Hi, everyone. Brent here. This is a bit different from our usual blog style. We have a lot of new books in the shop. Some are here by popular demand, some because of trends, and a few because I personally chose them.

Because of that, I want to give context for some of our new titles. If you only want to know what we have, there’s a list at the bottom of this post with links to the respective Goodreads pages. I hope you find something meaningful here.

Topics include mental illness, book bannings, and the minefield that is the work of Yukio Mishima. If you’re not up for those themes right now, you may want to skip to the final book listed here or save this for later.

It’s a weird ride, so I’ll do my best to keep it short.


No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (Buy Here)

We already sold out of paperbacks for this one.

For sake of transparency, I lived near this guy’s birthplace for a while. He’s an icon of Aomori, the northmost prefecture of Japan. Some of my middle school students read this novel between classes.

That fact horrifies me. The book is a combination novel, memoir, and suicide note. Dazai died by suicide soon after finishing the text. Within the last decade, it’s become a massively popular work in the English world.

The novel has been adapted (most famously into a manga by Junji Ito), reprinted, analyzed, and resold countless times. Only one novel (Natsume Souseki’s Kokoro) has outsold it within its home country. Every page makes it obvious that the author had a troubled and perhaps troubling mind. It’s also one of the most eloquent and straightforward depictions of self-loathing and social isolation in literature.

It’s horrible. It’s beautiful. It’s disgusting. It’s a classic.


The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai (Buy Here)

This one often gets overshadowed by the previous. The real-world history makes that understandable, but I would argue that The Setting Sun is a better novel. For one, you don’t need the baggage of context.

Because it’s Dazai, you can expect an emotionally brutal read. Still, this is a plot with fictional characters, instead of a hard gaze into the abyss of a man’s soul. 

Instead of following a man’s tour of self-destruction, we see a woman trying not to self-sabotage. Instead of the mostly inward reflection, we see someone trying to meet the challenges of a nation reeling from the loss of a world war.

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima (Buy Here)

Yukio Mishima: poet, author, weightlifter, nationalist, attempted revolutionary.

Rather than trying to give the scholars’ view, I present the reactions of people I’ve spoken to over the years.

Many Japanese people consider him a classical but dated author, because of the deliberately archaic style of writing. Older Japanese people consider him a national treasure, though they often have not read his work. Some people who scare me take Mishima’s work uncritically, particularly his beliefs on tradition, moral austerity, and masculinity.

The most memorable reaction come from Queer readers. There’s a common refrain, particularly in regard to this book: “He’s a monster, which sucks because he’s a great author”. 

I ordered Confessions of a Mask because it’s the most direct introduction to his work and the problems with it. It’s a story that we pretend is new: an angry man is ashamed that he is not what he was taught to be.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Buy Here)

You probably know Murakami: the most-awarded living author in the world. Master of magical realism. Author of Underground and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.

Several people have called to ask if we have his stuff. At last, for the uninitiated, we have his most famous work.

Welcome to a bizarre world of death, sex, interdimensional travel(?), and publishing contracts. This is the complete collection of what was originally a trilogy.

What’s the plot? What happens? What’s the point?

I don’t know, but a whole lot of us are glad for the experience.

The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud (Buy Here)

This is, by far, my most selfish pick. We don’t even sell manga, normally. This work, however, I consider an exception. It’s a beautiful collection of work from one of the earliest women artists in manga.

It’s a snapshot of time and culture, preserved and translated for us who are separated by a century and an ocean. The iconoclast whose name has been forgotten, though her influence remains.

I’ll spare you the rant. If you want a broader cultural and historical context for this work, and the world of gekiga, here’s a link to a piece I wrote while living in Japan.


All Boys Aren’t Blue (Buy Here)

This was the third most banned book of 2021. The first two were Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison. These and many others remain banned in school libraries throughout at least eight American states. Why the fuss? Because they discuss Queer life. They’re “sexually explicit”. As if teenagers have no interest in sex until an outside force makes them aware of it.

As someone who grew up in a Mennonite community, I can guarantee that a lack of sex ed only causes problems.

George M. Johnson’s memoir-manifesto deserves attention. The sad fact is that there are few voices trying to talk to Queer black youth. The message is acknowledgement, the most basic of human decencies.

It’s not just about this book or the list from 2021. The more people who can share their experience, the more young people can see the possibilities for their future. Even adults! One of the most important tasks of art is to make people realize ‘you are not the only one with this experience’.

“Read banned books” isn’t just a slogan on our merch. It’s not a request. It’s a duty.

Read banned books.

Carry On [Simon Snow #1] by Rainbow Rowell (Buy Here) (Buy Full Set Here)

And now for something completely different.

The Simon Snow trilogy is a whimsical fantasy YA romance full of good vibes, edgy boys, and fun set pieces. You may know it by its unofficial name: gay Harry Potter.

(It’s better than Harry Potter.)

I could lavish praise on this smile-inducing story, but the FBoL podcast already did a perfect job of that.

A breezy and cute Rainbow Rowell joint sounds good right about now, actually.

Someone please come and buy our boxed set so I don’t spend my own money on it.


… and the rest! (browse full section of our books online here!)

Dour as much of this sounds, I am excited to have these works in the store. We’re hoping to get more international and intriguing authors on our shelves. Not just Japan, I promise.

We have more than just these titles, of course. I hope you find something here that brings you joy. If there are other authors, genres, or books that you think deserve our attention, please let me know at brentnoveltea@gmail.com.

See you around the shop.


All New Books

January 28, 2023 — Brent Peters

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