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Below are the 16 most recent journal entries recorded in Extensive Reading in Japanese's LiveJournal:

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
10:12 pm
Title: ナミヤ雑貨店の奇跡 (なみやざっかてんのきせき)
Author:東野圭吾 (ひがしの けいご)
Reading level: Adult
My rating: 4 out of 5

I would put this in the magical-realism genre. It's realistic fiction but involves letters travelling through time. The Namiya general store (zakkaten) is run by an old man who answers the letters of people who write in asking for advice. He originally does this in response to a child's joke, when kids asked him things like "how can I get 100% on a test without studying or cheating?" he answers them seriously (I won't give away his answer to that particular question), but then he gets a reputation and people begin writing in with serious quandaries, like a boy whose parents are planning to run away in the night to escape debts they can't pay. The old man can't live forever but somehow the Namiya general store continues to operate as a place to get good advice. The novel is told via the stories of various advice-seekers and as the stories continue it turns out they are all connected in unexpected ways.

I told my Japanese coworker about this book and she told me she loves Higashino Keigo but hadn't heard of this book. I'm taking a break to read in English for a little while but want to check out his other books eventually.
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
8:31 pm
Title: いま生きているという冒険
Author: 石川直樹(いしかわなおき)
Reading level: middle school
My rating: 4 out of 5

This is a nonfiction/memoir of a guy who did a ton of outdoor adventures: the Pole to Pole, climbing Mt. Everest, learning traditional star navigation in Polynesia, flying air balloons... It's written for the middle school level and I found it pretty easy to understand despite some specialized vocabulary (for mountain climbing etc) because specialized vocabulary terms are often explained in a separated text box also with diagrams/illustrations, sort of like in a textbook. It is arranged into sections and chapters and each chapter is very digestible, around 5 pages or less. He tells not just about what it's like to train and prepare for these expeditions but also things that you wouldn't necessarily think about and that really stuck with him. It was very interesting. There are also lots of color photos from his adventures, each one with an explanatory caption. I was actually describing this book to my mom and she asked me who the author was because she wanted to read it too, but I don't think it's been translated into English.
Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
7:56 pm
Title: ブランコのむこうで
Author: 星新一(ほししんいち)
Reading level: elementary
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

I actually thought this was short stories when I picked it up, but it turned out to be a short novel. A young boy sees someone who looks exactly like him and ends up being tricked into entering the world of dreams. It turns out each person has their own dream world and this tells of the boy's journey from one person's dream world to the next. Like the other stuff of Shin'ichi's that I've read, the vocabulary and sentence structure are simple and easy to follow. The few times I was tempted to look up the meaning of words, they ended up meaning exactly what I suspected based on context clues.

Side note... a little sad this community has gone defunct. I'm trying to get back into reading Japanese, so I'll post this in case anyone is still watching.
Sunday, July 5th, 2009
7:05 pm
きまぐれロボット - easy short stories
Title: きまぐれロボット
Author: 星新一(ほししんいち)
Reading level: elementary
My rating: 4 out of 5

I loved this little collection of stories! This is far and away the easiest Japanese fiction I've ever read. There are kanji, but there were absolutely zero that I wasn't familiar with, and the vocab is fairly simple as well, with key words repeated often.

It's a bunch of (very) short stories about inventors and robots and space aliens and the like, but it's not what I think of as science-fiction. Each story is self-contained, easy to follow, and has a simple but fun twist at the end.

I highly recommend this book to anyone as their first foray into reading in Japanese, especially for anyone accustomed to reading manga with furigana who's uncertain about reading an actual book.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
5:27 pm
Title: 五体不満足(ごたいふまんぞく)
Author: 乙武洋匡(おとたけひろただ)
Reading level: ?middle school+
My rating: 2 out of 5

The title of this book comes from the phrase 五体満足, said of babies who have all four limbs and their head intact. 五体不満足 is the autobiography of Japanese celebrity Ototake Hirotada, who was born without arms or legs. I found this book on a list of recommended reads for Japanese middle schoolers, and it was also recommended by one of my Japanese teachers.

