As Buddhist scriptures have it, when Gotami, the Buddha’s foster mother, asked for ordination from the Buddha, he refused. The Buddha’s cousin and disciple, Ananda, intervened: since, according to the teachings of the Buddha, women were capable of achieving awakening, they must be let into the monastery. The Buddha, outsmarted, let the women into his fold but he also dictated that the women will have to live as second class citizens, subordinate to the monks. 

Yu Miri in her novel The End of August tells an extraordinary tale: the saga of her Korean family and the story of their nation. Her story spans space and time, giving voice to both the living and the dead. It is a tale of Korea, from the brief, failed attempt to stand at the end of the 19th century as an empire against Imperial Japan, through the colonial period that ended with Japan’s surrender in the Second World War in 1945, to the postcolonial period that came to a close at the end of the 1970s. Settings range from her ancestral village in colonial Korea to Japan’s wartime continental empire in Manchuria and occupied China to Japan. Characters speak Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, some of them switching from one language to another as circumstances demand.

With a swift rattle on the computer keyboard and a bonus gift made out of a ball of wool, an extraordinary librarian gives book recommendations that guide five individuals wandering through life to suitable paths. Michiko Aoyama’s What You Are Looking For Is in the Library, shortlisted for the Japan Booksellers’ Award in 2021 and newly translated by Alison Watts, presents the loosely intertwined lives of Tomoka, Ryo, Natsumi, Hiroya and Masao—all spontaneous visitors of the Hatori Community House library and its librarian, Ms Komachi.

A sprawling, multigenerational epic, Hwang Sok-yong’s Mater 2-10 tells the story of a working-class Korean family and details their struggles against the tides of the 20th century, from the Japanese colonial era through the division of the Peninsula to South Korea’s economic boom. Their agitation for workers’ rights spans the generations, as does the unique ability of the family’s women to speak and affect events from beyond the grave, both of which define the family and mark the epochs of the story. 

Hiro Arikawa came to international attention when The Travelling Cat Chronicles became a bestseller in many languages, not least English. The story of a man named Satoru and his cat Nana who go on an extensive journey to visit Satoru’s friends won over readers in Japan and around the world, especially those who appreciate the special bond between humans and cats. Both characters return in a couple of stories in Arikawa’s new collection, The Goodbye Cat, translated by Philip Gabriel.

The will to survive in the face of unrelenting racism and human cruelty underpins this ultimately uplifting debut novel from short-story writer and essayist Janika Oza. Meticulously researched, the story follows three generations of one family, originally from Gujarat, as they are forced from one continent to another by some of the most terrifying events of the last century. Pirbhai’s peregrination from Gujurat to Uganda in 1898 starts the family’s odyssey.

The giant reptile Godzilla has spawned a franchise of 38 films (and counting) and even has his own official website. But for all the fun of a rampaging 50m monster (or is he 120m?—he has grown along with Tokyo’s skyline), it’s easy to miss his origins as a powerful metaphor for the consequences of nuclear warfare. Shigeru Kayama’s novellas Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again in Jeffrey Angles’s new translation restore Godzilla’s metaphorical roots.