I’m curious about everyone’s opinion, do you prefer short stories or novels, and is that different in Japanese compared to your native language?
For me, I don’t personally enjoy short stories so much in English, but I enjoy them more when I’m reading Japanese since you get the sense of achievement from finishing a short story quicker than from reading a novel! I personally find that motivating, I don’t like it when a book takes me a long time to read as it starts to feel like a drag. However I am improving my speed so that is getting to be less of an issue.
My favourite ‘short story’ format I have read in Japanese is Nazotoki ha Dinner no ato de where it is a collection of mystery short stories with a unity of main characters and some threads connecting them chronologically. However I will always naturally gravitate towards novels as that is my usual preference when reading generally!
In my native language, I prefer reading novel series though there are a few individual novels I like too. Short stories I prefer to read in themed compilations in my native language but don’t enjoy them as much unless it’s like side stories to a universe in a series I enjoy. I think I just like the steady progressing of characters and plot in novel series than individual books or short stories.
In Japanese, I’ve found that I prefer reading novellas, or short stories that are connected or at least by the same author so I get used to the writing style but so far I’ve stuck to graded short stories with explanations of grammar for some of the more complex stuff as getting used to the writing style and getting used to the characters takes time for me.
The really short short stories or the short graded readers I didn’t like the fiction stuff because by the time I was getting used to the style or characters, it was done. Though I did like the non fiction stuff I read from the graded readers. I also prefer descriptive texts than conversational text so books are more interesting for me than manga though I do have a couple of Manga to read.
I’m trying to get to a stage I can read novels in Japanese but it’s slow going for me because my grammar is still approx N4 level so I need to study more before I can switch to native level books. Though I do have quite a few for once I’m ready.
Interesting! I think our tastes are quite similar, I much prefer the steady progression of characters and plot in a novel, it’s unusual for me to really like short stories. In the case of Nazotoki, the stories are all linked and progress the universe which I think helped. Getting past that N4 hump and launching into my first novel was a big moment for me as I found graded readers a mixed bag and wasn’t always fond of their selections. I still don’t have the confidence to tackle my favourite Japanese authors since they were all writing late 19th/early 20th century and tend to be very literary - maybe I will have to start with their short stories and work my way up again
I prefer novels for everything except horror. Horror works best in short formats, I think. And fairy tales too, I suppose — they’re technically short stories.
I don’t know enough about the Japanese publishing industry to say for sure, but it looks like short stories and novellas are significantly more popular in Japan than in America. It’s an interesting difference between the two markets.
You’re certainly right on novellas - when it comes to translated Japanese books, they’re often quite slim compared to the usual books on sale in the UK. Personally I find this frustrating, as I’ll finish them too fast and be left wanting more! But it’s certainly better when I read them in the original and it doesn’t take me forever to finish
I tend to read short stories when I’m procrastinating or when I get in a mood of wanting something short and sweet. I at one point sent @brandon a CSV of ~100 Aozora short stories to add to Natively as they were on a list I was/am idly working my way through. I also enjoy short story collections, with a mild preference for disconnected short stories as it’s exciting to start each chapter not having any clue what I’m getting into.
I love novels and read plenty. I don’t think there’s really any difference in my reading tastes here from Japanese to English. I also enjoy short stories in English and find well written ones to be quite satisfying. I also read a ton of novels in English, or did before switching to mostly Japanese reading.
The main difference between English and Japanese reading tastes for me is that in English I absolutely adore historical nonfiction (think Devil in the White City) and I haven’t yet finished a book like that in Japanese. I started one but the writing is OOF. I also haven’t seen many others while browsing, I’m not sure if the genre is popular in Japan like it is in the West.
This is slightly off topic:
But, if you don’t mind me asking: With the authors you want to read, what is it that’s stopping you from tackling one of their books?
Purely asking from a curiosity point of view as for myself, what’s stopping me is vocabulary level and grammar understandings. Graded readers have been fine level wise but I’m just not quite at the stage I can attempt to tackle something unguided yet
Well, I enjoyed reading Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, Tanizaki Junichiro and so on in translation, but the trouble is they all use antiquated and often complex literary Japanese! Speaking to native Japanese speakers, they have all told me that Mishima is very difficult for them to read because of his vocabulary and love of difficult kanji! Kawabata is also quite ambiguous and dreamy to read in Japanese, I have only read a short version of Snow Country in Japanese with the help of a graded reader.
