I just wanted to take a moment to sing huge praises for the book ふしぎ駄菓子屋：銭天道 (Zenitendou, The Mysterious Sweet Shop). I know there’s already a thread about this book for the Absolute Beginners Book Club, but I just wanted to write a raving review and highlight the fact that it truly is great for beginners.
I’ve never read a Japanese book all the way through, mostly because everything I’ve tried has been too difficult or boring. I’ve been reading this book over the past week or so, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. I’m already halfway through. At this rate, this will be my first time finishing a Japanese book.
The book is like a collection of spooky short stories, which all revolve around mysterious happenings concerning a sweets shop. It reminds me a lot of the series Goosebumps, which I loved as a kid. The kanji also isn’t very difficult. I’m level 60, but I’m sure if you’re around level 30 you’ll be able to enjoy it just fine. There’s furigana everywhere anyway.
One of my biggest challenges with studying Japanese has always been reading. Kanji aside, my reading speed itself is very slow because I’m not used to reading Japanese. I’ve tried lots of content like news, the free novels on aozorabunko, novels like 魔女の宅急便 (Kiki’s Delivery Service), and N2 study books. But they’ve all been too difficult, or I just read too slowly.
And it makes sense that they’re too difficult. It’s almost like handing newspapers and The Hobbit to someone who’s not used to reading English. There’s a time and place for that content, but for beginners, it’s better to start small. Like Goosebumps. And Zenitendou.
As a WK level 60 person, I’m surprised at how I’ve never read a Japanese book. I think it’s partly because I’ve spent too much time focusing on studying kanji and not on reading itself. After reaching WK level 60, to my dismay, I’m not magically capable of reading Japanese comfortably. It’s not because of the kanji. It’s because I’m not used to reading Japanese in general. It’s like if you want to learn how to swim, and you spend your time lifting weights instead of getting your feet wet in the shallow end of a pool.
So to those who have never read a Japanese book, even if you’re level 30 or so, I highly, highly recommend Zenitendou. There seems to be 14 books in this series, so there’s plenty of content.
Side note, I’m reading it on kindle. I’ve found that for getting started reading Japanese, ebooks are much better than physical books because you can look up kanji really quickly.
TLDR: Get your feet wet and read this book! It’s great for beginners, even if you’re level 30 or so on WK. It’s kind of like a collection of Goosebumps-style short stories. It’s spooky, fantasy-like, fun, and easy to read.