Beginner Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: 夜カフェ

I don’t think we’ve totally decided yet, but it sounded like people wanted to take a short break after Kiki, so it will probably be at least a couple weeks after that.

When we did Yotsuba, we only did the first volume, then included the second volume in the selection poll for people to vote on (it didn’t win, so this book club didn’t continue it). I assume it’ll work in a similar way this time: we’ll only commit to the first two volumes for now, but if people want to continue the series, the subsequent volume(s) can be pitched in the next selection period.


This was my first time ordering from Amazon JP too, so believe me, I understand. Check out this thread, specifically the questions I asked and the answers I got (the link starts at one of my questions). Hopefully that will help put your mind at ease. Once I actually ordered, everything went very smoothly.

I’m going to close the poll for the next book shortly. Sometime today I will create a “home thread” that will include some polls for the reading schedule. One of them will be when to start reading. As @windupbird said, it will be 2-4 weeks from the end of Kiki to make sure everyone has enough time to get the book and give those of us reading Kiki a short break.

Again, as @windupbird said, we will only do the first volume of Aria the Masterpiece (Aqua volumes 1 and 2) to start. The second volume can be on the next poll if we want. I want to note however, that Aqua is only two volumes, so Aria the Masterpiece volume 1 is the entirety of Aqua.

Also, Aria is fundamentally different from Yotsuba because it has a long term story. For that reason, I really don’t think we should go beyond volume 2 of Aria the Masterpiece (Aria volumes 1 and 2) as part of this book club, and maybe not even that (and obviously only if it wins again anyway). If there is enough interest, we can create a separate book club like they did for Yotsuba so that we can continue reading it. It’s important to make sure this book club is always open to new members, and reading long series goes against that.


Just wanted to say that I really agree with this - if people want to continue a series they can always do so themselves, but it creates a barrier to entry for new members if the book club continues on with a series that has an ongoing story. Plus trying out new series each time provides more variety and can help to introduce people to more series they might like.


And the winner is Aria the Masterpiece! Here is the home thread:


aria the masterpiece 頑張ろう!

I’m going to keep moving things along so that future nominations and voting goes more smoothly. Hopefully us worrying about picking something too hard can become a thing of the past.

To start, how long should polls for choosing the next book go on before ending them and saying who won.

  • 3 days
  • 1 week
  • 2 weeks

0 voters

Also, we discussed starting our nominations over from scratch, but if we do this we need good guidelines. I recommend including:

  • Title of the book.
  • Summary of the book from Amazon / MyAnimeList / wherever.
  • Link to the book on Amazon JP (at least).
  • Personal opinion (optional)
  • Pros and cons (optional)
  • Pictures of the first three pages and up to three additional pages so that people can evaluate the difficulty.
  • A poll from 1 to 3 (easy/medium/hard) so we can try to gauge the difficulty of each book. Then the average from this poll can be included in the list of nominations.

Any concerns with that criteria? Any other suggestions for something to change or add?


Vote examples, we decided on different approach
How did this feel to you?

  • Easy
  • Medium
  • Hard

0 voters

Or should we do this kind? (1 easy, 2 medium, 3 hard)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

0 voters

Is there a recommended wanikani level before trying this book club?

Nope! You can be lvl 1 and manage to read along, and you can be lvl 60 and not be able to do so.
It requires at least some basic grammar knowledge (which we don’t learn on WK) and vocab not learned on WK as well.
But if you feel ready to try, the next project is a Manga, which makes it easier to read along even if you have to look up more =)

As for when to start read based on WK level, here is what WK say: ( but note this is based on if you knew nothing before joining, and started practicing grammar at lvl 1)

Levels 11-20
Begin reading simple Japanese text. It’ll still be difficult to read anything comfortably, but children’s manga should be okay (these are more advanced than children’s books, and actually have some kanji). You can also look through newspapers, books, manga, and blogs, though you’ll mostly be identifying kanji and words that you know, not reading for comprehension. It’s best to reach Level 20 before getting into anything too seriously.

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What?!? I didn’t know if you just put numbers it’ll average them!

It doesn’t really say who voted for what though…

And my vote isn’t real. I just wanted to test it. I’ll take a look for real sometime this week.


I’d just add that, if there’s an option for a digital version, we should include that, too.

I don’t see the lack of such an option being a reason to disqualify a book, but for people just looking to check out the first volume of something with no interest in collecting the full series or whose countries make importing really difficult (Brazil, for example), it could mean the difference between being able to participate and having to pass.

