One of the best ways to spend a day during cold months in Korea is to snuggle into your warm blanket with an interesting book in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other. Just imagining it should make you want to dive in right away! But there comes one obstacle, one that haunts every reader – from avid to reluctant ones. Choosing the perfect novels to go with the surrounding vibes or your mood. Therefore, I’ve put together these top 7 book recommendations that will make your cozy evening the best one ever.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam Joo
If you’re a feminist and want to know more about the lifestyle of Korean women, then this book is for you.
The book is about the life story of a woman called Kim Jiyoung who goes through various troubles and obstacles, mainly for being born as a daughter in a patriarchal country. All the way from her childhood, she keeps pushing the boundaries others(unnecessarily nosy I must say) set for all women alike.
Despite doing her best, she is left with nothing but stress from childcare, unsolicited remarks from people with no knowledge, and sometimes the lack of support from near and dear ones. Eventually, the stress mounds up and takes a toll on her health.
The author clearly explains and backs her story with statistics from relevant sources. From the time when this book was written to today, things have got better but are still a far cry from an equal society. Every root cause of imbalance should be eliminated completely. Purchase this book if you want to face some of the uncomfortable truths of Korean society.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Recommended by my Busan friends, I reluctantly picked up this book as the title and the story outline made me confused. But, I was pleasently surprised.
Divided into three parts, it tells the story of Yeong-hye and her unusual transition to becoming a vegetarian. After spooky thoughts and images of meat, she gives up meat for good. This makes everyone worry about her, as meat is an integral part of Korean food.
As we turn the pages, we can see how Yeong-hye’s behavior becomes more erratic. Eventually, her morals lead her to the point where she gives up eating completely. She considers herself a tree, needing only water to survive.
This novel is very deep and every line has to be read attentively to grasp the entire meaning. Furthermore, it also has the themes of innocence, and patriarchy – both shrinking and accepting responsibilities. Overall, it gives goosebumps while reading some parts of the story. Although, perhaps strange at times, it is well worth a read!
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko is so famous that it’s always on loan in our university library. It is a book within the historical fiction genre.
The book is about Sunja, who is the daughter of a crippled fisherman living on Yeongdo island of Busan. She falls in love with a rich and powerful man near her home but later discovers she is pregnant and her lover is already married. Instead, of giving up on the difficult situation, she marries a gentle minister who is on his way to Japan. She migrates to Japan, and then her story of transformation into richness.
This book is a blend of love, hardship, ambition, and perseverance. If you love the storyline but don’t want to read the book, you can always watch the drama series of the same name starring Youn Yuh-jung as the lead character.
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin
엄마를 부탁해 신경숙
Please Look After Mom is an emotional story about a family’s search for her sixty-nine-year-old mother, So-nyo. She was separated from her husband at a Seoul subway station. Searching for a lost person involves ‘missing posters’ with a photograph, details, and reward.
However, when creating these posters, the family realizes that they do not know a lot about their mom. In a quest to find her, they are also on a journey of learning about their mother who they had always taken for granted.
Often we think we know our family the best, but in the hustles of daily life, we move away from each other without knowing. I think this novel is good to read while living abroad, especially when we are away from our own families.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
마당을 나온 암탉 황 순미
When I first picked the book, the title hinted at the theme of doing impossible things. As expected, this short novel is about a chicken named ‘Sprout’, who yearns to live in the free barn rather than being caged in the coop.
After being labeled as ’culled’, it escapes from its owner and tries to protect itself from a hungry weasel. While her species reject her in the barn, she befriends another misfit. A mallard duck called Straggler who himself has his own share of problems with the rest of the ducks becomes her best friend. Then the story takes us through Sprout becoming a mother in a turn of events, its relationship with Straggler and the baby, and her finally realizing her dream to fly.
The novel is written in simple words with every page of the story having a deep meaning. It takes us through the emotions of yearning for freedom and being a misfit protecting oneself and loved ones. You’ll never regret reading this novel!
What’s your first pick? Read it and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Want to try some shorter read? Click Here for a list of some Korean poems featured in K-dramas!