Reading challenge for 2020!

Happy New Year!!

It’s finally this exciting time of the year when we can set our new resolutions and goals. I don’t have concrete language goals for 2020, but I do have a reading challenge!

My reading challenge for 2018 and 2019 has simply been a list of titles that I wanted to read during the year. I had a list of 13 books in 2018 and 23 books in 2019.

I wanted to do something a little more exciting and also more flexible for 2020. Instead of having a list of titles, I will have several small reading challenges to complete! I am very excited about this.

Read more non-fiction

I have been wanting to read more non-fiction in Japanese for a long time, but I have never got down to doing it. The problem is that I never took the time to make a proper search to look for topics that interest me. I sometimes look at the list of best-selling books, but they are often self-development and business, which is not what interests me the most.

I will certainly spend some time browsing titles on Amazon! I am interested in books on workplace/work culture and social problems in general. I also want to tackle more difficult topics like death penalty in Japan. I would also very much like to read a book on the Pacific War written by a Japanese author. It will certainly be extremely challenging, but if I focus on that in 2020, it might be possible. Finally, I would like to read a book on South Korea and the relationship between the two countries.

These are just some ideas that I have now, and I may change my mind in the course of the year. In any case: 5 nonfiction books in 2020!

Go on with the Kaga series!

The Detective Kaga series by Keigo HIGASHINO has a special place in my heart. First of all, I love the series and I love Detective Kyoichiro KAGA, I think that he might be my favourite fictional detective of all time. Secondly, the first novel I read in Japanese is the first book of the series, so to me, these books are not only great detective novels, but they are also deeply connected to my learning Japanese journey.

I have read the first 8 books of Detective Kaga’s investigations. It is now time to catch up with the series and read the two remaining titles.

Read literary fiction!

Another one of my long-time goals: read more literary fiction. I guess that by “literary fiction” I mean books that don’t focus on the plot only, have complex and realistic characters, eventually deal with moral or social issues and are “well written”…? It is convenient to use the term “literary fiction” though it is sometimes difficult to say whether a book falls in this category or not, and many books of genre fiction have these characteristics too.

I was wondering how I would pick my books when I thought it would be nice to read winners of literary awards. I will certainly choose among the recent winners of the Akutagawa Prize. I have read 『コンビニ人間』by Sayaka MURATA (村田沙耶香), and though it was difficult to read, it was not impossible either. On the other hand, I have also tried to read Naoki MATAYOSHI’s (又吉 直樹) 『火花』and this was just way too difficult…

Open up to new genres!

I also intend to read more genre fiction in 2021 and want to discover other genres that are not crime or detective fiction. (I will obviously continue to read crime fiction, but I don’t need to include that in my challenge.)

I am thinking particularly of romance and historical fiction, though the latter might be too difficult to read in Japanese… I might also try some speculative fiction if I find something interesting.

Read Haruki MURAKAMI in Japanese

This is something that I want to do for a long time: determine whether I like Haruki MURAKAMI or not by reading his books in Japanese. I have read one or two books by Haruki MURAKAMI in their French translation, and to be honest, I never understood what made his books so special. It is not that I disliked them entirely, I remember that I found some short stories very interesting, but I could not see why he was so popular.

Now that I can read in Japanese, I want to try to read his texts directly, and maybe understand why so many readers love his books. I am not at all blaming the French translation, but I think that reading in translation did have an impact on my reading experience. For example, I have read one or two books by Keigo HIGASHINO in their French translation before learning Japanese, and while I found them interesting and very different to the detective/crime fiction I was used to reading, I haven’t become the avid reader of Higashino I am now.


Every year I tell myself that I want to read more of this and that but rarely get down to doing it. I guess that my goals are always too vague, and I tend to forget them as the year goes on.

I am sure that setting smaller and more concrete goals with numbers and boxes will help me to complete them. I will update the cards (add titles and check those boxes) as I progress and incorporate them into my book reviews whenever I finish a book that was part of a challenge.

I also thought of other challenges like “finish this book” or “read the books I purchased and never read”, but I thought that this would feel like chores, and I wanted to keep my reading challenges for 2020 exciting and fun. So I picked only things that I want to do, not that I feel that I have to do.

There is a book though, that I really would like to finish next year:

This book is 500 pages long and I have reached page 149, this means that I am nearing the end of the chapter 日清戦争. I read it very slowly, checking facts and names on Wikipedia, looking up words, taking notes… This is my extra challenge for 2020, but I won’t be distressed if I cannot complete it.

Do you have a reading challenge for 2020 (Japanese or other)? I know a lot of people set themselves a number of books they want to read during the year. My secret goal is to read 30 books in Japanese in 2020, but it might be unrealistic, especially if I tackle challenging books 😅 What is yours?

I wish you the best for 2020!