Japanese Lit Challenge Review # 2: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Read all the Japanese Literature Challenge rules and reviews HERE.

My Interest

Pretty obvious, right? Cats, books? What’s not to love? Plus, it is Japanese and this is one of the two months of the Japanese Literature Challenge. Super!

“A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power an epic story is a mere scrap of paper. but a book that has been cherished and loved , filled with human thoughts has been endowed with a soul.”  (p. )

The Story

“I rarely encounter a book with a soul nowadays.” (p.187)

Rintaro is a teenage boy who has just lost his grandfather. The grandfather that has raised him. Raised him in his quirky, wonderful second-hand bookstore that even stocks things like Proust. As he is preparing to close the bookshop and move in with an aunt he barely knows a talking cat appears to him and leads him on challenges through three labyrinths, each full of books needing to be rescued.

Each rescue mission tackles a different type of book abuse….


“Just as a person’s soul can be warped by suffering, so can the soul of a book. A book that has been in the hands of a person with a twisted soul will also acquire a twisted soul).” (p. 171-172)

There are the book hoarders who just want to own, the dumbing-down and shortening of books by publishers who want a quick profit, the ridiculous over-supply of mediocre, mindless diversion books. Then there is the the lack of appreciation for intellectual rigor and mental fitness that “hard” books provide and the effort to bury such books in the mists of history. Books are no longer written to try to stand the test of time. These are among the tragedies Rintaro must fight against.

“I used to talk about all kinds of important things with all sorts of people, but now I’m starting to forget what I used to talk about.” (p. 188)

My Thoughts

This book reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in terms of its impact on me. (My son and I listened to the book when he was 14). Someone “gets it.” In our world of vapid celebrity culture, over-scheduled-frantically fragmented families, divide/distract lying politicians of every political stripe, this book gets it.

Just think, it was only a century ago that Jane Addams Hull House and other immigrant settlement houses had DEBATE CLUBS and philosophy lectures for immigrants. Can you even imagine that today? Radio, movies, t.v., the 1930s trite movie magazines that morphed into the People, Us, and Hello (or men’s car and cigar and whatnot) magazines of today are the most reading the majority of people do today.

Those of us who love books, fight for free speech (not just free speech for those with whom we agree), real discussion, and real debate are a minority. So many of today’s books are DNFs [did not finish]. Important books do exist, some do read them, but many more are read in “executive summaries” that cover the “talking points.” This is tragic. Celebrities fighting for “safer social media” are really pulling the wool over followers’ eyes–they want it save for “their truth”–their “narrative,” without criticism. This is wrong. Slander and libel laws dictate what can and cannot be said–not celebrities who want an image at odds with their real life.

This book though–this, like Animal Farm, (or The Screwtape Letters) is perfect to read aloud with late elementary or middle school kids (my 6th grade teacher read us Animal Farm and helped us to discover on our own the parallels to real life–it was not a “unit study” with vocabulary words and model farms are trite intellectual garbage like that). This book will open the eyes of anyone who reads it to the further dumbing down of our society. Newt Minnow called TV a “vast wasteland.” He was right. Today, that is what much of publishing is. Adding in self-publishing to anyone who wants to pay, and we have a sea of intellectual pollution on par with the plastic straws in the ocean tragedy.

My Verdict


Very highly recommended

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai


6 thoughts on “Japanese Lit Challenge Review # 2: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

  1. Ah so this isn’t a book anywhere near as twee as the title suggested to me. The issues raised are powerful but I’d have to overcome my resistance to talking animals.


  2. Excellent review So glad you enjoyed this. My mom loved it as well but I’ve been reading mixed thoughts from others. It raises so many relevant issues that one hopes people would realise. To add to your examples is there was a time when Dickens’ weekly instalments were commonly read; and now so many struggle with him. I have this one on my TBR and hope to get to it for the Japanese Lit Challenge this year as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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