Read in 2019: 27 Japanese books!

Now that we are saying goodbye to 2019, it’s time to look back on all the books I have read since January. Most of them come from my reading challenge for 2019. I have read a total of 27 books, which is an absolute record for me! However, I feel that my readings were more diversified in 2018, and even though I read more this year, I mainly chose mysteries and detective novels.

My 3 favourite books this year!

My favourite book is without a doubt 『新参者』by Keigo HIGASHINO. He is my favourite author of genre fiction, so it is no surprise that his books always figure among my favourites. However 『新参者』 is special. I could have spent the whole year following detective Kyoichiro KAGA as he solves mysteries in his new neighbourhood. It is a great detective novel with an exciting investigation, but it is also a novel about the people who detain a key to the mystery, their family and their secrets. I highly recommend it!

Next, we have『天啓の殺意』by Sin NAKAMACHI. This book does not have outstanding reviews on Amazon, but I loved this mystery/crime novel. First of all, it is a good murder story with an engrossing investigation, but what I loved most of all is how the author plays with his reader and intentionally misleads us.

Finally, I have to bring 『わたし、定時で帰ります』by Kaeruko AKENO to the top three. I like office/work-related stories because Japanese working habits are so difficult to understand to me that I am eager to hear more about it. This novel is a little on the “light” side, especially towards the end, which annoyed me a little because I prefer reading more realistic novels, but the energy, the optimism and the good-humoured tone of the story made it an enjoyable read.

My 3 favourite characters

Without a doubt, my favourite character is Kyoichiro KAGA… the problem is that, although I only read one book by Keigo HIGASHINO this year, I could include it in every list that starts with “my favourite…”. So let’s pick 3 characters that I have “met” for the first time this year:

Yasuhiko MUKOUDA, the barber of the little town Tomazawa who appears in 『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA. In fact, I should include all the other characters of the book because all the inhabitants of Tomazawa have warmed my heart and made me smile. The stories in 『向田理髪店』 are about people, their hopes, disillusions and dreams, even the brief ones. I loved it, it is a warm-hearting read. Highly recommended!

The reason why I loved Sadato SAKATA, the protagonist of 『検事の本懐』by Yuko YUZUKI, is because he shares similarities with Kyoichiro KAGA… Of course, he is a different character, but still some depictions of his personality, the way he works and thinks reminded me of Higashino’s famous detective… Sadato SAKATA is a public prosecutor, he does not say much about himself or his past, he is diligent in his work but follows what he thinks is right, which is sometimes in conflict with the system or his hierarchy. I want to read more books of the Sadato SAKATA series to get to know the character better.

Finally, I loved the character of Saburo SUGIMURA from the novel 『誰か』by Miyuki MIYABE. This novel is the first book of a series featuring Saburo SUGIMURA. 『誰か』is not one of my favourite novels, it is slow-paced, the mystery in it is not that gripping, and it took me quite some time to finish it. What made me continue reading it is the protagonist. He is a just an ordinary nice person who wants to do things right, it is easy to feel close to him, and I will certainly read other books of the series in the future.

Best Mysteries: 3 books I couldn’t put down

Obviously, I loved『新参者』and it was so engrossing that I was able to read it on a plane. This was the first time in my life that I was able to read a book on a plane (I usually feel so anxious that I can hardly concentrate on a film, even less so a book). But『新参者』was so good I managed to put my fears aside and read for most of the flight.

But let’s pick three other books:

The two books by Sin NAKAMACHI were unputdownable. I found that 『天啓の殺意』was more engrossing than 『模倣の殺意』, but if you like one, you will also like the other. They are similar in two ways. First, they both challenge the reader by trying (successfully in my case) to deceive you. Another similarity is the topics chosen. In both, a writer is involved and we get to know a little about the publishing world. Some sceneries (like the hot-spring baths hotel) are also featured in both novels. These are exactly the kind of detective novels that I like.

I read 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI very recently, and it was a real page-turner! The protagonist suffers from anterograde amnesia and has to face a murderer who can add fake memories to people’s mind. This confrontation leads to interesting thoughts about how our memory works, but it is more a psycho-thriller than a book on memory or a serious depiction of amnesia.

Other books that were engrossing and had the qualities of a page-turner are:

  • 『ガーディアン』by Gaku YAKUMARU
  • 『誓約』by Gaku YAKUMARU
  • 『ジャッジメント』by Yuka KOBAYASHI (short stories)

Books with interesting topics

Here are some books that I loved because they had interesting topics, addressed social problems or simply gave me things to think about.

