How many Japanese novels do I read at one time?

Reading Multiple Books at a time

If your goal is just picking up a book and reading, then I think reading from random books based off of your mood will help to to reach that goal. But maybe try to think about what is tempting you to read multiple books at the same time.

What makes you want to take a break from a book?

Are you bored of the story?
Is the vocabulary too hard for you?
Too many cultural references that you are unfamiliar with?
Are you just not into the writing style?
Just looking to switch things up?
Do you have more fun reading this way?

Personally, I find that I end up reading less pages per day when I give into the temptation to reading multiple books at the same time. For me, I find that what draws me into stopping and starting multiple books is feeling scatter brained. Sometimes I feel like I lack direction or that I don’t have the energy to progress at my normal pace. While the skipping around books is a symptom of lack of energy or an unfocused mindset for me, acknowledging the problem is helping me to get back into reading and reaching my goals.

If reading multiple books at once works for you, that’s great! Keep on doing it! Many people do so and I will go more into that later in this article. But if reading too many books at once feels like its become a problem for you or you feel like your Japanese is not progressing, maybe try just one book at a time and see how it feels. Really think about what causes you to stop reading each book and examine any issues that you are having to figure out which would be a good solid choice of a book to stick with until finishing it.

Reading One book at a time

In my natural state of reading books in English, I tend to stick to reading one book at a time.

When I read one book at a time in Japanese, this is when I feel like I am at my best. I feel like I am really involved in the story and am improving on skill sets such as vocabulary and reading speed. Reading one book at a time also helps to me manage my specific reading goals. At this stage, I would like to be reading on average one book a week. Books completed per month is the way that I prefer to keep track of my reading goals, so one book at a time is ideal for me.

I also find that reading one book at a time helps to improve my vocabulary at a faster rate. Many books tend to reuse the same words often as either a writing style or to go along with certain literary themes in the plot line. When I stick with one book until completion, I have more consistent exposure to those vocabulary words and that helps to make for meaningful and solid word retention. Using this style helps me to efficiently learn words while cutting back on my reliance on SRS cards.

On a related noted, reading one book at a time also helps me with learning and guessing readings for Japanese last names. I am still at the stage when remembering readings of characters can be difficult. I don’t have this issue when I stick to one novel, but when I am reading multiple at a time it is hard for me to reliability recall how to pronounce each characters name.

Tip: If you are having this issue, one way to get around it while still reading multiple books would be to take notes on each characters reading on the book mark that you are using for that particular novel.

If your goal is to increase the amounts of books that you read to completion or improve vocabulary, maybe try sticking with one book at a time.


文学Youtuberベル is a name that I have mentioned in my blog before. She is a Japanese youtuber that creates content for Japanese and Japanese speakers who love reading books. I watch her channel often and sometimes use her book reviews to help me choose what to read next.

Bell did a survey in 2019 about reading multiple books at the same time. In this case, the survey focus on 併読, which is purposing match up books to read together. According to Bell, this would not include reading a novel and a business book together. She takes this word to specifically mean matching up two related books together to read as a set.

I think that this survey would fit with readers of this blog as the focus is reading and enjoying Japanese novels from a language learners perspective. So since learning/improving one’s Japanese is an overarching theme, I think that the idea of 併読 fits with any book that is written in Japanese.

While watching the video, I got the impression that those who answered the survey did not find the same distinctive meaning that Bell took from this particular word. Viewers seem to have answered the question in ways that would match with reading multiple unrelated books at the same time.

1350 Japanese book lovers answered this survey and it turns out that many of 文学Youtuberベル purposefully read multiple related books at the same time!

Reasons given for reading only one book at a time:

Becoming fully absorbed in the world each book creates
Wanting to really focus on each individual book
Being excited to know what happens next in the story
Being the type to read a whole book in one sitting

Reasons given for reading multiple related books at once:

Picking books to read based off of ones mood at the moment
Focusing on finishing novels that they have borrowed from friends/the library
Being excited about the multiple books
Being unable to focus well on one book
Getting tired of reading the same story
Wanting a break from reading a difficult book
Changing books based off of location(one in their bag for reading on the train vs one next to their bed)
Purposefully matching up non-fiction and fiction books to switch things up

Even with the people who read multiple books at once, it seems that Bell and many of her viewers do not read two novels at the same time. The reason being as that they tend to get confused about what happened in each book. It seemed to be especially a problem for those who like to read mystery books.


It really depends on one’s individual style to find out which works best for you and your personal goals. If your current style doesn’t seem to be helping you progress with your current goals, maybe its worth it to switch things up and try a different style of reading.

I personally find that reading one book at a time works best for me. I recently have been reading multiple books at the same time due to feeling unfocused and stressed. I am going to stop this habit and get back into the reading style that fits me the best and helps me to reach my language learning goals.


I have attached this video mentioned in the article for anyone who is interested!

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

8 thoughts on “How many Japanese novels do I read at one time?”

  1. Hello, I see that you enjoy reading japanese novels and I have a question. I watch anime with Japanese subtitles and I was wondering how the different the novels are from the anime?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am not sure if I fully understand your question or not. But here is what I think.

      I think using Japanese subtitles is a great way to learn, but I think its easy to ignore one’s weak points if you rely on it as your main study tool or source of reading.

      If your reading is weak, then the audio might cause you to believe that your reading ability is stronger then it actuality is. The reverse is true as well and a strong reader might falsely believe that their listening skills are getting stronger.

      I think its important to get listening practice without subtitles and reading practice without audio.

      If you are asking about how similar anime is to novelizations of said anime. From my experience they tend to be too similar for me to fully enjoy reading the novel as I would prefer to have extra insight added in the novel. But its good practice if that is what you are looking for!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for clearing that up. I often wonder if novels are a popular medium in japan being that anime is popular as well. Does the outlandish content in anime is the same in novels? Meaning, do novels explore sumo-wrestling, tennis, rock-climbing, and cooking like anime does?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. In 2020, Japan came in 29th place in a ranking that looks at how many hours people from each country report reading. So not super popular, but I see many people reading outside and have a few friends who call reading a hobby.

        In my experience, Japanese novels are not as ‘outlandish’ as anime overall? But it could be the type of novels that I choose to read. There are many novels turned into anime and anime turned into novels. Have you looked into light novels? I think those might have story lines that are similar to popular anime series.

        Miura Shion is one author that I have read that is known for digging into different worlds such as running or forestry. But her stories are more quirky then silly.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I couldn’t find the wood job but I purchased The Great Passage instead. I too hope to visit japan one day so I want to take a realistic dive into their culture.

        Liked by 2 people

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