Every year when I close up my house in Canada and head to the Mysterious East, I bring one carry-on suitcase full of reading materials for two reasons: 1) books in Japan, particularly English-language ones, are quite pricey (and the selection leans toward the steamy potboiler end of the reading spectrum), and 2) it gives me a leg up on my reviewing, as I can often get books from BookPage several months ahead of their publication dates. Then, of course, each month Abby (my column editor at BookPage) sends another box of the latest acquisitions my way, so I always have a good selection to choose from in putting together Whodunit. The small problem is my small apartment, which is much too tiny to house a large collection of books, especially ones that I have already finished. It is, in fact, barely large enough to house a collection of socks, never mind books. I have a couple of English-reading friends (two Germans and an American) to whom I pass along the cream of the crop, but by and large my friends here are Japanese, and while their spoken English is serviceable, the bulk of their reading is done in their native language. So, a couple of times each year, I enlist the aid of an aide, load up two bicycle baskets full of late-model low-mileage suspense novels (perhaps forty or so at a time), and truck them to the Nerima-ku library, Oizumi branch, wherein can be found the BookPage shelf, two years of accumulated mysteries arranged in alphabetical order by author, Japanese alphabetical order, that is: A, E, I, O, U, K, S, T, N, H, M, Y, R, W. Authors like Michael Connelly, for instance, would fall under K, as that is the sound of the hard C in his last name. The Parkers, Robert and T. Jefferson, might be found at the beginning or the end, you just never know. Still, the fact that they can be found at all in English in a suburban Tokyo library is pretty cool, even if you have to search a bit to find them.
The Nerima BookPage Memorial Library, Oizumi Branch