Sounds good to me.

I like this, though I think some kind of justification for the nomination should be required, even if people aren’t exactly able to provide pros and cons.

The self-averaging poll is useful, but it doesn’t show us the spread - you might get an average of 2 and think “great!”, when actually everybody voting found it either really easy or incredibly difficult.

I think we also need clear guidelines on what sorts of things people ought to be nominating in the first place, even if it’s flexible. I can’t remember whether any conclusions were reached on that subject :sweat_smile:

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It’s easy enough to make the poll Easy/Medium/Hard and average it by hand anyway. :slight_smile: And I agree with you that seeing the spread is useful.

I can’t think of any guidelines for nominations. Do you have any thoughts on that?

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Hmm, perhaps the guidelines should actually be on the book club’s reading level (i.e. people who are not new to Japanese, but are just making their first forays into reading Japanese) rather than on what to nominate, with an emphasis that nominations should be appropriate for the group. I think you already wrote some good guidelines on that for the OP though?

Perhaps we should provide the list of previous picks for comparison, with a small note by each to state how difficult the book club found them. I think that’s the most useful gauge we have, really, because you can point to absolutes and say “this one was successful” or “nearly everybody dropped out of this one”.

A reminder when voting that it’s easy to overestimate your ability and/or how much perseverance is required for difficult material might be good :grin:


Oh also, with the difficulty poll - I’m not sure whether voting ‘easy’ would mean I was saying “yep, I could manage that” or “that was way too easy”.


Feel free to cherry-pick or completely rewrite anything below.

  • Nominate only something you are ready to read
    • If the thought of doing grammar or vocab lookups to help others seems daunting or you can’t read your suggestion’s sample-pages already, you might not be qualified to objectively judge its difficulty or help to motivate others when they get stuck.
    • Groups like this are meant to cooperate to learn together, but a minority always emerges to keep things moving; be prepared for that responsibility to fall upon you.
  • Try to pick something reasonably well-known
    • There will be a greater chance that others will already have copies of the book or be interested, increasing the reader-pool.
    • The themes are likely to already be broadly understood, allowing people to more easily make inferences from context, reducing frustration.
    • More-popular works are often written to appeal to a broader demographic, which may translate into simpler, more-accessible writing without much esoteric vocab.
    • The likelihood of official or unofficial English translations is fairly high, providing some support for understanding passages otherwise too difficult for the group or future readers.
    • Some people will only be buying the first volume and popularity helps to give them a chance at resale or passing it along to another learner later.
  • Relatable slice-of-life and drama is safer than escapist fantasy
    • While slice-of-life may not be what you ultimately want to be reading, its conversation-heavy nature and focus on human interaction provides a lot of natural context and transferable vocab, serving as a low barrier to entry for new readers with high returns on time invested.
    • If you know the book requires infodumps or long monologues to explain its ideas, settings, or characters, the added challenge of reading walls of descriptive text is likely to turn away many beginners.
    • There are always exceptions, of course; just don’t be surprised if a series you are passionate about gets voted out because it introduces new world-specific terminology in every other panel.
  • The presence of full furigana does not imply that something will be easy to read
    • Some magazines and publishers include furigana across all of their material, regardless of subject matter.
    • Conversely, the absence of furigana does not mean something is necessarily difficult; some publishers simply don’t ever include it (beyond names), even for very simple material.
  • Do not nominate anything clearly NSFW
    • Without reading through every book ahead of time, we can’t be sure that everything will be appropriate for all audiences, and otaku-joke-centric or more-mature shoujo material might touch the PG-13 line, but if you’d associate the work with fanservice or gore, even if just by reputation, please don’t suggest it for this group.

How about “how much effort would you need to read this book?”
No effort at all/minimal effort/just right/challenging/impossible, even with everyone’s support

Then we get a poll that is both self contained and gives us the info we need.


Thanks for the poll options! I added a template to the first post that people can copy for future proposals, including your poll.

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You wanna replace those two polls with the version Nath proposed? Here is the template you can copy and paste:

## Difficulty Poll
How much effort would you need to read this book?

[poll type=regular public=true]
* No Effort At All
* Minimal Effort
* Just Right
* Challenging
* Impossible, Even With Everyone’s Help

Example of how we might do the poll =)

  • No Effort At All
  • Minimal Effort
  • Just Right
  • Challenging
  • Impossible, Even With Everyone’s Help

0 voters

1 Like