How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino

Firstly, a huge thank you to Ebury Publishing, Rider Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of How Do You Live? in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publication Date:
Length: 280 pages
Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction

CW: n/a

The streets of Tokyo swarm below fifteen year-old Copper as he gazes out into the city of his childhood. Struck by the thought of the infinite people whose lives play out alongside his own, he begins to wonder, how do you live?

Considering life’s biggest questions for the first time, Copper turns to his dear uncle for heart-warming wisdom. As the old man guides the boy on a journey of philosophical discovery, a timeless tale unfolds, offering a poignant reflection on what it means to be human.



Copper was such a delightful protagonist. I loved his outlook on life and how he was determined to understand everything and make discoveries surrounding life and humanity. He was always eager to learn new things about the world around him and about himself. Copper’s relationship with his Uncle was particularly touching, the way that his Uncle would encourage him with his discoveries and his progress into becoming a great human was lovely to see. I especially enjoyed the notes the Uncle would write to Copper with the intention of giving them to him one day. Not only was the idea that he wanted to ensure that his wisdom and guidance would always be readily available to Copper through his journal; but it goes further in showing just how much that his Uncle cared for him to continue to think about their discussions from that day or that week and want to teach him more about them whilst giving Copper the opportunity to learn things for himself. 

I also loved the bond between Copper and his friends Kitami, Mizutani and Uragawa which only strengthened throughout the novel. Their bond seemed to be more than just friends and almost brotherly in the way they were all protective over each other, especially Uragawa who is relentlessly bullied for his family being poor. It was enjoyable to see how this group of boys would go from being stereotypically cheeky with their baseball antics or their snowball fights, but yet they would have insightful discussions and tell stories about Napoleon. Not only this but, it is clear how much their friendship means to each other and that they aren’t afraid to express this either. 

Whilst a relatively short novel, it explores in depth the growth that Copper is going through from a boy into a young man and the importance of ensuring that he becomes a great man at that. Each chapter wonderfully weaves in his day-to-day life at school with his friends, or with his family, but each chapter has a very well crafted philosophical message for you to take from this. The reader is learning and growing just as Copper is, regardless of how old they are or what they have experienced in their own lives. The contrast between the sections of Copper’s life and his Uncle’s notebook entries was also really well done – especially as it provides more of an adult explanation to some of the thoughts and discussions that Copper is having which makes the message of the chapter even more insightful. 

Overall, I can see why Miyazaki is making this story his next film as it is a beautiful and heartwarming coming-of-age tale. The descriptions and the characters together build a very authentic and captivating image of pre-war Japan which was lovely to be absorbed in for a few hours. How Do You Live? Is wonderfully uplifting and can change your perspective of your own way of living for the better. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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