dokushometer says I read 180-something books read which means that I’ve read at least 200 books in Japanese since I don’t register every single book I read on that site. So in commemoration of me putatively having completed my 200th book recently (not counting manga and if I did, I would’ve reached 200 a long time ago), I will write about them in english. I have NEVER re-read any of the books I’ve read in Japanese so some of the books here are based off my memory from years past. I have a couple books in mind that I want to re-read but I have yet to actually do it. Page-turners are hard to find regardless of the language you’re reading in. Speaking of which, The Martian was a real page-turner but I read it over 9 weeks (I don’t mind torturing myself like that) just because I only wanted to read it for x minutes a day. I read the physical copy for all the books I mentioned (usually from the one dollar section at bookoff in NYC ) with the exception of the first one which I purchased on amazon JAPAN to read on the kindle. I believe a couple of the books or maybe just one of them I mention aren’t available as an ebook.
First up is a book titled “what happened in Korea when they got rid of Hanja.” They stopped teaching hanja in schools in the 70s and then they started teaching it again then they stopped again.
「漢字廃止」で韓国に何が起きたか – 呉 善花
This book is by a Korean lady who currently lives in Japan. First of all, I was curious as to how GOOD her Japanese is since she’s Korean and because she learned Japanese when there was less technology. Obviously she got editing and help and all that but she still has to write it. I was impressed of course and learned Japanese from reading the book. Sometimes I got the impression that she wanted to show-off and it felt forced and just unnecessary lol (both in terms of vocab, and complicated/long clauses/sentences). I was glad I was reading this on the kindle. I noticed either in this book or another one of hers, she uses a handful of kanji-words that are very infrequently used in Japan but these same words exists in Korean and are used more commonly in Korean than in Japanese (AT LEAST that’s what I assume since I have seen 피력 ひれき 披瀝 being used in Korean multiple times but I haven’t seen hireki used outside of her books and the JApanese dictionary if my memory serves me) . I thought it was a terrible decision to put in these words when it’s unnecessary since you’re potentially alienating people who can’t read it or don’t know what it means. My point here might be completely wrong though since I’m not fluent in Korean and I’m not that well read in Japanese compared to Japanese people (Japanese people seem to be really into reading like I’ve heard of people reading 200 books a year or even thousands of them a year and way more than that too…). Maybe they say hireki all the time in the Japanese news for all I know. I picked up on this because I noticed that I ONLY already KNEW the word(s) because I’ve seen it being used in written Korean and NOT in written Japanese though I’m reading a book in Japanese (written by a Korean person).
It was a page-turner for me, purely because it was a subject I was keenly interested in since I learned Japanese then started Korean 4 years into Japanese. I pretty much read all the japanese sites on this topic from googling and I’ve done the same with the Korean Internet. I even read a Korean book about it (a physical book 김병기 – 아직도 한글전용을 고집해야 하는가? ). For this Korean book, I underlined unknown words and drew arcs next to sentence clusters with a red pen while I read and looked up nothing lol. Anyways, this Japanese book did not disappoint since she knows what she’s talking about since she was directly affected by the education policy. One day her elementary school teacher told her class “we don’t have to learn hanja anymore!”
I thought she was off her rockers when she said that Korean people should adapt a mixed writing system like the Japanese people and have kun-yomi readings which I thought was a terrible idea. I think it makes sense to write Korean Korean words without sino-background in hangeul. I agree with her point that the multiple readings of Kanji (Japanese origin and Chinese origin) make remembering the kanji easier. Both her book and the Korean book I mentioned thouroughly cover the gamut of the common argument points like “we have no problem communicating verbally, so obviously we don’t need hanja.” Of course she was appalled by that point since from her point of view, the person who said that is completely missing the point of the big picture.
Also I think she had a section in her book explaining Korean sayings or proverbs and there was no hangeul so it was painful to read for me… Besides my preference, as Korean learner to not learn stuff like that in this format, with just the katakana I have no f’in idea what the original phrase is and I obviously won’t remember the explanation she wrote in Japanese. It’s probably even more “who the f cares” to people who know zero Korean. It did not belong in this book! The part of her book that actually matched the title was page-turning and the tangential part on Korean sayings was a real snoozer.
