The Cat Who Saved Books—Sosuke Natsukawa (translated by Louise Heal Kawai)
Year Read: 2022
Summary: A reclusive high school boy named Rintaro loses his grandfather and has to keep their small bookstore running himself. A talking cat appears one day, with a demanding request that Rintaro help it rescue books being abused by powerful beings. They enter a portal which takes them through different mazes to face the various challenges—and quiet, indecisive Rintaro must rely on his love for books and the wisdom of his grandfather to save them.
I adore any book that has a focus on the love of reading. Maybe it seems kind of circular to read books about reading books, but I guess that’s when you know you’re in love with books. It’s a peaceful, mildly easy read. It feels like a breath, a pause, a short reprieve from reality that feels both comfortable and inspiring. (I was also challenged by the points made about not secluding yourself too much in the world of books, to get out and be a part of the world.)
“Most people don’t get that obvious truth. They just go about their everyday lives, and yet ‘it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’”
“This world throws all kinds of obstacles at us; we are forced to endure so much that is absurd. Our best weapon for fighting all the pain and trouble in the world isn’t logic or violence. It’s humor.”
Rintaro would shut himself away between the walls of books, immersed in the world of letters and gradually losing all interest in the outside world. The normally taciturn old man would warn his grandson: “It’s not true that the more you read, the more you see of the world. No matter how much knowledge you cram into your head, unless you think with your own mind, walk with your own feet, the knowledge you acquire will never be anything more than empty and borrowed.”
“It’s all very well to read a book, but when you’ve finished, it’s time to set foot in the world.”
“Reading isn’t only for pleasure or entertainment. Sometimes you need to examine the same lines deeply, read the same sentences over again. Sometimes you sit there, head in hands, only progressing at a painstakingly slow pace. And the result of all this hard work and careful study is that suddenly you’re there and your field of vision expands. It’s like finding a great view at the end of a long climbing trail.”
Rintaro was being vague as usual, but this time, what he was expressing felt like something besides mere indecision. He genuinely seemed to be trying to express all the mixed emotions pent up inside him. Sayo’s eyes widened slightly as if she’d suddenly had an epiphany. Behind this boy’s passiveness and unreliability, she’d just glimpsed something—someone totally earnest, honest to a fault.
When book lovers talked about books, their faces seemed to light up.
“A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is mere scraps of paper. But a book that has been cherished and loved, filled with human thoughts, has been endowed with a soul.”
“Human beings don’t live alone, and a book is a way to show them that.”
“If you find it difficult, it’s because it contains something that is new to you. Every difficult book offers us a brand-new challenge.”