Ranking 2022 Reads by Difficulty

I thought it would be a good idea if we all ranked our 2022 Japanese reading by level of difficulty. I read 12 books in 2022 and here is my list where number 1 is the most difficult.

  1. 藤野 可織 : 爪と目
  2. 小林 泰三 : 玩具修理者
  3. 住野 よる : よるのばけもの
  4. 巧 豊田 : 駅に泊まろう!
  5. 原田 マハ : ハグとナガラ
  6. 加藤 千恵 : アンバランス
  7. きょうや 織守 : 花束は毒
  8. Kazumi Yumoto : 夏の庭
  9. Eto Mori : カラフル
  10. 今村 夏子 : むらさきのスカートの女
  11. 尾崎世界観 : 母影
  12. 史恵 近藤 : インフルエンス

I actually struggled ranking よるのばけもの because I hated that book so much that I couldn’t focus on it long enough to really care and I read the last 100 pages as a speed run so couldn’t really think about difficulty. But I hated our protagonist’s voice as he went back and forth with his thinking which made it “difficult”.

As a bonus, most of these books were for a book club I’m in with two friends and this is my friend’s ranking of the same books. She is at a lower reading level than I am so while my ranking is probably more objective to what others would consider difficult compared to what I consider difficult, her ranking is more what she considered difficult within her grammar and vocab capabilities.

  1. 爪と目
  2. アンバランス
  3. 玩具修理者
  4. ハグとナガラ
  5. 夜の化け物
  6. カラフル
  7. 駅に泊まろう
  8. 夏の庭
  9. インフルエンス
  10. 母影
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Is this ranking by Natively difficulty, or by your own personal feelings? Interesting idea.

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I see what you mean. Like @cat said in their review, he does sound like a middle schooler (and he literally is one). That didn’t bother me personally for this book, but they are many series with a high schooler male protagonist that will be unreadable for me because of that.

In terms of ranking the difficulty (including in terms of contents) of stuff I read this year, I guess the hardest was 村上海賊の娘 一 | L41. It had genuinely hard parts (written in old Japanese), but the pacing was pretty frustrating as well, with the author going on long historical tangents every other page, while he was on another historical tangent.

Another one is 人間失格 | L39. Genuinely hard in terms of Japanese, but also hard in terms of content. That one was a mood.

According to Natively, the hardest thing I read this year was 夜は短し歩けよ乙女 | L43 but I didn’t think so? I think people are overestimating the difficulty because a lot of the content is nonsensical (which learners tend to struggle with).

Other than those three, nothing really caught my attention this year (in terms of difficulty). Maybe レッドデータガール (series) | L34 due to the parts that are in traditional Japanese or the buddhist prayers? But they are just there to make the mood, one does not need to understand what they mean.

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I came to realize I can’t stand that author’s writing style and/or characterizations. One of their other popular books I quit a few chapters in because the MC grated on me so much. Figure I’ll spare myself (and book review readers) grief by just not picking up anymore of their titles :joy:

I read 18 or 19 books? And a bajillion short stories because I love them. It would take too long to rank them all, so like @Naphthalene I’ll just go for the edges.

Hardest reading for shorts was probably 愛と婚姻 | L41?? due to just the age of the writing, although the meaning was easy enough to grasp, or ラムネ氏のこと | L36?? where the writing wasn’t ‘technically’ as difficult, but it took discussion with a Japanese person and a reread to actually understand what was being said. Hardest novel would be 64 | L38 or 黄金仮面 | L38, for different reasons again. 64 is modern but with complex grammar, an intricate plot, and extensive vocabulary. 黄金仮面 is old Japanese with a wide vocabulary, but the plot is incredibly simple.

Easiest short stories were children’s stories I read for advent, so 赤い蝋燭 | L21 and the like. Easiest book was probably 変な家 | L27 or 殺人ライセンス | L27.

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I didn’t read that many books, but I’m still not going to rank them all.

For me, the easiest was by far 僕が愛したすべての君へ | L30. Occasional sci-fi mumbo jumbo, but otherwise pretty easy sentence structure, grammar, and vocab. The WaniKani Intermediate Book Club will begin reading it next month, in case anyone is interested in joining.