SLAYERS light novels
I especially enjoyed 死霊都市の王―スレイヤーズ (8) (富士見ファンタジア文庫) by 神坂 一
Slayers is the best-selling light novel in Japan or maybe the world. I think that’s heavily attributed to the sheer number of volumes (plus less pirating in the 90s!). I am referring to the main series: volumes 1-15. I remember I read it everyday before going to sleep because it was so effortless and fun to read (at the time I usually only read on my days off).
As the word suggests, Light novels are lighter than regular novels. I never made the connection until I had a blast read the Slayers light novels since the only other light novels I read were suzumiya haruhi and welcome to the NHK (they didn’t feel particularly light). The writing style of Slayers is easy and fun to read compared to regular novels, line spacing is wider so it’s less dense. It gives me enjoyment that regular novels can’t give me but at the same time light-novels can’t give me what regular novels give me. I have to read more stuff written by this author!
The last episodes of Slayers NEXT (anime) was based on volume 8 so it did not disappoint. It does not have a ridiculously long title like the ones being published nowadays. Most of the light novels being published now-a-days don’t appeal to me at all (the general public). I wonder if that was the inspiration for whoever (probably akimoto) that gave this ridiculously song title to the akb48 song 鈴懸の木の道で『君の微笑みを夢に見る』と言ってしまったら僕たちの関係はどう変わってしまうのか、僕なりに何日か考えた上でのやや気恥ずかしい結論のようなもの. . I hate GIMMICKS like this. I would not be surprised if there is a light novel that topped this song title in terms of length.
As famous and popular this light novel is, it has typo issues. For some reason when they went to re-print the books they apparently had to type out all the text or do OCR (optoic character recognition). It’s so ridiculous! I literally looked up typos/goshoku at one point lol. I would say that most of the typos are obvious and easy to figure out… i made about 250 anki cards (I took pictures and I didn’t make Anki cards out of everything I looked up since being picky is a virtue for making anki cards ) from the 15 books so the book was at an ideal level of ease/difficulty and I learned a lot of cool words. I bought a couple volumes of the new versions without the intention of reading all 15 volumes since I was interested in reading the parts that related to Slayers NEXT and Xellos. I quickly changed my mind and bought the rest by ordering volumes 1-15 because I found out it’s cheaper to order all 15 volumes that are used and old and the old ones don’t have typo problems. Not sure what the state of the ebook version is… I would assume it has the same typo issues.
I wrote this about the 8th book on dokushometer!
北朝鮮大脱出 地獄からの生還 – 宮崎 俊輔
I read the majority of the books about North Korea in English and one day I realized that there are books that are written in Korean/Japanese about North Korea that weren’t translated into English and I happen to be literate in Japanese . So I got on amazon and got ’em!
This is a special book since it was originally written in Japanese by a Korean-Japanese person who moved to North Korea in his teens and lived in North Korea for 30+ years and defected to Japan. Most books about North Korean defectors are translated from Korean. As you can imagine, his Japanese skills did deteriorate from being cut-off from the world for 30 years and I would assume that he got help from a ghost-writer because there were some big words as well as very specific terms in the book.
The book makes me more grateful about what I have since my life circumstances aren’t as cursed as the author’s. I can’t imagine what it’s like to build a house from scratch! It was an extremely depressing book but it was a page-turner.
This book has been translated into English and published under the title Crossing the River. The author’s name was changed though… I’ve only read a paragraph of the English translation since I got the book for free from amazon when they had a promotion but my impression was that translation was excellent.