Wow interesting, yes I wouldn’t be brave enough to tackle historical nonfiction in Japanese! That being said, now I think about it I tend to only read the news or a very occasional simple autobiography when it comes to non-fiction in Japanese. I’m not usually into non-fiction in English, and somehow it seems intimidating to tackle it in Japanese that’s a challenge for me to face down some time!
That makes sense.
I know this reader exposes you to more difficult kanji and some antiquated level words and grammar in the later lessons. Not sure if it might help you get to the point you need to read the authors you want to though.
It starts really easy then progresses quite quickly towards the higher difficulties. I’ve only read as far as 22nd lesson (still elementary level stuff) but it has around 75 lessons iirc. It does have a mix of fiction and non fiction stuff including parts of essays and covers some of both pre war and post war kanji.
I hope at some stage you get to tackle the authors you like most and hope they stand up to your expectations. It’s great finding an author you enjoy the writing style of and the stories they tell.
Thank you so much for the recommendation, I will check it out!
You’re welcome, good luck with your reading journey
Interesting question. In my native language I prefer novels, same as in English. With Japanese I like to read short stories that are somewhat connected like 世にも奇妙な商品カタログ or ふしぎ駄菓子屋 銭天堂. It’s more rewarding actually finishing a story after 20 pages or so. Plus, if you don’t understand one, you can still be good on the next one. Otherwise I don’t like short stories so much. Without an over arc I found myself just skipping trough some stories without even bothering about them. Maybe I just picked the wrong collection of short stories though.
I like interconnected short stories best too! Or themed short stories can also be good, but I find it hard to find short stories that feel satisfying and ‘complete’ in themselves.
I just bought it - apparently it actually has excerpts from Mishima and Kawabata, so this is perfect! Thank you again for the recommendation!
I think we have similar tastes. I’m not a fan of short stories in English but actually enjoyed the short stories I’ve read in Japanese. Like you said, it gives a sense of achievement.
But I’ll also gravitate to novels, and really prefer one-off novels rather than ones in a series or light novels.
I think because of that I prefer mystery in Japanese and fantasy in English.
Now that I think about it it’s interesting how different genre in different cultures have different norms for story telling.
That’s interesting, yes we are similar! I think mystery is a great genre for second languages because you want to know what happened, so it’s always urging you to keep going to the end! I enjoy fantasy in English but I think it might be tricky in Japanese, I need to give it a go sometime.
Personally I strongly prefer novels over short stories. With short stories I tend to get bored / not care what happens. There’s just not enough time to get connected to the characters or the story, so it starts and then it’s done and then I’m like “that’s it?”. I don’t even enjoy episodic novels since they sort of act like a set of (barely) related short stories. For example, キノの旅 didn’t work for me. The one exception so far in Japanese was 魔法少女育成計画 volume 4, which was a collection of short stories. But they were short stories about characters from the first three volumes, meaning I’d already connected to the characters, and so I was able to enjoy most of the stories. (Though even then it still sapped my motivation to read since each story was unrelated to the previous one.)
I do like novellas, though I haven’t read many. In English, The Emperor’s Soul is one of my favorite books of all time, and it’s a (somewhat long) novella at around 30k words / 100 pages. I also enjoyed コンビニ人間 a lot, which is technically a novel, but is really short, bordering on novella length. But in general, I prefer 200-400 page novels in Japanese, and 400+ page novels in English. I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, who tends to write long in general and has an epic fantasy series where every book is 1000+ pages. I totally love that in English, but that length is a bit intimidating in Japanese. For example, I really want to read 新世界より at some point, but at 1000-1500 pages (depending on the version you look at) it’s a bit much for my current level and reading pace.
I think 獣の奏者 is a good young adult fantasy series if you want to break into the genre. It’s broken into two pairs of books, so books 1 and 2 should be read together, and books 3 and 4 should be read together (I’ve only read the first two). Or if you want a book (by the same author) that targets an even younger audience and which is a standalone, you could try 狐笛のかなた. The fact that its for a younger audience shows in that the narrative is relatively simple and that there’s less kanji usage than a typical novel, but I do think it’s a bit easier than 獣の奏者.
You’re welcome glad I could help