Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now Reading: Tamamo no Koi!

Now Reading: 玉藻の恋 ・ Tamamo no Koi



Welcome to our Japanese book club for absolute beginners! In this club, we choose a Japanese book and read it together. We then discuss what we’ve read, whether that’s meaningful discussion on the content, questions about vocabulary and grammar that confuse us, or just motivating each other to keep moving.

What Does Absolute Beginner Mean?

This bookclub is aimed at readers who are tackling native Japanese material for the first time. A grammar knowledge around the level of JLPT N5 / end of Genki 1 is probably about right. Kanji knowledge is not essential as the books chosen will have furigana.

The bookclub isn’t really aimed at readers who are “absolute beginners” in Japanese. At that level your time is probably best spent learning basic grammar and vocabulary before tackling native material. However, reading native material can be a fun way to motivate learning, and readers of all levels are welcome to join the fun and ask questions!

For more information on what joining the ABBC looks like, check out ChristopherFritz’s guide to joining the Absolute Beginner’s Book Club.

Should I Join?

The goal of this Absolute Beginners’ Book Club is to help you practise reading so that in the future you can take the jump to the Beginner Book Club, where more advanced books are being discussed.

With that in mind, anyone is welcome to join in and read along. You don’t need to do anything to become a member, just grab a copy of the upcoming book and join in the discussion when it starts!

Set this thread to “watching” to keep up to date with discussions about upcoming books.

Instructions for setting thread to watching

If you set this thread to watching, you’ll get notifications when there are new posts. You can always turn this off again if you no longer want to receive them.

To do this, scroll down to the last post in this thread. You can use the slider on the side as it’s quite long! Under the last post look for the grey box in the picture below, click on it and select “watching”. You’re all done!

You can always read previous book club choices and get help from their discussion threads. Feel free to post in previously completed book club threads and ask new questions, as there will always be users who are willing to help keeping an eye on those threads.

Previous Books

Browse the list on Natively

Type Title Japanese Natively level
Book Kitty Detectives Club にゃんにゃん探偵団 L16
Book Wonders of the World - 2nd grade reader なぜ?どうして?せかいはふしぎ 2年生 L17
Manga Shirokuma Cafe しろくまカフェ L19
Manga Chi’s Sweet Home チーズスイートホー L14
Manga I’m in Love with You Forever 結婚しても愛してる L22
Book 10 Minute Stories - 2nd grade reader 10分で読める物語 二年生 (unfinished) L18
Book Stories of Science - 2nd grade reader なぜ?どうして?科学のお話2年生 L17
Manga Big Brother Rental レンタルおにいちゃん L18
Book 10 Minute Biographies - 2nd grade reader 10分で読める伝記2年生 L18
Manga Teasing Master Takagi-san からかい上手の高木さん L18
Manga When Will Ayumu Make His Move それでも歩は寄せてくる L20
Manga Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea 大海原と大海原 L22
Manga Mitsuboshi Colours 三ツ星カラーズ L19
Manga Happiness ハピネス L16
Book Stories of the Japanese Prefectures (Lower grade reader) 都道府県のおはなし 低学年 (おはなしドリル L22(?)
Manga Hunter × Hunter ハンター × ハンター L29
Manga Cells at Work! はたらく細胞 L28
Manga Ruri Dragon ルリドラゴン L19
Manga The Wolf of the Small Forest ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん L15
Manga Horimiya ホリミヤ L22
Manga Miss Shikimori’s Not Just Cute 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん L18

Bolded titles continued as offshoot bookclubs:

Learn Natively

Natively grades the difficulty of books for language learners using user feedback, with a higher number indicating higher difficulty.
Grading system on Natively website | Wanikani forums Natively thread

Proposed Books

Any book suggestions are welcome, so feel free to nominate something you’d like to read using the template below! The books suggested must be appropriate for absolute beginners though; please read the guidelines before making a nomination.