Non-mystery books

The book with the most interesting topic to me is 『わたし、定時で帰ります』by Kaeruko AKENO. If you are interested in Japanese work culture, this one is a great choice because it is highly entertaining and does not contain a lot of difficult, work-related discussions.

The two following books are different in their themes and tone, but they have a similar structure: through different stories, we follow the daily life, struggles and hopes of several characters. They all live in the same neighbourhood or town and have learned to help each other because nobody else will.

In 『下町やぶさか診療所』by Yo IKENAGA, we follow a local doctor, his patients and friends. The doctor’s office is a central place where people, often elderly people, come to talk rather than get treatment.

『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA is about the small town of Tomazawa which lost its vitality and youth when the coal mine shut down. Those who remained have seen young people leaving, shops shutting down and facilities degrading. But some of them still keep the hope of seeing their town flourish again. Any novelty is welcomed, gossip is everywhere, small dramas arise, but the inhabitants keep their dreams and are always there when someone needs help.

Mystery and thrillers

『ガーディアン』by Gaku YAKUMARU tackles the problem of school bullying but not in the way you would imagine. It also asks interesting and difficult questions about how far should we go to prevent school bullying.

While it was a little difficult to read, 『切り裂きジャックの告白』by Shichiri NAKAYAMA contains interesting thoughts about organ donations in Japan and brain death (which is apparently controversial). The problem is that these discussions were introduced in the middle of what was supposed to be a suspenseful police investigation to track a serial killer… I found that both the story and the discussions on organ donation were interesting, but they didn’t work well together.

『検事の本懐』by Yuko YUZUKI is a collection of short stories and one in particular really caught my interest. Public prosecutors from different regions are called to Tokyo to investigate a political scandal. From browsing tons of documents to interrogating persons related, the prosecutors found themselves in a whirlpool of unpleasant work and difficult choices. It was depicted in a realistic way and it was exciting to see behind the scenes.

I would not recommend it to everyone because it contains several scenes of physical and psychological tortures, but Tetsuya HONDA’s novel 『ケモノの城』explores the relationship between victim and aggressor and depicts how some people can renounce their liberty and fall under the control of a violent, authoritative figure.

Speculative fiction

Maybe there’s a relation between speculative fiction and a chair? 🤔

Yasumi KOBAYASHI asks an interesting question about our memory in『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』: what if someone could insert fake memories inside your head? How far would it affect your behaviour and your beliefs? I found these reflexions fascinating, and it made me want to read more about how our memory works.

In『ジャッジメント』, Yuka KOBAYASHI creates a fictional Japan where the law of retaliation is applied. People who have been injured or relatives to a person who has been murdered have the right to inflict exactly the same treatment to the aggressor: “an eye for an eye”. The book is mostly centred on ethical choices and considerations: will the victims choose to avenge themselves? What will they learn about themselves in the process? How well did they know the one they lost?

Books that I liked but not that much

The followings are books that I liked but not as much as I thought I would. The reason is mainly that these books were not what I expected them to be.

First of all, 『6月31日の同窓会』by Yukiko MARI had a promising setting: people receive this mysterious invitation for June 31st and… die? Unfortunately, I found that it lacked a driving energy that would make me want to continue to read. I felt that the characters were passive and that there was no real investigation to solve the mystery.

『誓約』by Gaku YAKUMARU was also not as good as I expected it to be. It is a good thriller, suspenseful, engrossing and so on…. but it was just that. The thing is that this novel was a huge best-seller in South Korea, number 1 in the biggest online and offline bookshops of the country. Well, it is a good thriller, but not very original or inventive, and the end was not really convincing to me.

『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOSUGI was a good book too, but not one of my favourites. The characters and the story are good, but I found that there were a lot of repetitions, especially when the author described how the characters felt. At several times, I had the impression that I had read the same sentence or a very similar one in a previous chapter.

Finally, I think I should bring 『首折り男のための協奏曲』by Kotaro ISAKA to this list. I loved several aspects of this book, but I was disappointed to find out that I was not reading a novel but a collection of short stories. The back cover clearly states that everything will make sense in the end, making you believe that you are reading a novel. While I did enjoy the short stories, I also felt a little let down and frustrated that the promising and exciting beginning of this “novel” led to nothing after all.

