Simple novel recommendations

Does anyone have recommendations for entertaining/engaging novels with simple language?

Not Japanese but I’m thinking the same kind of writing as the Korean web novel omniscient reader’s viewpoint. ORV has an extremely strong plot and characters and the kind of language that makes it possible to read by looking up vocabulary and taking some stabs in the dark.

For an idea of what I mean, here’s an English translation of the beginning:

「There are three ways to survive in a ruined world. I have forgotten some of them now. However, one thing is certain: you who are currently reading these words will survive.

–Three Ways to Survive in a Ruined World [Complete]」

A web novel platform filled the screen of my old smartphone. I scrolled down and then up again. How many times had I done this?

“Really? This is the end?”

I looked again, and the ‘complete’ was unmistakable. The story was over.

As for what I personally find engaging, I’ll read most things, just as long as there’s some emotion going into it I don’t mind if it’s very trashy. I like action, I like romance, I like fantasy, I like drama, crime, sci-fi, etc etc etc. Big bonus points for LGBT+ content.

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I know you’re listed as level 4 on here, but these recommendations are assuming you either already are comfortable with kanji with no furigana, or don’t mind looking things up a lot.

Trashy, supernatural, drama: 夜警 | L31
赤川次郎 is the easiest reading author I can think of who will check most of your boxes, although nothing LGBT comes to mind.
An easier book by him: パパの愛した悪女 | L26

すべての神様の十月 | L27 is fantasy, pretty approachable language. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s definitely got emotion.

心霊探偵八雲 1 赤い瞳は知っている | L30 is another easier, fast-paced read aimed at maybe high schoolish age. Supernatural elements (main character can see ghosts)

https://learnnatively.com/book/8717a21964/ is fantasy, teeming with emotion.

https://learnnatively.com/book/e85b4bd246/ light fantasy, mostly human drama. Writing is a bit ‘meh’ though.

https://learnnatively.com/book/1030c11685/ another light fantasy human drama book.

I have no reccs for web novels but I am aware https://syosetu.com/ is a thing and many light novels start out there.

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Thank you! This looks like a great list to start with. I know I’ll be looking things up a whole lot and it will be very slow going but I’m okay with reading half a page or so in an hour or an even slower pace.

At the moment I’m reading a manga that I’m having to look up 90% of words in, too, so I know what I’m in for.

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If you don’t have one already, I recommend getting an Amazon Japan account. You can download free samples of novels (some of them are parts of chapter 1 or the entire 1st chapter). You can either read it on Kindle Cloud Reader in your browser, there’s a desktop app, or if they are set to Japanese your smartphone or Fire tablet.

Some novels are harder than others, but there are some easier ones (ex: novels about Hatsune Miku’s most popular songs like “Love Trial”) have a lot more furigana because they’re aimed at a younger audience. There are also novels with even easier language than that aimed at middle school/elementary students (if you go to the Kindle Books section on Amazon Japan, they divide the books by genre and there’s one called “Children’s eBooks” but it’s stuff around Harry Potter level).

Personally, I’ve been trying to get into reading Japanese novels and am finally having success after months of struggling (I’m JLPT N2 level but kept dropping books after less than 10% to start reading something else). I thought it would take me the whole year to finish reading a single book from start to finish and I felt horrible/stupid, but knew I couldn’t give up. This January, I finally managed to complete 66% of a novel in about one week, it’s like I got possessed by the gods of reading and am so incredibly happy.

Starting to read in Japanese is going to be really hard in the beginning. The book I got 66% done with is a slow burn omegaverse story about a flower shop owner dating an actor called “Mr.α” by 夕映月子 (don’t judge me lol). I didn’t know anything about flowers, running a flower shop, or acting lingo. After the initial hurdle of getting used to the writer’s word choices, reading got easier. I had to re-read sentences a lot for it to not feel like jibberish. Because it’s on Kindle you can highlight words you don’t know (I use blue for names since they only show the furigana the 1st time, yellow for words I mostly know/don’t have trouble with, orange is for completely new vocab, red is for words that the Kindle pop-up dictionary couldn’t figure out so I have to Google it later).

Try to come up with mnemonics while reading and don’t waste too much time looking up stuff on the first read, just trust the pop-up dictionary for now. There are a lot of YouTube videos giving advice about “reading in a foreign language” that will probably be helpful to check out (even if half of them are by somewhat shady polyglots, their advice actually got me over my hurdle even though I initially refused to believe their tips).