北朝鮮 絶望収容所 (ワニ文庫) 安 明哲
This book is written by a North Korean person who worked in the prison camps. This book was originally written in in Korean. It has not been translated into English as far as I know. I opted for the JApanese version because it’s available, and cheaper ($6 with shipping maybe? The book was 1 yen or 100 yen etc but the shipping and proxy service adds up) and I’m not even sure if I can buy the Korean version since it’s out-of-print and I don’t know if they ship the used book to America. I even tried to contact the publishing company to ask them to put the book up on google books but their e-mail is dead. The book was depressing and disturbing. I specifically remember skimming the chapter titles before I started reading it and I read this disturbing word. It was 4-kanji compound and I instantly thought that I misread it or misremembered its meaning and so I assumed I was wrong. I didn’t ponder on it long so I never looked it up and just read the book. When I got to that chapter, I found out that I was CORRECT. In that short instant, I assumed I was wrong because I assumed that word wouldn’t belong in the book. It reminds me of this story I read about 9-11 where someone was inside the one of the tall buildings and saw jumpers falling outside their window. However, instead of people, the person saw clothes/suits falling from the sky and just pondered why clothes were falling from the sky since that’s not a common occurrence. Eventually the person made the connection that it’s actually people that they just saw and their brain tricked them into not seeing it for what it was.
I specifically remember that I read over 200 pages of this book in one day which is probably the most number of pages of Japanese I’ve read in a day. I’ve noticed that some Japanese books have bigger line-spacing for whatever reason or the font is bigger or smaller than usual (ie for some books one page contains 18 lines while other books contain 20- something lines on one page). This book did not have wide line-spacing and the author didn’t have frequent line-breaks etc so it was very dense. The 200 pages was truly a lot to read for one day. I changed my plans for the day to continue reading it because it was so riveting. I just had to know what was going to happen NEXT. It reminds me of books about the holocaust since the authors talk about how humans behave when they’re put in these extreme, dire situations.
This is what I wrote about the book on dokushometer
I also found
And the second volume to be page-turners. It features 2 North Koreans and one of them has their story published in English under the title aquariums pyongyang which I already read. So half the story was totally new (AND page-turning) and the other half was vaguely familiar (page-turning but not as page-turning) since i read it however many years ago.
Confessions – minato kanae
Her book has been translated into English.
I made 2 posts about this book. I read it after watching the movie so I honestly don’t know if it would’ve been a page-turner if I went into it completely blind. However, the writing style is compatible with me and I’ve enjoyed her other books so I think I would’ve still experienced it as a page-turner.
My dokushometer entry on it
夏と花火と私の死体 (集英社文庫) 乙一
I can’t remember if his books were page-turners in terms of how long it took me to finish a book. I always go into his books with zero expectations and get sucked into the story from page 1. His writing style is succinct in the best way possible. I feel like he does not waste a single word. That is something that I cannot say about authors very often. I particularly enjoyed the concept of this book because it was unique, amusing, and executed well.
I wrote about it on dokushometer
おすすめします！ 題名の物語にすぐ入り込みました。 どう終わるのか知りたくて知りたくてむずむずしてました。 終わりは予想できなかったので満足しています。 伏線もちゃんと張っていたので無理やり どんでん返しを施す感じしなかったです。二番目の物語に関してはちょっと読むのがおっくうに感じたんですけど種明かしがあるので たぶん驚くと思います。
Here are 2 more of his books that I enjoyed. He rarely disappoints me.
暗いところで待ち合わせ (幻冬舎文庫) 乙一
死にぞこないの青 (幻冬舎文庫) 乙一
I wrote about shinizokonai no ao on dokushometer
偶然にもこの本を読んでいた時に主人公と似ている状況に置かれていたのでものすごく感情移入などができました。主人公が先生を分析したところとかに「なるほど」と 頷きながら読みました。こういう人を人って本当にいます。例えば「田先生は僕が何か失敗するのを待ち構えており、ついに僕がちょっとしたミスした瞬間、ほら見たことかとそこをつつくのである」。主人公が最終的にモヤモヤをどう解決するかと期待しながら読みました。 当時の自分の状況を変えることはできなったけどこれを読むことで追体験でモヤモヤを減らすことはできました。。。
A couple authors I connected on a deep level. . I cannot remember if they were page-turners or not but I felt like the authors got me or I got them and I loved their writing styles. It’s the books that make me glad that I’m literate in Japanese.
