How to approach books?

Do you buy them a drink first? Complement their cover art?

Joking aside, I have been struggling to get into books. I have been trying to read web novels of series I enjoy the anime of, but it is just a taxing chore. I love reading manga, and while I could technically just keep reading I feel like I should be trying to acquire this skill as well.

The other issue I am having is I want to get into LNs because I have grown fond of the fantasy genre in Japanese through Berserk (manga) and Shield Hero (anime) but get intimidated by how long it takes to read vs watch. This is a problem I have in English too, but it’s a different kind of limitation I guess.

I like the allure of more content in less pages, but I am really struggling to make the transition. I tried to do some books from the beginner club and could only finish Your Name, and I read the novelization of Eizouken. Like, I can do it, but it’s really hard for me to find something and stick with it. How can I ween myself onto reading? Any recommendations? Is it even worth pursuing at my current level? (I have N3, and am able to produce N3 level Japanese in speaking and writing).

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You spoiled my joke.

Tbh, the level I started reading at seriously was around 30. This was because, indeed, reading is hard and I was putting it off. My advice is that you shouldn’t start with the beginner book club, because those will be quite hard as an absolute beginner, so you should try abbc first. ハピネス and Teasing master Takagi-san were two, that are really easy to get into, and they are fun. After you’ve read a bit, it will be much much easier when you start getting used to it.

I do recommend some grammar knowledge tho, you didn’t mention your level there, but it’s best to get through the very basic stuff first (genki I, Human Japanese Beginner, prolly around N5 or so. You won’t know everything you come accross, but knowing 75% of the grammar you meet is way better than knowing nothing.

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Like I stated before its all around N3 or higher. Its not so much a ability to understand as much as it is the will power to follow through.

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Ah, sorry, I’m blind sometimes. My statement still stands though, start with absolute beginner, as it will be the least painful, and then as you get more comfortable, you can go up the levels.

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perhaps you’re right. I should just work my way through those books and try not to jump into the things I like just yet.

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Alternatively, stick with what you like, but change your mindset to reading them.

Who’s saying one has to finish a book in a certain amount of time? What’s wrong with putting it down and picking it back up again later?

Some folks will say that if they step away from something for too long, they’ll forget what’s happening. I mean this kindly: so? Read a few pages back to refresh your memory. Or start over from the beginning. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself on how much easier it is the second, third, or hundredth time.

It can be very hard to get out of the mindset that anything attempted has to be done to completion, preferably in one sitting. I struggle with this all the time.

Ween yourself onto reading by weening yourself onto reading. Do a little bit at a time. Be okay with putting something down and picking it back up again later. Read what you like because you like it and don’t discount it because “it was only a page” or “it was only a sentence.” Fun is fun.

Heck, I should log off right now and pick up Kiki’s Delivery Service again because it’s been about a month since I last read anything out of it. Thanks for the nudge.

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Thanks, I suppose I often feel envious of people who can pick up a book (English or Japanese) and have nothing stopping them from finishing. My wife, mom, grandma, and most of my friends are that way. So being the one that always struggled academically, I take it maybe more personally that I can’t be into books the same way. I envy them. Thanks for the the advice, I guess ultimately I need to be ok with only reading what I can and stop forcing myself to do more than that.

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I think this really depends on the kind of person you are. If reading easier material makes it more approachable and allows you to stick with it, great! That’s a totally valid approach that works for a lot of people. Personally, I was never really able to consistently get into easier content like that, so I’ll come at it from the other side in case that’s also true for you.

My best advice is to find something that you genuinely want to read. It doesn’t really matter if it’s hard; if you’re invested enough in the content, that’ll push you to keep going even when it’s challenging. As an example, I worked through about 100 pages of 錆喰いビスコ a while back just because I enjoyed it, and it was absolutely way harder than I had any real business messing with, but I did it anyway because I wanted to and I got a lot out of it. At a certain point it’s hard to tell how hard something actually is, like if you don’t know a lot of words it really doesn’t matter if the ones you don’t know in the book are common or weird, it feels the same either way :joy: At the time I was also reading 風が強く吹いている and I felt like they were pretty similar in difficulty, but looking at them now 錆喰いビスコ is definitely much harder, I just didn’t know any better. But it sounds like you have a really good base to work off of already! So yeah if you can find something where you’re going “woah, I have to know what happens next” that’s really powerful as a learning experience.