Guidelines for Proposing Books
  • Nominate something you are ready to read

    • This is a big cooperative group, but there’s always a minority keeping things active. If your pick wins, there will be some expectation that you contribute throughout.
    • If you can’t read your own sample pages (at least mostly) you may not be able to judge the difficulty effectively, and won’t be able to help others much.
  • Books nominated must not be longer than 100 pages (of text)

    • Our reading pace means this is the longest we could tackle within a reasonable time-frame.
    • A book of short stories can be longer: we will only pick select stories.
  • Do not nominate anything clearly NSFW

    • This can be hard to judge without reading the book, but if you’d associate the work with fanservice or gore, even if just by reputation, please don’t suggest it for this group.
    • Please keep in mind that even a few pages of fanservice will feel like a lot to beginning readers who may only be able to read 1 page at a time.
  • Furigana

    • Furigana does not necessarily mean that a book is easy or a good choice for the club; please use your best judgement based on the difficulty of vocab, grammar, subject matter, etc. when you determine the difficulty.
    • However, please ensure that nominations have full furigana so that kanji knowledge is not an issue for new readers. Partial furigana books should be nominated in the Beginner Book Club.
  • Natively level

    • We are now including the book’s level on Natively as a part of the nomination.
    • Natively books without enough gradings to receive a level are indicated with question marks (??). If the book you are nominating does not have a level, please use your best judgement determining the difficulty and then post the nomination so that other users can weigh in. You may be asked to move nominations to other clubs like the Beginner’s Book Club.
    • Some higher level picks have been chosen in the past, such as Cells at work (L28), and Hunter x Hunter (L29). However, these titles proved to be too difficult for this club. Please try to keep your nominations under Natively level 22. Horimiya (L22) was considered the highest level that was still suitable for the club.

Proposal Template

Copy this template into a new post when proposing a book/manga.

For page samples, you can either take photos of your own copy (try to make the three additional pages ‘representative’ if possible), grab photos from the internet, or use previews from e.g. Amazon, BookWalker, EBookJapan. Make sure the text is legible!

# Insert Title Here

## Summary
Insert summary from Amazon/Wikipedia/MyAnimeList/wherever here.

## Availability
Insert link to book on amazon.co.jp here.
Insert link(s) to ebook here, or mention if an ebook is not available.

## Natively Level: [number]
Insert link to the book’s learnnatively page

## Personal Opinion
Insert why you think this book would be good to read, personally and for the book club here.

### Pros and Cons for the Book Club
#### Pros
* Insert pros here.
#### Cons
* Insert cons here.

## Pictures

[details=“First Three Pages of Chapter One”]
Insert images here (can be photos from you or the internet, or from ebook previews).

[details=“Additional Pages”]
Insert a few more images here - try to make them representative.

List of Proposed Books

Browse the list on Natively


Book Title Description Natively
日本の昔ばなし Japanese Folk Tales Collection Vol 1 (Issun-boshi and other stories) L??
もしかしたら名探偵 Detective Milky Sugiyama L16
10分で読めるこわい話1年生 10 minute reader - Scary stories (1st grade reader) L16?


Manga Title Description Natively
こばと Kobato L20?
あしょんでよッ ~うちの犬ログ Let’s Plaaay - Our Dog, Log L13
藤本タツキ短編集 17-21 Fujimoto Tatsuki Short Story Collection 17-21 L23
ふだつきのキョーコちゃん Fudatsuki no Kyoko-chan L18
ギャルと恐竜 Gal & Dino L18
今日から始める幼なじみ Will you be my childhood friend? L17
ガールズ&パンツァー リトルアーミー Girls und Panzer: Little Army L21
ネトゲの嫁が人気アイドルだった My wife in an online game is a popular idol L19?
花野井くんと恋の病 A Condition Called Love L20
桜井さんは気づいてほしい Sakurai-san wants to be noticed! L15
ドラえもん Doraemon L22
玉藻の恋 Tamamo no Koi L19
絶対に風呂に入りたくない彼女VS絶対に風呂に入れたい彼氏 Girlfriend who never wants to take a bath vs. boyfriend who definitely wants to put her into the bath L17
あしたは土曜日 春・夏 Tomorrow is Saturday L19
Removed Nominations

