📚 Japanese Book Reviews 📚

Let’s share reviews of Japanese books that we’ve read, to record our progress and help others choose appropriate and enjoyable reading materials!

This post is a wiki so you can add a link under the appropriate category to your book review post.

Some things to consider including in your review:

  • title
  • author’s name
  • type of script used (kana/kanji & furigana/kanji without furigana)
  • approximate reading difficulty
  • plot summary (NO SPOILERS, PLEASE!)
  • what you liked or didn’t like about the book
  • who would you recommend the book to?
  • picture of the cover

Children’s Fiction

Picture books

Where are you going? To see my friend! / どこへいくの?ともだちにあいに!

しろねこくん

シンデレラ

Novels
タロ~! ジロ~! 南極物語: 信じるキモチ。

Adult Fiction

Novels

いま会いにゆきます

カエルの楽園

塩の街

ふがいない僕は空をみた

Short Stories
世界にひとつだけの本

Manga

Shounen

Shoujo

(feel free to add/edit these categories, as well; I’m certain I’ve left some things out)

12 Likes

Title: Where are you going? To see my friend! / どこへいくの?ともどちにあいに!
Author: Kazuo Iwamura, Illustrator: Eric Carle

(bilingual: English from the front of the book, Japanese kana with romaji from the back of the book)
This is a very simple children’s book, and probably could be read easily at N5 level or after completing Genki lesson 4. Fun for learning animal sounds in Japanese.

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Thank you for starting this thread!
Fantastic idea! I will happily contribute… when I eventually read a book. Actually, I may be able to do a quick one for a children’s story…

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Title: ふがいない僕は空を見た

Author: 窪 美澄 (Kubo Misumi)

Reading difficulty: Relatively high. Overall simple grammar but a lot of specialized vocabulary related to medicine, especially childbirth. Each chapter picks the story up from a different narrator’s point of view, which can take some adjusting to at first. Generally favors long descriptions over dialogue. No furigana (except rare words and names, as usual).

Description: Takumi Saitou is a high school student living with his mother, who works as a midwife and runs a maternity house in their own home. He meets with “Anzu”, an older married woman who won’t reveal her real name. They engage in sexual play while cosplaying, unaware that they’re about to set in motion events that will change the lives of many people in their small town.

Review/recommendation: I really enjoyed this book. Despite being unable to read it without pausing to search a lot of vocab, it never felt like I couldn’t understand what was happening, thanks to pretty straightforward grammar. The story was engaging and definitely more contemplation-oriented than action-packed. The sexual themes didn’t feel tacked on, but rather served the narrative. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in daily-life-type stories. It’s worth noting that the book was made into a movie, although I haven’t seen it and can’t comment on it.

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Please do! The more the better, even if they are very short; there are people of all different levels on here, so it will be good to have a lot of different perspectives.

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this is a brilliant idea ! I don’t have anything to add …yet but i will try to add soon

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Title: 世界にひとつだけの本

Author: 北阪 昌人

Reading Difficulty: Varies. This is a collection of very short short stories and each one has a different difficulty level. In general, though, the book is quite easy to read. The narrator speaks in a simple style and remains the same throughout the book. Massive bonus with this book is that many of the stories are read aloud here.

Description: A woman working at a travel agent relates small incidents from her life in a diary style. Some of these directly involve herself, others she is merely present while someone else tells their story. I guess vignette might be a more accurate word for most of these rather than short story. Usually not a lot happens but the narrator is made to think about life by what happens.

Review / Recommendation: I enjoyed this more because I could read it with a high degree of comprehension more than because I liked the stories. Some of them are interesting, but some are a bit too twee and heavy-handedly fauxtivational for my taste. I certainly wouldn’t read it in English, but the ease of the language coupled with the audio resource made it more than worthwhile in Japanese. Plus, if you don’t like one story, there’s always going to be another one starting in just a couple of pages.

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Just wondering, do you think the book title is meant to be similar to the song title 「世界に一つだけの花」?

Title: 吾輩は猫である

Author’s name: 夏目漱石

Type of Script: Everything, probably Furigana versions exist.

Difficulty: About a 46 out of 72.

Plot Summary: There’s a cat, it does cat shit.

Pros: Cats Cons: Perhaps too much cats.

Who would I recommend this book to?: People who want to read the pinnacle of Japanese literature.

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I don’t think it’s meant to be, no. When I started typing the book title though, my IME suggested the song title very quickly.

@Syphus, If you want to recommend Souseki, then why don’t you do it properly? Someone might find it useful. If you’re not interested in recommending something and are just here to be an arsehole, why don’t you go elsewhere?

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Because I prefer seeing people get upset for literally no reason. If you’re really that stupid you probably wouldn’t understand the book anyway.

TITLE: タロ~! ジロ~! 南極物語: 信じるキモチ。

Author: チーム151E☆

Reading difficulty: Low, made for 1-3rd grade elementary school children. It’s sort of a my first chapter book.