Some parts of the book were really interesting. It was fun to read about his experience in elementary school, and all the creative adaptations that allowed him to attend a mainstream school. I also enjoyed reading the vignette-like recounting of a few incidents of problems he ran into because of his disability.

However, most of the book was repetitive, excessively hyperbolic, and boring. Ninety percent of what he wrote was praise and thanksgiving for all these opportunities he had and people that he met, without much context and without any interesting description -- exactly the kind of stuff that would have gotten me a remonstration to "show, don't tell" if I turned it in to an English teacher. It read more like a thank-you speech or an essay for a scholarship application than an autobiography.

There were also quite a few parts where I wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to say, so maybe it reads better if your Japanese is more advanced than mine... this was harder than the previous two books I read, so I'm not sure I quite agree with whoever wrote that middle school books list.

I'm wondering if everyone else has forgotten about this community, or if you are just all too busy to read/post...
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
1:29 pm
Short Stories by Murakami Haruki
Title: 蛍・納屋を焼く・その他の短編 Hotaru・Naya wo Yaku・Sono Ta no Tanpen
Author: 村上春樹 Murakami Haruki
Reading level: High school
My rating: 4.5 for 納屋を焼く, 2 for 躍る小人

I read 蛍 a long time ago for a Japanese class (before I had ever heard of Murakami Haruki), and later I read it again when I picked up this book. It is actually the first part of ノルウェーの森, which I had read in English in the interim. That was a few years ago and I don't really remember it well enough to write a review.

However, I've had a few friends recommend 納屋を焼く and decided to finally actually read it. I loved it! A very well-written suspense story. I didn't have to look up any vocabulary, as it was all comparatively simple. Encouraged, I plowed onwards to 躍る小人, which was also a very simple read - I ended up having to look up only one word in the whole story. However, I was unpleasantly surprised by the ending of the story, which was pretty much just a disgusting cop-out of a conclusion. So I'm not sticking around for the other two stories in the book, at least not for a while.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I'm partway through a dense science-y book about vegetarianism (ベジタリアンの医学 by 蒲原聖可 Kamohara Seika), and I also feel like maybe I should temper the short fiction with newspaper articles, so I might wait a bit before I start a new book.

Thursday, March 19th, 2009
9:53 am
I finished a book!
Title: 世界史ミステリー事件の真相:歴史の闇に葬られた未解決事件を追う Sekaishi mystery jiken no shinsou: rekishi no yami ni houmurareta mikaiketsu jiken wo ou
Author: 瑞穂れい子 Mizuho Reiko
Reading level: Adult, but light-novel; non-jôyô kanji have furigana.
My rating: 3.5/5

The 世界史 in the title was a bit misleading, as there was only one story (about Egypt) that isn't about European or American history. However, the book still described a good variety of mysterious happenings. I really liked that each story was self-contained and only 4-6 pages long, because that made reading it with my short attention span pretty easy. For the most part, the stories were actually quite interesting and several of them were quite suspenseful. There was a lot of repetitive vocabulary and phrasing, so once I got a certain way into the book, it became easier and easier to understand. I wouldn't say it was particularly well-written, but I think it was a good choice for a "tadoku" book... and I even learned a few historical tidbits! :)

How is everyone else doing on their reading? 頑張ってくださいね!

Current Mood: accomplished
Sunday, January 11th, 2009
3:39 pm
akibare  posted to </a></b></a>japanese

I like military thrillers, for that I like (ふく)()晴敏, I liked 「亡国(ぼうこく)のイージス」a lot. He tends to have similar conspiracies in his books, but that was a nice example.

I also like mysteries, with detective work involved as well as the crime, so I like quite a few of (きゅう)部みゆき books, among them 「火車(かしゃ)」and 「模倣(もほう)(はん)」(quite liked the last one, it's 800+ pages though). She writes books set in the modern day AND books set in 江戸時代(えどじだい), you maybe want to start with the modern-day ones.

