What are you reading today?

Question. I notice most people in this thread seem to read novels quite a bit. How long y’all been studying? I’ve hit this weird plateau in the N4/low N3 area where I’m having a hard time. Sometimes I feel like I mess up basic things that I should know. It’s a tad discouraging at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll break out of it eventually.

To add to the actual thread though, after over a week of not reading I played an hour of 魔法コレ last night and started reading あしょんでよッ ~うちの犬ログ~ today for some gentle reading to get me back into it.


Hard to answer. I studied Japanese in school close to 15 years ago, then didn’t touch it again until ~5 years ago, and didn’t begin reading anything (books, manga, etc) until Jan 2020 as a resolution after getting a few pages into Harry Potter and being like “OK let’s try for real this time”.

So…years. With varying levels of actual study and ~3 years of focused reading.

Edit: I will say I had studied up through N3 grammar and was very comfortable with basic news stories when I made the switch.


I’ve “officially” been studying Japanese for something like…14, 15 years at this point? But I hate telling people that, because it’s a really misleading number. All of this was self-studying, done by someone who had never self-studied before that point, was not at all consistent with their studying, and would often go months without studying (normally due to school or the like). Reading books was always my end game, but I put off starting them for a looong time because I hated the feeling of “missing” something. I wasn’t using Wanikani or any other program; it started as me with the Genki 1 textbook and that was it. No forums, no internet, barely anything.

If I had to guess how long I’ve been actively studying… eh, these past three or four years have been fairly consistent for me. You could probably add on another year or two or three from all the time before that… So something around 5-6? Maybe? It’s all very hazy.

I’ve really only been actively reading light/novels for the past…year, almost year and a half now, honestly? A thanks to Natively’s stats page for helping me remember. XD I got to December of 2021 and was fed up with my own dallying, and I’ve been going strong ever since. I had been reading manga before that, but the two mediums are very different beasts, so I don’t count those.

No clue what JLPT level I was at when I started reading in earnest in December 2021. Maybe…N3 grammar-wise? I believe I had finished Bunpro’s N3 course at that point. Couldn’t begin to tell you vocab-wise; I was looking up a ton then, and still am now.


Started in Feb 2002, so a bit over 21 years, although quite a lot of that is not so much “study” and more just reading. First started reading manga in probably 2004-ish (when I was probably a low N3 kind of level), first books 2006-ish (N2-ish) but didn’t switch over from mostly-manga to mostly-books til 2009 or so.


I had been studying Japanese on and off for 15 years or so, but never went beyond the very basics (N5, possibly a tiny bit of N4?), because I would strive for perfection in my understanding and recall, and thought I couldn’t proceed before I had everything I had learned so far down perfectly. I took long breaks in those 15 years, then had to remind myself even of hiragana before revising everything and getting stuck again. Then I started Wanikani and joined a manga book club on a whim. It was very tough at first, but the grammar I learned in that book club, and the familiarity I gained with the language, I couldn’t even dream of in those 15 years of study. So what I’m saying is, sometimes it’s good to stop worrying about perfection, and just dive in. After that first manga I immediately started my first novel. Sure, most of the words I came across I had to look up, and several grammar patterns too. But I could do it. After that, I just never stopped reading. It’s been now about two years since that first book club, I believe, and I consider that the actual date I started learning Japanese in earnest.


I powered through the rest of the BC book 七回死んだ男 but please don’t ask me details. :see_no_evil: This should have been half the pages, imo.

I also finished ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる which I adored. Depressive Japanese literature and I get along splendidly. Easy 5 stars.

I immediately started listening to the sequel ちょっと今から人生かえてくる which was in a way much more light-hearted but also gave a good follow-up to some of the characters from the first book. Not quite 5 stars but still enjoyed it a lot.

Currently listening to 窓ぎわのトットちゃん which has started very interestingly. It’s a memoir afaik and it starts of with the author as a little girl not fitting into the way Japanese schools work and her mom finding a less conventional school for her. Very unusual for Japan, methinks.

