The Best Josei Light Novels of All Time


The terms josei and josei novels may not be popular in the West, but they refer to manga and light novels written by women that are more mature than what you'd typically find in shounen or shoujo works. They're also known for having more complex themes, such as family relationships, marriage, divorce, and sexuality.



Light novels are a great way to get into the genre if you're not sure where to start, and there are plenty of them that would make excellent additions to any reader's shelf. Here are six of the best josei light novels currently available in English:



1) "The One I Love" by Hanako Muraoka


This is a collection of five stories that explore the complexities of modern relationships. Each story is completely different in tone, which means there's something for everyone. Some stories are humorous, while others are serious and heartbreaking. The protagonist may be an employee who falls in love with her married boss who she has to see every day, or a young woman who becomes obsessed with her best friend's fiance. Two of the stories center on women in same-sex relationships, while another highlights the challenges of raising a child with a disability. The stories are both entertaining and thought provoking, which is what makes this such an excellent josei work.


2) "The Baron in the Trees" by Italo Calvino


This satirical novel is the story of a boy named Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, who swiftly grows up and decides to never be tied down again. His family wants him to take over as head of their wealthy business, but he refuses and spends his time climbing trees in the forest surrounding their estate. The rest of the town never leaves their homes, and they assume that Cosimo has gone mad. He decides to stay in the trees forever, and he continues to climb higher and higher until his past becomes little more than a speck on the horizon.


3) "The Lying Stone of Venice" by Isuna Hasekura


This story is about a young Japanese student who travels to Venice in the hopes of studying art history. While looking through an old painting, he meets a girl from the 16th century who claims she was jilted by her lover and cursed with a life-threatening lie detector effect. He promises to help her find out what really happened to her lover, and they find themselves caught up in a mystery that spans centuries. This is an entertaining josei mystery novel with a touch of romance, which would make it a great choice for anyone who wants something fun and light.


4) "A Good Student" by Kanae Minato


This heart-wrenching story follows a group of high school students who have been bullied by their classmate Ayaka. When she turns up dead, they must finally account for the horrible things they did to her in order to protect themselves from being held responsible for her murder. This is one of the most well written josei novels out there, and it delves into important topics such as bullying, teenage suicide, and the impact of peer pressure. It's a tough read, but it's well worth it.


5) "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki


This is a novel about time, family, history, love, and loss. It follows a novelist who discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Inside, she finds a diary written by a teenage girl who is struggling to come to terms with her mother's death. The story jumps back and forth between the present day and the girl's past, and it ultimately asks the question of whether our actions can be forgiven if we don't have any time to make up for them.


6) "The Diving Pool" by Yoko Ogawa


This is a collection of three short stories about young women whose lives are defined by the men they love and who love them in return. The first story follows a girl who falls in love with her married neighbor, and she makes it her life's mission to make him happy. The second story is about a girl who falls for her brother's friend, and the third story is about a girl who becomes obsessed with a man she only knows through his writing. Each story is beautifully written and heartbreakingly sad, but they all offer a glimmer of hope in the end.