I like 東野圭吾, particularly I enjoyed 「白夜(びゃくや)行」.

Collections of short stories are also good, I like the collections of police mysteries by (よこ)山秀夫。

I very much love the surreal, for that I really enjoy 三崎亜記, he wrote 「となり(まち)戦争(せんそう)」、 「失われた町」 (didn't like that one as much, it starts good but gets bogged down in the middle), and a collection of stories 「バスジャック」which had some good ones. The stories are set in an unnamed world that's Japan, but some other Japan where something is just "off," like SF but just a bit off. It's modern day but in a different era name, there's odd bureaucracy people expect, etc.

I like to go to Amazon and just see what won the literary awards for the year, too. Lately I enjoyed the story collection 「(ふう)(まい)いあがるビニールシート」by (もり)()都.

Oh and I can't forget a GREAT disaster novel that's gotten tons of press too, 「死都日本」by (こく)(くろ)耀. Basically a giant volcano underneath Kyushu erupts and destroys everything, but it's FULL of science details (got a great following among volcano scholars) AND manages to be a minute-by-minute thriller with lots of narrow escapes and death and lots of descriptions about what it would be like.

Anyway... off the top of my head. I can check the bookshelves when I go home...

p.s. i got permission to repost this on akibare's behalf.

Current Mood: blank
Saturday, January 10th, 2009
9:59 am
Jiko Shoukai
To introduce mysef, belatedly:

My name is Emily, and I've been studying Japanese for at least ten years. (I'm starting to lose count.) I passed JLPT 1 last year, and also moved to New York, where at last I can find Japanese books! In the past few years I've had a hard time with Japanese because I'll give myself a hard time over not reading enough, or not reading enough "real literature," so I buy some books - but I have a hard time with them, so I don't read them, and I give myself a hard time for not reading them. So my goal for this year is to stick with children's books and light novels for a little while until I get back into the habit.

In my real life I'm a librarian and writer, and I really, really like Bump of Chicken and Shiina Ringo. My favorite Japanese writer is Murakami Haruki.
9:34 am
獣の奏者1 上橋菜穂子
Title: 獣の奏者1 (Kemono no Souja 1)
The Beast Player
Author: 上橋菜穂子 Uehashi Nahoko
Reading level: Upper elementary. All kanji have furigana, but Uehashi uses a pretty rich vocabulary.
My rating: 4/5.

Speaking of anime adaptations, the first episode of this one airs tonight on NHK.

Erin lives alone with her mother Soyon; they are slightly outcast from the village where they live because Soyon comes from the tribe of Allyo, a nomadic people charged with preventing the reoccurrence of a terrible tragedy that happened some time long ago. Soyon had married out of her tribe, but is now widowed, and she has a job caring for the "Touda," battle serpents who "cannot and must not be tamed," but are tamed nonetheless by a soundless flute.

When all the "fangs" (the front-line troops) among the battle serpents suddenly die, Soyon is suspected of their murder and sentenced to death.

I liked this very much. The emotional tone reminds me of some of Miyazaki's fantasies, especially Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi -- a preteen girl, separated from her parents and trying to make her own way in the world, but with a sense of security provided by caring guardians. There's also a deep concern with the environment, and the relationship between people and animals, that reminds me of Miyazaki. Uehashi creates a very deep and real and interesting fantasy world. The only quibble I have is that the beekeeping sections seem to go on for very long. This was originally published as a hardcover in two volumes, and it's being reissued in paperback now with more volumes, so I imagine that affects the pacing.

