Cover Image: How Do You Live?

How Do You Live?

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

That cover art is simply stunning and reminiscent of Mizayaki’s animation movies, and the title is so very potent and posing such a seemingly simple yet hugely important question. So it was love at first sight for me when I got the invite for the tour. Then I read the book description and Neil Gaiman’s foreword (his is the writing I most aspire to be able to emulate!), and I fell even more deeply in love with the book.

But wait, I had not even started reading the book at that point! Now that I have, I can strongly say that all those feelings of instant deep love were fully justified, more so actually.

What Do I Love About the Book
Well, simply put, everything!! I almost wish I knew how to read Japanese so I could read it in its original version but Bruno Navasky’s translated version is so very beautiful as well. However, I feel the need to say something more about what do I love about How Do You Live? So here goes, well, everything I love about it

The Characters, the Concept, the Descriptions,
Copper, the main protagonist, is so very delightful and likeable. As I turned the pages, I kept picturing this young teenager going about his everyday life in 1930s Japan, and it was – precious. His relationship and interactions with friends and family is full of warmth and so believable.

I loved the glimpses of prewar Japan, its back-alleys and its mansions all made alive and real through abundantly detailed yet not-at-all overwhelming descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells all around that make our world more so. In addition, we also get to look at the other side of the coin, of poverty and of bullying, of life in prewar Japan.

With chapters that switch between Copper’s life (his adventures with his friends, the discoveries he stumbles upon as he makes connections in his ever-curious and thinking mind, and all the daily minutiae) and his uncle’s journal entries that his uncle writes with the intention for an older Copper to read, the book takes readers on an exploratory and learning journey without us realizing it.

The book engages us on so many levels and brings with it lessons on philosophy, history, science, sociology, human relations, morals and ethics, and so much more. I l was awed by how Copper and his uncle talk about how everyone is connected to each other, each one of us, because of various reasons and dependencies. In one way or the other, each of us is connected to perfect strangers across the globe. This truth is timeless, and holds a deeper and stronger truth in today’s highly connected world.

and the etcs.
About a third of the way through, I stopped highlighting as I realized I was marking up most of my e-copy (not the physical one, thankfully!). I am going to skip a favorite quotes section and leave you to read the book for yourself. While this is intended for young readers, I am sure adults will enjoy this read and cherish the life lessons it offers in its own delightfully gentle way. Written in sweet, simple language, the book has a magic all its own, a peek into a past gone by and a hopeful look at the coming ages.

Last but not the least, it is sure to make readers pause every so often and ponder on the question that is also the title of this book. As for me, I am thinking about it for sure, and in a few different ways.

One, to ask myself how I am living my life currently
Two, to ask myself how I should live my life
Three, ask others (and listen to their answers) this question ‘How do you live your life?’; again, both in a simple ‘how their everyday is’ and a deeper sense of living their lives.
What Might Not Work for All Readers But Should Not Discourage Any Reader
The back and forth between the POVs, while entranced me and made complete sense to me based on what I realized this book is trying to do, might not work for all readers. To be more specific, the philosophical or rather didactic turns the book takes when Copper’s uncle pens his thoughts down in his journal might feel too slow for readers in its target audience of 10 – 14 year-olds. But I want to tell all readers – young and old – keep going, and you will be glad you did!

For if you keep in mind the ‘why’ of this book, and look at all the gems of wisdom (some obvious and others that leave you feeling ‘oh yes, I have had that thought’, or ‘of course, why did I not think of that before?’), those didactic parts will totally be worth the read

In Summary
A beautiful and brilliant, insightful and inspiring, tender and timeless, and thoroughly thought-provoking book that is a must-read for everyone, regardless of age. Read it yourself, gift it to loved ones, and yes, make sure you read it before the Studio Ghibli movie based on this book (currently in production) comes out.

Thank you once again to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me the physical ARC of this book; and for inviting me for the book tour. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This is an English translation of the Japanese novel, How Do You Live, which was published in 1973. It reads simply but the message of this book is deep, and necessitates conversations around what it means to live a good life.
Was this review helpful?
Review (#giftedbook): How Do You Live? 

