What To Read Next, Based On Your Favorite Hayao Miyazaki Movie
In a time and place in which the outlook often feels increasingly grim, many of us are looking for feel-good moments wherever we can get them. For cinephiles, it’s hard to get more feel-good than a Studio Ghibli movie. If you’re looking for books with Studio Ghibli vibes, you’re in luck. I’ve got the perfect book for you to read next, based on your favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie.
Now, it’s worth noting that the Venn diagram between Studio Ghibli movies and Hayao Miyazaki movies is not a circle. Although Miyazaki wrote and directed four of the studio’s five highest-grossing pictures — Ponyo, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises, and Howl’s Moving Castle — a number of other directors have taken the helm over the years, most notably Isao Takahata and Miyazaki’s own son, Gorō.
Hayao Miyazaki served as the writer, director, producer, and/or concept-creator on each of the films below. Notable Studio Ghibli works not found here include Grave of the Fireflies, Tales from Earthsea, and When Marnie Was There. Also left off this list is How Do You Live?: the movie Miyazaki came out of retirement — again — to make, in which the 1937 Genzaburō Yoshino novel of the same name will play a major role.
Keep scrolling to find recommendations for what to read next, based on your favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie.
What To Read Next, Based On Your Favorite Hayao Miyazaki Movie
If You Like The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Try…
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Miyazaki’s directorial debut wasn’t a Studio Ghibli picture, but the Lupin III film The Castle of Cagliostro, in which the gentleman thief goes from heists to heroics to save a damsel in distress. For a similar comedy-crime feel, check out Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules: the first in a trilogy of novels about five old ladies who plot an escape from their retirement home and embark on a crime spree fit for a much-younger gang.
If You Like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Try…
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
A lot of Miyazaki movies focus on young girls saving the world, including the Toei-distributed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. If it’s your favorite, you owe it to yourself to pick up Namina Forna’s YA fantasy-adventure novel, The Gilded Ones. Here, a 16-year-old girl’s golden blood dooms her to banishment from everything she’s ever known. As an alaki in the emperor’s army, Deka is about to enter a world of intrigue, smoke, and mirrors.
If You Like Castle in the Sky (1986), Try…
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
A retelling of the Korean myth of Shim Cheong, Axie Oh’s 2022 fantasy novel takes place in a seaside village, where young women are sacrificed to the sea in the hopes of appeasing the Sea God. Legend says he will not rest until his reincarnated bride comes to join him in the sea, and Shim Cheong is rumored to be her people’s long-awaited salvation from his rage. Once she’s in the realm of the gods, however, Shim Cheong discovers that something — or someone — has cursed the Sea God to sleep forever. Full of the same fairytale qualities that make Castle in the Sky so magical, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a must-read for any Miyazaki fan.
If You Like My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Try…
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
It’s hard to find a book for adults that captures My Neighbor Totoro‘s majestic, rural magic and childlike sense of wonder, but Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks comes close. In this sports novel, the members of a high-school field hockey team attempt to harness their ancestors’ powers to conjure a few wins. Set in 1980s Massachusetts, Barry’s novel has all the retro coming-of-age vibes Totoro provides.
If You Like Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Try…
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
There are plenty of books about teenage witches out there, and I’m sure Kiki’s Delivery Service fans have read them all. For something just as magical, without being too on-the-nose, try Radiance. Catherynne M. Valente’s 2015 novel takes place in an alternate version of 1986 that looks like a prediction of the future made by Jay Gatsby himself. Here, a filmmaker’s daughter rebels by becoming a documentarian who specialized in the lives of people residing on other planets…and never returned home from her last space outing.
If You Like Only Yesterday (1991), Try…
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Many of Miyazaki’s films tackle the tension between urban life and rural beauty. Only Yesterday — in which the heroine remembers her childhood dreams of a life in the countryside, and which Miyazaki executive produced — is no exception. Fans would do well to check out Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: a fabulist novel in which one woman previews different possibilities for her future, through the magic of one very special book collection.
If You Like Porco Rosso (1992), Try…
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
Porco Rosso may not be the most famous of Miyazaki’s movies, but with its real-world, hard-dated setting, it’s one of the most unique. If you’re a fan of interwar adventures, check out C.L. Polk’s Witchmark. This trilogy starter follows Miles, a war veteran who faked his own death and now works in a veterans’ hospital under an assumed name. When one of his patients unwittingly exposes Miles’s innate healing magic, he steps out of the shadows of his past to track down a murderer.
