This year I took a break from watching kdramas to read books set in Korea.
Here are my favorites:
- Pachinko — One of my favorite books I've ever read! I recommended it to a friend who loved the book so much he wrote a letter to the author. Only book on this list I didn't read this year but I had to include it. Pachinko is great because it's a page turner with depth and compelling characters.
- If I Had Your Face — If you found Pachinko gripping, read this next. The writing style reminds me of Pachinko - the author also delivers a character driven novel that you don't want to put down. I did wish the ending was more climactic though.
- Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 — I think about this book the most, months after reading it. It's about this woman who goes crazy and starts impersonating the voices of other women in her life. Eventually it ends up being about what it's like to be a woman in Korea. I found it heartbreaking when Jiyoung, through a series of subtle influences, gives up her job to take care of her kid, while her husband continues to go to work. Earlier in the book we saw her enjoy her work and her coworkers, so it was sad to see her let it go.
- The Island of Sea Women — One of the most unique books I've read in a while. The main characters in the novel are haenyeo, these deep sea diving women in Jeju who harvest sea plants and animals. In their place in history, women dive and work while men stay home and take care of the kids. It's a freaking trip.
- Wicked Fox — Oh gosh, this book is so warm and cute 💕 if you are someone who enjoys a good high school romance, don't skip this one. It also read like fantasy at times with the Korean folklore elements, which I loved too. I enjoyed the sequel too, though not as much as the first book.
- Shine — If you're a fan of kpop, read this book. This book is a window into what it's like to be a kpop trainee and kpop star. It'll add another dimension to all the kpop you listen to. It's a work of fiction by one of the former members of the girl group Girls' Generation. The book is hard to put down and so is the sequel - I recommend both.
I got to travel to Korea, at least in some limited sense, through the hours I spent reading these books. The novel is the closest you get to being able to experience life from another point of view. I don't even think travel quite compares.
All this to say, traveling via books is awesome. I plan to visit India next :)