Difficult books

Without a doubt, the most difficult book that I have read this year (apart from the ones I gave up on) is『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなっかた』by Moegara. Honestly, I don’t know what kept me reading when I had such a hard time understanding some passages!

Apart from this novel, I haven’t struggled much. I will just list the three books that were more difficult than the others:

『追憶の夜想曲』by Shichiri NAKAYAMA is a legal thriller. I had no problem following the story but there were passages that remained opaque to me. Especially a long discussion at the beginning of the novel. I think that one of the reasons why the beginning was difficult is because I haven’t read the first book of the series and『追憶の夜想曲』, which is the second book, refers to events that happened, I imagine, in the first book.

Same author, same difficulty level: 『切り裂きジャックの告白』by Shichiri NAKAYAMA. Here again, I was able to follow the police investigation but the parts about organ donations and the medical and ethical reflexions related to it were difficult.

Finally, it is hard to recall exactly because I read it in January, but if I remember correctly 『誰か』by Miyuki MIYABE had some challenging passages too.

Easy books

It is very hard to give advice concerning easy books to read in Japanese. If you ask me, I will answer that any book by Keigo HIGASHINO is the easiest one. I do think that his books are easy to read, but there is also the fact that I have read 15 books by now, and I am used to his writing.

Apart from 『おはなし・ねこあつめ』written by Haruka SHIOTSUKI, I haven’t read a book that was obviously easier than the other ones. Neko Atsume is a book for children based on the popular mobile game by Hit-Point. It is a collection of short stories with illustrations. As it is often the case with books for children, Neko Atsume contains vocabulary that Japanese learners might not know, but it has only very few kanji and all have furigana. The illustrations also make it easy to understand what happens.

It might not be the easiest book on this list, but 『継続捜査ゼミ』by Bin KONNO is worth noting because it is mainly based on dialogues. A professor and his students study unsolved crimes of the past and also work on some campus mysteries. In most of the scenes, they will sit in the classroom or a restaurant and discuss the cases. I found this book engrossing, easy to read and unique in its structure.

After that, there are a bunch of mystery novels that all have a similar difficulty level. I could read all of them without looking up words and I don’t recall that they had particularly difficult passages:

  • 『新参者』by Keigo HIGASHINO
  • 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI
  • 『天啓の殺意』by Sin NAKAMACHI
  • 『ガーディアン』by Gaku YAKUMARU
  • 『ジャッジメント』by Yuka KOBAYASHI
  • 『模倣の殺意』by Sin NAKAMACHI
  • 『誓約』by Gaku YAKUMARU
  • 『ケモノの城』by Tetsuya HONDA

Entertaining books

I have read several novels that are for entertainment only and don’t really bother to build credible situations, settings and characters. They usually have unrealistic elements every time police procedurals are involved.

Two of these books were similar in setting and very close to the Sherlock Holmes/John Watson duo as depicted by the BBC series “Sherlock”:

Shiki KUZUMI says himself that his book 『推理作家(僕)が探偵と暮らすわけ』is inspired by the BBC series: a detective and a writer move in together and solve crimes together.

『ノッキンオン・ロックドドア』by Yugo AOSAKI is more original because the two characters are both detectives. But you cannot help but see similarities, especially since one of the characters compares himself to Sherlock Holmes and his colleague to John Watson.

By the same author, 『図書館の殺人』was also on the light side. The investigation was very interesting, but it was conducted by a high school student who works together with the police…

Finally, we have 『メゾン・ド・ポリス』by Miaki KATO where a young female police officer works with retired police officers who live together. I liked this book, I found it original and I liked the general atmosphere of it. I wish the cases were more engrossing or suspenseful, but overall, it was a refreshing read.

I have chosen these books mainly because I thought they would be easier to read than the others. This was not always true, however. The books that I mentioned above were as easy or even easier than these “light” novels. I think that the main cause is not the Japanese level, but simply that I find realistic novels more engrossing.

While I did enjoy reading the first three titles, I must also say that I am tired of this kind of detective fiction where solving crime is a game, where detectives have “sparkling eyes” when confronted with a particularly tricky puzzle, or where they are young genius with high deduction skills, often eccentric, childish or unpleasant. In these stories, the plot is mainly centred on solving the crime, and little is said about how this tragedy affects people. I think that I will take a break from this kind of fiction next year.