On that note I’d also say to try reading something you’re not already familiar with; I know that’s like the opposite of what people say, but in my experience I’ve struggled to maintain the motivation to fight through reading something where I already know the story. Reading something new makes it feel less like reading to study and more like reading to genuinely enjoy a story, which I’ve personally had a lot more success with.

And yeah it’s not like anyone’s forcing to read dense novels; read whatever you want! You don’t have to read like “serious literature” if you don’t want to; I know I’ve ended up reading way more through VNs and such than with literal books and that’s totally fine, it’s all still reading :grin: And the easier reading gets, the easier it is if you wanna pick up a novel down the line. So I guess my point is try not to stress about it too much; just do stuff you like, that’s the whole point right?

Sorry I didn’t mean to just throw like all of my thoughts on reading at you, but hopefully it’s at least a little encouraging :sweat_smile:

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Thanks. That’s been my modus operandi for a while now, and it hasn’t failed me until recently I just felt like I really wasn’t pushing myself enough. The last two weeks I got REALLY into the anime for Conan and then Shield Hero and I have this idea I can apply that same enthusiasm to reading and it just hasn’t come. I still read about a volume of manga every day or 2 (sometimes I’m just busy) but its becoming this almost like FOMO effect where I feel like maybe I should be applying myself more and reading book books and not picture books.

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Lots of stuff I agree with in this thread, but definitely this. I like reading detective mysteries personally, because I want to know whodunnit and that keeps me reading on – because while it does get easier it’s always going to be work at some level, IME.

I also like having two books on the go at once (maybe an easier one and a harder one) – that way if I feel too tired to plough through a difficult slow book I can pick up the easy one instead of reading nothing.

Don’t worry about accumulating a pile of books you’ve given up on as too hard or too boring, either – there’s no point pushing through something you’re not enjoying. Move on to something else, and come back later or not at all.

Figure out how you like reading and make the experience as easy and pleasant as you can. I like printed paper books (four decades of habit are hard to break), but a lot of people like ebook readers. Whatever you like, figure out a setup that’s comfortable, as distraction-free as possible, and as easy to do dictionary lookups as you can make it.

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It seems like you are putting more value on reading a book, than on other forms of entertainment (manga, anime). Is that how you feel personally or just something you’ve picked up from society/family/friends? I’m asking because you mentioned that you were happy with your approach until you focused more on anime in the last few weeks.

I’ve found personally that when I feel bad about the entertainment choices I’ve done, I find it useful to ask myself if I personally would rank those options that way or if I even find it useful to rank them at all. If the goal is entertainment, does it matter which medium I get it through? If the goal is something else, then what is the best way to achieve that (and also still have a ton of fun)?

I’m a bookworm and a gamer myself, and I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling like books are a superior hobby and I should give up gaming. Any day now, I’ve thought, I will give up gaming for the superiority of book entertainment and status. But, I think I’m finally coming to a stage where I’ve internalized that there is nothing wrong or inferior with liking and playing games. If I’m having a lot of fun, then why shouldn’t I play a game?

I also still read a lot, and personally, I find both manga and books are enjoyable, the satisfaction and enjoyment comes from the story being told, not the exact medium.


To answer your actual question though. I too often in the last few years fall off the wagon off reading, even though I enjoy it a lot. And the only two ways I know how to get back on it is:
(a) Reread books I love until I’m reading consistently (daily or almost daily)
(b) Start small, tell myself I’ll just read for 15 minutes before bed, and I will seldom stick to that short time limit once I get into a fun book. But it helps keep the commitment small, I can quit as soon as I hit my time limit.

For Japanese specifically, joining the Read Every Day challenge and interacting with a community of active readers helped me a lot to start reading more Japanese and challenging myself to tackle material I might not have otherwise.

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I had the same problem trying to get into reading. Each page was a slog, and I was always wondering if I got things right or not.

What I eventually did was the following:

  • Pick books that are interesting to you. This is the biggest thing. If you’re not into the material, the fact that it’s in Japanese isn’t going to magically make it better.
  • Read several books in parallel. I found that switching to another book when one felt like a slog really helped keep me going, especially if the writing style was easier in the one I switched to.
  • When starting a new reading session, reread the last few sentences before you start the new material. This helps you reinforce parts you already read and going over material again gives a bit of a confidence boost when you get to the new stuff.
  • Use an English translation and then check meaning after a page or so. This really helped me gain confidence when I correctly understood things and also helped me correct mistakes. After a while I found that I could go multiple pages without referring to the English version but still had it to help me through tough passages where I had to refer back every sentence.

While I still have a long way to go, I now feel like I really can pick up any book and read it as long as I have a way to lookup words and Google for tricky grammar.

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Thanks for all the advice. I know its not the typical “where do I start” coming from a beginner and demands a little more nuance but you guys gave me a lot to think about. I think ultimately I’m just being overly self-conscious about my input ATM. I read a lot today as a result and am thinking about your advice at the same time and just going with the flow for now. Thanks everyone.

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I’ll add my 2 cents as well, because I also have a similar struggle with reading books in Japanese. I have yet to finish a whole book (though I’ve started quite a few), and this somewhat bothers me because I read voraciously in English (like at least 2 hours of reading for pleasure each day, even if it means doing it late at night and forgoing sleep to read).

Some pitfalls I had and things I did to work around them:

  1. Trying to read a book I liked the subject of, but where the amount of work I had to do to read it put me off completely:
    This was “魔法科高校の劣等生” / “Irregular at Magic High School.” I love the Anime, and really wanted to learn more that wasn’t covered in the animation but trying to read the LN it took me 20 minutes to read the first page. Using koohi.cafe to pre-learn some of the vocab helped a lot with this, but eventually I decided to put this one on the shelf for a while until I build up some more general vocabulary as this one is challenging enough if all you have to learn is the made-up magic vocab.

  2. Trying to read a book where I already knew the story too well:
    This was “ポケットモンスター:キミをきめた” / “Pokemon: I Choose You!” for me. The book wasn’t too challenging grammar or vocab-wise, but it’s a retelling of the original Pokemon story and after the first 20 pages I realized I always knew what was going to happen next and it wasn’t that interesting to read the story given that. If there were a lot in the book that wasn’t included in the previous Pokemon series or movies I probably would have loved it, but as it was it didn’t work for me. I’ll likely pick it up again someday when my Japanese is better and I can read it in a day or two, but for now it doesn’t keep my interest when I also have to look up 3-5 words per page.

What did work for me:

  1. Short stories (including some graded readers like 中学・読書の時間に読む本 and bilingual books like “Japanese Short Stories for Language Learners” or “まんが日本昔ばなし”)

  2. Books aimed at Japanese children, like ones published by Aoitori Bunko (see What are Aoi Tori Bunko Books? – Japanese Book Club Cafe) that are either in a genre I really like, mostly fantasy (recently started “悪の物語”) or where the topic interests me, like some of the non-fiction ones (I’m about 1/3 of the way through “しっぽをなくしたイルカ”).

I would agree with @potatonaught that maybe changing your mindset is the way to go. There is no rush and it’s totally okay to keep multiple books going at once, or alternate with manga or anime if that’s more comfortable. Since taking a break from one of the books I was struggling with and joining the read-along for the the “暁のヨナ” manga, I’ve found even just reading manga was upping my reading level a lot. It made it a lot easier when I went back to pick up that book again.

Also definitely agree with @pm215 that having an easier read handy for those nights when you’re struggling to read something tougher can work wonders at making you feel like you’re not “giving up,” you’re just doing something a little easier tonight, but it’s still reading.

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Your Name isn’t particularly easy. If you really want to get into books, there’s plenty of easier real novels available. You could try to use jpdb or koohi.cafe to try to find books of easier difficulty. There’s learnnatively as well.

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Yeah it was a challenge but I got through since I was so familiar with the story that it was hard to get lost, which is usually the opposite when I am reading. That was a good first read for me. Right book at the right time I guess.

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How was it with the dialect?

I mean I kind of already knew what I was expecting. It wasn’t anything wild or out there. If you’ve seen the movie, its the same dialogue + padding of descriptive text. The descriptive text was the more challenging part for me as there was vocab I wasn’t familiar with due to it all being implied in the images.

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I think that’s the hardest part if you’re coming from manga. Descriptive prose and dialogue attribution.

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Yeah, I am bad at it in English too. Its a skill for sure. Years of Social Media addiction eventually fixed it but I got off all that and don’t plan to return for the sake of learning Japanese.

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