Books/ Manga JLPT N3

At JLPT N3 exam I realised that my weak point is reading and understanding the context.

What books, manga would you recommend for my level?


Glad you noticed! I noticed my reading skills were lacking when I took N2 and wished I’d started right after N3 and kept it consistent :pleading_face:

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What native material have you read so far? And for reference, do you think you passed the N3 reading section even if it was your weak point? Answering those two questions would help me give recommendations.

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I practiced with Sou Matome N3 book for reading.
And rarely NHKnews website.
I feel I might have failed Reading section this time/ or my score will be close to failing.
Thank you @seanblue

What manga/ books did you use for reading @Shandapanda

Okay, so no manga or books yet then. That’s what I needed to know.

In that case, I’d recommend the following manga:

  • Aria the Masterpiece (see book club)
  • やがて君になる
  • ひとりぼっちの〇〇生活 (no furigana, but otherwise very sparse on text and relatively easy)
  • お兄ちゃんはおしまい!

I think those are all among the easiest manga I’ve read. I’d recommend starting with Aria, but if that isn’t to your liking the others should work as well. There are plenty of other easy manga that I could recommend, but those are the ones I found easy and enjoyed, which I find important.

As far as books, I don’t have any great recommendations. You should really start with some manga anyway and get some basic reading experience before moving onto books. Unfortunately I didn’t really enjoy any of the “beginner” books I read for practice early on. 魔女の宅急便 was a good learning experience for me (though really hard as a beginner), but I didn’t really care for it story-wise.


I’m not sure I can help you there unfortunately :pensive: I was just glad you realized pretty early where you’re lacking. The others have better ideas. There’re book clubs here as well so that’s a nice place to start.
I used to do Kumon so I had to read excerpts or stories in chunks. I’m not sure how available they are outside of that study program. Some/ most are probably available on Aozora Bunko website (old stories lol).
I read:

  • 一房のぶどう (nothing special but felt kind of touched)
  • 絵の悲しみ (felt kinda touched by this)
  • ごんぎつね
  • 杜子春
  • 注文の多い料理店

**just to note: when I read them, they were rewritten in simpler Japanese, so not sure how difficult the originals are. Then again, you can use Yomichan or so to check the readings on websites. Cheers!

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“Charlotte’s Web” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” - you can find really nice hardcover versions
of both at CD Japan. I found them easier to read than the tiny paperback editions.

For manga, “Yotsuba To!” is a fun read or you could jump into “Kimetsu no Yaiba”, which seems
to be about N3 level.

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If you’re specifically aiming to get better at reading for JLPT, I would recommend focussing on books and not on manga. The reason being that manga mainly consist of spoken language, which has its own difficulties and pitfalls, but I have yet to see spoken language in the JLPT reading section (and even in the listening section, they only use pretty straightforward language).

When it comes to picking books, with N3 grammar under your belt you can basically select anything that’s classified up to Intermediate level in the Master List of Book Clubs, be it an entry in the regular book clubs (Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate) or one of the miscellaneous books. This doesn’t mean that those books don’t contain higher-level grammar, but they are not extremely hard either.
At the end of many of the book club threads, you can find a satisfaction poll which also captures how hard the participants found that book. There you can get some insights which can inform your choice.
The book club threads are of enormous help because many questions have already been answered, and you can still ask questions even now as many of the participants still watch the threads and are happy to help.

Here are some books that are more on the easier side in my opinion:

Happy reading!


Of the above I can say from experience that 魔法の宅急便、コンビニ人間, and かがみの孤城 are all good starting points. かがみ has simple language but might be a bit long to commit to for a first book. コンビニ人間 is great because it’s a short literary work geared towards adults that uses relatively straightforward language.

I agree with @seanblue that manga can be a more enjoyable place to start because more of it has furigana and it can be easier to ensure you’re getting the story thanks to the visual aids. I also agree with @NicoleRauch that books are ultimately more useful for the JLPT, and can even be easier than a lot of manga because literary Japanese is more straightforward than spoken (especially with the often over-the-top inflection that lots of manga characters use). My best manga starting point recommendations would be よつばと! and 少女終末旅行, both of which have bookclubs that can be found through the master list in the beginner section.

I’d also highly recommend Natively for finding books of an appropriate level. The difficulty rating algorithm works quite well for beginner stuff that a lot of people have read.


Personally, I couldn’t imagine jumping from no (real) reading experience into reading books, but maybe that’s just me. I did start reading after barely starting N4 grammar (meaning I was much closer to N5 than N4), so maybe jumping right into books wouldn’t be an issue for OP given that they just took the N3 test.


I initially tried Yotsuba but failed badly (that was even before I sat N5, so that might explain it :sweat_smile:). After that, I read one graded reader, then one of the Nyan detective books, and then Time Girl (I was in the middle of studying for N4 when I started Time Girl, so I was probably at a similar level as you when you started reading). So yeah, different people take different paths :woman_shrugging:

I think reading manga vs. reading books is a different kind of skill altogether. I still have a hard time reading manga (or sometimes even reading dialogue in books, fwiw). That’s why I tried to clarify the focus a little bit in my above post.


Your recommendations and links are very helpful.
These days I will pop in to the bookshop with your list and try to understand which manga and book I feel would be the most appropriate for me.
Since I haven’t done much reading probably manga with pictures and furigana would be an easier start. After finishing couple of mangas/books I’ll switch to JLPT format books and see how it goes from there.


Have you tried graded readers? The series from ASK publishing has really helped me:

Their level 3 and level 4 books correspond roughly with N3.


@Stillman777 Ive never heard about graded readers. Looks great!

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I made the investment in all of them and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent on learning Japanese.
If you’re around N3 already, though, the first 2 levels of these books will be too easy for you - they are literally at the “See Jane Run” level! However, the quality of all the books is really excellent and they come with CDs of really good readings, which I listen to all the time.


+1 to considering ASK graded readers

Note that there’s also a level 0.
Level 0 is absolute beginner
Level 1 is N5
Level 2 is N4
Level 3 is a little N4 and then N3
Level 4 is N3 and N2

Here’s the chart from one of their books

Each book is designed to be a small gradual step above the previous book - so level 3 volume 1 book 1 is easier than book 2 which is easier than book 3 and so on.

Note the graded readers are not directly tied to JLPT, so like all books here the levels are rough and you will likely encounter things (particularly Vocab, maybe some grammar) not tied to your JLPT level, but that’ll happen with any books and these graded readers are much more tractable to start reading with.

I started with these graded readers, albeit from a much lower level than you (I’ve read all level 0 and 1, and first volume of 2, as I’m not yet N5).
I then moved on to some manga in the absolute beginners book club here on this forum.

The book clubs here are such a fantastic resource for helping with grammar questions, they’re a treasure trove of previous questions and answers.

One downside to the graded readers is that after a while I found them very dry and they became a chore to finish, so I actually started manga halfway through level 1 and had to force myself to come back to do the remainder I’d bought. But I assume that’s entirely subjective.

Another downside is that they can be really pricey. In Japan a pack of 4-5 graded readers cost 2300円 while a manga volume is more like 400円. Likewise at ridiculous Australian prices this ratio is preserved ($50aud vs $10aud).


definitely i’m checking graded readers this weekend in a bookshop!
maybe my level is around 中級4 … thank you!