This is my first, but definitely won’t be my last post about books.
I have a disease.
I cannot walk into a bookstore without buying something. Or at the very least, without taking note of something to get next time.
This used to be easy for me when I lived in Kyoto. I had a Book Off (second hand store where you can get nearly everything at 105 yen – $1) right next to my dorm, so I could walk over anytime and get cheap literature.
I still have a bookstore close to me, but the closest Book Off is a train ride plus at least a 10 minute walk away. I currently have a list of books to look for the next time I go downtown to Tenjin where there is a HUGE Book Off.
I have a problem with books because I am constantly being enthrawled by premises, author bios, cover art, first lines, and whatnot. Things like this usually make me say, ”UH! I have to get this!!” and then when I do, I go home, put it on my shelf, look at all the books I already have and still haven’t read or finished, and feel guilty.
Actually, the Japanese have a word for buying books and leaving them on the shelf unfinished and I think it’s brilliant that there is actually a way to express that. The word is 積読（つんどく） and I flipped out the first time I heard about it.
Recently I went to the store and bought two novels in Japanese after reading reviews on what kinds of books are easy to read for Japanese learners. I have read a novel in Japanese all the way through before. I read Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. It was decent, but there was not very much of a plot and there were about three characters, but mostly it was the inner thoughts of a girl who was lost in the world. It was short, though, and I felt accomplished having read it.
But I like substance and good characters and interesting plots. So I started my hunt for good novels around my level. I do read some manga, but it’s almost not even worth calling reading manga practice for me anymore. In manga, it is almost always dialogue between friends, and this is good because it’s easy to read, so it is very accessible and I can grow close to characters and storylines are more fast paced. There is little work involved in reading manga.
Novels, on the other hand, take a lot of dedication for me to read them in Japanese. I can read a novel in English in a day no problem. I am by no means a fast reader, but once I become engaged in a plot or fall in love with a character, I HAVE to know what happens.
With Japanese books, I am usually the same way; I want to know what happens. However, constantly looking up kanji characters slows down the reading process, and difficult grammar usage or vague descriptions are difficult to get through. No pictures means I have no way to tell if what I’m picturing is in any way accurate, and if I put a book down for too long, I forget what I worked so hard to read up until that point.
That being said, I have to study Japanese. My goal is to pass the JLPT N1 next summer or next winter. I took the test last summer and only failed by about 15 points. But at that time, I had been living in Japan for an entire year, while every day working with my theatre club members who only speak Japanese. I had been taking classes for advanced learners as well as normal classes (for Japanese students). I have since been in America for a year, rarely studied or used Japanese, and now I am working as an English teacher, so I get to be lazy. I can now totally understand how people come here and let their Japanese level stay stagnant.
Here are the books I have recently bought and plan to read:
Sotsugyou – Higashino Keigo
The book is long, but everyone says he is pretty easy to understand. I read the first few pages, and I was really drawn in by the easy to understand style/dialogue, and the story is a mystery so I can’t get too bored. This is going to be my big project, but it will be a good challenge once I’m done with my other books.
Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo
This series is really good. I started out my watching the short drama, and it was pretty funny. I finally picked up the first book and finished it in no time, so I decided it was time to get the second one. Lots of comics, pictures, gags, and I learn a lot about Japanese while I am relating to all the experiences of the students in the book.
Hidamari no kanojo (Koshigaya Osamu)
This book has been made into a movie starring Matsumoto Jun, so naturally I am excited about seeing it. The trailer was really interesting and it looks like a good fast paced plot with interesting characters who all have secrets. Just by looking at the film poster, I wasn’t impressed, but I got excited about the plot. The reason I bought the book is because I went on Tsutaya’s website and it was listed as a top ranking best seller. The cover art is cute too. The tagline on most sites/reviews is, ‘The number onelove story every girl wants every guy to read!’ so it sounds good to me. Also, I read the first few pages and didn’t want to stop long enough to take the book to the register haha. It really starts off well; nice and fast. Immediate action. I don’t get that a lot from most Japanese novels. Murakami to me is somewhat vague and I think that’s why he appeals to some people; the mystery and the ‘I have a secret’ kind of attitude. But every time I read Murakami I leave feeling disappointed. I need action and something to keep me on the edge. That’s why I read a lot of fantasy and YA where the MC has a lot at stake.
Kagayaku Yoru (Hyakuta Naoki)
So this guy wrote another book that is being made into a movie that doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, this is a book of a few short stories, the theme being Christmas. I love reading Japanese short stories because they are usually still engaging, despite their length. There is plenty of dialogue so I can follow along easily, and apparently these are really touching stories. The book itself is not too long, and I think I have decided to wait to read these closer to winter break when I’m in the Christmas mood even though I have to work haha.
That’s all for my haul, but I plan on buying a book Otsuichi (one of my favorite authors) wrote that is also a book of short stories called Zoo. Gah. I need to stop buying books.
It will be good practice for me and I need to stop spending all my time on the computer.
Lately I finished the Matched series and really liked it. To the right, I have a Goodreads widget so check out books I’ve already read and leave comments with things I should read. I think next on my English to read list is The Book Thief, but lately I have been reading a lot of education nonfiction because I’m excited about grad school haha. I’m such a nerd.