By the way, Uehashi Nahoko is also the author of the "Moribito" series, which is being published in English.
1:14 pm
冷静と情熱のあいだ review!
冷静と情熱のあいだ(rosso) by 江國香織

It took me a long time to get into this book properly (the first few chapters are about how perfect the main character's boyfriend/life is, and I just found it very... boring? Who wants perfection?!), but once I did, I found it difficult to put it down. So I would say that if you're going to try it, you need to have a bit of persistence for the first bit!
I've now started reading the accompanying book, 冷静と情熱のあいだ(blu), which seems to be much more interesting from the start, so maybe if you want to read both of them then you should start with that one! I'm not sure which one you're supposed to start with, to be honest.

I also realised once I had finished it that I've already read another book by the same author,
きらきらひかる, which I also found weirdly addictive towards the end.

They're both a bit idealistic and definitely not written for men, I don't think, but not difficult to read, so I would reccommend them!
12:53 am
Anime as crutch?
The reason I started reading novels and the way I become aware of a novel series is usually because I watched the anime and want to read the 原作. Thus, I go in with some general knowledge of the plot and characters.

Lately, I've been wondering if that is a crutch in that it provides additional context without which I wouldn't understand what's going on in the books. [Under the 多読 philosophy, it could be a good thing, I suppose, since it allows me to read at a slightly higher level than I otherwise would be capable of.] Of course, a lot of times the 原作 is very different from the adaptation -- which why I want to read it in the first place -- but a lot of times the broad brushstrokes of the plot are similar enough that I am never completely lost.

So... do you think this kind of crutch is a good thing? Do you feel less intimidated by a novel when you've already been exposed to it in a different format? (Or does already knowing the plot twists make it too boring a read?) Do you think such a practice encumbers one's ability to read completely new works in the long run?

The reason I've been thinking about this is that I just finished reading 銀盤カレイドスコープ vol. 6 (after I read 1 and 2 and skipped 3-5), and it was the first novel I had read whose plot was completely untethered to something I have previously watched as anime. And it was harder to figure out what was going on, but that might also be because the book is written as short episodes from the childhoods of two protagonists, alternating, and not in chronological order as far as I could tell. 9_9 I'm on on to the next volume now, which is written with more straightforward organization, but it's still too early to say whether I'm missing my crutch.
Sunday, January 4th, 2009
1:03 am
冷静と情熱のあいだ and 砂の女

At the moment I am reading 2 books, so I will introduce them both!

冷静と情熱のあいだ (rosso) by 江國香織

It's actually just one part of two books which were written about the same story, one from the boy's point of view and one from the girl's. This is the version written from the girl's perspective. I have had this book for a couple of years now, it was a present from one of my friends and to be honest, initially I didn't have that much interest in it, but it's quite easy to read, so is perfect for this kind of reading! I will review it or whatever when I have finished reading it!

I am also reading:

砂の女 by 安部 公房

This is a much more difficult book, and although I find the story really interesting, I have found that it is difficult to read without wanting to look words up in a dictionary, because the story is so interesting that I want to make sure that I understand everything! I would say that if you want to read it without a dictionary you should have a high level of Japanese. Unless you don't mind if you're not really following the story. Again, review to follow when I have finished! (I tend to read more than one thing a lot of the time, it means there's less chance you'll get bored!)

自己紹介 (because everyone else seems to have done one?)

I studied Japanese for 4 years at university, including a year abroad "studying" at 中央大学. I graduated last July and so have been learning Japanese for 4 and 1/2 years now. I would class myself as conversationally fluent, but my Japanese is far from perfect. Hopefully the fact that I should be moving to Japan in March will remedy this!

The 多読 thing is something which I have been doing for a while, although without knowing that it had a name or anything. I am not too strict on myself with the dictionary rule. I do read a lot without a dictionary, but then I will have times when every word I don't understand gets looked up. I'm not studying otherwise in any meaningful way at the moment, so if I don't do this then my vocabulary (which is definitely my weakest point!) will never incrase! I don't think there's anything wrong with looking stuff up, I do it sometimes when I am reading in English!

