I don't buy a ton of books, but when I saw that the 2019 book on Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's president whose untimely death at 55 in 2015 is still felt today, was being localized into English it was an instant pre-order. The full title of the book is called Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Legendary CEO, and the name of the book is a riff on Iwata's "Iwata Asks" series of video game development interviews, which I used to read religiously whenever a new one was posted online. A fair amount of the book are excerpts from these interviews, but a lot of it also comes from interviews he did for Itoi's (of Earthbound fame) website that hadn't previously been translated into English. This new content, as well as new interviews with Itoi and legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, make the book particularly valuable, but even beyond that it's nice to have this compact collection of Iwata's own words.
Iwata will always be a personal hero of mine, and it's astounding how much affection I and countless other Nintendo fans have for him; it's hard to imagine any other corporate CEO managing to convey so much personality in such an authentic way. Iwata's Nintendo Direct presentations were full of such warmth and kindness, while also displaying his sense of humor and his enjoyment of his work. For long-time fans of Iwata it's so bittersweet to see how that same personality leaps from the pages of the Ask Iwata book. The first half of the book focuses on Iwata's career as a programmer and then CEO of HAL Laboratory and has a lot of quotes about his views on management. As a fellow programmer with management experience I expect I found this to be more interesting than the average gamer, but even then the quotes are a little on the dry side and don't really have a lot of concrete deails (perhaps unsurprising given how secretive Nintendo is as a company in general). But the rest of the book is much more satisfying as it touches on specific important moments in Iwata and Nintendo's history, such as his work on the first Smash Bros. game with Masahiro Sakurai. The sections on Miyamoto and Itoi and the interviews with them are particularly touching, and getting a behind the scenes look at two of Iwata's close friendhips is a privilege. The overall takeaway from the book is that the glimpses of Iwata that Nintendo fans saw from a great distance were actually a true reflection of the actual person. By all accounts Iwata was a man of great intelligence and integrity, and he brought the same sensitivity and empathy to all of his relationships, including to his employees and even his customers.
It's always a tragedy when a person like Iwata is taken away "too early", and this book is a somewhat painful reminder of that. It's a bittersweet experience to read of Iwata's triumphs with DS and Wii and his accomplishments and his philosophies and know that he isn't around anymore, but this book also serves as a worthy celebration of a great man. Rest in peace, Iwata. You are still sorely missed, and will continue to be for a good long while!