本のおすすめ
  • I'm going to visit Japan soon, and I'm planning to stock up on Japanese books (written for Japanese) while I'm there. I think my reading level is somewhere around 小学校高学年〜中学校の level. In particular, I was looking for good books to go over 漢字 etymology and 文法, and perhaps 国語 in general. Does anyone have any recommendations?

    I also like reading general nonfiction/fiction in Japanese when I have time, so I'd be happy to hear other book suggestions as well. (In fact, does anyone know any good books on traditional things like 茶道 or biographies that aren't too hard to read?)
  • I'm reading JHS level study materials at the moment, going through slowly and making sure I understand every word. Meanwhile I'm reading elementary school pocket books a bit more quickly, trying to build up my stamina. Intensive and extensive reading.

    中学総合的研究国語 published by 旺文社 was a pretty interesting read for kokugo and once you've read it it's a decent reference book too.
    With the pocket books you could go with a lot of different things. There are biographies and fiction. The covers might look a little childish, but the content isn't. For example they have Akutagawa for 小学校高学年 and Botchan and I Am a Cat for 中学校. To be fair, I studied Macbeth at junior high school equivalent level. I found it was better to start on a lower level than I thought I was!

    Just go to the book shop and look for the study materials section and then the pocket book section and have a bit of a browse would be my advice.
  • Thanks for the 国語 reference. I'll have a look for it. I wish I had time for extensive reading. I'm lucky if I get through one book a month nowadays.

    For the general book suggestions, I was thinking more the kinds of books you find in the "grown up" sections of a bookstore, as I already read a bunch of children/young adult books. So I like to read "grown up books" for a change of pace sometimes (though I haven't tried any "grown up" fiction, just non-fiction).

    Indeed, when I go to bookstores (Japanese or English), I love to browse, and that's how I usually pick out things, but often you can't tell how good a book is until reading 50 pages or so, and there's lots of great books in English I probably never would've found without recommendations (e.g., Watership Down---I know, how did I miss it as a kid? Sad, sad).
  • If you're aiming for grown up books, you can never go wrong with Murakami Haruki.
  • When you guys are reading Japanese books, do you tend to look up every word you don't know? Or do you just try to read as much as you can, getting the general meaning of what you're reading?
  • Posted By: louis
    [p]When you guys are reading Japanese books, do you tend to look up every word you don't know? Or do you just try to read as much as you can, getting the general meaning of what you're reading?[/p]

    Depends on what I'm reading and why. If I'm reading for entertainment, I rarely look words up, but I also read stuff I can read comfortably without looking anything up.
    If it's for active study/school, I look all the words up and save to a list the ones I feel useful to learn, then put them in Anki.
  • Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]If you're aiming for grown up books, you can never go wrong with Murakami Haruki.[/p]


    I heard that Murakami isn't so easy to read, even for Japanese. Is this not the case?

    Posted By: louis
    [p]When you guys are reading Japanese books, do you tend to look up every word you don't know? Or do you just try to read as much as you can, getting the general meaning of what you're reading?[/p]


    I used to look up every single word, and then I discovered it goes a LOT faster if you don't look up anything :-) It also goes faster if you don't sound out everything, but I usually do because I think this helps my speaking & listening more. I think reading aloud is even better, though I don't do it too often.

    Anyway, it usually depends on my mood, and if I'm reading somewhere I can conveniently look things up or not. But generally, if I'm not going through study materials, I try to only look up words if either it's at least the second time I've seen them, or if I don't understand the paragraph. In practice, maybe I look up words I don't know somewhere between half and 2/3s of the time.
  • I agree with the Murakami suggestion. I've heard that some Japanese people say he's too westernised, so maybe that's where the idea that Japanese people think he's difficult comes from. One thing that makes Murakami easier than others is the complete absence of Japanese cultural references. My personal opinion on Murakami is that his short stories are not so good, and he's been on a bit of a decline recently, but the novels from Hard-Boiled Wonderland to Wind-Up Bird are solid and Underground is also good.

    I enjoyed 火車 by Miyabe Miyuki which is a mystery/detective novel. I tried some of her others but couldn't get into them so much. You could also try Hoshi Shinichi who writes a lot of short stories with twists, often SF. I found they ranged from keen satire to being a bit adolescent, but generally good.

    With the pocket books I wasn't thinking so much of fiction written for children and young adults as fiction originally written for adults but repackaged. I was a bit surprised to find Akugatawa's 'Hell Screen' in a book for high elementary students to be honest, as it has quite adult themes. Big text, notes and the occasional picture make some classic authors more approachable.