The hardest was 薬屋のひとりごと 1 | L37, though RDGレッドデータガール はじめてのお使い | L34 was also fairly difficult. Both of them used older language and grammar in places, which made them more difficult. The former is probably the hardest book I’ve read so far in Japanese, though I’ll be reading この本を盗む者は | L46?? with the WaniKani Advanced Book Club soon (currently rated level 46, though with uncertainty), so maybe that will change!

I’m ignoring series that I started before 2022.

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So of my 2022 reads, award for the hardest goes to, like seanblue, 薬屋のひとりごと 1 | L37 . A setting focused on faux ancient China that tended to go with more archaic and medical vocabulary. At least the grammar wasn’t too bad, I didn’t think. I was hoping to have read the second book last year as well, but I picked up and got about a chapter in and had to stop. :\ Good think I read the first with a book club, I guess; that’s probably what pulled me through.

My second-hardest novel, as well as my easiest series, goes to FLESH & BLOOD 1 | L33 . Book one was tough since, as a historical drama set in the 16th century with a bunch of mariners, it uses the kind of vocabulary you’d expect: highly specific sailing vocabulary plus lots and lots of historical references and explanation. I’ve been reading my way through the series, though, and familiarity with the subject material and keeping up with my vocab has made these books my go-to easy to read ones, haha. Helps that the plot’s consistenly fast-paced and interesting.

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You can use the home thread if you have any question (or just want to give live comments as you read through it). I really liked the end of volume 2, so it would be nice to see what others think :slight_smile:

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I’ll definitely have to keep that in mind, then. :thinking: I really like what I’ve read of the series, so I definitely want to continue; it would be nice to have someplace to post updates…

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The idea was to rank via mix of personal feelings and some objective reasoning. Having a list in a block, I thought, could help people for if you read one book on the list you could read the next book in difficulty so it acts as a nice stepping stone for increasing the difficulty level.

Also, it’s just a way to share your reading which is fun and it’s a chance to reflect on your own reading.

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I read the author’s また、同じ夢を見ていた which I didn’t hate (even though I tend to hate books about precocious children but this one just worked for me) which is why I thought to try another of their works and unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. I read three 青春 novels this year and よるのべけもの just grated on me hard.

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Going by Natively level, the hardest book I read last year was 月の影 影の海 (上) 十二国記 1 | L35, but it honestly didn’t feel all that hard to me. It felt more like 31 than 35 to me. Maybe it felt easier because I have already read a fair bit of stuff with a fantasy theme? At the very least, It feels easier than my current book, NHKにようこそ! | L33.

It’s kinda hard for me to say what was actually the hardest book I read, since I improved throughout the year. レミアの翼 | L30 felt like the final boss of reading back when I read it, but now it’s just average, I guess. As for the easiest, it was definitely ポレポレ日記 いざ、流星学園へ! | L21. Despite being my first book, it felt extremely easy. It wasn’t very interesting, but it almost feels like it was made just for learners, like a grading reader. None of the other kiddy stuff came anywhere close to being as simple as it was.

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The hardest I read was とかげ | L38?? (Lizard - Banana Yoshimoto). It’s full of reflective passages which makes it much harder than a standard narrative, and I re-read one of the stories in English only to find I had missed a key point! Interestingly the sentences and vocabulary weren’t particularly hard in themselves, but the content really pushed up the difficulty. Runner up for difficulty was 叙述トリック短編集 | L34 - again I think the author’s love of random digressions made it hard, and in this case some of the sentences and so on were more complicated. Easiest was 逆転力 ~ピンチを待て~ | L27 - Sashihara Rino’s reflections on becoming an idol. Since the reflections are usually contained in little stories or anecdotes, and her vocabulary and writing style are fairly simple, this was a generally straightforward read.

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The hardest books I read last year were, in order
#1 少年H(上)
#2 魔道祖師 (vol 1)
#3 彩雲国物語 (vol 1 and 2)
and after this it gets muddy

None of my 3 hardest have been read by anyone else on Natively yet. The books I have in common with other users top out at level 35, so I don’t have a point of reference to set an upper boundary on any of these 3 books.