おじさまと猫 - An Old Man and a Cat - Bookclub launched separately - Link to Bookclub
Dragon Ball SD - Bookclub launched as a spin off club - Link to Bookclub
ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (GeGeGe no Kitarō) - Nomination moved to beginner book club
ミラーさん (Mr Miller) - Removed as low interest on poll 7
日本昔ばなしアニメ絵本 (Japanese Fairy Tales (set of 18)) - Removed as low interest on poll 8
福娘童話集 (Lucky Princess Fairy Tale Collection) - Removed as low interest on poll 10
あたしンち (My Family) - Removed as low interest on poll 10
Wanted (Short stories from the creator of One Piece) - Removed as low interest on poll 10
スラムダンク (SLAM DUNK) - Nomination suggested to be moved to BBC
雪女 (Yuki-onna) - Nomination suggested to be moved to BBC
ヒナのままじゃだめですか? - Nomination suggested to be moved to BBC
クリスタルハンタース Crystal Hunters - Removed as low interest after poll 12
こぐまのクーク物語 春と夏 Kuuku the Bear Cub’s Story, Spring and Summer L19 - Book club launched separately- Link to book club

Where to Purchase Books

This section explains where to buy Japanese books in general. Please see each book’s thread for where to buy those specific books.

Purchasing Japanese Books

Physical books:


  • Amazon JP (Kindle-compatible)
  • EBook Japan (doesn’t show tax until checkout; not Kindle-compatible)
  • Book Walker (accepts paypal)
  • Honto (mobile reader app is region-locked – on Android get an APK, on iOS use JP App Store; not Kindle-compatible)

If purchasing eBooks from Amazon JP gives you trouble, check out sirvorn’s wonderful guide on purchasing eBooks from Amazon JP.

If you can’t find an online store that will ship to you, you can use a forwarding service like Tenso or White Rabbit Express to forward the package to you for a fee.

If you live in the right place, you may also be able to find the book at a local Japanese book store. For example, Kinokuniya.

Historic Polls

"Next Book" Polls

Links go to the original nomination post:

Book Poll 13 - Winner: 玉藻の恋
Book Poll 12 - Winner: 老女的少女ひなたちゃん
Book Poll 11 - Winner: 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん
Book Poll 10 - Winner: ホリミヤ
Book Poll 9 - Winner: ルリドラゴン and ちいさな森のオオカミちゃん
Book Poll 8 - Winner: ハンター×ハンター and 働く細胞
Book Poll 7 - Winner: Stories of the Japanese Prefectures
Book Poll 6 - Winner: 三ツ星カラーズ and ハピネス
Book Poll 5 - Winner: それでも歩は寄せてくる and 大海原と大海原
Book Poll 4 - Winner: Teasing Master Takagi-san
Book Poll 3 - Winner: 10分で読める伝記
Book Poll 2 - Winner: 結婚しても恋してる
Book Poll 1 - Winner: しろくまカフェ and チーズスイートホーム


First thing first.
I have created this thread to decide the new book for the Absolute Beginner Book Club.
I don’t plan to manage this group as my personal circumstances are going to change drastically in a couple of weeks and I won’t be able to (probably). If somebody want to, they are more than welcome!

Second: I have obviously copied the post from the Beginner BookClub

Third: The Current book is expected to be finished by March 12th, 2019.
So my first question/poll would be:


When should we start the new book?

  • Immediately after the current book ends (March 13th, 2019)
  • One week after the current book ends (March 20th, 2019)
  • Two weeks after (March 27th, 2019)
  • One month after (April 12th, 2019)

0 voters



A couple of suggestions:

  1. I would remove the current nominations or there’s going to be a lot of confusion with the Beginner Book Club :joy:

  2. I would consider reducing the page-limit for this book club, and/or coming up with some more concrete guidelines over what sort of materials would be of an appropriate difficulty for this club. In general, I think it will be helpful to make it clear to people what would be appropriate for this club vs the Beginner Book Club.

Perhaps you could even just limit suggestions to those Graded Reader-type books similar to なぜ?どうして? That might be too restrictive, though there is a huge variety on the market.


Absolutely! I have just “copied” as a Template and I still have to edit it (a lot!)

The current book is 100 and something pages I believe… so the limit should be more than that, but less than 200. 150 maybe?


