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KonMari-ing My Way To an Empty Bookshelf

KonMari-ing My Way To an Empty Bookshelf

KonMari-ing My Way To an Empty BookshelfThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Published by Ten Speed Press on 2014 (first published 2010)
Genres: Non-fiction
Pages: 207

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

That blog post title is a complete lie, fyi.

But I’ll get into that later. Also, this is not a review, I repeat, this is not a review… per se. Also (saying this in retrospect) this post turned out longer than I thought, but stick with me!

Now, not too long ago I bought Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, with the idea that I really own too much stuff and that a good, thorough tidying would be a good idea. Ever since I got my own place I seem to have no problem filling it up with stuff, and it was beginning to bother me. Kondo is a hyped tidying guru, and ‘KonMari’ the way to go it seems, and I wanted to know what all the fuss is about.

Let me get started by saying the book is really easy to read. A bit repetitive here and there, but a good read on the whole.

Hello, super-tidy closet.
Hello, super-tidy closet.
First, Kondo got me thinking. She insists you have to think of a reason to tidy up, and “I want a tidy house” is not a good enough reason. I soon realised I do have a few good reasons I want to live clutter-free. For one, I’m just too young to be stuck with this much stuff. Also, I would like to live in a house that will allow me to relax, instead of being all overstimulated by all the things that are in it. I want my house to be a place where I can study and develop new skills. And, last but not least, I want my house to inspire me not to buy so much… stuff. Now, it’s not that my house is a bad place right now, exactly… but it could use some improvement.

So I set out, and started tidying my clothes. Sorting out your clothes is what Kondo actually insists you should do first. I actually tidied and sorted all my clothes about a year ago, but I was nowhere near as thorough as Kondo says you should be. And as a result I still had a lot of clothes that I didn’t wear and, here it goes, that didn’t spark joy. Yes, Kondo tells you your belongings should spark joy and if they don’t, get rid of them. Wow. Well, anyway, I followed her method and as a result I have 10 bags of clothes in total to get rid of and no clothes left to speak of. I am of course just kidding, I have enough left to get by comfortably, and I love every piece I’ve got left. So KonMari worked.

Next up, and what I really set out to tell you about: my books. I was really looking forward to this part, to be honest! Lately I have been pruning books here and there, and I’ve been careful with what I buy (no longer buying indiscriminately). But still my shelves were overflowing and I knew there were a lot of books that I didn’t really care for any longer. Curious about the result of my tidying?

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[Review] Making Sense of Japanese, by Jay Rubin

[Review] Making Sense of Japanese, by Jay Rubin

[Review] Making Sense of Japanese, by Jay RubinMaking Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You by Jay Rubin
Published by Kodansha on 2013 (first published 1992)
Genres: Non-fiction
Pages: 136

Making Sense of Japanese is the fruit of one foolhardy American's thirty-year struggle to learn and teach the Language of the Infinite. Previously known as Gone Fishin', this book has brought Jay Rubin more feedback than any of his literary translations or scholarly tomes, "even if," he says, "you discount the hate mail from spin-casters and the stray gill-netter."
To convey his conviction that "the Japanese language is not vague," Rubin has dared to explain how some of the most challenging Japanese grammatical forms work in terms of everyday English. Reached recently at a recuperative center in the hills north of Kyoto, Rubin declared, "I'm still pretty sure that Japanese is not vague. Or at least, it's not as vague as it used to be. Probably."

Oh, this book. OH, THIS BOOK.

You see, when I read the reviews where everyone was praising this book, saying how useful and funny it was, I was slightly sceptical. Sure, I like Rubin’s translations. Sure, he knows his Japanese. But I don’t trust non-fiction/selfhelp/reference works to keep me interested. I always get bored reading them, I just don’t have the patience. And this book is funny? Yeah, right.

Good job, Rubin, proving me wrong. I really enjoyed this book for so many reasons. For one, it really is quite funny. I couldn’t help smirk at some of his comments and comparisons, thinking “Yes, yes, that’s exactly what it’s like“. Fair enough, not having grown up in the US, I didn’t get all the references (who’s Johnny Carson?) but I wasn’t bothered by it.

Anyway. ‘Funny’ is all well and good, but the most important thing about this book is: damn, it’s useful. If you study Japanese, and especially if you’re at the point where you are starting to become confident and as Rubin himself says “progress from cognitive absorption to intuitive mastery”, you have to read this book. I’d personally recommend this book for anyone level N3 and up. I think that’s when you will benefit the most from it.

Rubin covers all kinds of topics related to the Japanese language, in small and slightly larger chapters. For me, they can be divided in three: 1) topics that I had no problem with, 2) topics that I never quite got but that are now clear, and 3) topics that I thought I understood but apparently got all wrong (ouch).

Rubin not only explains how certain aspects of Japanese grammar work, but also how to practically deal with them. And that precisely is what makes this book so useful.

The only complaint I have about this book (which is why it’s a 4.5 instead of 5 star book for me) is that I would have liked all Japanese examples to have kanji&kana next to the romaji.

And that’s it. That’s my only issue. Besides that, this book was perfect. I hope Rubin will continue to work on it (it has been revised once already) and will add new topics.

[Review] Read Real Japanese Essays

[Review] Read Real Japanese Essays

[Review] Read Real Japanese EssaysRead Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors by Banana Yoshimoto, Haruki Murakami, Hideo Levy, Janet Ashby, Junko Sakai, Keiichiro Hirano, Kou Machida, Mitsuyo Kakuta, Yōko Ogawa
Published by Kodansha on 2008
Genres: Japanese literature, Non-fiction
Pages: 240

There is a dramatic difference between reading Japanese that is tailored to students, and reading real Japanese that has been written for native speakers. The concocted variety tends to be insipid, flat, stiff, standardized, completely lacking in exciting and imaginative use of language. Read Real Japanese Essays allows readers to experience the work of several of today's foremost writers as if they were lifelong Japanese speakers.

Among Japanese learning material aimed at foreigners, this book is definitely one of the better ones. The book contains eight essays by (relatively) popular authors, such as Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto and Yoko Ogawa.

The set-up of this book works perfectly. Each essay contains a short introduction in English with some background information on the author. Then after that, on the right page we get the essay, with furigana the first time you encounter the more difficult kanji. The left side has, not exactly translations but rather, interpretations of the more difficult sentences. Finally in the back of the book we get a dictionary of the words found in the essays, followed by grammatical and contextual notes on each essay.

Clearly someone has thought long and hard on the structure of the book and it works (unlike a lot of bilingual parallel texts). The dictionary in the back may sound inconvenient – I for one do not like going back and forth in a book to look up things. However, I found I rarely needed the dictionary thanks to the translations on the left page. This can also be a bit of a disadvantage. The book is set up in such a way that you can choose to focus only on the essays on the right side pages, but the reader might have to restrain themselves from glancing at the translations on the left page.

Read Real Japanese

The Japanese level of the essays is quite high. Being at N2, some of the essays were relatively easy to read, while others (mostly due to the vocabulary) really challenged me. In that sense the level was perfect for me. I like texts that are readable, but I also want to challenge myself to level-up! It’s refreshing to read texts that were not written with foreign learners in mind, but are, well, real Japanese.

Honestly, I am quite enthusiastic about this book. And best of all, there is a companion to this book: Read Real Japanese Fiction (which in retrospect I wish I had started with).

Now, as for the content of the essays, I did not enjoy them all equally. This is the only reason I gave the book 4 instead of 5 stars. Click through for my (quick) opinion on each of the essays.

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