Beginner Books to Read

Thanks, I will :slight_smile:

Graded readers from Amazon are great. They go from very beginner to higher levels. I have Level 0 for very beginners and they are interesting and fun. They are a bit expensive, but I think well worth it. I was surprised and highly motivated when I saw I could read them with just a few vocabulary look-ups. They are kids’ books, but the stories keep your attention.


I moved this topic to the Reading section of the forum. I second checking out the book clubs if you have enough experience with grammar.


@dunlewy Do you mean on the japanese amazon website? Can you send me a couple links of those?

They’re on both Amazon US and Amazon Japan, and probably other countries Amazons too. Cheaper on Japan, but then you have to consider shipping.

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I’ve thought about getting them myself, but I hear they’re terribly short. Like each volume is 4 stories, each 6 pages long, with only a couple sentences per page?


This particular series pictured is actually 6 stories per volume, about 14 pages per story, but you are correct that each page only has between 1 and 3 sentences at Level 0. There are fewer stories/books per volume with more pages per book and many more sentences per page as the Level increases. They do also come with a CD, so I use them initially for listening practice before doing any reading.

They are not actually kids’ books, they are written specifically for foreign learners of Japanese - while the graphics in the lower levels make them look like children’s picture books, the intention is that the visual cues will mean you will not need a dictionary even if you encounter new vocab - you will be able to guess the meaning from the visual context.

@ericky14 There is a club for people working their way through graded readers and parallel texts here if you’d like to join us (I’m working on the Level 0 readers at the moment).


Not exactly… Sure, they are short, but not THAT short =P

Here are all the volumes in Ask level 0:


As you can see there are 6 in each, not 4.
All the other levels of ask has 5 stories each, since they are thicker.

They all have 15 pages, though last page has only an image (so 14 with text) (Only checked first volume, since it is meant to be the easiest volume there might be slightly more in the others)
They do sometimes only have one line, but generally 4 seems more common (and some have even more)

So yeah, not the most text heavy. There should be less than 400 words per story (but probably quite close to 400)

A random lvl 0 of Taishukan I had sitting here had 23 pages. (volume 7 book 1)
Most of it’s pages had one line though, so probably same word count in the end.

Edit: noticed now the number and length had already been covered. Sorry for repeating it =)


@Rowena @Toyger
That’s good to hear. Hard to know what online to believe. People tend to leave comments/reviews when they’re unhappy, and the exaggerate, so it’s hard to know how accurate their reviews are.
Will probably still at least grab one to check them out myself. Just need to decide if I want level 0,v or just skip to level 1. Don’t want to grab 0 and breeze though it, but also don’t wanna get 1 and get my butt kicked.


1 doesn’t feel that much harder, just significantly thicker. Both require to have a vocabulary of about 350 words.
Lvl 0 have up to 400 words. Lvl 1 has 400-1500 words per story (but 5 books instead of 6 per volume)
I didn’t notice a leap in grammar.

I love these books, so personally I’d go for all of them :wink:
I even buy sets below my current level =P

But, if you have more of a budget, then I would probably recommend going with a lvl 1 to get more out of it =)

If you want to get a feel for what stories are in there, here are lvl 1:

If only one, I think I personally enjoyed Lvl 1 volume 2 the most =)


By contrast, having read stories at levels 0, 1, 2, I find that the main difference between the levels is the grammar! Level 0 is very basic, only desu/masu. Level 1 is N5, and Level 2 has N4 points (although might be basic N4 not advanced, I’m not sure)


Is there somewhere to find a sample page of a level? Not sure where I should start.
I’ve never tried the graded readers, but I’ve been unable to read regular novels. My WK level is 20 at the moment, grammar is probably between N4 and N3, and vocabulary is mediocre. I feel like reading a regular novel requires at least N3 to N2 level, and unfortunately I’ve never really been interested in manga.

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This website has a small collection of free graded readers


I thought I was getting off cheap when someone introduced me to EHonNavi for graded readers. I read my first book on at level 0 and it was exhausting and there was plenty I couldn’t translate. Came back to the forms and someone clarified they were targeted at native speakers, making them much harder.

What I did learn though has stuck with me more stronger than most things in my Japanese studies. I’m going to order the Amazon graded readers. I think they are going to be worth it and hopefully very engaging as opposed to rogue memorization of grammar points and vocab!

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Thanks for the link - very helpful and gives me an idea of the levels.

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The graded readers are a great option. I disagree with people saying they’re meant for kids though. They aren’t. The books are aimed at foreign learners - some stories seem childish but are chosen because they are stories every single Japanese person would know. I read them with my husband and he always says “yeah, I know this story. Every Japanese person does.” The reason they do that is so you can be familiar with Japanese culture and perhaps have something to talk about with Japanese people.

I play FFXIV and the amount of things that suddenly clicked for me in that game after reading the graded readers is actually pretty ridiculous. (For example, in 4.0 there is a dungeon where a mechanic involves you opening a box and getting an “old” debuff, turning you into an old person. This box makes another appearance with an npc opening it and becoming old too. A graded reader made clear the origin of that for me.)

NHK Easy News is another option, although it can be really boring if you’re not interested in politics and technology.

Yotsubato is the standard “first manga” suggestion. I’m not that interested in it personally but I’m trying to give it a chance. Next I might try to read (Detective) Conan or something… but any manga appropriate for young kids is probably fine.

Twitter can be a good place to practice reading as well.

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That’s reminds me. TangoRisto is decent. Sources articles from NHK News Easy, and others, with some additional features.

They are really good. I loved the stories in Level 0 and they kept my attention. The sixth book in Level 0 made me understand what a police box is with a truly engaging story.


Just read that one last night!


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