Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now Reading: Granny Girl Hinata chan!

IMHO, you may find reading manga frustrating. I strongly recommend graded readers. Even the “absolute beginner” books may require significant effort.

This website is good for graded reading:


You will find reading manga frustrating but I think it evens out over like three to six months. (Will elaborate when on my pc


Yep I started reading some of the basic graded readers and you’re right, they’re a bit of work, but that’s fine in some ways.

I will probably get frustrated yep but my expectations are super low!


Thanks @Jintor - interested to hear more!

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I’m just looking over my early logs on natively, some highlights

  • 1 vol of lvl 20 manga (Flying Witch) took about 12 days, vol 2 took a bit more at 14-15 days. About six months later (of consistent reading of easier level material, eg readers, simple manga etc), vol 3 took 2 days and from there I was reading a volume at about 1 every 2-4 days or so.

  • Basically from around there manga that took longer than a week to get through were either book club books or books ‘way’ above my ‘current range’ at that time (Non Non Biyori 1 took about a week as a lvl 22 when I was mostly reading lvl 16-17s, Bocchi 1 took me nearly a month at lvl 28 when I was around that same level, etc)

  • So generally I think the first time you start reading manga you are just going to have to get through it to get used to learning to read manga, but once you do, it opens up this huge world even at lower levels. You won’t develop that as much without a certain amount of struggle at the beginning, but I think it pays dividends.

  • The graded readers are clearer material to work with but they’re also too clean - they don’t reflect material that is aimed at native speakers. They’re good for building confidence and I encourage their use at this early stage, but the moment you start feeling like ‘this is boring’ I would encourage beginning to try and swap over to manga (easier than trying to jump straight to kid’s books in my opinion, because the complexity of storytelling is more accessible with a lower vocabulary)


That makes a lot of sense, thanks! I can see what you’re saying about graded reader material and also how putting in that kind of initial work/struggle just opens up a lot of possibilities going forwards. Time to roll my sleeves up :muscle: :nerd_face:


I tried joining as well in the early levels and had a hard time to have pleasure when I had to look up a lot of things. However it’s really beneficial to do so if you seek improvements! I’d suggest to give it a try and see if you can keep with it indeed.
I know I will be joining back the reading together when I’ll have more. But you sure should give it a try if you feel like it and see by yourself if you’re sipping it or not :teapot:


So this will be a silly question but how’d you get over the fear of reading? I am joining this ABBC but boy I’m nervous. I’ve done GENKI 1 and half of 2 but I still am freaking to pick up a manga lol. I know I have to as I’m really at the point I need immersion but man it’s daunting.


One option is to not think of it as reading.

Think of it as an extension of your studies.

Genki 1 and 2 teach you grammar and vocabulary.

Reading manga (or any other native material) for the first time will require you to learn more grammar and vocabulary. And that’s what the discussion threads and vocabulary list help with.

Over time, it will become less studying and more reading, but this can take joining multiple book club reads.


You should probably ask yourself why you are scared and what you’re scared of.

If it’s of not understanding something - I get it. Going from fluency to looking at markings and being like “I have nfi what this says” can be daunting.

But the consequences aren’t that bad. Especially for manga. Unless you need to read bomb defusal instructions, there really isn’t any consequences to getting it wrong that can’t be fixed by asking someone or rereading or checking against a translation. And when you read in a language you don’t know, you’ll be making a lot of mistakes, and eventually you learn that making mistakes when learning isn’t scary, it’s pretty normal.


I have a similar problem even with reading in English sometimes lol. I’ll go a few days without reading, then I feel pressure to “get (back) into reading”, which is a much more daunting task than simply “reading”. My advice is somewhat similar to ChristopherFritz’s though, you just need to reframe it. What I’d say is don’t think of it as “starting to read in Japanese”, don’t even think of it as “starting to read XYZ book”, just read something. For example, read this, right now, don’t think about it, don’t even finish reading this post. It’s just a graded reader that I picked at random that should be fairly easy for someone at your level.

If you did that, congratulations! you can read in Japanese. If you feel up to it, go read something else. Maybe another graded reader, or if you want to prepare yourself for the club maybe you could find an artist on twitter that posts single-page manga and read one of them. If you don’t feel up to it right now, that’s fine too - you’ve already succeeded at your goal. When the time comes for you to join the bookclub, think of it the same way. You’re not setting off on a quest to read a whole volume of manga, you’re just doing one week’s reading at a time.


Incidentally, that’s also about the time where I first tried my hand at an ABBC!

