Breakthrough Japanese / Hitomi Hirayama : 4 of 5
I'm pretty much always reading some book on Japanese language in addition to my other regular study methods, and when I saw this book was by the author of the Pera Pera Penguin column (that I've been a fan of for a long time), I had to add it to my collection. The book is divided into twenty short lessons that each cover a particular language topic, but aren't organized into any order. Each lesson starts with a common point of confusion, such as the difference between shirimasen and wakarimasen, and then presents lots of sample dialogue and exercises. Actually, many of the topics covered are taken right from Pera Pera Penguin, which is available for free online, but it's nice to have them all together in a book, and I believe each includes more example sentences here. There's tons of great lessons, including a nice explanation of the use of buri (which I didn't quite understand in a recent lesson with Kazki), and a great chapter of the many, many set phrases (which the author calls "pocket phrases") that make the language so lively. The layout of the book also has a great style and it's really fun to read. My only complaint is that the tone of the book makes it so easy to breeze through and yet not remember anything! I guess that's mostly my fault, but I feel like I should go back and re-read most of the book again. As an intermediate Japanese student, I definitely think it's worth reading for exposure to some interesting topics.