Nonfiction books

I wanted to read more nonfiction in 2019, but I have not. I read a self-development book 『学びを結果に変えるアウトプット大全』by Shion KABASAWA which I liked. It stresses the importance of output in your learning process, and this is something that I really need to integrate more in my studies. I realise now that I do remember quite well what the books I have read this year are about, and how I felt when I read them. I am sure that is because I wrote a book review for each of them.

2019 has been a year of tensions between Japan and South Korea, and I wanted to know more about anti-Korean sentiment in Japan. I chose the best-seller 『今こそ、韓国に謝ろう』by Naoki HYAKUTA, and I was shocked to see that 1- such books are being published and that 2- it was a huge success. The whole purpose of the book is to belittle Korea, assert the superiority of Japan over its neighbour and mock Korean culture. It only addresses the questions of forced labourers or comfort women in a very dishonest way and focuses mainly on justifying the annexation of Korea, using outdated colonialist arguments. This book only stimulates anti-Korean sentiment among its readers and more generally, encourages racism.


And that’s all the books I have read in Japanese in 2019!

I wish that I had read more widely instead of restricting myself to mysteries, thrillers and detective novels. But 2019 was the year of the JLPT N1, and I needed my readings to be easy and relaxed. For 2020, I will focus my energy on reading more genres and nonfiction. I want to read not only more difficult books but also more different books and widen the range of books I can read in Japanese.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Happy Holidays!

I will not be able to post in the category “Inhae reads the news” on the 25th because I haven’t read the news during the month of December. I was not really in the mood for some serious news studying after the JLPT and with the holiday season approaching, it was even more difficult to sit at my desk…

But I will be posting about the books I have read in 2019 on the 31th and my schedule should be back to normal on January 1st when I post my reading challenge for 2020!

In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the last days of 2019!

Book review: 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI

About the book

Title: 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』(さつじんきに まつわる びぼうろく)
Author: Yasumi KOBAYASHI 小林泰三
Published by 幻冬舎文庫

Yasumi KOBAYASHI is an author of SF, horror and mystery novels. His novel『アリス殺し』is very popular in Korea (I have often seen it among the steady sellers), but I had never read Yasumi KOBAYASHI before.


Our protagonist, Nikichi TAMURA, suffers from anterograde amnesia. He cannot create new memories and forgets everything new (what has happened, why he came where he is, what he wanted to do) after 10 minutes.

The 殺人鬼 mentioned in the title is a man who can inject new memories in other people’s mind.


I enjoyed reading this book very much, but it was not what I expected. I think that I was misled by the cover which does not look like the cover of a suspenseful psycho-thriller. I thought this book would mainly be a realistic depiction of what it means to live with anterograde amnesia, and that it would simply have some kind of mystery element attached to it. It was the reverse: this book is mainly a suspenseful thriller that incorporates thoughts and elements linked to amnesia and memory.

I don’t mean to say that I was disappointed in the book. On the contrary, I was engrossed in it from beginning to end,

There are interesting thoughts about how our memory works and how much we can trust it. It also shows, through the character of the “殺人鬼” how much we rely on it, to the point where we can go against our interests, values and personality. The author asks the question: what would happen if someone could inject new memories in your train of thoughts? The answer really sent shivers down my spine!

(I happen to be reading The Body by Bill Bryson as I write this review, and I have just read the passage saying that “it is possible through suggestion to implant entirely false memories in people’s heads” (p.56), even convince people that they committed and were arrested for a crime in their youth, to the point where they actually recall the event and add “vivid incriminating details” to this imaginary past (see footnote 3). This is fascinating and scary! 😮😱)

If you are looking for a page-turner,『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』is exactly that. It is suspenseful, easy to read, has a lot of dialogues and also contains fascinating thoughts about memory. But be aware that it does contain violence and I found every scene related to the 殺人鬼 relatively disturbing… I even made a horrible nightmare clearly inspired by the book after reading it, haha!

JLPT N1 #2: December 2019

One of my language goals for 2019 was to take and pass the JLPT N1 in December. Midway, I took the test of July to evaluate my level and… I passed! This completely upset my plans for the second half of the year. I had planned to work on reading and listening between July and December (as I had focused on vocabulary and grammar from January to July), but I must admit that I haven’t studied a lot after I got my results of the July test 😅

I decided to take the December test anyway as a reminder that learning a language is a continual and steady process, that reaching a milestone does not mean I am allowed to drop my efforts.