Sure! Don’t forget that pictures can add a lot of length; we tend to consider something under 200 if it’s under 200 pages of text.

The other thing to consider is pace: we basically picked 200 because at the pace we go, we could read something that long without taking half a year over it. So you could start from considering how long would be reasonable to spend on one book, and then matching that to a rough estimate of pace.


Nice one!
I just have two comments:

  1. The link you have for the current book takes you to a point in the thread near the end, it might be better to give the link that goes to the first post!
  2. I personally don’t see much point in all these discussions and polls, but I do very much like the idea of an Absolute Beginner Japanese Book Club, and you can count me in with whatever book you choose and whenever you start it!

Thank you @emucat!

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I’m a democrat :stuck_out_tongue:

If I get’s too crazy I guess I can always be a “dictator”.

Regarding the next book, the one we are reading right now is part of a series right? Do you know how to find others in the same series?

Another option would be to jump to a 3年生 . This way people can start with the 2年生 we already have, and the progress to the new 3年生.


Oh yes, there are a load, and I guess they are all on Amazon.
Here’s なぜ?どうして?せかいはふしぎ 1年生 for example, although, right now, I can’t find 3年生. There are also others on other topics.

I got tagged since it copied the old proposals :rofl:
Which is good, cause I’m also part of the Absolute Beginner group and want to continue being part of it! =D


People get more invested if they feel like they’re involved. Plus, you might get a good idea from someone!

The more book clubs we have going at once, the more divided up the potential pool of readers becomes. I do think your book clubs have been providing a much-needed extra level of reading difficulty, and of course anyone should always feel free to start any book club they want, but having these kinds of ‘home’ book clubs does help to pool readers together.

It also helps to keep the actual discussion threads free for discussing the contents of the book.

Anyway, I hope it goes really well, @emucat!


Yes, all true! Thank you @Radish8.
(Especially the bit about keeping the threads free of off-topic discussion!)

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Personally I would love if we did something with a story in it =)

Something like the top row here:

I can show images inside later (was mostly thinking of the two in the middle. Don’t remember if the first one comes with translations or not. If not, then it would be perfect, since it is made for Japanese Learners )

I would do it right away, but have a sleeping cat in my lap =P

I just grabbed the photo from here; A Hoarders Loot


Is it “the same” book but easier?

Maybe there is not a 3年生…

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1年生 is a completely different book with different essays in it. It also has a lot less kanji so in a sense, for us, it could be thought of as harder! (And you are right, perhaps there is no 3年生?)

I agree I would like something more story driven. It’s something I missed in the current book. I have the feeling I’m missing a lot of grammar related to conversations, slang, etc…

On the other hand, maybe we can find that in the other Book Clubs… I don’t know…

My general suggestions would be:

  • Another 2年生 to keep the same level as the previous one

  • The 3年生 of the series if it exists (or another 3年生) to have some progress and close the gap with the Beginner Book Club

  • Something more story driven.

The good thing about the current book is that you can join at any point as the chapters are independent, but… it might not be that interesting to follow (Although I’ve learned a lot of cool facts)


The three books I showed all have separate stories, so people can jump in at any time.
The first is aimed at Japanese Learners, the second and third are 1st grade, but believe both where series with higher levels too. So if we want stories, we can look for these series (but 2nd and 3rd grade has more kanji, so might be easier than 1st)

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How were other people feeling with the 2年生 difficulty level? I thought it was just about right - there were some things that I needed to look up, but not so much that it felt like hard work. I wouldn’t want to drop down to 1年生 level, and I still feel like there is much more for me learn by reading on 2年生 level before moving up to 3年生.

I thought that we could have gone at a slightly faster pace (like 2 pages a day) and still have been ok.

I liked that the chapters are independent (I did skip one). And I also liked that the book is factual, so that we can use prior knowledge to help us understand the language.


I started reading Yotsuba with the Yotsuba reading club long before I was ready for it (although I do love Yotsuba, enjoyed the experience, had lots of great help on the thread from the kind people there, and am looking forward to vol.7 when the club resumes with that). So… I wonder, is there a manga easier than Yotsuba?

Me too. Personally, I think 3年生 would be stretching it a bit too much for me.