And last but not least, I am still making my way through わたしの幸せな結婚 二 | L32 Though, I am not sure I mentioned this before. It’s a re-read because I can’t remember what happened :face_in_clouds: The language is a bit more difficult than the first volume, imo. :thinking:

Yeah! It was my favourite jp book last year. Always nice to see someone also enjoy a book.

I have been trying, too. But everytime I get something off my 積読 pile, something else seems to immediately take its place. :face_holding_back_tears: (I mean, me asking for recs on natively, is for sure, not helping. :rofl: ) and I already have a list of books I want to look out for while in Japan. But at least, I am limiting myself to 100 Yen books. If bookoff doesn’t have it, it’s not coming home with me. :melting_face:

I just need to get faster at reading… :face_holding_back_tears:


This is one of my favorites! There are a few chapters in particular that have really stuck with me. It’s crazy to think all the stories she’s telling really happened, especially given the time it takes place!
By the way, I know there’s an audiobook version released a few years ago narrated by the original author- is that the version you’re listening to? I picked that one up after reading the book, and I enjoyed her narration but remember thinking at the time that she talked very fast :sweat_smile:. Maybe the slow 本好き audiobook narration has just thrown off my judgement?


I started studying Japanese almost 6 years ago (i.e. started in July 2017). I tried starting to read after 6 months (I had just passed N5, and I tried to read Yotsuba) which was a catastrophy, of course, then I tried again one year later with Kiki (after having just passed N4) which I could only manage for 10 pages or so, but (after mastering a graded reader and two にゃんにゃん detectives books) I was ready to read my first “normal” novel, 時をかける少女 (after 2.5 years of studying) and I kept reading ever since. I often punch way above my weight and drop a book midway because of difficulty, but I will eventually get back to all of them :sweat_smile:


I forgot to answer this before, but there are a lot of things I’ll be looking out for! 放浪息子 1 | L27 has been on my radar for awhile now, so I’m hoping to find a full set somewhere for cheap. I also need to get some more volumes of 鋼の錬金術師 1 | L31 since I only have the first 4. I read さよなら絵梨 | L23 and 神様がうそをつく。 | L24 digitally, but both are really good so I’d like a physical copy too. Also by my calculations the third volume of 魔法少女事変 1 | L27 should be announced sometime soon, so you’d better believe I’ll grab that on day one if I can!

I realize as I’m writing this that those are all manga, and I actually don’t have many novels in mind to pick up. I’m sure I’ll grab the next volume(s) of 狼と香辛料 1 | L35, and probably find another of 宇佐見りん’s books because of how much I enjoyed 推し、燃ゆ | L37, but that’s about it… Oh, and I plan to look for some random secondhand books from classic authors like 乱歩 or 漱石 because that’s my idea of fun :blush:


Highly recommend! It was actually the first full manga series I read in Japanese and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of the mangaka in general, which is why I recently got a complete set of 青い花 (series) | L27 (though I haven’t started it yet) and have also read several volumes of おとなになっても 1 | L29.


There are a few 乱歩 works that haven’t made it onto Aozora yet! I think everything under 作業中の作品 here.

Also be careful about what copies you get as some will have modernized language which can ruin a bit of the fun (at least for me). 黄金仮面 | L38 for example changed every 相違ない into 違いない among other things (I know this because I listened to the audio book which was set to the original text :sweat_smile: )


Oh no! You’re right, that does make it significantly less fun. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out!


It’s the next one on my read pile! Once I am done with 化物語

And I’m having a similar problem, except I do not really like the banter either and I’m about half of the way through. Also, I do not know most of the references. I tried to look them up at first, but quickly stopped caring… :confused:
I guess that I’m just not part of the target demographic.

Oh, and those two form a coherent plot line too. I really enjoyed them.

Like other answers I am seeing, I started learning Japanese 15+ years ago (2004 was the first attempt but I only took it seriously around 2008). I only managed to read novels when I was near N1. Before that, reading books was such a slog that I would give up after a few pages. I know people who did power through things at the N4 level and, you know, more power to them. I just couldn’t do it. I remember the plateau you are talking about too. It was super demoralizing… I was good enough to enjoy manga at the time, though, and even though it didn’t feel like I was making much progress, progress still happened.
In hindsight, I’d say it’s not a plateau, just a very slow slope. Like grinding in an MMORPG.