Description: True story about sled dogs surviving in Antarctica. You’ll probably cry several times.

Review: I got tears in my eyes. It was not so hard to read and I enjoyed it enough to finish it. I’ve half read many things in Japanese, this was first book I completed.

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Title: しろねこくん
Author: べつやく れい

Reading difficulty: Low, picture book with one sentence per page.

Description: It’s about a white cat and a girl. It teaches the importance of particles and how a particle will change the meaning of a sentence.

Review: Adorable and helpful.

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Hey folks, just a friendly reminder to future reviewers to remember to add a link to your post in the table of contents in the original post. It may seem a little silly now, but if the thread gets long, it’ll be helpful to people who are looking for a specific kind of book without wanting to read through every review. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Title: いま、会いにゆきます

Author: 市川 拓司 (Ichikawa Takuji)

Reading difficulty: Pretty easy for an adult novel. Daily life vocab and a lot of dialogue.

Description: Takumi Aio lives alone with his young son, Yuuji, since the death of his wife earlier that year. Suffering from a congenital disorder, Takumi has a pretty limited world; what comes easy for other people is always more complicated for him. One day, as he walks in the woods with his son, he stumbles upon his wife, who has not only lost her memory, but also bears no trace of the disease that claimed her life before. Unsure if she’s a ghost or some kind of blessing, he hides her death and tries to resume their lives as husband and wive. But their time together is most likely limited.

Review/recommendation: This book was recommended to me a long time ago as an easy read, but I hadn’t had time to get to it until recently. It’s a very touching love story with a few twists here and there. I’d highly recommend it. The book is pretty easy to find as it was made into a box office movie in Japan some years ago and is actually being made into a Korean movie now.

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Title: カエルの楽園

Author: 百田 尚樹 (Hyakuta Naoki)

Reading difficulty: This book is an allegory of the author’s views on Japan. If taken at face value, it’s an extremely easy read, but some of the symbolism might be more difficult to understand as a lot of names and references are done through play on words.

Description: Socrates and Roberto are two frogs fleeing their pond, which was invaded by another frog species. After a difficult journey that saw all their companions killed, they end up in the paradise land of ナパージュ (Napaj, for Japan). The frogs of Napaj obey three golden rules of peace, claiming it to be the reason for their prosperity, but Socrates and Roberto will find out that nothing is as it seems in paradise.

Review/recommendation: I don’t think I’ve hated a book this much in a long time. It’s extremely nationalistic and revisionist and hides it’s ugliness behind “satire”. But, you know, those things exist and it isn’t necessarily bad to know about them. It’s also encouraging to realize that you can understand an allegory in Japanese. Expect awkward conversations with the people with which you bring this book up.

So I seem to be the only one using this thread. I’ll keep posting to keep track of what I read, since I borrow a lot of books and end up forgetting what I want to recommend. If anyone else wanna jump in, I’m always looking for good recommendations and it’s nice to see what everyone else is reading.

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Title: 塩の街

Author: 有川 浩 (Arikawa Hiro)

Reading difficulty: Generally manageable with the exception of a few sections with heavy descriptions of military equipment.

Description: In a post-apocalyptic Tokyo where a huge part of the population mysteriously turned into salt pillars, a young girl and an older man pushed together by circumstances do their best to survive. They meet a traveler from Gunma who will set into motion their destiny.

Review/recommendation: I kind of stumbled upon this book without knowing anything about it. Apparently it was marketed previously as a love story, but it was reprinted and made into a “series” with two other unrelated-but-having-a-common-theme books from the same author. The new cover looks very science fiction-y and I got a bit fooled by it. Turns out it’s a love story before anything else. It’s well executed and the writing is pretty good, but if you’re not into love stories this is definitely not going to do it for you.

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Please do keep posting! :smile:
When I made this thread I was hoping it would be a service to the community, so I’m glad that at least someone is finding it helpful (and also I selfishly wanted to gather recommendations for my own future reading).

If I try to read something these days, it’s mostly either recipes, magazine articles, or NHK easy news, so unfortunately I don’t really have anything to contribute to my own thread :sweat_smile:

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Title: シンデレラ (Kana Readers - Kodansha Nihongo Folktales Series)
hiragana, and katakana with hiragana alongside; vertical format

Difficulty: was a breezy read for me at ~N4 level
designed for English learners of Japanese, it includes 4 pages of grammar notes and a translation, but even without referring to those it was easy to follow since it’s a familiar story.

Summary: you know how it goes :wink:

Review/Recommendation: I stumbled across this for really cheap at a used bookstore, and figured “why not?” just to get some more practice reading. It was quick and convenient to read something that didn’t require checking the dictionary, but it wasn’t that interesting. Some of the other titles in the series sound more interesting, but I probably won’t buy them unless I find them somewhere for as cheap as this one. It wasn’t bad, but I think I want to try something slightly more challenging.

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