If You Like Pom Poko (1994), Try…
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
Another underrated Ghibli film that Miyazaki executive produced, Pom Poko follows a group of tanuki — Japanese raccoon dogs — who launch an assault on an urban development project that threatens to destroy their forest home. For similar vibes, check out Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom: a Seattle-based story in which two pets — a crow and a dog — set out to save humanity from a zombie apocalypse.
If You Like Whisper of the Heart (1995), Try…
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Young love and the magic of creative aspirations collide in Whisper of the Heart. Miyazaki fans looking for a grown-up version of the movie would do well to try out Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop. Here, a young cynic who doesn’t believe in love and longs to start her own life crosses paths with an alluring woman who’s somehow slipped out of the 1970s and into the present day.
If You Like Princess Mononoke (1997), Try…
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
If you like warrior women fighting back against seemingly insurmountable odds, à la Princess Mononoke, you’re going to love Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun. In 14th century China, an orphaned girl predicted to meet a terrible fate assumes her dead brother’s identity and fortune, and attempts to carve out a life for herself at a rural monastery. When her home is destroyed by Mongol rulers trying to suppress a brewing revolution, however, Zhu gathers her courage and tries to live up to the fortune she stole: greatness.
If You Like Spirited Away (2001), Try…
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
In Spirited Away, a family unwittingly stumbles upon a secret world when they explore an abandoned theme park. In A Marvellous Light, Robin, a straitlaced baronet in Edwardian England, is made privy to a world of magical intrigue. Thanks to a cleric error, Robin’s responsibilities now include withstanding the grating presence of another bureaucrat, solving the mystery of his predecessor’s disappearance, and deciding which of England’s best-kept secrets should remain hidden from the public.
If You Like The Cat Returns (2002), Try…
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa
As magical cat books go, it’s hard to beat The Cat Who Saved Books. Although it lacks the romantic inclinations of the Miyazaki film, Sōsuke Natsukawa’s novel has the cat-led fantasy adventures down pat. High-schooler Rintaro needs a break from his real-life troubles — namely, the difficult decision to close the bookstore his late grandfather left him. Tiger, the eponymous cat, is here to deliver. Tiger’s determined to save unread books from their owners, and he needs Rintaro’s help to carry out his missions.
If You Like Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Try…
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
There are plenty of books like Howl’s Moving Castle out there, including Diana Wynne Jones’s original novel. If you’re looking for magic, mayhem, and romance, you can’t go wrong with Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. This 2013 novel follows the titular characters, Chava and Ahmad, who discover they’re unlikely soulmates after a chance meeting in turn-of-the-century New York. A sequel novel, The Hidden Palace, was published in 2021.
If You Like Ponyo (2008), Try…
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Childlike wonder abounds in Miyazaki films, perhaps nowhere more so than in the child-centric fairytale Ponyo. For more mixed human-inhuman relationships, check out Klara and the Sun, which follows a young robot who serves as an Artificial Friend (AF) to a dying girl. Although it’s hardly as cheery as Ponyo, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel tackles many of the same big questions as the Ghibli film, from a similarly innocent, if innately wise, perspective.
If You Like The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), Try…
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
The Borrowers is the easy recommendation here, being Arrietty‘s source novel, but I’m picking this one for you instead. Set in a world in which humanity’s robotic servants gained sentience and walked out of our lives, Becky Chambers hopepunk novella examines what happens when one robot comes back. Sent as an emissary, the robot joins up with a tea monk to assess humanity’s needs in this delightful story.
If You Like From Up On Poppy Hill (2011), Try…
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
From Up on Poppy Hill may be Hayao Miyazaki’s angstiest film to date. For more young love with just a hint of mysticism, there’s Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. In this 1987 novel, two young people find themselves pulled in opposite directions after the untimely death of a mutual friend in 1960s Tokyo. Practically every character here is haunted by the deaths of those close to them, making this a dark mirror to Poppy Hill‘s light.
If You Like The Wind Rises (2013), Try…
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, The Wind Rises revolves around lost dreams and inescapable fates. Fans should pick up The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, in which two hospital patients — an octogenarian and a teenager — nearing the ends of their lives plan a memorial art exposition. As touching as it is heartbreaking, Marianne Cronin’s novel is just the right kind of hopeful for these trying times.
Now you know which book to read next, based on your favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie. Want even more? Check out these books for fans of Studio Ghibli, some Isao Takahata read-alikes, and Howl’s Moving Castle gifts.