I studied Japanese for about four-five years before I started reading manga. It wasn’t all continuous study, but I think I was fairly comfortably N3 before I tried manga. The first book I read was an idol’s memoir and it was so hard for me! I wasn’t prepared for the jump from manga to novels, but I persevered and the next book was much easier (although still pretty hard). By the time I read my third book things were getting a lot better, by that time I was starting to look at N2 materials.
I definitely remember the pain of the N3 plateau, when you’ve learnt a lot but books are still very difficult. Keep persevering with your kanji and vocab studies, and don’t worry about knowing every word on the page, I definitely still don’t and probably never will… But that’s ok! So many words become guessable from context and as you learn more kanji. You will look back and suddenly be amazed at your progress, the key is just to keep going.


Thank you for all the responses!
I’ve been learning less than 2 years and know that it’s a slow burn, so I’m not sure why I’m giving myself a hard time lately. :sweat_smile:
All I can do is my best to keep chugging along every day.


It’s definitely frustrating when you feel like you’re making no progress, or you look back at your years of studying and can’t figure out why this book for middle schoolers or whatever is so hard to read. Just keep at it, though! You’ll definitely get to the point where you’re wondering if it was a good idea to learn Japanese because of all the books you now no longer have time to read. :rofl: You’ll also be able to join in the “back in my day, I would study for six hours straight every day and counted myself lucky if I could read ドラえもん. Put in your time!” club whenever a new learner pops up.


I think so. The sound quality is not the best, but I got used to it quickly. And yes, the narrator talks at a normal talking speed which may seem fast, but I think professional narrators usually talk slower than normal. :thinking: I don’t have any issues following the story, though.

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Tbh I think I’m at around current level, I would say N4/N3 in terms of actually confident reading - certainly on LearnNatively I am bouncing somewhere between the 14-22 range in terms of ‘this is about appropriate for where I want to be’. So definitely don’t feel alone in looking at this thread and feeling completely lost/not at everybody else’s reading level.

Now, I have been ‘learning’ Japanese in some form or another for years and years, but would probably really say I started really learning seriously in 2014 when I moved to Japan on the JET program – prior to this I only really knew hirigana and katakana. I never really got fully conversational while I was there at that time but I did learn enough to pass N3 by the skin of my teeth in 2016, but realistically I wouldn’t say my level was actually there, it was just cramming.

Been grinding away ever since. When I went back over NY 2020/2021, my speaking had progressed to the point where I could confidently backpack around Japan by myself, but I still couldn’t actually read. It was only in the closing days of December 2022 that I decided I actually wanted to do something about it - there’s a 15-minutes-a-day challenge somewhere in this forum that I count as the main impetus.

Anyway, I still haven’t finished a children’s book I’m reading (こぐまのクーク物語 春と夏 | L19) , so honestly I’m a bit depressed since I still can’t really read prose so well yet. But I figure, hell, it’s been two months - and there’s so much manga to read still… (I have a massive box of manga I brought back from Japan for some reason that I bought and never read, so trying to work my way through that first, aside from the occasional digital purchase).

One thing I keep thinking about is what sort of the equivalent of what I’m reading is in English - I feel like I’m still at, like, just a little above kindergarden but I’d really like to be reading, I dunno, the Hardy Boys or Redwall or something. lol. Still a while to go before that…

/edit Oh, I did figure out something helpful for me with child characters – I understand them a lot better if I’m reading their dialogue aloud.


I think I now know what you mean. There are some scenes where I nearly cried. There is one where they start to introduce story time at lunch and one boy says that he has nothing to tell, but the teacher shows him that everyone has something to say and that just warmed my heart. :face_holding_back_tears:

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You’re not alone with that struggle. I was also reading this at one point and dropped it. :sweat_smile: