can see why Miyazaki is making this story his next film as it is a beautiful and heartwarming coming-of-age tale. The descriptions and the characters together build a very authentic and captivating image of pre-war Japan which was lovely to be absorbed in for a few hours. How Do You Live? Is wonderfully uplifting and can change your perspective of your own way of living for the better.
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“How do you live?”, aside from the book’s title, is also the question asked by the narrator at the end of the story. This book might be a hidden gem in Japanese literature, that it has only been recently translated into English by Bruno Navasky. First published in 1937, the book itself is the voice of a generation living under Imperial Japan which grew increasingly militaristic and authoritarian. Genzaburo Yoshino as the author himself was labelled as subversive by Tokkō — “The Thought Police” — which was a special branch of the police that spied and arrested people with progressive ideas around Japan. He was arrested and released after Japan already engaged in military campaigns that would lead to World War II.

The story follows a 15-year old called Honda Junichi, who was nicknamed Copper (or “Koperu” if we think about the proper pronunciation of the katakana writing) and his uncle about various topics that they discussed. At first, it seems to me that this is the story about relationships between a nephew and his uncle, or about growing up in particular. But there is more dimension to it, which also covers the themes of art, science, language, history, politics, and philosophy to note some. I was not sure if this book is intended for the 15-year-old audience, but surely this is the kind of book that I wish I could have read during the time I questioned my identity and my place in this universe when I was around Copper’s age.

Our main character’s nickname, Copper, is in itself an attempt from Yoshino to incorporate Western thoughts and values into this book. Honda Junichiro was described as a child with curiosities and he kept asking questions that popped up into his head to his uncle. His uncle is kinda like a father figure in this story since Copper’s father passed away two years previously. It makes the story unique since Copper’s uncle accommodated his nephew’s curiosity and provided some answers (and sometimes some questions too) that he could not resist nicknaming his nephew as Copper, from the shortened version of Nicolaus Copernicus — the Renaissance-era astronomer who promoted the idea of heliocentrism that the earth rotates the sun.

The format of this book is rather interesting. There is an all-know narrator, but also much of this book contains exchanges of notes between Copper and his uncle about various topics that they have learned and discussed. Much of the ideas that they discussed originated from Western thoughts, such as the heroism of Napoleon and some socialist egalitarian view that Copper has regarding the fate of his classmate, Uragawa, who had to live in a poorer situation as the child of a tofu seller as compared to his peers. Besides that, Yoshino also promotes the idea of interconnectedness between East and West through drawing the lines of the Gandhara Buddha statues excavated near Peshawar which were first constructed by the Greeks who migrated there during the reign of Alexander the Great. And through that, I get why this book was banned by Imperial Japan and was only widely released after 1945.

Currently, there is an ongoing production of a film adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli which is scheduled to be released in 2023. In the film adaptation, the main character will be someone who is inspired by the original book by Yoshino. It is quite interesting to see how Hayao Miyazaki will take the adaptation since this is said to be one of his favourite books which have influenced his career. Apart from being Hayao Miyazaki’s favourite, I would recommend this book to everyone who struggles to grow up as a human being and need to find some solace in our increasingly segregated modern world.
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I mainly wanted to read this because Miyazaki said it was his favourite children’s book, and the inspiration for his next film, which I’m sure will be amazing. I usually like to read the source material, because he often takes inspiration but never adapts it faithfully, like he did with Howl’s Moving Castle.

I can see why Miyazaki loves this book so much. It’s a coming of she tale of a boy growing up in pre-war Japan and trying to make sense of the world. I really liked Copper and his group of friends, the lessons he learns, and the beautiful writing that is deep and thought provoking. The uncle’s letters of advice is a creative and grounded way of bringing philosophy and science to the discussion, but it’s definitely Copper’s story of finding hi place in the world.

But after awhile it gets tiring. My favourite parts are the ones centred on Copper, but the narrative takes so many detours that it’s a struggle to stay focused. I liked some of the history and science woven in, but it goes on for ages and I lose interest. Yes, the writing is beautiful, but I’m always sceptical with translated works because so many liberties are taken when adapting a language into another, no matter how faithful the translator tries to be.

I would recommend this, as the film is being made, but it is a heavy read at times.
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'How Do You Live?' is a Japanese children's classic, but this just did not work for me. I found some passages really lovely and interesting - the story of Uragawa, the school's poorest pupil, whose parents have a tofu business, who becomes friends with the hero Copper for example - that was sweet. But most of the novel was incredibly boring - alternating between episodes between Copper - the hero - and his friends at school, Copper speaking to his wise uncle, Copper writing to his wise uncle, the wise uncle's letters to Copper, the wise uncle's notebook... The philosophy aspect was pretty poor as well - do not expect an overiew "Sophie's World" style (which incidentally I also find incredibly boring and inaccurate), but rather ramblings about various topics (tofu, Napoleon, Copernic...) and "life lessons" - treat the poor with kindness, they have a purpose, such as building things you enjoy using; and also be brave, like Napoleon, "a hero worthy of the name"; and also don't you find it heartwarming that everything is connected - for example the powdered milk you drink in Japan comes from Australia, and so many people have been involved in making it and shipping it, like some sort of solidarity network? (It's called capitalism...)

Enough already. I am sure the upcoming film made by Miyazaki will be delightful, but I would not bother with the book - and do not get me started on the clumsy translation.
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After learning that this was a Japanese coming of age classic, with the included foreword by Neil Gaiman, I knew I must have it. 

We follow the 15-year-old Copper while he thinks, experiences, and discovers all of the nuances of this world. But we do this through his observations, as we're crouching in one corner of his mind watching it all unfold like a motion picture. We go back and forth between his real-life experiences at school, with his friends, and his Uncle's notes, where he carefully and in detail poses explains the ways of the world to Copper and poses some very deep questions. 

Copper has a wild imagination and a pure heart. I love how he thinks about people, animals, things, the world around him. We really explore the depths of Copper's mind and watch as the wheels keep turning. We watch Copper arrive to amazing, revolutionary conclusions about his life through some amazing visuals and metaphors.

The book is simply about life - people, things, concepts. How we become who we want to be, how we experience and feel, and why we do so, how we are all interconnected with the world and each other. 

It was a very interesting read, tho I have to say I found myself wanting to skim some chapters. It's a very short-paced book, on the shorter side (everything below 300 is on the shorter side for me), so it's really easy to get through it in one sitting.

Overall, I think it's a lovely, but the strange book, that I won't be giving 5 stars to, simply because it didn't affect me in a way five-star books usually do.
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A book about life and basic humanity, it is a story, narrative I will happily keep coming back to time and again. The narration of the characters is simple yet most brilliantly effective. Everyone should read this book atleast once.
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Let me start by saying that I was not sure about this book at first but I am so glad I stuck with it.  The book is superb it covers so many areas from religion, philosophy, economics, politics and overall friendship. It has taken a while to get translated and published in the UK but it is a must read.  
It was good to read the history of the book as it gives some detail on why it was written and the context which was also really interesting.
This is a superb book and one that will stay with me for a long time especially the snowball fight and all that goes on around that story.
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