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A light novel is a novel composed entirely of beams of light.

No, not really, although that would be awesome. While related to Manga and Anime, light novels are actually prose, written in short paragraphs for fast reading. (An example of the light novel style, in Japanese and English.) Light novels are very popular in Japan, chiefly among teenagers and young adults, but due to the amount of translation involved, very few of them make their way to English-language markets. This may start to change, however, as Haruhi Suzumiya sold better than expected, and Yen Press has created the successful strategy of marketing them to the people who read novels and not just anime/manga fans. There are also a relatively large number of translated Yaoi light novels.

The term light novel is a misnomer. While many people believe that the word "light" in the name means the novel is short (and they usually don't last much longer than 200 pages) or that it uses manga-style illustrations, the truth is that this actually refers to the text inside. Modern light novels use simpler, easier to read everyday kanji as opposed to "hard" novels, which generally contain much older words which, even for Japanese readers, may necessitate keeping a dictionary on hand to understand.

Light Novels commonly get adapted to Manga and Anime, and more often than not are promptly displaced by said adaptations outside Japan for the reasons stated above.

There are Fan Translation sites all around the internet for novels which don't get exported outside of Japan, such as Baka-Tsuki. The rest are usually individual projects.

Chinese-language literature has a somewhat similar phenomenon, particularly in Taiwan. Although the term "light novel" is not typically used in China for such works, for convenience they will be listed here.

Notable light novel series:

(Series marked with a * have an North American release at least in part.)

Chinese works equivalent to "light novels":

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