Author: Genzaburo Yoshino

Translator: Bruno Navasky

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for this free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to for the free educator ALC. This is a reissue and the first English translation of this story (first published in 1937) and is available now! 

This is such a lovely, unique story. It follows the main character Copper, as he navigates life after the death of his father, new friendships and betrayals, and his growing curiosity about the world around him. Interspersed throughout the story are journal entries to Copper from his uncle, which address many of the social, political, and philosophical questions Copper begins to have. 

I loved the audiobook but I would definitely like to get a physical copy of this one as well just to read again. I’m not one to annotate books but I feel like this is one I would! Even though this story was originally written in 1937, so much of what Copper went through feels relevant…probably because so much of the pre-teen/teenage experience is universal. 

This was such an endearing, beautiful read and I highly recommend it for young ones as well as adults. The translation is excellent and the audio narrator, Brian Nishii, does a wonderful job!
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to like this book more than a did. It was just ok.  It seemed to be drawn out that the same information was repeated over and over again over the pages.  I know it's an older book, but I don't see it appealing to the US YA audience even as a classic.  I enjoyed the uncle's diary entry more as he seemed to give insight into what the main character was either learning or going through.
Was this review helpful?
I ultimately could not get into this one and am giving it a pass. It was too lengthy and meandering for my personal tastes.
Was this review helpful?
After reading  HOW DO YOU LIVE, it is not clear why this young adult novel has garnered so much love and attention.  

Some of the themes written about in HOW DO YOU LIVE apply to people everywhere, such as bravery and/or lack thereof, classical, socioeconomic status, bullying, and even nationalism. In these ways, it is astonishing that it was written 85 years ago. 

The very best part of this book, and the most important, are the letters that are written to Cooper from his Uncle. It is through these letters that Cooper learns what is truly important in life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would place its target audience as either Young Adult, or New Adult. I know it is being marketed as a middle-grade book, but I think it would be more suited to a high school or college aged readership. In fact, I would have loved to have read this in high school English class. I think teachers would also enjoy dissecting this book with their students.  

I rate HOW DO YOU LIVE as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Was this review helpful?
With this being originally published in 1937 I wasn't sure how this would read or impact today. Such an amazing book. Highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I didn't finish the book - not the books fault, juts didn't quite grab me. Perhaps because at the moment all my work is focused on 11/12 year olds! Still rating it 5 stars as the book itself, whilst dense, was good.
Was this review helpful?
If you could go back and relive your teenage years, thinking about the fights with friends, the love-hate relationship with school, the kind of problems you used to ponder, would you? Would an insight into your teenage mind help you solidify the lessons that you learned (and maybe never verbalized) that make you who you are?

How Do You Live? is a lovely story about Copper. He lives with his mom; his dad passed away when he was little. His uncle (mom’s brother) is a frequent visitor and confidant for Copper. Copper shares many things with his uncle, from his triumphs and thoughts to his vulnerable moments.

I loved the format of this book: each chapter began with Copper as the central character, and then, the narration switches to his uncle writing in a diary, putting words to the thoughts he had while Copper was sharing what had transpired. The intent is to give this diary to Copper eventually and I am a huge fan of chronicling a young life from the lens of an adult, bringing our knowledge of the world and what we have learned to help the young ones succeed. This offers a fantastic analysis of the big things in the little boy’s world and how that all fits into a big picture.

Overall, How Do You Live? offers a comforting place to ponder childhood and put words to things we might have learned and internalized but never realized that had happened. This is a story I will come back to and hope to share with young kids.

Read the full review on Armed with A Book. Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
How Do You Live? is a quiet story of one young man's life over the course of about a year. While Copper navigates friendship, bullies, socioeconomics, and the pressures of adolescence, his uncle uses Copper's experiences as opportunities to guide him. The story reads as part-diary and part-letter from an older relative, and this combination allows readers to see Copper through his own thoughts and words and from an outside perspective. It does, however, slow the pacing of the story significantly, creating a story that lags often and seems like a lecture frequently. It also creates a protagonist who seems very young. It is easy to forget that Copper is fifteen and imagine him as eight or ten based on his actions and thoughts.

