Autumn, with days perfect for reading, is the season of books. There is a reason why autumn in South Korea is special. The Korea Federation of Bookstores Association celebrates every Nov. 11 which is 'Bookstore Day' and announces books and author of the year selected by bookstores. A shortlist is made from a list of recommended books and authors selected by bookstore professionals from South Korea, and finalists are chosen by a panel of judges comprised of well-known experts from the bookstore industry, publishing industry and reading movements.
The books of the year announced by the Korea Federation of Bookstores Association are selected for their social and cultural value to be introduced and distributed to the public, conveying the dignity and value of bookstores. The author of the year is usually selected based on the positive impact an author has had on the public that year or the potential that a relatively new author shows.
The selected books and author will be announced, and prizes will be given at the Sejong Arts Center this coming Nov. 11. The winning book and author's works will also be sold at special corners in bookstores nationwide.
Logo for Bookstore Day
Books of the year, selected by bookstores
In the novel category for books of the year selected by bookstores, <Have You Ever Wished A Soldier Could Become an Angel (Hyundae Munhak)> by Kim Soom was selected. Kim's book is based on interviews with Gil Won-ok, one of the surviving 'comfort women' who were forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese military during their colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. Gil was deceived into becoming a sex slave after she was told she could find a job at a factory and earn good money at the age of 13. She was only able to get her story out into the world through this novel at the age of 70. The Korea Federation of Bookstores Association said this novel was selected out of all others because it felt the book would compel readers to think about what is truly important at a time when South Korea-Japan relations are strained.
In the children and teens category, Hwang Young-mi's full-length novel <Cherry Shrimp: This Is a Secret (Munhakdongne)> was selected. Also, the recipient of the top prize at the ninth Munhakdongne awards for youth literature, Hwang's novel deals with the anticipation and fear children feel on their first day of school in the eighth grade. The Korea Federation of Bookstores Association said the novel would be able to serve as a milestone for children who are lost in difficult relationships and also become a model for those who need to learn about new relationships.
<Have You Ever Wished A Soldier Could Become an Angel>, <Cherry Shrimp: This Is a Secret>
Seoul National University Professor Kim Young-min's <It's Good to Think About Death in the Morning (Across)> was selected as book of the year in the liberal arts, politics, society and history category. In the book, the author says everyone dies twice in life. Everyone goes through a 'social death' when they lose their meaning in life by no longer being able to do the work their lives were defined by. The second death would be physical death when one's organs refuse to cooperate to continue life. When looking at today's society, all generations are losing hope for the future, but their lifespans are being extended without precedent. In the book, the author describes a kind of purgatory between social death and physical death. Korea Federation of Bookstore Association says this book was selected to highlight the need to contemplate over how to die well in order to live well.
In the economics, management and science category, <90's Kids Are Coming (Whale Books)> by former office worker Im Hong-taek was selected. Im had been working as a brand manager at a company in South Korea when he started writing on Kakao's Page service on what he called the 'Grade 9 Public Servant Generation'. His pieces were sent to Whale Books, and the book was published in Nov. 2018. This year, it became widely known as the book recommended by the president and became a bestseller among non-literature books. The book shows uncannily the talent and sprite of adults born in the 1990s and was selected for its potential to resolve inter-generational conflict. The Korea Federation of Bookstores Association said it also shows anyone can become an author.
Meanwhile, in the DIY, arts, language and self-development category, Kwon Hyuk-jae's <Kwon Hyuk-jae's Mobile Phone Photograph Studio (East Asia)> was given the honor. Kwon touts a long career as a photojournalist and says in the book that recording where you were with whom is a necessity when it comes to social media. Taking photos on your mobile device is now essential for communication. The author says that 'photographing mankind' was born thanks to the mobile phone camera. The book is comprised of photographs taken with the author's mobile phone of his daily life and comments on those photos. It was selected as book of the year as a model example of how a member of the 'photographing mankind' should live.
<Kwon Hyuk-jae's Mobile Phone Photograph Studio>, <90's Kids Are Coming >, <Kwon Hyuk-jae's Mobile Phone Photograph Studio>
Author of the year, selected by bookstores
The Korea Federation of Bookstores Association chose Jo Jung-rae for the top honor, already widely acclaimed in South Korea for his three novels that tell Korea's contemporary history of the 20th century: <Taebaek Mountain Range (Hainaim)>, <Arirang (Hainaim)> and <Han River (Hainaim)>. Aside from these three books, Jo has been consistently producing hit novels. <The Question of a Thousand Years (Hainaim)> which was published this year asks readers, "What defines a nation?". It received much love from readers at a time when literature sales were slow.
<The Question of a Thousand Years> series
According to Han Ki-ho, the head of the Research Center for Publishing Marketing, the power of curation has helped the value of bookstores be re-discovered as the industry is seeing a comeback in neighborhood bookstores. Han was also one of the judges on the panel for selecting this year's books and author. "To adjust to this change, local bookstores are forming alliances, and they are seeing new opportunities through curation. This project we are undertaking by forming an alliance among bookstores may be the best 'curation' of our society," said Han.
"The importance of curating is growing by the day, and we had more recommendations than in the past this year, which we thought was partly due to curation through alliances."
For more information on this year's books and author selected by bookstores, as well as news and events information on Bookstore Day, check out the official webpage at www.bookstoreday.or.kr.
Written by Choi Ha-Yeong