How Do You Live? (Hardcover)

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How Do You Live? By Genzaburo Yoshino, Bruno Navasky (Translated by), Neil Gaiman (Foreword by) Cover Image

How Do You Live? (Hardcover)

By Genzaburo Yoshino, Bruno Navasky (Translated by), Neil Gaiman (Foreword by)


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Staff Reviews

I really don’t know why I was so drawn to moral philosophy books this month, but this book was another one that I knew I absolutely had to read once I heard about it. How Do You Live? is a Japanese children’s classic originally published in 1937, but the English translation was just recently released at the end of last year. Hayao Miyazaki, the brilliant animator behind Studio Ghibli films Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and countless others is adapting this book into his next film.
Told between our main character Junichi Honda – nicknamed Copper after the famous philosopher Copernicus – and his uncle’s journaled letters to the young boy, we follow as Copper tackles big subjects like friendship and bravery, thinking for ourselves, and how to make tofu.
At first, I thought this book was just about Copper’s relationship with his uncle, as he navigates life and frequently asks his uncle for advice. But it wasn’t until I looked more into the author’s story that I really began to understand this book. Yoshino was born in 1899 and grew up in Tokyo, where the book is set, and studied literature and philosophy. During this time, Japan was becoming increasingly authoritarian, passing laws that banned people from saying or writing anything that was critical of the government. Yoshino, who had attended political meetings with progressive thinkers, was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After a friend helped release him from prison, he wrote How Do You Live? for young readers to teach the next generation about the importance of free thought and human progress.
In this light, the book holds so much weight for me. The lessons feel valuable even now, almost a hundred years later, when people all over the world are still being punished for thinking differently. Even though this book is meant for younger readers, sometimes I’m still surprised by how books for the littlest readers sometimes have the biggest messages.

— Leah

As featured in the Oscar-nominated Hayao Miyazaki film The Boy and the Heron:  the coming-of-age novel How Do You Live? is a Japanese classic that become a New York Times bestseller, now with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. 

After the death of his father, fifteen-year-old Copper must confront inevitable and enormous change, including the aftermath of his own betrayal of his best friend. Between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, letters from his uncle share knowledge and offer advice on life’s big questions. Like his namesake Copernicus, Copper looks to the stars and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live.

First published in 1937 in Japan, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been an important book for Academy Award-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle). Perfect for readers of philosophical fiction like The Alchemist and The Little Prince, How Do You Live? serves as a thought-provoking guide for young readers as they grow up in a world both infinitely large and unimaginably small.

Genzaburō Yoshino (1899-1981) was a Japanese writer and publisher. In 1935, he became director of a collection of educational books for young people. When the acclaimed writer Yūzō Yamamoto was unable to complete a book on ethics as part of the series, Yoshino stepped in and wrote How Do You Live?. Since its debut as a novel and guide to philosophy for young people, How Do You Live? has sold more than two million copies, and been re-edited and republished more than eighty times to reflect the changing times and culture in Japan. 

Bruno Navasky is a teacher and writer, whose work as a translator and editor includes Festival in My Heart: Poems by Japanese Children and Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets, as well as translations published in The New York Times and The Paris Review. He was the founding editor of American Poet, the journal of the Academy of American Poets, where he now serves on the board of directors. He lives and works in New York City.

Neil Gaiman is the author of many bestsellers for readers of all ages, including Stardust, American Gods, Sandman, Anansi Boys, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Graveyard Book (winner of the Newbery Medal), and Coraline. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Product Details ISBN: 9781616209773
ISBN-10: 1616209771
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: October 26th, 2021
Pages: 288
Language: English
A New York Times Bestseller
An Indie Bestseller

“All classic children’s books are works of philosophy in one sense or another. But few classics for young readers are as entirely philosophical and contemplative, as engineered to instruct, as Genzaburo Yoshino’s How Do You Live? . . . not easily forgotten. . . Some may feel, as this reader did upon closing it, inclined to affirm an unusual truth: ‘I am wiser for having read this book.’”—Adam Gopnik, The New York Times Book Review

“A heartwarming and empathetic text engineered to help kids comprehend the world around them and their places in it . . . Like the best Miyazaki films, [the] lessons are often deceptively simple, but they have implications for every person who comes of age through adversity.”—Vulture

How Do You Live? is that rare thing, especially in YA: a shamelessly philosophical novel, starting with its interrogative title. It asks its young readers to think about the person they want to be, and its adult readers to reflect on the person they’ve become.”—Wired

“A teen ponders the complexities of life, history, and humanity in this 1937 classic from Japan being animated by Hayao Miyazaki . . . Simple and beautiful seasonal details reflect Copper’s emotional journey. Small glimpses into prewar Japanese life and culture, including tofu making, school social hierarchies, city life, and the intricacies and symbolism of words, contribute to the atmosphere. A foreword by Neil Gaiman perfectly captures the mood and significance of this book, a childhood favorite of Miyazaki’s and one that is sure to find a select, but eager, readership outside its homeland. A quiet, introspective look at life and how to be human.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[A] deeply thoughtful Japanese classic . . . A gentle tale of self-discovery and reflection, and a compassionate guidebook on integrity punctuated by rich sensory details . . . Yoshino’s timeless lessons will resonate with sensitive readers young and old.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Thoughtful and hopeful in the vein of classic children's literature. [An] excellent translation, providing insight into Miyazaki's works.”—Anime News Network

“Important, worthwhile, and surprisingly of-the-moment.”—Asian Review of Books

“A beguiling . . . and ruminative coming-of-age tale . . . to excite interest and—happily—inspire thought.”—Booklist

“Now is the perfect time for the translation of this novel and an even better time for today’s youth to give it a read. This book guides your way of living toward the right path.”
 —Shelf Unbound

“A thought-provoking coming of age novel that teaches children how to navigate through life…beautiful…engaging.”—YA Books Central