Lastly, (I’m so sorry for my text wall) picking books to read in Japanese is hard in the beginning. I found 小説家になろう to be too hard to navigate. Being a language learner also means you can’t easily skim and tell if the story’s plot or writing style is cruddy or not until you start trudging through it. Consider reading translations of books you already like (ex: The Silence of the Lambs in Japanese is 羊たちの沈黙) or finding novels that also have a manga/anime/TV show/game to pair it with (that increases the fun factor for me at least).

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Wall of text is appreciated!

And lol, no judgement from me, I read some serious garbage in English.

I’m not in the US (or Japan) so Amazon is an absolute nightmare because of region locking nonsense (yes, more than just needing to make a jp account), I use bookwalker a lot though and plan to take advantage of its long previews, and it has highlight and lookup features too.

I definitely know that I’m in for a struggle, but I’m going in with a “more than nothing is good” approach. I don’t think reading something I already know would work too well for me, I have an extremely logical memory so I think I’d get frustrated that I couldn’t read faster. I know that’s what happened when I tried to read manga in Japanese that I had already read in English.

And it has coins! :money_mouth_face:

Nah, seriously, over the time people read a wealth of books in the forums, and some of them are on the easier side actually. Some of the books are grouped into overarching book clubs, like the Beginner Book Club, but others are formed spontaneously by a group of interested people. You can get a good overview in the Master List of Book Clubs where the books are roughly labeled with a category.

The advantage of such a club is that usually there is a vocab sheet (at least for Beginner and often also for Intermediate) and people have already discussed the contents, asked questions and the like. And you can usually still ask questions there, as people often watch the threads even years after they finished the book.

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There’s also this (now closed) thread: Comparison of Book Club Picks
Lots of manga in there, but also some novels.
And also definitely check out learnnatively.com for books ranked by difficulty level by readers!
There’s also jpdb.io which has statistics on lots of novels/light novels on word count, average sentence length, number of kanji used, vocab count etc.

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the coins are excellent. I have spent a perhaps embarassing amount on the global store some months when there are good promotions.

Ooh having just said I’m not interested in reading things I’ve already read in English I see on the master list there’s bloom into you which is one of my absolute favourite manga ever. Going to keep an eye out for coin boost/sale on that and then read through with the book club thread to help for sure. Thank you! I’ll have to go through more carefully at some point.

And I see that there are actually some novels/short stories in the very beginner’s club which I’ll have to check out, too, though I suspect they might bore me because they seem to be (understandably) aimed at small children.

At the moment I’m reading (extremely slowly) Mr. マロウブルー which I love and is absolutely worth the effort, but also has quite simple language and furigana so though slow going it isn’t insurmountable, and I’m looking for the same kind of thing (text-wise, not necessarily content-wise) but a novel.

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Thank you! These will help a bunch.

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There’s also a set of 3 light novels about one of the side characters – Natively rates them at L29.

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As someone who has read those 3, definitely wouldn’t recommend them for a beginner. It doesn’t use hard language necessarily, but the main character just had a sort of quirky intellectual thinking pattern that I remember being more of a pain to read compared to other lns of a similar genre.

The Manga was probably one of the easiest things I’ve ever read though, so that does have my recommendation

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Really good to know, thank you! This kind of info is exactly why I wanted to ask people for input.

Disclaimer is that “one of the easiest things I’ve read” doesn’t mean it will be easy for you necessarily. In fact I would expect to struggle a lot if I were you! But struggle doesn’t mean painful and just keep in mind that that struggle is whats going to make you better at reading the next volume.

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Oh for sure. I know that no matter what it’s going to be a lot of looking up words and slow going, but I don’t mind being slow just as long as I’m still making progress. I think “easy” in this context is more about there not being things to easily misinterpret.

I ask a friend of mine (who is very kind and fluent) a lot of questions when reading the other manga I’m reading and a lot of my questions are things like “the way this is phrased in English would imply they’re lying, but that’s not a thing in Japanese, right?”

Harry Potter is pretty good. Kanji have furigana, but only when you first see them, and then again after they popped up a certain amount of times. The books are also easy to understand, like their English versions, and you probably already have an idea what they’re about.

Not going to be touching HP ever again because of the whole deal with jkr, and I’d prefer to read something originally written in Japanese rather than something translated from english. But thank you for the suggestion!

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コンビニ人間 uses extremely simple language and any oddball vocabulary, even fairly common gets furigana so I can definitely vouch for that. It’s among the easiest novels I started reading and way easier than some light novels for younger teens.

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Thanks – I’m only about 30 pages in to volume 1 so far, so was relying on the natively level being plausible.

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From the summary alone it seems like exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to writing style, thank you!

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