    Finally you could have a look for the repackaged classics Daiso (the 100 yen shop) put out, which have horrible, garishly coloured covers but chapter summaries and notes that make them perhaps the easiest way to approach some major authors. Still, even with help, these classics range from quite difficult to extremely difficult.
  • Posted By: louis
    [p]When you guys are reading Japanese books, do you tend to look up every word you don't know? Or do you just try to read as much as you can, getting the general meaning of what you're reading?[/p]


    I think it's best to do both at different times. But for intensive reading (looking up every word or nearly every word) I prefer to read something short and factual like a newspaper article, or the little sections in school study materials. This way you can be sure that all the information you should need to understand it is in the same place. Incidentally, I also like to do a little writing (with a pencil) when I'm intensive reading. With some study materials there are questions I can write the answer to. Otherwise I usually copy out short parts of sentences that contain a kanji I'd completely forgotten the yomikata for. Doing a bit of writing helps to maintain my concentration.
  • Personally I find Murakami Haruki quite easy to read, but then again we read stuff like Mishima Yukio in university which is like a thousand times harder.
  • Okay, well I'll try picking up a Murakami book then, though I'm pretty sure I won't find it as easy as you guys have (Tobbes, are you studying at a Japanese university? No wonder your Japanese is so good. I'm probably ages away from being able to understand university classes in Japanese.)

    Richard, thanks for the Murakami comments and other suggestions. Sorry if I misunderstood your first comment. I'm not sure what I was thinking, certainly Akutagawa and Soseki are great authors---I guess I wasn't thinking about classics so much, but I probably should read some at some point. (Have you guys read Higuchi at all?) I used to be into the classics in English, but not so much recently. Do you guys read much nonfiction? For some reason, I'm more keen on nonfiction lately.
  • By the way, did you guys know about this site?

    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/index.html

    It seems to have a large number of classics online, not that I like reading anything long online. Plus annotated copies are nice.
  • It helped that I'd read a lot of Murakami books in English before by the way. That was certainly another factor in making them easier.

    I haven't really read a lot of non-fiction, other than what I've mentioned. I'm enjoying reading the 社会 version of the JHS book I mentioned above, particularly the history. This is my second run through the JHS 社会 syllabus (I used a different book before). The first time I went through the history syllabus it was often very intensive reading as I checked out what was on Wikipedia about the subjects as I went along. This time it's nice to recognise a lot more.

    I tried Higuchi in the Daiso classics, but it was incredibly difficult and I couldn't make much of it, even 'Takekurabe' which I'd read more than once in English. As I understand it, there was quite a switch to a more informal style around the time she was writing (perhaps mainly a little after her time) but she writes in a noticeably more old-fashioned style. Much harder than her near-contemporary Soseki.
  • Re: Aozora, I'm not that keen on reading anything of much length online. Plus Japanese books are cheap and I read them slowly which makes them even better value.
  • Posted By: tamatama
    [p]Okay, well I'll try picking up a Murakami book then, though I'm pretty sure I won't find it as easy as you guys have (Tobbes, are you studying at a Japanese university? No wonder your Japanese is so good. I'm probably ages away from being able to understand university classes in Japanese.)[/p][p]Richard, thanks for the Murakami comments and other suggestions. Sorry if I misunderstood your first comment. I'm not sure what I was thinking, certainly Akutagawa and Soseki are great authors---I guess I wasn't thinking about classics so much, but I probably should read some at some point. (Have you guys read Higuchi at all?) I used to be into the classics in English, but not so much recently. Do you guys read much nonfiction? For some reason, I'm more keen on nonfiction lately.[/p]

    God no, I studied Japanese at a Swedish university. I'd love to study at a japanese university but that stuff is expensive beyond measure, not going to happen.
  • Thanks for the comments, Richard. I wasn't planning to try Higuchi any time soon, but seeing her face all the time made me want to try. I'd like to learn some Japanese history too, but there's just so much, I don't want to drown in it just yet. I'm just trying to learn a little at a time. I've actually been thinking about trying some math/science books in Japanese. Not living in Japan, let me tell you, really takes a lot out of your motivation.

    Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]God no, I studied Japanese at a Swedish university. I'd love to study at a japanese university but that stuff is expensive beyond measure, not going to happen.[/p]


    Sorry, your previous comment made me think you were studying at university now, and if you were reading things a thousand times harder than Murakami in Japanese, it would probably be at a Japanese university.
  • Posted By: Richard
    [p]Big text, notes and the occasional picture make some classic authors more approachable.