少年 H was rough going because it’s set in Kobe during WWII, so there’s a lot of historical/political/military terms that come up, plus nearly everyone speaks in Kansai-ben, except for the chapter at the end in a different region where the dialect is even worse. 魔道祖師 is hard because it’s a fantasy book set in ancient China which is an actual Chinese book translated into Japanese, and it was full of not only a ton of new vocab, but also a massive pile of made-up fantasy words. 彩雲国物語 is a historical fantasy series with a ancient China setting, and it uses a lot of stiff grammar for a dryly humorous style.

(I also read また、同じ夢を見ていた and it felt like such a chore. I won’t read any more books by that author.)

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Let’s see how this goes!

From easiest to hardest:
人外教室の人嫌い教師 (series) | L27 1・2 - These are debut novels for the author, and the plot and language are very simple and direct. I never had any issue reading these.
体育館の殺人 | L30 - Read with the book club. I think what makes this easier is the slow pace of the investigation, meaning that they frequently repeat and rephrase events so it’s easy to get back on track if you miss something.
ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖 (series) | L31 2・3 - Working on the 4th one now, these are always fun and fairly easy to read.
キノの旅 1 | L30 - This was only harder than ビブリア for me because I wasn’t familiar with the premise.
神様の御用人 | L36 - This is rated highly on Natively, I guess for Shinto vocab, but it really wasn’t too bad imo.
狼と香辛料 2 | L35 - Even knowing the story and having read the previous book, this was a challenge at times.
人間失格 | L39 - As Naphthalene mentioned, this was hard to read partially just because of content. It’s dark, and I usually didn’t want to keep reading for more than about an hour at a time.
こころ | L39 - Easier than 坊っちゃん, my only other Soseki exposure, but still complex.
風立ちぬ | L42美しい村 | L40 (counting these as one because I have a bunko of them together) - If anything, 風立ちぬ was actually a bit easier than 美しい村 in my opinion, but that might just be because I read it second. These really do feel like two halves of a book and I’d recommend reading them together if you do.

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Man this was a really hard list to make! Especially since I think a lot of these are at very similar difficulties, and ranking them is just a matter of what you find most difficult (grammar/vocab/speech registers/etc.)

From hardest to easiest:

  1. ゼルダの伝説 神々のトライフォース | L25??
  2. 極主夫道 (series) | L25
  3. 耳をすませば | L20,
  4. シャドーハウス 1 | L22
  5. ふらいんぐうぃっち 1 | L19
  6. 夜カフェ 1 | L24
  7. ゆびさきと恋々 1 | L21
  8. しろくまカフェbis 1 | L21
  9. 少女終末旅行 (1) | L20
  10. チーズスイートホーム 1 | L15

神々のトライフォース was definitely the most difficult thing I read, mostly because it’s not a modern slice of life but is instead a medieval fantasy adventure. So many characters speak in a way I wasn’t familiar with, and I had to look up a ton of vocab and grammar. In fact I had to hold off from finishing it in order to study more grammar

極主夫道 is difficult, but it’s gotten a lot easier for me with each volume since I’ve gotten really to the writing style and vocab. When I grade it though (and in this ranking) I try to imagine it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read 10 volumes of it. The things that make it more difficult are the fact that it’s written entirely in 関西弁, there’s lots of casual speech and yakuza-specific vocab, and the topics of each chapter vary wildly so there’s a lot of new vocab each chapter.

From there it's quite a bit more complicated... a lot of these are similar difficulty imo: they're easy in most respects but have a couple specific things that make them more difficult

耳をすませば has easy vocab but lots of casual speech that makes it more difficult. シャドウハウス has a bit more difficult vocab due to the setting, but I still found to be easy to read since vocab is pretty repetitive and it has simple enough grammar.

ふらいんぐうぃっち and シロクマカフェ are technically easy reads, but I disliked them so much that I struggled to get through them. But they have lots of easy slice-of-life vocab and grammar.

夜カフェ was difficult purely because it’s the only one on this list that isn’t manga so I had to get used to that, but really it’s actually a very easy book imo.

tbh I don’t remember much about ゆびさきと恋々 other than I finished it quickly and thought it was easy.

The vocab in 少女終末旅行 is more difficult than most of these due to the setting, but it has simple grammar, and I had way more fun with it so it was easier to get through in that sense too.

And finally チーズスイートホーム is by far the easiest book I’ve read

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