How Do You Live?, by Genzaburo Yoshino | Book Review


Book Review of How Do You Live?
The Children’s Book Review

Written by Genzaburo Yoshino

Ages 10+ | 280 Pages

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers | ISBN-13: 9781616209773

What to Expect: Life lessons, learning, social justice, friendship, philosophy, Japan.

This deep and gentle novel, famed as an influence on Miyazaki and vouched for by Neil Gaiman, is something a little bit different from your average middle-grade novel.

There’s not much about fifteen-year-old Copper that is special or noteworthy. He’s unusually short, but not abnormally so, reasonably bright at schoolwork, and pretty good at sports. Nevertheless, Copper is destined for greatness, of a sort, because he has one unique quality: the curiosity to see the world as it truly is and the compassion to know his proper place within it. With this ability, he can spread kindness, justice, and joy around him. Struggling with change after his father’s death, and with a wise uncle’s guidance, Copper will work his way through life’s big questions, always learning more about how to move through the world with real wisdom.

Readers following Copper’s journey through knowledge and experience are asked to think deeply alongside the protagonist, pondering questions about the nature of society, economics, human nature, and empathy. The translation (from the original Japanese) is lyrical, with a cadence that feels almost like poetry at times. At the same time, the dual voices of Copper and his uncle offer an answer and response reminiscent of classical dialogic philosophy. Although the content is complex, the story is easy to read, with engaging characters and just enough action to keep it moving and interesting.

How Do You Live is a meaningful and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the meaning of life—for readers of all ages.

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About the Author

Genzaburō Yoshino (1899-1981) was a Japanese writer and publisher. In 1935, he became director of a collection of educational books for young people. Yoshino stepped in to write How Do You Live? when Yūzō Yamamoto, the expected writer, fell ill. Since its debut as a novel and guide to philosophy for young people, How Do You Live? has been re-edited and republished more than eighty times, a reflection of the changing times and culture in Japan.

Genzaburō Yoshino

Dr. Jen Harrison reviewed How Do You Live? Discover more books like How Do You Live? by reading our reviews and articles tagged with Life lessons, Educational books, Social justice, Friendship, and Japan.

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