What's the best textbook for self-study?


Pretty much what the title is - what’s the best textbook for self-study?

I’ve heard a lot about Genki but also that’s only really effective in classroom setting. I work Monday-Friday 9-5 so I’m studying on commutes and in the evenings. I’m also a big fan of physical textbooks but I don’t come across many recommendations of them apart from Genki which is pretty pricey to me!

I’d be grateful for any suggestions! I’ve started going through TextFugu but find it weirdly difficult to read lots of text online when I’m studying and just prefer having a book in my hand (but I will totally suck it up and study online if that’s best).



Depends on what exactly you’re studying. Since you mentioned Genki, I’ll assume grammar. In which case, I recommend “Japanese the Manga Way”.


I agree that it depends on what you are trying to study.

For grammar I use ‘Genki’ together with ‘A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar’.
For vocabulary I use ‘Quick Master of Basic Vocabulary’ (because although Wanikani provides vocabulary to help reinforce your kanji the pace for commonly used words isn’t fast enough to match words that come up in my readings outside of wanikani).

I did try (and do own) Japanese for Busy People but it didn’t really work for me when I first started wanikani. From level 10 onwards I felt that I could read through examples in genki much easier as I knew the vocabulary well enough to focus on the grammar points being taught. I will probably go back to JFBP after I finish Genki 1 and 2 as a top up to my learning.


Oops, totally forgot people over the internet couldn’t read my mind!

I’ve just mastering the kana at the moment, so whatever is a good thing to come next. I’m currently doing WK and listening to JapanesePod101’s ‘Newbie’ series where I’m learning short phrases but feel like I should be doing vocabulary, grammar and/or something else alongside it but just a little stumped as to what should come next.

I was just looking at ‘Japanese the Manga Way’! I think I’ll end up purchasing it sooner rather than later, thanks!

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I, personally, much prefer it over Genki. And I wish I had gotten it much sooner. I definitely agree with sooner rather than later. :+1:


I’ve not heard of either the other two you mentioned so I’ll check them out, thanks!

I’m just mastering the kana at the moment and I’m a loose end of what I should be studying next but grammar seems like a good way to go. I just mentioned above I’m listening to JapanesePod101 which I’m enjoying and getting a lot out of I think!

(p.s. I love your icon, YLIA is spectacular)

You can’t go wrong with JTMW. I has loads of very short grammar lessons, which is perfect for studying while commuting. It’s also not boring as hell like genki.


I concur. :ok_hand:

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Hello! I really “Japanese from zero” series. I have found it really good for self-study! for reading and writing it has what is a “progressive method”
to help you learn how to read characters slowly. Genki is a good textbook series.but there are alot of exersizes that require another person ( I didn’t use until I started taking Japanese classes)
It has long vocalburary lists, but the dialouge is very interesting!

I really hope this helps!:slight_smile: がんばってください。


I assume it doesn’t focus on classroom/work situations either? I was browsing through Genki and Minna no Nihongo and they seemed to be heavily aimed towards those. I don’t plan to study or work in Japan so I’m not super stoked about buying either of those.

I’m glad you asked this question actually @ughitssophie, I’m using TextFugu right now and really like the anki decks that it has, but yeah, I see why it’s not really recommended anymore, it’s a little technologically outdated (i.e. can’t fill in the worksheets on the computer at all). I’m trying out renshuu.org, and it does do that stuff pretty well, but it basically has no lessons, just quizzes. I’m king of trying to use them together, and it’s sort of working, though I feel like renshuu.org is designed for extra practice outside of textbooks (I see it has quizzes designed around Genki I). I also kind of prefer physical books, at least for learning (I don’t mind doing quizzing online).

Sorry I don’t really have any recommendations, though, but I think I’m in a similar boat as you!

I’ve heard that Japanese for Everyone is good for self-study. It’s also much cheaper than Genki. I only got it recently, so can’t really tell you much about the contents, but it might be worth looking into. Good luck with your studies!

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Genki, definitely. I’ve studied all the way to Chapter 6 with no issues.

If you’re self-studying (like I am), Genki has a self-study material section on their webpage, it has all sorts of resources to study stuff on your own. It’s kind of weird to understand the flow of the book, but once you understand it, it´s really good for practice. You don’t really need the workbook, it’s mostly used in classrooms with actual teachers.

Genki’s excercises might feel a bit daunting, but if you push through them you really learn the material. One downside is the amount of pair exercises there are. You can create an imaginary friend, or find someone who’s willing to study with you. Also, for some reason, a lot of people miss the practice sections Genki has in the end, they’re awesome.

TLDR: Genki is amazing but a bit slow. Really thorough. I recommend it.


No it doesn’t. For every grammar lesson there are one or more panels from from a manga to go along with it, which help illustrate the grammar point. In total there are about 25 mangas that are used so you end up with a lot of unique characters / worlds / artwork etc. Some are about animals, some about kids, some about the typical Japanese salaryman etc.

You also get a lot of exposure to colloquialisms, contractions, interjections etc, that don’t get as much attention in usual textbooks.

Here’s an example:


Thanks @Daru I’m bookmarking that self-study page!

Kind of surprised no one has mentioned the Genki Study Buddies thread here yet, for those who are studying with Genki on their own.

Japanese from zero books and video series are awesome

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I second Japanese for Everyone. I’ve never seen it mentioned on here before and I have no idea why. I’m pretty sure it covers most of Genki I and II in one volume, doesn’t needs any separate workbook and is far cheaper. It’s a little old and the audio is now hard to find, but there’s so much free listening available on the interwebs these days that’s not much of a drawback. It moves quite quickly but it is absolutely packed with material and - what makes it different from a lot of other books - has loads of practice exercises to do, making it great for self learners.


I think a long time ago it used to be a free website that I had barely started. When it became an actual text book and the free site closed down I wasn’t* kicking myself that I hadn’t used it more. (Might’ve been on Angelfire or Tripod, or Geocities… Way back in those days… Gut says Angelfire - if it was the same thing.) I’ve always really liked this idea, although now that I’ve got Genki, Genki is pretty good and works just fine (so far).

*EDIT: Did I mean to say “was”? I feel like that makes more sense, but I’m not sure anymore, as I wrote this post a while ago. I was way lax in my Japanese studies then, so “wasn’t” still makes sense, too… Hrmm… weird.


I bought it the other day! Should be coming next week, very excited now I’ve heard so much good stuff about it!

I keep seeing that series recommended to me on Amazon but I’ve never heard anything about it but I’ll check them out, thank you so much for your help!

I heard only good things about “A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar”. I’m gonna ask my Japanese friend to bring it for me when coming to my country, since it’s hard to buy it in some countries. But if you read some reviews… seems you don’t really need anything else than this book up to very high levels.