Also, although it didn't fit on the sidebar, I cannot heartily enough recommend Saucylouise's Etsy Shop (and her main shop), as a resource for fantastic Japanese crochet books. I have a slipper pattern book from her, and it's one of my favourites, and I even went through a *serious* slipper-making phase because of it! Japanese patterns are my favourite because they're cute, dainty, and contemporary (I don't know what the trouble is with us Westerners, but it seems like so much out there is just an elaborate tea-cosy!). If you have some experience crocheting, you won't find it difficult to follow these books, because they are filled with brilliant, easy-to-read diagrams. However, like I said, you will need some experience beforehand to understand the context of the stitches, and how to do basic things like finishing, increasing, decreasing, the like!
Finally, I would just like to warn the wary internet shopper...There are several peeps out there on Etsy (and other places) who are in the business of copying Japanese patterns and reselling them, translated into English. I don't care who you are, that's stealing, and I'm not having any of it.
If it doesn't say it's an original pattern, don't buy it!
If you want to buy a Japanese pattern but you're afraid you won't be able to understand it, you can most likely ask the seller. Also, there are great forums at Craftster.org, where you can get loads of free help.
Okay, that's enough of me ranting for now...Happy hooking!
UPDATED 18th January 2009: I've re-jigged the layout of the site, so my favourite books are now in a carousel right at the top. I hope you'll be able to use this a little better than just the links!