This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which Japanese book for adults is best? 

If you are interested in learning a foreign language, Japanese is a great option not only for professional opportunities but also for the popularity of Japanese media, namely anime and manga. Everyone has their own reasons for learning a language, but Japanese hails from a land with a particularly rich history and culture. 

Japanese is notoriously one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn. According to the US Department of State’s rankings, Japanese is listed as a category five language, alongside Arabic, Chinese and Korean, which means that it would take a native English speaker 2,200 class hours of study in order to reach fluency. However, don’t let this discourage you. While Japanese may be a harder language to study, it is ultimately a very rewarding language that will unlock many doors for you in the future. 

Due to the difficulty of the Japanese language, it’s very important to find a resource that works for you. “Read Real Japanese: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers” is the best Japanese book for adults and an excellent pick of contemporary Japanese short stories that is sure to boost your reading skills and comprehension.  

What to know before you buy a Japanese book for adults 

Japanese Language Proficiency Test levels 

Much like the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) levels that we use for English and other European languages, Japanese has its own set of levels that learners can use to better orient themselves in their Japanese learning journey. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or JLPT, is divided into five levels, with the beginner level being N5 and the most advanced level being N1. The “N” next to the level stands for the “new Nihongo,” as the current framework used by the JLPT is a new model that has five levels instead of four. 

As a beginner, you should look for books that are marketed as being N5. Since there are only five levels, the difference between the levels can be vast, especially between N4 and N3. If you have previous experience learning Japanese, you may want to test your level for free online before spending money on a book. 

Books in Japanese vs. Japanese textbooks 

With your JLPT level in hand, it’s time to start looking for books. If you are a more advanced learner, or at least at the N3 level, you can go ahead and start immersing yourself in Japanese content and books that were written with native speakers in mind. However, if you are still at the N5 or N4 level, consider looking for a book that offers a more guided approach to the language. 

There is a slew of great Japanese textbooks for various JLPT levels that you can buy online, such as the Genki series. If you are an absolute beginner to Japanese, consider purchasing a textbook to help you establish a base of grammar and vocabulary. 

What you need to know before you start reading in Japanese 

One of the most challenging parts of learning Japanese is actually learning to read and write. Japanese uses three writing systems: kanji, or Chinese characters, hiragana and kana. Before you start studying Japanese, it’s best to learn hiragana and katakana, the simplest of the three scripts. You will ultimately learn kanji through exposure as you read, but there are also textbooks that are designed to help you familiarize yourself with kanji. 

The good news is that it’s easy to avoid kanji as a beginner since most N5 texts do not use kanji. However, do not take this as a sign that you don’t need to learn kanji because, at the end of the day, it is an all-important aspect of the Japanese language. 

What to look for in a quality Japanese book for adults 

Accompanying audio

As a learner of Japanese, you won’t have any trouble finding things to listen to in Japanese. However, it’s also important that any book you buy has accompanying audio that goes with the texts. This is good not only for improving your listening skills but also your pronunciation and speaking skills. 

Built-in dictionary or index 

In order to avoid having to flip back and forth between your book and a separate dictionary every time you come across an unknown word, it’s best to find a book with a built-in dictionary. This is very helpful since the book will most likely define the word in the context in which it’s actually used. 

Help with kanji 

Any good Japanese learning resource will offer some guidance with learning kanji. If you notice that a Japanese book doesn’t use kanji or either relies heavily on romaji or the Roman alphabet, you should refrain from using it. 

How much you can expect to spend on a Japanese book for adults

Japanese books for adults can range from $20-$45, depending on the book. 

Japanese books for adults FAQ

Is it OK to read Japanese in romaji? 

A. Yes and no. If you are an absolute beginner, romaji can be a useful tool to help you learn words phonetically. However, it can start to hinder your pronunciation and comprehension if you rely on it past the N5 level. 

Can I learn Japanese just through reading? 

A. No. As with learning any language, it’s very important that you incorporate all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) into your study routine. 

What’s the best Japanese book for adults to buy?

Top Japanese book for adults 

Read Real Japanese: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers

Read Real Japanese: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers

What you need to know: This book contains several short stories written by contemporary Japanese authors and is perfect for N4 learners. 

What you’ll love: The book is bilingual but does not force English on you. It offers vocabulary lists, a dictionary and accompanying audio. 

What you should consider: This book is too difficult for absolute beginners and has some more advanced kanji in it that appear without furigana. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top Japanese book for adults for the money

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners

What you need to know: This fun and engaging book is full of good language learning advice and helps make the writing systems of Japanese more accessible. It’s great for N5-N4 learners.  

What you’ll love: The stories are interesting and each story comes with vocabulary and comprehension questions. 

What you should consider: There is no audio. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors

Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 

What you need to know: This book of essays written in Japanese is great for N3-N2 learners but is made accessible to N4 learners, thanks to the bilingual approach of the book. 

What you’ll love: If fiction isn’t your thing, these essays are sure to please. This book includes vocabulary lists, a built-in dictionary and accompanying audio. 

What you should consider: Each person has their own tastes, but some of the essays in this book might not make for the most exciting or insightful read. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Addison Hoggard writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.