Beginner (non manga) book recommendations

I want to step up from graded readers (I’m about at an N4 level), and I have been doing an honest effort to get myself into Manga reading as a step up from those readers and the medium is just not doing it for me… I don’t know, I’ve tried よつばと、hunter x hunter etc etc… and I just can’t get into the stories. I’ve had a bit more success with some of the stories in Satori reader, so it looks like my brain just needs the verbal narration element besides the dialog. I downloaded 魔女の宅急便 as an ebook and it just seems a bit out of reach right now but hopefully not by much. I was wondering about other content at a similar or slightly easier level than this that I could sink my teeth into?


Were these manga you tried because you heard they were easy or because you were interested in them specifically? There are so many genres out there, that unless you just completely hate manga/comic style entirely, there’s bound to be some you’d like. Some I’d normally recommend for beginners are:

  • Aria the Masterpiece (slice of life; light sci-fi)
  • Yagate Kimi ni Naru (romance)
  • Shadows House (mystery)

There are also comic strip style 4-koma manga, but the ones I like are probably more intermediate level than beginner level. If you’re curious about the style though, my favorite is ご注文はうさぎですか.

魔女の宅急便 was the first book I read, and I did find it challenging. Some of the language can be a bit flowery, which I think makes it harder. I did manage to finish it and it was fine in terms of enjoyment. I only read two other kids books (時をかける少女 and 霧のむこうのふしぎな町), but they were not enjoyable and I don’t recommend them.

I suppose one other possibility is かがみの孤城, since there is a full furigana version. The original version has very little furigana, but in terms of sentence structure it may actually be easier than 魔女の宅急便. So if you can get a version with full furigana, it may be fine. That said, even if it’s slightly easier than 魔女の宅急便, it will probably still be very challenging. It’s also quite long, which may make it a less than ideal choice.

There are probably better options for a first book, so hopefully someone else can help.


I haven’t actually read this book because I’m just not where I need to be to where I can start on something of this level, but there was this really amazing looking book series called “Read Real Japanese” and I loved the way it was laid out. It had the full japanese version on one page, but then on the other page it had both the english and the japanese sentences together. On the combo japanese and english page it does the japanese sentence, then the english equivalent, and then it just repeats that. I’ve seen books that had english on one page and japanese on the other, but I always thought that was a clunky and awful way to have to reference stuff back and forth.

The one I saw when I was out was the essays one and I have to say the essays looked great and interesting. Looking online, I see that Tofugi did a review on them. Might want to check them out.

PS to SeanBlue: I’ll definitely have to check those suggestions out. I actually really thought Yotsuba was funny and I love how the character reacted to strangers and stuff, but I haven’t really seen suggestions other than hunter hunter and yotsuba out there. (I suppose I haven’t looked that hard… again, I am very much so a beginner.)


My first book was 銭天堂, with help from the vocab spreadsheet from the beginner book club. I think it’s a bit easier than 魔女の宅急便, and some of the stories are pretty good for a kid’s book.


Depending on your age and life-stage, you might be interested in the Miller-san books

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Have you tried reading the news?

Im similar. I read three volumes of よつばと with a book club, but I didn’t really get hooked. Have tried my hand at reading manga a couple times since, but I just can’t get into them. (Books are way better anyways)

I also tried Kiki’s, but you can really tell it’s a children’s book :see_no_evil: Personally I’ve stayed away from children’s books ever since. They’re not always the easiest (and definitely not the most interesting) for adult learners.
I’d recommend また、同じ夢を見ていた , which I thought was both easier and more interesting.


I second this. My first novel was 魔女の宅急便 and right after that I read 銭天堂. It surprised me how easy 銭天堂 was after finishing Kiki.

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Hello soulmate :blush: What I find pretty difficult when reading manga is that it almost entirely consists of dialogue, which is often full of colloquial language, contractions etc. whereas in most cases normal text in books is written in standard Japanese. You also have dialogue in books, of course, but the ratio is quite different.

Riiight? :+1:

Regarding 銭天堂, I tried to read it when I was more beginner-ish but failed badly because the excessive use of onomatopoeia killed me… you will definitely want to use the language sheet from the book club when reading that.

One of the easiest “real life” books I can recommend are the にゃんにゃん - Kitty Detectives - Vol. 1 stories. They are written for pretty small children so the contents of the story is a bit silly but if you can bear with that, then you should be fine. The books contain normal text and also a large illustration on every other side or so, to support your understanding. They also have a vocab sheet over at the club.

If you want something that is a bit more “serious” in nature, I can recommend おおかみこどもの雨と雪 which is a slice-of-life story about growing up and finding your own way in life. I found it not too difficult to read, but maybe my memory is blurred, so please check out the preview on Bookwalker, for example (you can find links to all vendors in the bookmeter link I inserted). On the downside, it is pretty long, but on the upside, there is a (imo) beautiful anime that you can watch afterwards as a bonus.


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