I was also thinking that this idea could just as easily be applied to watching any kind of Japanese media, whether it be films, tv dramas, anime, whatever. I have been doing that for over a year now, and I really noticed the difference in my understanding and my ability to produce Japanese when I went to Japan in September - I was able to tell my first original intelligent joke in Japanese! Before this point everyone had just moaned and complained that it was the kind of joke that a 7 year old would make, hehe.
Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
11:21 am
This is what I'm currently reading:
Title: 世界史ミステリー事件お真実:歴史の闇に葬られた未解決事件を追う
Author: 瑞穂れい子
Just what the title says -- mystery stories coming from world history. There are 5 chapters with different themes (assassination, people disappearing, etc.) with about 10 stories in each chapter. The stories are self-contained and no more than 3-5 pages long, which makes it easy to read a whole story in one sitting.

I'll add a little bit of introduction, too. :) My name is Maggie, I'm 23, and I've studied Japanese for about 10 years, 7 of those in the classroom. I took JLPT1kyuu last month so I'm around that level.

Also wanted to let you guys know about this site:

It is the Gutenberg project of Japanese literature. There you can find a ton of reading material and read it straight from the web. I recommend 宮沢賢治, particularly 注文の多い料理店.

Happy reading!
Thursday, January 1st, 2009
7:40 pm
Saiunkoku Monogatari, vol. 1
Title: はじまりの風は紅く (彩雲国物語 1)
Hajimari no Kaze ha Kurenaku (Saiunkoku Monogatari vol. 1)
The Wind of the Beginning is Scarlet (Tale of the Country of Many-Colored Clouds, vol. 1)

Author: 雪乃 紗衣 / YUKINO Sai

Reading level: Middle school; furigana included on more difficult words; a bit of specialized vocabulary including government and court terms, but this is not written for a particularly educated audience.

My rating: 3/5

Saiunkoku Monogatari has been adapted into a manga series and an anime series. It's a fantasy series set in an imaginary version of ancient China. Shuurei comes from a noble family that has fallen into poverty, in part because of her father taking a library job with a low salary. Shuurei agrees to take a position as the young emperor's consort to teach him to be a better ruler, and becomes involved with intrigue around the imperial palace.

It's an entertaining novel, but I found the writing kind of weak. (The characters are always knitting their eyebrows!) The author sometimes resorts to cheap tricks to build suspense. But the characters are interesting and likeable, and I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
9:45 am
What is tadoku?
Tadoku -- that's 多読 in Japanese -- means, quite simply, 'reading a lot.' It means, first and foremost, that you read at a level where you CAN read a lot. If you have to spend a lot of time looking up words, then you might just get through five pages a day. But if you're willing to skip over the words you don't know, and read at a fairly easy level, then maybe you can read 25 or 30 pages in a day.

The advantages of this are:
1) It's really painful to read at a slow pace. You work for an hour or two, and the story hasn't gotten anywhere yet, so it's boring.
2) Especially with idiomatic expressions and words that don't have an exact English equivalent, you'll understand the word better if you glance at it eight or nine times in different contexts than if you see it once and look it up and put it on a flash card.
3) You gain reading speed. Don't underestimate how valuable it is to be able to read hiragana and katakana quickly and fluently!
4) If you're reading something you like, something interesting and not too hard, just simply as 'reading' and not as 'language study,' it's more fun and easier to motivate yourself.
5) Research points to the effectiveness of tadoku. Will post more on this later.

The principles of tadoku are:
1) 辞書は引かない (引かなくてもわかる本を読む)
2) 分からないところは飛ばして前へ進む (わかっているところをつなげて読む)
3) つまらなくなったら止める (1 2 の原則で楽しく読めない本は読まない)

1) Don't look words up in a dictionary - read a book that you can read without looking words up. This doesn't mean you already know ALL the words, but you know enough that you can guess or skip over the rest.
2) Skip over what you don't know and continue forward. Read by putting together the parts that you DO understand.
3) If you get bored, stop. If you can't enjoy a book and follow principles 1 and 2, just don't read it.  
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