Natively popped up last year on Reddit as a brand new website where you can find and track Japanese books. Kind of like Goodreads, but for Japanese books aimed at people studying Japanese. I gave it a go and instantly fell in love.
Natively recently had their official launch, along with a new addition of forums, so I thought now was a good time to review the site.
What is Natively?
Natively is a book cataloging and tracking website specifically for Japanese books for people studying Japanese.
They have manga, children’s books, light novels, novels, short stories, graded readers, textbooks, and more, all organized by their difficulty.
So say you’re around JLPT N3 level and you’re looking for some new novels to try out, you can search Natively’s database for new recommendations!
Similar to Goodreads, users can review books and rank books they’ve read by overall entertainment and how it is as a language learning tool.
Natively also has some extra nice touches such as whether a book won any literary awards, if you can read them legally for free (due to them no longer being under copywrite), and even if they’ve been read in the WaniKani book club.
Natively is free to access but if you want to keep track of your own books you need an account—which is also free!
How Does Grading Work?
How “difficult” a book is isn’t decided by the website, but by the users.
When someone submits a book to be added to the database they can suggest a difficulty level. But that level isn’t set in stone until a few people have finished the book and graded it.
Grading is done by comparing books to other similar books. You can say whether the book you read was “easier than” “about the same” or “harder than” than a book you’ve previously read. This then helps the system assign a difficulty level to the book.
It’s not perfect because how “difficult” a book is varies depending on the person, but I’d say the grading is pretty accurate. And it only gets more accurate the more different users grade the same books.
What Are Stats?
This isn’t a feature I use so much, but Natively lets you track statistics on how much you’ve read.
With an account you can track how many pages you read in any given day, which is then gathered in stats which help you visualize your progress.
But even if you don’t track your no. of pages read per day, the stats still track when you finished reading books, roughly how many pages that is, the number of unique authors, and your most difficult book, and more!
You can see flow charts, pie charts, and bar charts breaking down the minute statistics of your reading.
This is great for people who feel motivated by tracking their own statistics! And I think it works best if you can enter your pages read count regularly. But (if you’re like me) you don’t have to use the stats feature.
One of the latest additions to the site is the forums.
I’m not the best at keeping up in a community, but I like the environment and people so far.
It allows for people to share what they’re reading, what books they suggest for new people, how they study Japanese, and even a space for users to suggest changes to the site.
A Mystery Novel Book Club just started. And I’m getting into because I personally find book clubs and reading challenges motivating.
Why Is Natively Great for Japanese Learners?
I’m a big advocate for reading in Japanese. Not just for advanced learners, but for beginner and intermediate levels too. And Natively is a great tool to help you find the best books for you!
It can be intimidating to try a book if you’re not sure if it’s the right level for you. But with the grading system Natively makes it super easy to find books which are at you level. Or maybe even easier or harder (depending on what mood you’re in!)
Or if you’ve heard of a book and aren’t sure if you want to try it out, you can look it up and see rankings and reviews by other learners to help you decide.
It can also be a great tool for motivation. Having a community, tracking system, statistics, reviews, etc. can be good motivators to get you reading on a regular basis.
These might not work as good motivators for everyone, but I personally find tracking my books and writing reviews motivating. (Hence why I write a lot of book reviews on Japanese Talk Online!)
Overall, I think that if you enjoy reading books in Japanese or want to start reading Japanese books, then Natively is a site you’ll want to check out!
The additional amazing thing is that this isn’t a website made by any company, but a single person developer! Brandon made the website and tracking software himself!
I really love to see individuals with a passion for Japanese using their skills and knowledge to help others in the community.