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 audiobook.jp. 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.

Conclusion

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: