Yukio Mishima is quite possibly my all-time favourite writer. I read his short work, Patriotism, in high school and was compelled to draw a comic which recounted a nightmare I had inspired by the story as an art assignment. (Strange, but true!) I did a sculptural body of work three years ago inspired by my favourite Mishima novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Right now, I am reading Mishima's third novel, Thirst for Love. Mishima's work is characterized by it's memorable, often dark characters; he is infamous for his sensational suicide by seppuku in 1970, which he committed shortly after completing his epic tetralogy, The Sea of Fertility.
For those of you not familiar with Mishima, take a look at his detailed wikipedia entry.
Here are my five top recommendations from Mishima's canon:
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956):
The novel is loosely based on the burning of the Reliquary (or Golden Pavilion) of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto by a young Buddhist acolyte in 1950. The pavilion, dating from before 1400, was a national monument which had been spared destruction many times throughout history, and the arson shocked Japan. The story is narrated by Mizoguchi, the disturbed acolyte in question, who is afflicted with an ugly face and a stutter, and who recounts his obsession with beauty and the growth of his urge to destroy it.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was made into a film called Enjo (1958), directed by Kon Ichikawa.
Acts of Worship (1965):
A fantastic collection of seven stories, among them "Cigarette," "Sword," and the novella-length "Acts of Worship," about a complex relationship between an aging professor and his housekeeper.
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea (1963):
The novel chronicles the story of Ryuji, a sailor with vague notions of a special honor awaiting him at sea. He meets a woman called Fusako with whom he falls deeply in love, and he ultimately decides to marry her. Fusako's 13-year-old son, Noboru, is in a band of savage boys who believe in "objectivity", rejecting the adult world as illusory, hypocritical and sentimental.
As Ryuji begins to draw close to Fusako, a woman of the shore, he is eventually torn away from the dreams he's pursued his entire life. Fusako's son, Noboru, who shares an especially close bond with his mother through a voyeuristic ritual, hates the idea of losing his mother to a man who has let his hope and freedom die. This anger and fear of loneliness translates into terrible, savage acts performed by Noboru and the gang in which he is a part.
Confessions of a Mask (1948):
Confessions of a Mask is an account, usually considered at least semi-autobiographical, of a boy growing up in a Japan that is war-torn and militaristic. Entirely unsuited by nature to this environment, the narrator must weave an intricate and profoundly self-defeating facade around himself as he discovers his sexuality. This mask leads him into a pitiful affair with a young woman which only redoubles his fear of his peculiarity, into deceiving his parents, and into effectively becoming further estranged from himself the older he becomes. The novel also becomes fixated upon the link between sexuality and violence, and the narrator's tendency to dream in this vein is recounted with mixed feelings of horror and fascination.
Sound of Waves (1954):
The Sound of Waves (Japanese: 潮騒, Shiosai) was published in 1954. It is a coming of age novel detailing the maturity of protagonist Shinji and his romance with Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthy ship-owner Terukichi. For this book Mishima was awarded the Shincho Prize from Shinchosha Publishing in 1954. It was adapted to film on five separate occasions.
Novel Synopses: Wikipedia