This is an incomplete list of all the Level 4 books available from Nikkei Bunko, a Japanese-language library operated by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington; it’ll be updated as I keep reading them.
From Extensive Reading in Japanese, the definition of a Level 4 book:
Level 4: Full texts with kanji and kana. Most kanji have furigana. The content is much richer and the length of a story could go over several volumes, but ample pictures help the readers. Most film comics are at this level. Japanese native readers would be eight to twelve years old.
I’ve added Amazon links for the benefit of having title images and just in case anyone wants to subsidize my reading, but if you’re interested in ordering any of these, I’d also recommend you look them up on Kinokuniya’s website or YesAsia.com and compare prices and shipping costs. They may also be available at a library near you or be available through inter-library loan; you can look them up at WorldCat.org. Also, all title translations are my own unless otherwise indicated, names are family name first, then given name, and 作 and 絵 mean “author” and “illustrator,” respectively.
The Tiger Cat’s Love Letter
作：上崎 美恵子（こうざき みえこ, Kōzaki Mieko）
絵：村井 香葉（むらい かよ, Murai Kayo）
Level 4 本, 95 pages, 4,000 words (est.)
To Miharu’s great surprise, one day a stray cat asks her to write a love letter for him. It seems that people in this world aren’t impressed by talking cats; for example, the letter is inevitably found and Miharu’s classmates think she wrote it to someone, and I just kept thinking “Hey, produce the talking cat as evidence and that should shut everyone up” but no dice, apparently. Instead, things just kept getting worse…
An Illustrated History of Japan
作／絵：西村繁男（にしむらしげお, Nishimura Shigeo）
Level 4 絵本, 80 pages, 900 words
Currently writing a longer review of this book; will link to it when I’m done.
Chinese History #1: The Tacticians of the Warring States Period
シナリオ：武上 純希（たけがみ じゅんき, Takegami Junki）
作画：西村 緋祿司（にしむら ひろし, Nishimura Hiroshi）
Level 4 漫画, 128 pages, 2,500 words (est.)
This first book in a series of educational manga about Chinese history illustrates the life of Sun Bin; it uses a lot of hard kanji and direct quotes from his writings, but balances out the difficulty by including footnotes and a cat and mouse duo who provide commentary and ask questions.
Fair, Then Partly Piggy (official title)
作／絵：矢玉 四郎（やだま しろう, Yadama Shirō）
Level 4 本, 79 pages, 3,000 words (est.)
Encouraged by his third-grade teacher, Noriyasu starts to keep a diary: she tells him he doesn’t have to show it to anyone, so he can write about his life openly, but when he does so, he’s shocked to discover his mom reading it. He determines to surprise his mom without writing untrue things by making up events for “Tomorrow’s Diary,” but every night he writes something, it comes true the next day… This was recommended to me by someone on lang-8, and I really enjoyed it for Noriyasu’s thought processes and the peek into his family’s life.
Tales of Sparkling Wit
作：木暮 正夫（こぐれ まさお, Kogure Masao）
絵：原 ゆたか（はら ゆたか, Hara Yutaka）
Level 4 本, 95 pages, 4,000 words (est.)
I’m writing a longer review of this one, so I’ll link to it when it’s done.
- Extensive reading is known as 多読, or tadoku in Japanese. To try it, start with very easy books (ones with no more than two or three unknown words per page), and follow these principles:
1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary while reading.
2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.
Find something to read!
Hundreds of free books and stories online
Local bookstores and libraries
Buying new and used books online
For more information, read "What Is Extensive Reading?" and "Classification System."
To learn more about Kunihide Sakai, who developed the three principles of tadoku and has worked to popularize it in Japan for years, read this interview with him.
Finally, for more than you ever wanted to know about why I believe extensive reading is worth your time, read my tadoku manifesto.
Superfluous StatsBooks read: 303
Word count (since starting the blog): 380,500
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