I thought that the JLPT of December would be a disaster, but the test of December happened to be easier than the test of July.

July vs December

As I mentioned before, I haven’t made huge progress between July and December, and I am absolutely not saying that I did well during the test. However, I could perceive that the topics chosen were easier than those of July.

First of all, I found the vocabulary and grammar part a tiny bit easier than in July, but it is hard to tell and it is very subjective. What struck me as noticeably easier are the reading and listening sections.

First of all, the reading in N1 is tough and the questions are as tricky as ever. But, in July, there was at least one text that I could not understand no matter what. And if I remember correctly there were one or two others that were really difficult. In December however, I was able to understand every text. Of course, this does not mean that I answered correctly because answering these tricky JLPT questions falls under a completely different skill. But if the test asked us to translate or to explain what the texts are about, then I would without a doubt get a better score in December than in July.

But the most obvious change of level was the listening section. Once again, my listening level is very low so I always have a hard time answering the questions. However, I can always say what the audio is about. In July, I found that there were almost only office related discussions, professional situations, or worse, topics that involved technical vocabulary.

In December, on the contrary, I found a lot of casual/every day/friends and family kind of discussions that you practise a lot in JLPT textbooks. Some audios and questions were actually easy for a N1 level. Contrary to July, I know for sure that I answered right at least some of them. What I found hard was the pace of the audio and the fact that if you miss one vital information, you won’t be able to answer correctly.

My conclusion is that some tests are tougher than others. It seems obvious that they cannot produce tests that are the exact same level every time. Of course, the appreciation of the level is also very subjective. If you are working in Japan, maybe those office/work discussions will sound easy and familiar. As for me, it was a relief to see that the topics chosen fell in my comfort zone.

How thinking I had 10 minutes more (than I actually had) helped me during the reading section

During the test of December, I did the worst thing you can do: I messed up with time. I knew we had until 15:20 to complete the first part of the test, it was written on the board and I had memorised it, but still, during the whole reading section, I thought I had until 15:30…

And I was very proud of myself to notice, after each text, that I had quite a comfortable amount of remaining time. As a result, I took my time to read the texts slowly, and re-read all the passages that contained the keys to the questions. I even took time to breathe between the texts, haha.

When I reached the last text (where you have to find information in a notice), I thought I had ample time (15 minutes!) to answer it and go back to some of the grammar questions I wasn’t sure of. Suddenly there was an announcement saying that were only 5 minutes remaining 😱. 5 minutes should be enough to read the whole notice and answer the two questions, but I completely panicked! 🤯

I may have failed the last question, but overall, thinking that I had more time than I actually had helped me perform better on the whole reading section. This proves how far stress can affect our performance. I am not really stressed by the JLPT because I am doing it for fun, and nothing bad will happen if I don’t pass. But still, knowing that there are only 10 minutes left and seeing that we still have that ultra-long and difficult text to read… this is stressful! When you are stressed because you know that you don’t have enough time, you want to read faster. But if you read too fast, you will not understand what you read, which will stress you even more until you are not capable to concentrate on what you are reading and you just try to pick up bits of information here and there.

This is what happened to me during the last question, when I realised I only had 5 minutes left, and not 15 as I thought. But for the rest, I was able to keep a cool head and read everything pretty calmly, which improved my capacity to understand the texts.

Strategy for reading

In my blissful illusion that I had 10 extra minutes to finish the test, I managed to follow a strategy for reading that, hopefully, will prove to be efficient.

First of all, I read the text once and slowly without looking at the questions. Usually, I understand what the text is about and what the author wants to say.

Then I read the questions and what happens is this: one answer is obviously wrong and the three other answers are obviously right. This is a phenomenon I noticed in July too. I didn’t have this problem when I took N2. For N2, I would be able to pick the right answer without returning to the text or re-read passages.

But for N1, three or at least two answers looked very similar. In July, I flustered a bit and chose the answer that I thought was the best. I relied more on my perception of the text than the text itself.

On Sunday (December), as I thought I had ample time, I was able to go back to the text calmly and find the paragraph where I would find the answer. I was also able to closely compare the answers that look similar or “could” be right. I tried to note in what way they differ in order to find concrete clues in the text that would show which answer is the correct one. Sometimes I even found evidence that the correct answer was not the one I would have picked “by feeling”.


