The Benefits and Pleasure of Reading Light Novels

Normally this is the time of week I’d have a light novel or manga review and I certainly have more than a few books stacked on my desk and ready for their reviews to be written or finalised. However, recently I was asked what I enjoyed about reading light novels and it made me start thinking about the changes in my reading habits over the past two years since I started reading my very first light novel series, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.

My whole life I’ve been obsessed with books. I fill shelves with them, spend hours rummaging through dusty boxes and shelves in second hand book stores, and spend more than a fair bit of time online shopping for books. However, growing up my focus was decided split with fantasy, science fiction and horror books on the one side and the standard classic literature list on the other. At university I expanded more into a range of authors who pioneered or represented movements or were renowned in some form or another, though I definitely kept enjoying my genre fiction.

It was pretty standard for me to be carrying two to three novels on me at any one time and cycle through them based on my mood or how much time I had to sit and read.

Maka Albarn - Soul Eater - Reading books

Then adulting happened.

I know, becoming an adult is kind of that thing we all have to do. But it had a definite impact on my reading because after spending a day reading for work meant by the time I came home I wanted entertainment that was less immersive and demanding of me and so movies and games filled the recreation time, as did my growing obsession with anime. I still read books, but they became something I stacked away and stored for long weekends or holidays where I would devour two or three in quick succession. Young adult novels became more standard in my collection because they were quicker to read and I was sure to complete it before I got distracted by work again.

As my anime obsession grew, so did my curiosity with the source material of many anime and while I wasn’t overly keen on reading manga, I decided it was time to plunge into light novels.

Fortunately for me I picked wisely.

At first I ordered one volume of one series when it was on sale and thought the worst that could happen was it would end up donated to a charity where it would end up sold on to someone else. However, I kind of became hooked.

For all that the first volume of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is not a perfect book by any means, the story rolls over you easily and carried you along to the end. There’s enough description to sketch in the world and character dialogue to give them shape, but it doesn’t get bogged down in details or tedious conversations that serve no purpose.

In a nutshell, it is easy and undemanding to read. Plus, easily devoured in a single sitting or over a couple of evenings so even with work demands it was something I could sink my teeth into and enjoy.

However, as my collection of light novels and manga (because one opened the door to the other) grew I ran into a few problems as well as a few really good points.

My main problem was storage space. Because of the quick read time and number of volumes in some sets it became quickly apparent I was going to need to a new shelf to store them on. But the other issue is that each series seems to be its own specific shape. Some are wider or taller than others and so stacking books has become quite the game of jenga and I’m not entirely convinced I’m the best person for the job. Particularly when I decide to read an older volume and pull it out from under a precarious stack, or the latest volume of a series I just read needs to be placed under another series requiring some careful handling.

This is a dream come true, a room totally surrounded by books.

Admittedly, a lot of people are probably just better at dealing with stacks that don’t perfectly align but for me everytime I look at the light novel collection I just want to try to make all the spines line up neatly and I’ve yet to succeed because they just don’t.

The other problem is naturally cost. While each book doesn’t cost all that much, particularly taking into account the frequency of online sales, the speed at which the books are read and again, the number of volumes each set will end up with, means that the cost of books rapidly adds up. It isn’t insurmountable but in order to stop myself binge spending on any other given day I plan lists and schedules for my next book order to keep it all under control and under budget.

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Yet both of these are petty complaints.

The books I’ve bought and read so far have been fun and entertaining. They’ve given me a raft of colourful characters and settings and plots that are incredibly. In the case of Grimgar and DanMachi the books have filled the void left by anime that next concluded the story and in the case of the Natsume manga I’ve found a new and amazing way to experience a story I loved in anime form. Arifureta gave me something different in a genre I’m familiar with from anime, and so on and so forth.

I love the artwork that is included in these books, whether it is the fold out work at the beginning of the volumes or the images scattered throughout, it just adds something to the reading experience. And certainly I appreciate any book that is easily slotted into a handbag or travel bag. That and a book that doesn’t hurt when it falls on my face because I fell asleep while reading.

Certainly I’ve ordered the first volume of some series and it just hasn’t worked for me and I’ve not continued on, but that is true of all types of books. Growing up there was a huge second hand book sale that took place every six months and the last day of the sale always had a fill-a-bag option and so I would plunder the fantasy section of any and everything I hadn’t read. I worked on the standard idea that only one in every ten books I started would actually be amazing and only three in ten would be good enough to end up on my book shelf. The rest would be read and then returned to the charity to end up at the next book sale. The only tragedy being that one particular book got purchased on three separate occasions.

Yeah, No Game No Life looked like it should be perfect for me, but just didn’t work out.

From that point of view, I’ve had far more hits than misses when it comes to reading light novels, though given a lot that I’ve chosen I’ve watched the anime of, I’m not going in blind to very many.

While a few people I know feel I’ve gone backwards a bit in my reading, all I can say is that I’m having as much fun as every consuming stories. While the pictures on the covers of the books I’m reading these days may be brighter, what hasn’t changed is my general love of words and nicely flowing plot with characters I can get behind and want to see succeed.

