The book is Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar by Koichi NISHIGUCHI [基礎日本語文法教本 西口光一（著）]. に・ほん・ご き・そ ぶん・ぽう きょう・ほん ISBN: 475740168X
You probably know by now what I think about textbooks and studying grammar. Textbooks are the devil’s spawn; studying grammar is a confusing waste of time in terms of actually teaching you how to use the language. Grammar is a “why”, not a “how”. If you want to study about a language, whys are fine, but if you want to use a language, you need hows.
OK, enough speechifying. So why am I recommending a book to you that has “grammar” in the title. Well, first of all, you do still need to understand how to make a grammatically/syntactically correct sentence. That’s where this book comes in. A better title would have been “Logically Progressing Example Sentences on Steroids”, since that’s exactly what this book is. There is no more explanation of rules than is necessary to get the job done. In less than 200 pages (197), it packs just under 2000 sentences. It starts simple and grows gradually. You get to see a pattern repeated many times, allowing you to grasp it fully before going on to the next pattern.
I personally didn’t use this book, but I have read through it, and really wish I had had it back in the day. Momoko, however, did use it. In fact, she’s entered every single example sentence in the book into her SRS, and has since moved on to another book. I asked her what she thought about it, and this is a summary of what she said:
- Simple, gradual progress.
- No boring explanations. This book cuts to the chase. Good, clear explanations of exceptions.
- Tons of example sentences.
- Lots of repetition of concepts.
- Kanji throughout, so that you are reading real Japanese, but with furigana on all the kanji. This book recognizes that you are a beginner, and helps you along, but without handicapping you (no romaji here!)
- Can remain a useful reference after you’ve finished studying it. The table of contents is very detailed.
- Not confusing, but it can get dull. The book is essentially limited to college student situations, which may not be relevant to some people. Momoko recommends skipping the boring or redundant parts, there’s no use hurting yourself.
- Vocabulary limited (again, to college situations); you’re not going to learn a lot of words from this book. Although, arguably, the narrow vocabulary may help one focus on the grammar patterns and concepts.
- Only has a few illustrations, these are all small and in black and white.
Like almost any book, this one isn’t without flaws. But overall, it makes a great starter, something that can comfortably give you a solid grammatical foundation and set you on the path to learning more vocabulary.