I was reading this graded reader on my own at that time, and I while the “captivating” is definitely a big overstatement, I was super happy with it because I could actually understand things:

(Here’s my review of it: Legato's review of Japanese Short Stories for Beginners: 20 Captivating Short Stories to Learn Japanese & Grow Your Vocabulary the Fun Way! | Natively)

Page 7 :laughing:


I feel like you answered your own question :stuck_out_tongue: for me, everytime I was like “hm I don’t know if I’m ready for this” (read a manga / read a novel / read something of a higher level), then I joined a book club. The support and encouragement, the fellow strugglers, the vocab sheet, it was all helping tremendously. After a few weeks of struggling with the club, you get to a point where you can complete the assignment in one seating and it becomes hard to wait for the next week as you want to read more, and that’s when you probably know that you can fly solo and read something on your own :grin: and when you do that, if you pick something that was read in a book club previously, you can still get the same help as mentioned above but go to a faster pace!


It’s pretty common to build up unrealistic expectations for reading and fear failure (too slow, not enough comprehension, too many lookups, etc etc), or fear all the unknown stuff you know you’ll come across and have no idea how to parse it.

The good news is, embracing being a beginner helps immediately:

  • reframe what is success - make it something achievable like reading a single speech bubble per day and asking a question on the threads if you get stuck
  • get support - ask questions that feel ultra basic, read all forum posts every week (don’t worry about spoilers, in fact, use them to improve your familiarity and boost your own reading comprehension)
  • celebrate success - every 2-3 weeks, look back on something you read 2-3 weeks ago and revel in how far you’ve come
  • break it down into smaller chunks - create a small unit of something you can definitely read in a single sitting every day (or every other day), even if it’s only a single speech bubble. Later it will become a panel, and after that a page, etc. You might do more on some days, but having a realistic minimum and being consistent will get you further than flaming out on unrealistic expectations

I agree with what a lot of people have said here, and I’d like to add on one more suggestion:

It’s ok to move on without understanding everything. Manga especially contain a lot of wordplay or lil one-off jokes that can be funny and greatly enhance reading a section, but aren’t necessary for understanding what’s actually happening in a scene. If you can’t understand the joke and don’t have a book club to ask for help, it really is ok to just come back to it later.

I vividly remember finishing yotsuba as my first full volume of manga and really enjoying it, but then coming back a year later to try reading it again and being surprised at how many jokes I’d either ignored or not even recognized as jokes! :laughing:

But in general, the best way to get better at reading is to spend more time reading. It will get much easier with time, as long as you keep at it! And specifically, if you want to read manga, then practicing reading manga will make you better at reading manga.

Semi related to the discussion about how kids have a much different grammar and vocab learning order than adults do, here’s a childrens book that opens with an n1 grammar point


Pretty much no matter what material you use, the jump between the clean, learner-focused graded readers and material intended for native speakers of a language is going to be messy and you’re going to need to look stuff up. Natively and the book clubs are great resources because they help point you at the kinds of things you might need to ask questions about a few things per page vs the kinds of things that will feel genuinely incomprehensible


Thank you all for the encouragement and responses. I’m blown away. This place is amazing.


I think what everyone else said is really helpful, for me personally if I start reading something and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the deciphering I have to do I’ll take it easy, maybe see what I can read without focusing too hard on the many many words I don’t know and see if I can figure out what they mean from context alone, or if it really is too hard then pick up something easier to feel better about it and come back to the original one later. Something like the stories on Tadoku can be quite good for confidence boosting on your reading skill. Then when you’re feeling up to it you can get back to the book you really wanna read, sit with jisho at the ready and search JLPTSensei or DoJG for grammar. Then any time you think you understand the general vibe of the sentence I consider that a win :tofugu:


The fun thing about these is that not only do many beginning readers cite these exact things as signs of failure, but even those of us who have been reading for years still end up reading material where we encounter all these things.

Going from this:

To this:

To this:

And this:

…is a series of feeling like you’re back to square one, over and over.

And it’s all a normal part of the journey.


@Ninnee9288 I’m also just starting and am feeling similarly about this community - so supportive and helpful! Glad to be starting reading with you, facing the fear and doing it anyway! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


My final comment for newbies: next time you are ordering some manga, grab

It reads like a graded reader, but is enjoyable like any other manga. It’s a bit easier than

Which you should also add to your list. It’s easier than many of the other books covered by this book club.

These were both read through the book club, so you can still get help with these at anytime by reading the old posts, or even asking a new question. People still seem to watch these topics.