Next week I’ll get back to actually reviewing something from the stack before it takes over my desk entirely but before then, if you read light novels I’d love to know what you find appealing about them?


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Karandi James



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14 thoughts on “The Benefits and Pleasure of Reading Light Novels

  1. Light novels aren’t something I’ve started reading yet (for whatever reason), but I totally understand the jenga situation. I have a small shelf space with books and manga volumes, and have taken to trying my best to place some horizontally on top of others hoping they won’t fall. It’s an enjoyable experience for me, though.

    I wonder, though, do you have series alphabetized by author or some other system? I’ve taken to simply finding space and knowing exactly where I’ve placed my novels and manga volumes, but if it’s out of order for the way I have it I tend to freak out and think, “This is wrong. That goes here, that belongs there, etc.”

    1. Depends on the type of book and the purpose it was bought for. My fantasy/sci-fi novel collection are shelved by author and then by series. Woe to anyone who messes with that shelf as I can tell from across the room which book is missing.
      YA and light novels are currently stacked so that all the books in a single series are together but given the lack of space they are mostly just stacked in the order they’ve been acquired.
      The many other books tend to get placed wherever they best suit though by and large I do try to keep things in an orderly manner. Otherwise I’d never find anything. DVD’s are alphabetised, though I used to arrange them by colour of the spine until it was pointed out to me that I am probably the only person who can find a DVD using such a system. Still, it worked for me for many years before I changed it.

  2. I would like to read more light novels, especially since I tend to prefer prose novels to graphic novels anyway, but among English book publishers it feels like they’re still an afterthought compared to manga and the quality of fan translations is mixed, at best. The most frustrating ones for me are the ones where the English publishers license the manga but not the novels, when it’s the novels specifically that I want to read (examples: Saekano and Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai). Anyway, my LN collection is pretty small: I own all of Haruhi Suzumiya in hardback, I have volumes 1-3 of Scrapped Princess that TokyoPop published in the mid-aughts (the complete series is 13 volumes; we never got the rest), and right now I’m buying Toradora in print and Amagi Brilliant Park in ebook as those get released. I’ve had the Toradora fan translations on my Kindle for years, so I was happy to finally be able to support that series legally. Others I’ve read have either been fan translated or borrowed from the library.

    What appeals to me about light novels? Besides my preference for prose, I’ve always had an affinity for teen fiction too, and it feels like the light novels I’ve read generally tend to be written on a similar level as western teen fic; shading more on the emotional/melodramatic side, with plots that have a little meat on them but aren’t usually super-complicated. I’ve never been one of those people who feels like I have to read James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon to validate my literary cred; just tell me an entertaining story with some strong, well-developed characters and I’ll happily follow it all the way to the end.

    1. I pity anyone who reads James Joyce just to validate their literary cred – more power to anyone who enjoys him.
      I’ve been tempted to get some series in digital form but I just really don’t like reading on my kindle. It really is a last resort when I’m travelling and can’t carry sufficient books to last the distance.

  3. Light novels are thinner than even YA fiction, which is probably why I’ve been siding with them more as they become popular and I’ve been reading less books in general.

    As for shelves, my < 1 year at the charity store has given me more than enough experience with problem books. My tips for horizontal stacking would be to store by size from one end of a shelf to another, with a small thick book to act as a stopper. If not, lean the smaller books in the direction of the bigger ones and if it falls when there aren't enough to make it sit properly, get something else (like a piece of bric a brac) to stop it. For vertical stacking, put big books at the bottom and decrease size as you stack upwards, trying your best to pick similar sized books that fit the shelf. Always stack with spine facing in a direction you can read it when facing the shelf and try not to double or triple stack (books get lost in the back that way). Spiral bound books should be stacked with longest non-spiral edge touching the shelf, possibly with the spiral facing towards you.

    1. I’ve learned with double and triple stacking of books or DVD’s you only do it when the books or movies behind are the same series so if you are working through the series it is no problem and you always know what is behind.
      Actually, I found something very odd when trying to stack Natsume. If I want the cover facing upward when lying the books down, the title on the spine is upside down (English version). If I want the spine to be reading the right way up I actually have to stack the books upside down. It kind of hurts doing that but reading the spine is more important when the books are on the shelf.

      1. …Fair enough.

        Just from looking at Japanese language manga, the title is often written vertically in that case so it doesn’t look so weird, but that doesn’t translate well to their English-translated counterparts…but yeah, stacking manga can be a bit irksome if some covers face up and some face down, especially when it’s manga in a sea of English language novels.

    1. Haruhi Suzumiya is another title on my list of books I want to read. I always thought that story would be fantastic in book form and I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

  4. I definitely need to read more light novels, just finished My Hero Academia School Briefs vol 1, actually, though my ‘to read’ pile is ridiculous at the minute so I’m trying to hold off adding to it, and failing miserably.

    1. I know, my review pile of books I’ve read is quite tall but the book pile that is to be read is at what I have decided is my maximum so at the moment I’m not buying new books until I get both stacks down a bit more. Still, that resolve usually only lasts until there’s a sale on.

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