    I forgot the most important thing about reading books packaged for younger readers. You get more furigana. However, generally you only get the furigana the first time a word appears on a page so it's still study. In fact, it's a good way of learning and reviewing because you don't have to go and check something in a dictionary, just look back to the first appearance.
  • Posted By: Richard
    I forgot the most important thing about reading books packaged for younger readers. You get more furigana. However, generally you only get the furigana the first time a word appears on a page so it's still study. In fact, it's a good way of learning and reviewing because you don't have to go and check something in a dictionary, just look back to the first appearance.


    Indeed I do like that, however reading things online lets me just scroll over a word to get a (terse) translation from rikaichan. While I think that I am a little too reliant on this and it hurts my kanji learning, I much prefer it for technical things like some news articles, especially if I'm trying to read quickly.

    On the other hand, in the general adult (non-technical) non-fiction I've been reading, I don't normally need to look up too many kanji.
  • What non-fiction have you been reading?
  • It's not like I've read a wealth of things, but recently ご挨拶の法則 by 林田正光 and MODESTY (about Matsui) by 伊集院静. The former was pretty good, and it was an easy read. The latter book is excellent, whether you're into baseball or not, in my opinion.
  • Posted By: Richard
    [p]中学総合的研究国語 published by 旺文社 was a pretty interesting read for kokugo and once you've read it it's a decent reference book too.[/p]


    By the way, how did you select this book? I went to Kinokuniya yesterday, and I saw this along with two others, one was this 自由自在 series and one was "Perfect Course." They all looked pretty similar, but I couldn't really tell. Did you compare these three first? (This is another reason I wanted to ask for suggestions---there are a ridiculous number of study guides and it's hard to navigate among them. For the most part, a lot of them seem pretty similar. Though I found a couple 5th/6th grade Kumon books I liked.)

    PS If you're looking for non-fiction to read, I just remembered one book I really liked that I read a couple years ago: かぎりなくやさしい花々 by 星野富弘. This was written for kids (though is worth reading for adults), but I think he has some (prose) books for adults.
  • Good question. I'm not sure I can quite remember how I chose it, though it may have been because it had a CD. Probably the other similar books are equally good. I was choosing a 国語 book at high school level the other day (for after I finish JHS 社会) and among the many books specialising in essays or old Japanese etc., there were three to choose from that covered 国語 in general. There didn't seem to be very much to split them, so I just made a fairly superficial choice.

    Incidentally I've also gone through some of the くもんの中学基礎がため100% series which is not quite so structured, but perhaps slightly easier in some ways. I'm not sure I'd thoroughly recommend it though, particularly as it's not very compact (and you're just visiting Japan I believe).
  • Sorry I had to go in the middle of my last post (or should that be at the end of my last post?). Oh, I've just noticed that you mentioned Kumon books - perhaps the exact ones I mentioned? Apart from the weight issue the reason I didn't quite recommend them is that they're not always particularly stand-alone. On the other hand, because there are a lot of exercises it's a good way to keep yourself engaged.

    Interesting to hear what else you've been reading. I've got quite a few pocket books lined up but I might check them out if I hit a rut.
  • Indeed, I am just here for the summer, though I'm not terribly concerned about compactness, as long as the books aren't ridiculously huge.

    The Kumon books I got were in the 集中学習 series. I got the 5th grade kanji and 6th grade kotoba and bunpo. Indeed, they're maybe not as detailed and comprehensive as some other books (though none of them seem to go into much explanation at the 小学校 level), but they had a couple things I liked. (1) the kanji are grouped by radical, and there are short explanations (more or less) of why the kanji means what it does, (2) there are some (very simple) explanations of word/grammar usage, though I can't tell yet if it's too simple, and (3) they contain a bunch of words I don't know.

    Anyway, right now, I was mostly looking for something to (1) give me something to practice writing (my kanji writing ability is awful) and (2) build-up/review vocab, preferably something simple where I could just go through a couple pages each day without it taking too long. (I have some other books in the US but wanted some supplementary material, so sthe non-comprehensiveness of the Kumon books aren't so much of a concern)
  • I'm glad you found something you liked. I think there's something for everyone in the school study materials section of the bookshop and most of the books are good quality, and more thorough than materials made for foreigners cramming for JLPT tests. Although I don't think the ones that are just tests are that useful.

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