人間失格 – 太宰 治 – I never would’ve read it if I didn’t watch ame talk. luckily I do!
ALONE TOGETHER (双葉文庫) – 本多 孝好
MISSING (双葉文庫) – 本多 孝好
白い部屋で月の歌を (角川ホラー文庫) – 朱川 湊人
my dokushometer entry: 面白い！最初は設定とか全然ピンと来なかったけど最後まで読んだら分かった。。。目から鱗って感じ。読んでよかった。。
花まんま – 朱川 湊人
my dokushometer entry: 無駄な描写など一切ないです。短篇集で全６話のどれも読む価値があります。あっという間に物語の世界に惹き込まれました。やっぱり、この作家さんとの相性はいいみたいです。 この作家さんの他の著作を読みたいとおもいます
BONUS: My old entries from dokushometer
面白くない。読むのが苦痛。ミステリーとして一応成り立ってるけど読むこと自体が楽しくないから。。ナシ。 ダルくて尺が長い。。。それから異常に読みづらい。私の日本語が下手とか日本語の理解力が低いとかじゃなくて一般人に読みづらい。 読んでいる時、意味がまったく分からないとき もあって 意味がわかるのに一体何と読むのか まったく 見当もつかなくてイライラしたことは多々ありました
つまらない。薄っぺらい 展開はあんまりない。感動はいずこへ？ 映画は絶対見ない。
読みやすけりゃ いいってもんじゃない。無難で 読む価値がないと 感じる。読みやすいわりには読むのが面倒くさい。未来の息子は深みが足りなくて途中で飛ばし読みした
There are definitely books I wished I never finished or wished that I started skimming/skipping pages like crazy sooner. The only tip I can give to help you to drop sucky books is to check out negative amazon reviews (there might be spoilers so be careful). There are some terrible books (even if it’s popular or a best-seller or won an award) where the negative amazon reviews are more fun to read than the book.
as you can tell, on the book tracking site I was mostly writing like how people talk on talk variety shows including kansai-ben lol (on lang-8) since I like interesting tv and you can’t avoid kansai-ben if you like laughing your ass off. Besides kansai-ben being fun I think it was because I was getting bored with standard Japanese. On lang-8, I’d literally incorporate words and phrases I heard on the the Japanese drama JIN which is set in the Edo period (some of the stuff you actually can incorporate into written Japanese no problem). This reminds me of something that yoshida from the comedy duo black mayonnaise has said which is that he’s bored and sick of JApanese as a 40-seomthing year old monolingual man. I was totally relating with him on that during my japanese journey before I even hit the double digits for number of years that passed since I started learning Japanese. Of course I don’t truly understand his boredom and angst and whatnot since I have not experienced Japanese for 43 years. On some tv show, he was saying how he says gakieru wa instead of kigaeru because he’s so damn sick of saying it as a very busy comedian who goes on tv very often. That’s just one of the many yoshida-isms since 43 years is a long time. I found some blog with some transcript where he’s talking about it for those who want to read it~
WordPress tells me this is my 200th post so it must be kismet!
oh and here’s a list of books about north korea that i ranked 4 stars or higher.
This is paradise – Kang, Hyok
Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea -Jin-sung, Jang
The Tears of My Soul = written by a north korean spy/agent who killed a lot people on a plane. It was originally written in korean ( I read it in English). I think the korean book or website about her is on lingq ( there’s audio that accompanies the text) because I recall Steven Kaufman mention it on a YouTube video
A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power
The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
memoirs from people who have spent time in the political prison camp:
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West – harden blaine + the north korean guy
The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag – Kang, Chol-hwan
Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman – lee soon ok
Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor- Kim, Yong
more memoirs from north korean people
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story
Stars Between the Sun and Moon: One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom
Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith -Kim, Joseph