How to find enjoyable Japanese books
Have you ever lost track of time while entranced by a wonderful book? Knowing that maybe you should do other things but not being able to stop yourself from continuing, word after word, page after page?
Reading can be an incredibly enjoyable experience - and an incredibly productive one too. But there is a difference between reading in your native language and reading one you're still learning. While there are times you wish you didn't have to stop reading a great English book, reading Japanese can make you want to pull your hair out - but it doesn't have to stay that way.
Why is reading Japanese so hard?
The key to making Japanese enjoyable is to understand why it so often isn't. To do so, it helps to think back to times when you've not been enjoying a book - when you feel like you should keep reading, but just don't want to anymore.
These moments are what I call mendokusai moments. They're the times when you see a kanji that you don't know, and instead of looking it up, you give up. They're the times when you are reading something so boring that regardless of your ability, you just don't want to read any further. They're the times when you're halfway through a long sentence and still don't have a clue what the author is saying, and feel like you're perfectly fine with that. They're the times when reading isn't automatic, but requires a conscious effort.
Most Japanese books are full of triggers for mendokusai moments, and if this is your only experience of Japanese, I can see why you'd feel that Japanese is hard. However, by identifying things which you put a conscious effort into and choosing books without them, you'll go from willing yourself to keep reading to wanting to know what happens next. By Reading Your Level, you'll find that you enjoy Japanese!
How to read your level
Reading Your Level involves picking books which cause as few mendokusai moments as possible. While everyone finds different things difficult, there are three main strategies you can follow to accomplish this:
1. Read content interesting enough to make you want to know what happens next
Would it take willpower to read a book if it was written in your native language? If so, reading the book in Japanese won't make continuing reading any easier. Of course, this doesn't mean that everything you need to read must be aimed at adults - there are plenty of interesting "children's stories" which people of any age can enjoy.
2. Read content with vocabulary and kanji which are close to what you know
While picking something boring can make reading less enjoyable, picking something too hard can make it downright painful. Each time you need to look up a word you don't know, you risk not going back to keep reading. And when reading print books, not being able to guess a given kanji's reading can make looking up a word a chore in itself!
Read Your Level generates an "easiness" score for you
3. Ensure that sentences are not longer than you can comprehend
Even if you can read all the kanji and vocabulary in a text, if you can't comprehend what the author is saying, you won't enjoy reading. While studying grammar can help, the best way to increase your comprehension is practice!
Now you know what to look for in a book, it is time to go off to our list and pick one, right? Actually, not yet. There is still one crucial mistake which is made all too often.
Don't bite off more than you can chew!
Don't make this mistake! It is better to read something a little too easy and get into the flow than to read something a little too hard and give up. If it feels too easy, you can always move up a level!
With all this fresh in mind, there will never be a better time to find a book and start reading it than right now. And that is where Read Your Level comes in!
Read Your Level ranks a number of popular books from Amazon Japan by our "easiness" score. This score is based on the number and rareness of kanji used in the first 7000 characters compared to our other books - a book with kanji you'll mostly learn in first grade is easy, while a book choc full of specialist terms is not. For each book, we also provide a list of kanji used in the first 7000 characters ranked from most painful to least, so you can get an idea for whether the book matches your level or not.
To start reading, you can browse through our list of books for one which matches your fancy, but if this sounds like too much effort, why not start with our recommendation?
Lastly, given you want to enjoy reading Japanese (which is why you're reading this page), you definitely don't want to miss out on more easy and interesting Japanese material. But never fear, staying in the loop is as simple as signing up for our Newsletter!
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Best of luck with your journey to fluency with Japanese reading!