By Sosuke Natsukawa
Sorry folks, I have to discuss this book at some length, and this will mean some spoilers will be shared.
It begins with a teenage boy called Rintaro, who is dealing with the death of his grandfather. In the second page, we get a glimpse of Rintaro’s personality when he says “Grandpa, this is messed up”. His grandfather had been his guardian and now Rintaro is in the process of moving to live with his aunt. But first there is a business with his grandfather’s second hand bookshop, which Rintaro spent a great deal of time in. As somebody who has embraced hikikomori, Rintaro had found solace in his grandfather’s bookshop.
One day, a mysterious looking marmalade cat called Tiger comes into the bookshop and start talking to Rintaro. At first, Rintaro is surprised by a talking cat, but he soon accepts the bizarre situation and allows the cat to take charge. The cat ask Rintaro to go on these missions to save books. Books he deems are imprisoned.
The first mission is to visit a leader who reads thousands of books and never re-read as there are many more books to read. This shows a society where people don’t read for pleasure.
The second mission is to visit a leader who cuts up books to provide summaries of books, as he believe people don’t have time to read full books. This shows a culture where to save time, books are abridged or become audiobooks.
Third mission is a visit to a leader who thinks books are disposable products. This shows a society where market is choosing what the readers need to read, treating books as mass produced items and which are simply fulfilling the trends.
In each mission, Rintaro’s job is to persuade each leaders out of their ideas. However misguided in their solutions, the problems the leaders try to solve are difficult. In reality, this is what is currently happening in our society.
The author presents us different ways in which we as a book reading society treat books. He highlights the current problems and leaves us to think about these. This is a powerful way of sparking a conversation, especially in a book club environment. At the end of the book, we found out the identity of the cat, who was a character from a childhood book that Rintaro read and loved. It showed us readers about the power of literature and how this can help us through many situations. In Rintaro’s case, it helped him through grief of losing his grandfather and taught him the importance of helping others.
It left me thinking about my relationship with books. It reminded me of some of the books I have loved and revisited. It encouraged me to read challenging books as they would provide brand new information to me. Most importantly, it showed me to read books for pleasure.