This post is all about me saying how December was easier than July and how I found a good strategy for the reading section and so on… haha, if I don’t pass or if I end up with lower scores than in July what will people think of me? 😳😅

But compared to my apprehension before the test (due to my lack of serious study during the second half of the year), things went… not so bad.

If you took the JLPT in december, how did it go? Have a nice end of the year!

Book review: 『首折り男のための協奏曲』by Kotaro ISAKA

About the book

Title: 『首折り男のための協奏曲』(くびおり おとこ の ための きょうそうきょく)
Author: Kotaro ISAKA 伊坂幸太郎
Published by 新潮文庫

『首折り男のための協奏曲』is a collection of short stories that Kotaro ISAKA wrote for different magazines. But even though the stories were written as independent stories, put together in the same book, they resonate with one another and create a “謎の工芸品” (mysterious craftwork), as the author says himself (p.429).


The author writes at the end of the book that all the stories of 『首折り男のための協奏曲』were written independently for different magazines. He said he had to answer to prompts like “恋愛ものを” or “怪談話を” which explains why the stories are so different in structure. While he hadn’t thought of putting all these stories together in the same book at first, he was surprised to see how strangely well they resonate together once the project of『首折り男のための協奏曲』was settled.

I think that this is exactly how the reader must read this book: these are short stories, but put together, they gain an additional dimension.

The problem is that nothing on the book indicates that they are short stories, and the summary on the back cover even makes you think that you are reading a novel and that everything will come together in the end.

Because of that, I was looking for clues that could not be there. I was trying to understand how this could be the same story, and given that some characters return from story to story, it took me some time before I realise that I was not reading a novel.

When I realised it, I was a little disappointed, but I could also fully appreciate what I was reading without constantly thinking “but this does not make sense”.

As for the stories in themselves, they were all very good, some were particularly engrossing (首折り男の周辺、合コンの話), some I found really brilliant (漏れ衣の話、人間らしく).

Not all, but almost all of them have a hidden trick in them. As a result, there is always this moment when, understanding that hidden mechanism, I was baffled by the author’s talent. But on the other hand, this made the stories a little difficult to read in Japanese! My favourite story is 月曜日から逃げろ but it took me some time before I understood the hidden trick. I was re-reading several times the same passages because something didn’t make sense, and I was thinking that my Japanese level was at fault.

This is the first book I read by Kotaro ISAKA, and I am now wondering if all his books are so inventive. I am a little irritated at the publisher who makes you think that it is a novel and that everything will come together at the end in a surprising way. I feel that it spoiled my reading and appreciation of this book with useless expectations. If I had read these stories as independent short stories from the beginning, I would have enjoyed them better.

Language Learning diary: December 2019

We are December 1st, so I am sitting the JLPT right now! But I wrote this post in advance and scheduled it so I will give you my impressions about the JLPT in my next JLPT Journal entry on the 15th!

This post will be only about books:

  • The books that I gave up on this year
  • New books from Japan!
  • Just finished and currently reading

At the end of December, I will also write about the books I have read in 2019, and I will set my new reading challenges for 2020 in my next language learning diary post on January 1st!

Books I give up on (for now)

I thought it would be the most interesting book of my challenge, so I am very sad to admit that I gave up on it… This is the novel 『小説王』by Kazumasa HAYAMI (早見和真).

I have reached page 254 (out of 365)… I certainly could have made an effort and finish it, but the thing is that I did not enjoy reading it, and it felt like a chore.

The book is about a writer, Toyotaka YOSHIDA, who made a brilliant debut but whose books don’t sell anymore, and an editor, Shuntaro KOYANAGI, who works in the small and marginal literature department of Kagurasha publishers. Toyotaka and Shuntaro were classmates at school, and they meet again as adults. Shuntaro believes in Toyotaka’s potential and wants to work with him.

First of all, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Japanese publishing industry. I have learned a lot of things through Shuntaro’s character and job. I had no idea, for example, how much the editor can participate in the creation process of the novel, and how difficult this job can be. I found that parts focusing on Shuntaro were very interesting but sometimes also depressing. We tend to take for granted that bookshops are filled with new publications every month, but publishing is not as easy as it sounds and this novel shows the frustrations, obstacles and hard work that lie behind. I always considered that writing a book was difficult, not publishing it, but this novel showed me what really happens behind the scenes.

