What You Are Looking for Is in the Library

Published on March 14, 2024

What You Are Looking for Is in the Library

Reviewed by Marybeth Ginsberg

What You Are Looking for Is in the Library (2023) is a series of vignettes about five people living in Tokyo. Little do the characters know that the discovery of the local Hatori Community House library is about to change their lives. The reference librarian, Ms. Komachi, remains memorable to all who visit. After she prints out a recommended list of books for each visitor, she leaves them all with a “bonus gift” that is  intended to set them on a path of revelation. Interestingly enough, six degrees of separation connect the five characters in the book, and readers soon see that the need to find meaning is not always obvious to the seeker.

After completing junior college, young Tomoka moves to Tokyo to experience life in the big city. Dissatisfied with her job in the womenswear department of a local general store, she eventually finds meaning in her work. Thirty-five-year-old Ryo has always dreamed of opening an antiques shop. The thought of leaving his day job scares him, yet in time, he realizes that taking a chance is both exciting and fulfilling. Thirty-year-old Hiroya is an illustrator who lacks the confidence to find and keep a permanent job. Circumstances improve when Hiroya realizes that being in the right environment is important to her, and that she truly is useful. Forty-year-old Natsumi struggles to balance motherhood with her career, while newly retired Masao learns to navigate life in retirement and rediscover what is valuable to him.

Despite their concerns, each character is set on a path of self-discovery. In time, they learn that life is not always what we expect and that something new can await us if we can just try to see things differently. Lessons come to those who are searching in this delightful book, and Aoyama’s vignettes unfold in the most inspiring and seemingly serendipitous way. Whether you are looking forward to life ahead or reflecting on the past, What You Are Looking for Is in the Library has something for everyone.  

Favorite Quote: “People find meaning in the bonus gifts for themselves. It’s the same with books. Readers make their own personal connections to words, irrespective of the writer’s intentions, and each reader gains something unique.”

Japanese author Michiko Aoyama is a former reporter and magazine editor. Her book, What You Are Looking for Is in the Library, became a Japanese bestseller, and is available in more than fifteen languages. 

Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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