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Friday, April 3, 2009

Bookstore offers a place for political debating


By MARIO CASTRO
Special to The Japan Times

"You have to fight your way in with a knife every time you want to talk," said Good Day Books manager Stephen Kott. "A bookstore is a natural venue for something like this."

It's not often that the words "talking" and "bookstore" are spoken together in such a warm and welcoming manner by the owner of such a shop, but Kott was discussing something he's been working on for the last four years — the Book Club Discussion Series.

On the second or third Sunday of every month, Kott holds lively political discussions at Good Day Books, one of Japan's leading vendors of used English-language books. And with topics such as "The Next Attack" by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon — which discusses the failures of the Bush administration to protect against terrorism, and the shortcomings of its post-9/11 global strategy — expect sparks to fly. The topics are often covered from various perspectives as the group draws on four to five books related to each. As Kott recently told The Japan Times, by the time you're on the third or fourth book, "the conversations get better and better."

Other topics up for discussion include fascism, religion, the Middle East, Asia, nationalism and war. There is a limit to the number of pages each member can read in a month, which the series takes into account. Hence each participant has to buy from Good Day Books a new copy of the title they will discuss and must, of course, read it before the event.

The series certainly demands a lot of time from its participants, as meetings are often 2 or 3 hours long. Yet, as Kott told the JT, because there are so few venues in Japan where foreigners can discuss politics, lively exchanges in a jam-packed room are almost guaranteed.

Good Day Books is at 1-11-2 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, on the third floor of the Asahi Building. Besides the Book Club Discussion Series, the store hosts a book club for non-native speakers, which focuses on fiction and can also be a good English lesson, and a Booknotes Lecture Series in which prominent authors, including Donald Richie and Donald Keene, present informative lectures on Japan. For more details, visit www.gooddaybooks.com


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