The main reason why I gave up on this book is, no surprise, the level difficulty. I found this book difficult to read in Japanese, especially the dialogues. I usually consider dialogues to be the easiest part to read in novels (compared to descriptions for example), but in this novel, dialogues were hard to follow. My guess is that the characters use a lot of professional jargon, or simply that the author really gave them a personality through their way of speaking. It certainly adds to the quality of the novel, but it was frustrating to read to me.

Secondly, I didn’t like the character of the writer, Toyotaka. When I don’t feel sympathy for the characters of a novel, I find it very hard to be engaged in their destiny.

I finally decided to give up on this novel for now. I will maybe re-read it later and try to understand the passages that were too difficult today.

There is a drama adaptation of this novel. At some point, I thought that I could watch the drama and then re-read the novel. I watched the first episode but didn’t quite feel engrossed in it so I gave up this too.

Finally, we have these two books from the series “その可能性はすでに考えた” by Magi INOUE.

I am not really giving up on these novels because I haven’t properly started them yet. I have read the beginning of the first one, and I was completely lost. It opens on a dialogue and it was so opaque… Of course, my Japanese level is at fault here, but I was also annoyed about the way it was written. It is hard to describe exactly, but I just couldn’t get into this book (or maybe I was just frustrated by my Japanese level!).

I will keep them for later!

Remaining books from my 2019 reading challenge

I would still have 5 books to read if I wanted to complete my reading challenge of 2019 (I have excluded the 3 above). I am certain that I cannot read 5 books in Japanese in one month time though.

  • 『七色の毒』(Poison of the Seven Colors) by Shichiri NAKAYAMA (中山七里)
  • 『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOSUGI (小杉健治) – just started.
  • 『盤上に死を描く』(The Killing Diagram) by Neko INOUE (井上ねこ)
  • 『コンビニ・ララバイ』by Yo IKENAGA (池永陽) – currently reading.
  • 『赤レンガの御定番』by Shoko MIKI (三木笙子)

New books from Japan!

As mentioned above, I still have several books waiting to be read on my shelf, but I could not resist the temptation to buy new books 🙄

I will write my new reading challenges for 2020 at the beginning of January, but I can already say that I will try to be more diversified and read more genres. When I walk into a bookshop or browse titles on online store, I just grab everything that has “殺人” in its title… and I would like to read other things than crime fiction in 2020. Another goal will be to read more non-fiction. With this in mind, I have chosen my first titles for 2020:

First of all, we have 『マチネの終わりに』by Keiichiro HIRANO (平野啓一郎). This book seems to be everywhere, it is a bestseller on Amazon and has a lot of positive reviews, and there is a film adaptation that came out on November, 1st.

The obi advertises the book as a “long seller romance novel”. I don’t usually read contemporary romance or love stories, so I am very excited to read this one!

I also saw that there is the audio version of this book on It is expensive, but I will maybe buy it to read and listen at the same time.

Then we have 『罪の声』by Takeshi SHIOTA (塩田武士). This looks more like what I am used to reading. Apparently, the author wrote about a real extortion case that took place in the 80s and is still unsolved today: the Glico Morinaga case (グリコ・森永事件). I don’t know if it is written as a fiction or a reportage, but it sounds intriguing. I hope it will not be too difficult to read!

The book I am the most anticipating is 『帰郷』by Jiro ASADA (浅田次郎). It is a collection of short stories on people whose life has been turned upside down by the war. I except it to be difficult to read in Japanese, but it is also exactly the kind of books that I would like to read more. The stories seem to be around 40 pages each, so I will make the effort to study the passages that I don’t understand and look up words.

Finally, I don’t really know what to expect with 『老後の資金がありません』by Miu KAKIYA (垣谷美雨), but it looks interesting! I don’t know if it will be a realistic depiction or more on the light/comic side, but it will be different from what I usually read.

Just finished and currently reading

November has been a great month for mystery fiction. After reading 『天啓の殺意』by Sin NAKAMACHI which I loved (see review here), I finished two other suspenseful mystery books:

Both reviews will come in December! 『首折り男のための協奏曲』by Kotaro ISAKA is a collection of short stories and I found some of them simply brilliant. 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI is a psychological thriller and was a real page turner!

I have just started 『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOZUMI. I like it so far, it feels like reading a book by Keigo HIGASHINO.


That’s it for November! I will spend most of December reading and planning 2020. Here are my goals for the end of the year: