Book Review: How Do You Live?

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino

How Do You Live?
by Genzaburo YoshinoBruno Navasky (Translator)
4 out of 5 stars

Copper reflects on the meaning of life as he faces challenges at his school. He befriends a poor classmate who is being teased and bullied, but that puts him in crosshairs as well. Somehow he must find the courage to stand with his friends, and find out what kind of person he really wants to be. Copper’s uncle and mother give him good advice, but ultimately it is up to Copper to make his own decisions.

This book is told in two parts; the first is Copper’s experiences at school and the second is his uncle’s notes to him about philosophy and the underlying meaning behind everyday things. These two perspectives overlap in alternate chapters. First we read about something that happened to Copper and then his uncle writes to Copper about it, expounding on different moral and social ideas of why that particular experience was important and how it can help to shape Copper into a good person.

I’m not sure that I particularly liked that format. I think it is important to Copper’s story to have the philosophical exploration, but I think those parts could have been condensed. Of course, if you consider that this book was originally intended to be a textbook, but they threw in a fictional story to make it more palatable for children, then those long passages about science, history, and art make more sense.

I didn’t hate the format, but it was unexpected. It took me awhile to get used to it, and not see the uncle’s chapters as an “interruption” to the main story. I would not advise skipping those portions of the book, since they are very important to Copper’s character development. Also these universal themes have meaning for all of us, in any culture, in any era.

I just loved Copper! What a wonderful character arc! He goes through so much change and development through the story. He really grows up and begins to see his role in the world in a new way. He is smart and introspective, and I loved the way he shows so much kindness and generosity to others.

I loved Copper’s relationships with his friends! Each of the friends have complex personalities, and the gradual way they all become friends is a really interesting story in itself. I loved discovering what brings them together into this close-knit group.

The writing style is a complete delight! It draws you into this small little world of Copper’s home, his family, his school and his friends, but then we begin to see the bigger picture as Copper’s world expands. The writing is simple and straightforward, yet powerful with vivid words that paint a scene for you. It’s very emotional. I was laughing and crying at various points in the book.

I am so impressed with this beautiful book!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s