Despite the story's slow pacing and pedantic tone, Copper's experiences will ring true to many young readers. He sees injustice when school bullies target a boy who is poor, awkward, and solitary, and he reaches out to the boy and makes a genuine friend. He experiences shame when he hides from bullies who target his friends, and he has to find the strength to apologize and take the consequences of his actions. These and so many other events are relatable, authentic, and helpful for young readers to see. 

While Copper's experiences are genuine and interesting, the way they are told will cause many readers to abandon this book before they reach the end. The uncle's chapters, in particular, feel like academic lectures that will lose the attention of many young readers. Even Copper's chapters, however, seem elementary in their voice and tone. The chapters from Copper's perspective could be used as a read-aloud book for younger children who would enjoy the cultural references and the experiences of Copper. As a novel for older middle grade or young adult readers, however, I think this story lacks the action, voice, and pacing to maintain reader interest.
Was this review helpful?
This book checked a lot of my boxes before I even started reading it. Prologue by Neil Gaiman, favorite childhood book of animator Hayao Miyazaki? Sold. 
This story lives up to the hype tenfold.
The themes of morality and applying them to science and history will resonate with older Middle-Grade readers and YA readers who are discovering these issues themselves.
So much good discussion fodder and Mr. Miyazaki is making a movie of it? Swoon.
Was this review helpful?
One of the most thought provoking middle grade books I’ve ever read! Jam packed with art, history, science, language, politics and philosophy, Yoshino influences readers to ponder about the important matters in the world. This novel forces readers to think beyond themselves and inspires a desire to be an impact to make the world a better place.

I think this books is such a wonderful gift to the world and if it impacts a young life to pursue world peace, it would be worth it. This is a book I would definitely encourage young readers to read.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Algonquin Young Readers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Was this review helpful?
First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino has made a classic, a book that might or might not be intended for children; that can be read alongside teens and pre-teens who are starting to think about the world, really <em>think</em> about it, and their place in it. 

Featured in prominent lists for books in translation for kids, this book is getting a lot of attention now because animator Hayao Miyazaki has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to make it into a film (even though he has retired).

There are two narrative voices inside the book: Copper is fifteen, and is just learning about friendship, and loss, because his father has died. Then there is his uncle's journal, an enthusiastic voice that wants to explain everything to him, from the chains that unite us as human beings; to the encouragement to ask the right questions about life and relationships. It is his uncle who has called him Koperu as a nickname. Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, must look to the stars, and use his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live from then on.

The foreword by Neil Gaiman is truly heartwarming and makes you want to read the book even more. The tone and whole-hearted way it is written reminded me a lot of another book with important questions for the young, even though it was written 150 years ago: <em>Heart</em>, by Edmondo De Amicis, a beautiful and compelling piece of literature. 

'How Do You Live? is on sale since October 26, 2021.
Was this review helpful?
How Do You Live? may be the most unusual coming-of-age story I've ever read. It was originally written in Japan in 1937, which, you may remember, was the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. This war is never mentioned, and yet, the book very philosophically explores the question: how do you live your life in order to make it your best life?

Readers are introduced to 15-year-old Honda Jun'ichi, nicknamed Copper. His father has passed away and he lives with his mother in Tokyo, not far from an uncle who has taken Copper under his wing. Copper often visits his uncle in the evenings to play chess and indulge in some very philosophical discussions, which are then followed up with some thoughts written by his uncle about what they had talked about on a particular evening. The story, then, unfolds in alternating voices - on the one hand, the events and experiences in Copper's home and school life are told in the third person, on the other, there are the thoughts his uncles writes down for Copper on the first person.

Copper got his nickname after a long discussion with his uncle about Copernicus and this theory that the earth revolves around the sun which is at the center of the universe rather than the previously long help belief that the sun moves around the earth and that earth was the center of the universe. It doesn't take a philosophy degree to see that Uncle is telling Copper that he is one human among many. 

At school, Copper has two friends in his class, Mizutani, whom he has known since elementary school, and Kitami whom he has met in junior high school. There is also another boy in their class, Uragawa, a poorer student who, because his grades are low and he always smells like the fried tofu his parents sell, is nicknamed Fried Tofu and subject to many cruel pranks. 

