This weekend, browsing in Barnes and Noble, I ran across Traditional Chinese Characters: Learn & Remember 2,193 Character Meanings by Alan Hoenig. There’s a simplified version as well. In both cases, the introduction acknowledges a debt to Heisig’s Learning the Kanji, and the debt is pretty profound. That means if you like Heisig’s approach, these make for excellent books. The thing I like about Hoenig is that he feels a little more streamlined than Heisig. You spend less time memorizing stories and the focus is more on how the elements of the character fit together. If you want to start knocking off characters for reading recognition quickly, this is great as long as you start putting it to use before you start forgetting the associations (as they aren’t as strong as Heisig’s, but also might not take as long to assimilate).
One really nice thing about these books, a production of EZChinesey.com, is that you can find out if they’re right for you before you buy. Go to the website and you can download a PDF of the pages covering the first 100 characters or so. If you find it working for you, buy the book from Amazon. If you don’t, all you’ve invested is a little of your time. I ordered my copy today.