Book review of What You Are Looking For is in the Library
What You Are Looking For is in The Library by Michiko Aoyama (translated by Alison Watts) is a charming and inspiring collection of five intertwined short stories.

What You Are Looking For is in The Library by Michiko Aoyama (translated by Alison Watts) is a charming and inspiring collection of five intertwined short stories.

What You Are Looking For is in The Library is a set of five short stories, set in Japan. The stories are interconnected, with each character going to the local library at the Hatori Community House and asking for a book recommendation. The librarian Sayuri Komachi always seems to know exactly what’s on their mind, and suggests a list of books for them – always with one unexpected choice.

It was written by Michiko Aoyama, originally in Japanese, and has been translated by Alison Watts.

You can find What You Are Looking For is in The Library on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Waterstones and of course at your local library.

About this book

For fans of The Midnight Library and Before the Coffee Gets Cold, this charming Japanese novel shows how the perfect book recommendation can change a reader’s life.

What are you looking for?

This is the famous question routinely asked by Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. Like most librarians, Komachi has read every book lining her shelves—but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of her library guests. For anyone who walks through her door, Komachi can sense exactly what they’re looking for in life and provide just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.

Each visitor comes to her library from a different juncture in their careers and dreams, from the restless sales attendant who feels stuck at her job to the struggling working mother who longs to be a magazine editor. The conversation that they have with Sayuri Komachi—and the surprise book she lends each of them—will have life-altering consequences.

With heartwarming charm and wisdom, What You Are Looking For Is in the Library is a paean to the magic of libraries, friendship and community, perfect for anyone who has ever found themselves at an impasse in their life and in need of a little inspiration.

Originally published: 9th November 2020 (my edition in English was published on 10th August 2023 by Doubleday)

My review

I really enjoyed this book. It’s utterly charming, incredibly heart-warming and full of hope – I highlighted lots of passages as I was reading! Each story follows a different character, and is a little snapshot into their lives. They all link to each other with little hints and references to other characters we’ve met.

The main theme in each story is the relationship between work and identity, from a woman who has recently returned from maternity leave and found her position at work has been changed, to a man who has recently retired. I thought this gave an interesting insight into Japanese culture and the way that careers often dominate people’s identity. Each character is well-rounded and relatable, a lost soul looking for meaning in life. There’s certainly a touch of self-help within each story, as the librarian gives each one a message or lesson, which at times did feel a little heavy handed, but it was still enjoyable and moving.

The librarian is an intriguing character, and the little felt gifts she makes are super cute! The only downside for me were the ways that she is described in this by each character – this knocked it down one star.

The blurb compares this to Before the Coffee Gets Cold and The Midnight Library and I’d say that they are both fair comparisons. If you are in need of a lite ‘self-help’ book or a cozy read, this is the book for you.

About the author, Michiko Aoyama

Michiko Aoyama was born in 1970 in Aichi Prefecture, Honshu, Japan. After university, she became a reporter for a Japanese newspaper based in Sydney before moving back to Japan to work as a magazine editor in Tokyo. What You are Looking for is in the Library was shortlisted for the Japan Booksellers’ Award and became a Japanese bestseller. It is being translated into more than fifteen languages. She lives in Yokohama, Japan.

青山 美智子 Japanese name
青山美智子 Chinese name

You can find What You Are Looking For is in The Library on Goodreads, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Waterstones and of course at your local library.