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Illustrator Yuko Shimizu recommends some fiction and illustration books

Yuko Shimizu recommends some fiction and design books…

READERSVOICE.COM: Can you list about five of your favorite books of all time and say a bit about why you liked them?

YUKO SHIMIZU: I actually thought about the “of all time” part for a while. It is very difficult.

Your impression of a book changes according to your age, environment, and other circumstances. Don’t you think? At least for me.

Books I loved can sometimes be not so good when you read them over.

I learned that lesson, and I stopped re-reading the books.

So, I may not feel the same if I read them over now.

I think my ultimate favorite is Demian by Hermann Hesse.

I still think about this book a lot, and I read it when I was… 12 or 13? I think it had a lot to do with my age, too.

Because it was about a boy growing up in school, right?

School is never fun. I never want to go back to my school days.

When I had just moved from Tokyo to New York it was a big culture shock.

It really helped me get through those days.

I read most of the Hermann Hesse books I could put my hands on. I liked almost all.

I still think this one is the best.

I don’t know if I can pick four more ultimate favorites.

Compared to Demian, the ultimate book when I was twelve, nothing seems striking enough.

I can pick a couple of Japanese writers I admire.

One is the famous Yukio Mishima. I know he is the Japanese classic.

And there is a reason why he is that way.

I said earlier that what I look for in illustration is originality. And it applies to everything, including literature.

Mishima is the Original. He started writing when he was like 16 or 18.

He died quite young, by committing harakiri in front of a TV broadcast.

But he wrote SO MANY books.

Of course, there are good ones and not so great ones, but one thing I can say is his writings are a perfect beauty, and how he describes people’s emotions is incredible.

Forbidden Colors is one of my favorites.

It is about an old man who has a strong hatred toward women who had mistreated him in the past.

He decides to get revenge using this young beautiful man.

What blew me away was how Mishima at that time, still twenty-something, was able to write so much about this old man’s emotions.

It is just incredible. You would think an 80 year old man had written this.

Some other Mishima books I highly recommend are: Patriotism (to understand Japanese culture), The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea and Spring Snow (both very beautiful and dark).

Another favorite Japanese writer is Haruki Murakami.

I know he is the hottest Japanese writer now. And of course there is a reason.

A lot of his stories are set in a world somewhere perfectly in between the real and the magical.

It makes the story a lot more interesting.

Dance Dance Dance and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World are two masterpieces I highly recommend.

I lived in Tokyo almost 30 years and I always believed that in Tokyo everything was clear and the sun shines on everything and there is no shade (I know, you may not understand what I mean… If you go and live there, you’ll know exactly what I meant), so there is no way you can write anything magical about this city.

“Hardboiled” takes place in the dead center of Tokyo, yet Murakami made this city into a totally magical land. Amazing.

And also, the emotions…

Some design books I think are genius are as follows.

I cannot live without these books. They are my biggest inspiration books.

I always keep them on my bookshelf in the studio.

I also highly recommend them to people who are into design.

Genius Moves by Mirko Ilic and Steve Heller; Make it Bigger by Paula Scher; Complete Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo.

(This book may be almost impossible to get, unfortunately.
It is an amazing collection of early Yokoo designs and illustrations.

Published in the early 70s in Japan, and late 70s in the US.

Out of print. I hope it gets republished. All my designer mentors have this book.)

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