November wrap up: Nonfiction! (and 2 novels)

Hello! It’s time to review the books I read in November 🙂

This year, for the first time, I participated in Nonfiction November, and I managed to hit my goal! I read 4 books of nonfiction in Japanese during the course of November, and I even managed to read two novels and a manga as well.

Nonfiction November

『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi Takahashi (高橋隆一)

This is the only book of the month that has been a disappointment. The title and the obi are very catchy, but the content of the book is very superficial. I also did not like the structure (or rather, the absence of structure of the book). The chapters are very short, the author talks about a lot of things but does not go deeper on the topic he mentions.

As for the language level, this book was certainly the most difficult to read as a language learner. I would have been willing to look up more words if the content had been more exciting, but as it was, I was just looking forward to finishing the book and move on to the next one.

『あのころ』by Momoko Sakura (さくらももこ)

No only are episodes of Momoko Sakura’s childhood charming and engrossing, but they are also quite easy to read in Japanese.

First of all, all these stories deal with everyday life, school, family, home, friends… everything that composes a child’s universe. As a result, the book is not too challenging in terms of vocabulary, and there are more furigana than in other books.

The stories are also very short (12-15 pages each), so it makes for a perfect study tool for those practising reading in Japanese.

夏休みに宿題があるというのは、子供に夏休みを休むなと言っているようなものだ。つまり休むのはあくまでも学校であり、子供が休むのではない。(p.24)

『嫌われる勇気』 by Ichiro Kishimi (岸見一郎) and Fumitake Koga (古賀史健)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I bought it because it is a huge bestseller and it aroused my curiosity, but it is not the kind of book that I usually enjoy.

I ended up buying the audiobook too, because reading a book and listening to its audio version is an exercise that I like to do from time to time.

It turned out that this book is perfect for an audio version. The whole book is a conversation between a philosopher and a sceptic young interlocutor who is not convinced by what the philosopher says, so it somehow feels even more natural to listen to the audiobook rather than to read the book. The voice actors are very good too.

Even though the topic of the book (Adler psychology) is complex, the language level is not too high and overall, the book was not difficult to read. The efforts made by the authors to convey their message in the easiest and most accessible way possible made for an overall easy book to me.

『岩田さん』, edited by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞)

I have heard so many good things about this book, that I was sure I would like it, but still, I was surprised to find it so engrossing, even passages about topics that don’t usually interest me (like leadership and management).

This book is a collection of interviews made by Shigesato Itoi with Satoru Iwata, and extracts from 社長が訊く. As a result, the book reads very easily, it feels like listening to an interview rather than reading a book.

As for the language level, it was easier than I thought it would be. You can read samples here if you are interested in the book and want to check the language level. (By the way, the anecdote at the beginning about the HP calculator that does not have a [=] button was very enlightening to me. I had one of this calculators in the hand once and thought it was the weirdest thing ever. Interesting to see that it is similar to the Japanese way of counting!)

Novels and manga

『密室の鍵貸します』by Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)

I have read the first book in the Ikagawa series (this one) and the most recent one as well, and both are equally good. The style of the author has not changed much either. The last one is certainly more humoristic than the first one, but I loved both and I am sure that I will love all the other ones as well.

In terms of language level, in the range of mystery/detective fiction that I have read, this one is on the easy side. This series is one of my best discoveries of the year, and I heartily recommend it if you like light-hearted, humoristic but still engrossing crime mysteries.

『自分を好きになりたい』by Pon Watanabe (わたなべぽん)

I am a fan of Pon Watanabe’s work, and this autobiographical manga is her most famous one. She talks about her efforts to overcome traumatic episodes from her childhood and accept herself.

She shows that there are ways to overcome years of habits and negative thoughts about oneself. Like Pon Watanabe, if you grew up believing that you are not good enough, that good things are not for you, or that you will inevitably fail where others succeeds, this manga can be a good inspiration. It is also easy to read in Japanese, even though the parts that are handwritten are quite a challenge to me.

『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro Nakayama (中山祐次郎)

I kept my favourite book of the month for the end. 『泣くな研修医』 was extremely engrossing, I just could not put it down.

I never read medical fiction in Japanese before, so I was concerned by the vocabulary, but it turned out that studying the medical words of the novel was extremely entertaining. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun learning new words and studying vocabulary!

I was able to guess the meaning of a majority of unknown words thanks to the kanji, and this exercise was surprisingly funny and extremely rewarding. 肝硬変症? so… a disease of the liver… the only one I know of is cirrhosis. 腎不全… kidneys not intact… the first thing that comes to my mind is renal failure. 尿管結石? urine tract stone? It has to be ureteral calculus.

A lot of words were also pronounced with their English counterpart. For example, 集中治療室 had the furigana ICU, 手術 had the furigana オペ, 酸素飽和度 was pronounced サチュレーション, and 超音波 was エコー. It was interesting to learn that English words seem to be commonly used in a medical environment.

Finally, there were some medical jargon that even the protagonist, who is an intern, didn’t know, so we learn these words with him. Some other specialised words are explained for the readers, so overall, vocabulary was not an issue.

Not only was diving into medical vocabulary a lot of fun, but the novel was also very engrossing. Obviously, I cannot judge whether the depiction of the hospital life is realistic or not, but the author is a surgeon, so I guess that it must be close to reality.

December

That’s it for November, I am very glad with my readings this month! It also went well with my 2020 goal to read more widely as I have read books about law, medicine and psychology as well as the game industry.

My goal for December is to complete my 2020 reading challenge. I only need to read two books to finish it:

  • A winner of literary prize (it will be 蛍川 by Teru Miyamoto)
  • The last book of the Kaga series