When Uragawa is absent from school for a number of days, Copper takes it upon himself to visit him and see what's wrong and when he will return to school. Seeing what his family life is like, and Uragawa cleverness at making the fried tofu causes Copper to see him in a different light. He begins to help him with his homework and Uragawa's grades really improve. Pretty soon, Mizutani and Kitami come around and begin to include Uragawa in their group.

When some seniors at school set their sights on Katami, Copper, Mizutani, and Uragawa promise to stand with him if they threaten to beat him up. But when the time comes for this courageous act to happen, Copper finds that he can't move and join his friends in defending Katami. Crestfallen by his lack of action and loyalty, Copper becomes ill. Can he ever face his friends again? Or will he be shunned by them for his cowardice? 

In the end of Copper's ordeal, he has learned much about himself and about human nature, including how he wishes to live his life, while at the same time, realizing there is still much more to learn.

How Do You Live? in a very interesting school story and I would love to know what motivated the author to write it. I have to admit that, even though I was a philosophy major, I found myself more interested in Copper's story than in his uncle's treatises on life. And yet, the two parts make a very complex whole, supporting each other to make it all understandable for their teenage audience. Copper's story, written in 1937, is still relevant in 2021 because he goes through the same growing pains most younger teenagers experience. 

I believe the translation is faithful to the original Japanese and I felt author and translator had captured the themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and shame in such a way that readers will ask themselves the same questions the Copper was forced to ask himself. There is a forward by Neil Gaiman, who was interested in it because he knew it was a favorite book of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and whose next film will be based on this book. 

How Do You Live? may not be a book for everyone, but for those who do read it, it is a very satisfying coming-of-age story from another era. 

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
Was this review helpful?
This lovely novel was both complicated and very simple. It combines a lot of things that may not seem related at all—philosophical musings on morality, intelligence, poverty, and bravery; a story of a boy's school days in the 1930s; the effects of globalization on humans and production; really detailed descriptions of the process of making tofu; a kind of in-depth overview of the life and works of Napoleon... there's a lot going on but it all works! It kept my interest, and reading this now with a historical perspective certain things jumped out as really fascinating, for example: the words highlighting fairness, justice, the need to end poverty worldwide, and respect for laborers—all issues we are still, still struggling with today—from an author who would shortly be ostracized by his increasingly militarized government; and the parallels between the ideas and actions of the bullying older boys at Copper's school and the hallmarks of the way that fascism would shortly rise, and continues to rise, in many societies. This all makes it sound really intense, but really the feeling of the book is primarily coziness. It has a sweet, profound quality that would appeal to those who enjoy works like The Little Prince.
Was this review helpful?
This unusual combination of coming-of-age story and ethics essay is amazingly relevant despite being written in the the late 1930's in Japan.  It focuses on the friendships of a 15 year old boy as he learns how to understand his place in the world, how to deal with people with different backgrounds, and how to own up to his own mistakes.  Despite many cultural differences and differences of age, experience, and time, I often felt a great deal of resonance with the situations that the main character has to go through.  The book is particularly unusual in that the third person omniscient narrative in which the main story is told is often broken up with first person journal essays written by the main character's uncle, who is writing his advice to the main character in the role of a father figure.

There are some minor factual errors in the book (notably stating that the Russians were involved in the battle of Wagram in the Napoleonic Wars in 1809, which is not true as far as I can tell), but these really don't detract from the point of the book.

There may be some increased interest in this title when the film Hayao Miyazaki is currently working on is released, as it's supposed to be about a boy inspired by this book and the film is sharing the title of the book.
Was this review helpful?
I am so thrilled that this book has been translated into English. How Do You Live? has become one of my favourite middle grade books & I cannot wait to read this with my kids. 

While the smallest bit of this book is outdated, being published in 1930’s, there are many timeless morals and values to be found within these pages that will benefit readers of middle grade age to adult. Mixing philosophy, science, art, history, 15 year old Copper learns much about how to think about the world from his uncle, and what his relationship & purpose within that world is following the year after the death of his father.

This book is a gift to the world. It’s an absolutely beautiful story from cover to cover, and my only wish is that it never had to end. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. I have already pre-ordered a copy for my own shelves & would recommend this one for everyone!
Was this review helpful?
...the lessons of How Do You Live? make it an important, worthwhile, and surprisingly of-the-moment novel. For a novel published in Japan in 1937, How Do You Live? is remarkably anti-militaristic and even anti-authoritarian. The central external conflict in the largely-episodic book is the rise in bullying by older students in the judo club in the name of “school spirit”. Yoshino explicitly links their attitude to broader trends in Japanese society:
“Make no mistake,” [members of the judo team] insisted, “once they enter society, students with no love of school will surely become citizens with no love of country. People who don’t love their country are traitors. Therefore, we can say that students who don’t love their school are traitors in training. We must discipline any such fledgling traitors.”
Copper and his friends realize the older students are petty tyrants, especially when they choose to direct their attention against one of the poorest students at the school. With the encouragement of Copper’s uncle and a friend’s older sister, they plan to stand together against their oppressors, even though they know they’re going to lose. It is what their individual consciences demand of them...

Full review at Asian Review of Books
Was this review helpful?
It is very easy to see how this book may have inspired Hayao Miyazaki. The pacing is leisurely, and the prose languid as it tells the story of Copper and his friends. There is no large overarching plot or adventure, it is simply an honest glimpse into the life of a boy and his friends. 
This is not a stay up all night reading because you can't put it down, kind of book, but there is an undeniable draw to the story. There is a realness to the characters and a sense of nostalgia that is very like a Miyazaki movie. 
Honestly, this book is not for everyone, but it deserves a chance, you might be surprised by what you find.
Was this review helpful?
Copper is a fifteen-year-old boy whose father passed away, and now looks to his uncle as a surrogate father figure. Copper is growing into the adult he will soon become, and must navigate new observations and experiences in the world as he makes that transition. In addition to his uncle, Copper also has friends he can learn with and from, and each of his friends has a slightly different home and school life. It is Copper's experiences and observations that chart the trajectory of his journey toward adulthood, and along the way, his Uncle engages with him in personal conversation, as well as writing conversational entries in a journal he means to give to Copper at a later time. Many of these observations carry a simple foundation, but they form the crux of larger questions about curiosity, ethics, philosophy, and the nature of being human in a vast, interconnected world. The most important question is, how will Copper decide to live?

Before divulging my personal thoughts about How Do You Live?, its background is important and worth mentioning. It was written in 1937, at a time when Japan deployed Tokko, the "Thought Police", to control society and silence dissident and subversive ideologies and viewpoints. Its author, Genzaburo Yoshino, decided to write an ethics textbook as a novel instead, a shift which perhaps served to increase its popularity, as well as to avoid the scrutiny of the Tokko. Over the many decades since then, it has been republished numerous times, and found a special place in the hearts of esteemed creators such as Hayao Miyazaki and Neil Gaiman. Hayao has come out of retirement to create a film about this novel, his favorite from childhood, and for the first time in its existence, it has been translated for an English audience.

Personally, I think this is an incredibly intriguing and important story, and I found its format rather engaging. For the most part, we observe an event in Copper's life, and then Copper's uncle responds to that event in the form of a journal entry, musing and provoking thought about that event and why that moment mattered far more than it originally appeared to. These sections provided much of the meat of the story, and while some readers may find these parts to be a bit dry, I found it rather fascinating how simple events were expanded and their foundations expounded upon to create holistic pictures of critical thought. Many situations and ideas are discussed, so I found that no idea wore out its welcome, and I was able to read this story comfortably over the course of a couple evenings.

If Copper's uncle is the deep thinker of the story, Copper himself is the fulcrum, as he engages with the world around him in earnest and with a sense of wonder. He has fun, but thinks about life as seriously as perhaps a fifteen-year-old boy can. He considers his place in the world, and examines his own actions, and is fundamentally human and fallible. He makes mistakes, sometimes big ones, and learns what it means to piece yourself back together after you did something awful that torments your conscience down to the bone. I think that Bruno Navalsky's translation of this story is spot-on, and I think that its subject matter is as relevant today as it was 84 years ago, because being a good person never goes out of style. How Do You Live? is a story about a boy discovering how he wants to approach life, but it's also much more than that. I highly recommend it to all readers who ask the big questions, about life, our place in it, and what it means to live in an interconnected world where our actions matter, what we create matters, and how we live really, truly matters if we want to make the world a better place to live.
Was this review helpful?