Last week, I was wandering around in my favorite bookstore and picked up a few newer releases, all published in 2020. I’m now ready to give an account of Catland, by Sarah Archer, which was released in mid-August. She is a writer who specializes in design and culture, mostly known for her work as a contributing editor at American Craft magazine. She has also contributed to various publications such as Architectural Digest, The New Yorker, Slate and The Atlantic. Lastly, she has also published a few other books, most notable The Midcentury Kitchen and The Midcentury Christmas.

Catland is a pictorial celebration of cat culture in Japan, because as Archer proclaims: In Japan, cats rule! The book contains over 100 photographs along with short writeups that cover all sorts of cat related activities, from designers making cat costumes (see cover image above) to cats practicing to become monks.

The writing is good and such an easy read that the whole family will be able to enjoy it. Archer’s style is simple, witty and engaging yet nuanced so there is a treasure trove of cultural and historical information here that you (like me) would not have previously known about. Unless you’re Japanese of course. There is a lot of room to further your own research if you want to dig deeper into any of the stories.

We come to the photographs, which really bring the book to life. They are not overly staged or high production style photos, but rather are more down to earth and show a slice of Japanese life and culture. Since the photos are from all over different parts of Japan, I really enjoyed the feeling of wanderlust it gave me during this still ongoing period of the pandemic.

Size-wise, the book is a bit small to be a coffee table book as it is squarish and only measures around 7 by 7 inches. Could it have been larger? Yes, but there’s probably a few good reasons why this is the size they went with. First, the font type and size are clear and large enough so no compromise there. The photographs also look fine at this size, but they might have suffered in quality if the book was much larger (I’m just speculating here). Thirdly, the author’s previous hardcover books were also released in a square sized format so it’s easy to understand that they wanted to maintain the design theme here. The final reason is that this format keeps the price really affordable. The kindle edition goes for US$9.99 while the hardcover is only around US$15. Really good value if you’re getting this as a gift. If buying for yourself, you can even get it on Amazon pre-owned for around US$10. Therefore, don’t bother with the kindle edition at all. This is the type of book you want to hold in your hands while lounging in your reading spot and sipping a cup of your favorite beverage.

In short, Catland by Sarah Archer is an essential book for any cat lover and Japanophile.

Get it here on Amazon.

Check out Sarah Archer’s personal website here, it has more info and videos related to Catland.

For more hardcover coffee table books, check out our post The Top 10, Best Coffee Table Books For Cat Lovers here.

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