Richard James was born in Scotland, but has spent most of the last decade travelling - mainly in Asia and Eastern Europe. His first short story collection is based on the ports he stopped at while travelling around the world with a Japanese NGO. He currently lives in Tokyo.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell just blew me away when I first read it. I couldn't get my head around how one guy had been able to create so many distinct voices and bring them all together into one cohesive whole. With every Mitchell character it only takes about a line and a half before you can see them standing right before your eyes. The guy's a magician.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I love all of Murakami's work and, while I don't think he has one stand-out work, this is probably my favourite.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. People always think of classic literature as being boring and for the classroom only, but Dostoevsky's a mad man! He has a tendency to sprawl (which is enjoyable if you're a fan), but this is probably his tightest book. A lot of people think it's depressing, but I find it has a lot of comic scenes and, although I'm not religious, I think the ending is very uplifting.
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder got me through my philosophy course in uni more than any textbook. Underpinned by the idea that the big questions in philosophy are the big questions for everyone this book is a great introduction to the biggest figures in the discipline all structured around a very readable mystery.
Factory Girls by Leslie Chang. Chang got really close to a few of the girls she describes in this book about life in the factories of China. It's non-fiction, but the voices are so strong it comes across almost like a novel. Tragic and uplifting at the same time.
What do you read for pleasure?
Almost anything! Novels (especially by Japanese authors), history, philosophy, pop-science, pop-psychology...
Seven visitors cross paths in the rooms and corridors of La Chapel Blanche, a love hotel in Tokyo. Each may have entered for vastly different reasons, but eventually each is confronted with the same question: when and how to leave.
An eclectic mash up of styles and genres, this collection features over twenty stories inspired by the ports of call on a 2012 voyage with the Japanese NGO Peace Boat. A Japanese maid in Tokyo, a power hungry vizier in Istanbul and a sailor assailed by ghosts while navigating the Panama Canal are just a few of the varied characters to be found inside.