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Books and Book Clubs

Talks Bridged by Books

 

2020.04.06

 

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Book clubs are where book lovers naturally gather to read books together and share ideas. As more people share each other’s preferences and hobbies, the number of book clubs is also increasing today. Book clubs in Korea receive applications for both free and paid memberships, and members usually read selected books for a certain period and have regular on and offline meetings. The hosts of book clubs vary from big bookstores and independent bookstores to regional bookstores, publishers, libraries, and individuals.
Below are the stories of three representative book clubs in Korea: Book N Us, Agreable Bookclub, and Check N Grow. Let’s look at the characteristics of each, and what kind of books they recommend.

 

Members of typical book clubs in Korea read selected books for a certain period and have regular meetings.

 

 

Meet & Talk with Books: Book N Us (booknus.co.kr)

 

Logo of Book N Us

Logo of Book N Us

 

Meetings where not people but books are the main topic

 

The introduction of Book N Us begins with a catchphrase - “Meet & Talk with Books.” After reading the same book, people gather and share what they felt about the book and ask each other questions related to the story. Book N Us says that on the way, they take away knowledge and experience from the book, and get to share a time of sympathy and understanding by learning from each other through conversations.
Book N Us runs different book clubs everyday. Book N Us is constantly putting effort into avoiding the priority of the book club from being about "people," and instead put "books" at the center.

 

A book club meeting of Book N Us

A book club meeting of Book N Us

 

Also, Book N Us is paying extra attention to the joy and usefulness of the meeting itself that goes beyond establishing relationships. While introducing knowledge you can apply to the outside world and creating a fun and bright atmosphere during discussions and debates, the book club is striving to improve the meetings so that they are more helpful. A sense of connection and human relationships are formed naturally later on within Book N Us, which encourages many members to join again. Book N Us is working further to provide fun and helpful book-based meetings.

 

Recommendations of Book N Us

 

<Shoko’s Smile>, <The Reason of Travel>, <If We Cannot Move at the Speed of Light>

Shoko’s Smile, The Reason of Travel, If We Cannot Move at the Speed of Light

 

Shoko’s Smile (Munhakdongne) is a collection of short novels of writer Choi Eun-Young. Book N Us says it is a sorrowful but heartwarming novel that makes readers think about relationships with others as they live with various stories written in a sensitive and comfortable narration.
Book N Us’s second recommendation is a travel essay The Reason of Travel (Munhakdongne) by writer Kim Young-Ha. This book is filled with the witty self-reflection of the writer based on the experiences he had while traveling throughout his life. The book will make you ask yourself “What is traveling?” from various viewpoints.
Another book Book N Us recommends is the space science fiction short story collection If We Cannot Move at the Speed of Light (Hubble), written by writer Kim Cho-Yeop, a former science expert. After reading the book, you will be able to “feel as if you have physically traveled the universe, and also feel something that emotionally resonates in your mind.”

 

 

Cheerful and Pleasing Book Meetings: Agreable Bookclub (agreablebook.com)

 

Logo of Agreable Bookclub

Logo of Agreable Bookclub

 

Open conversations through the medium of “books”

 

The name “Agreable” is derived from the French word “agreable” which means “cheerful and pleasing.” Agreable was born as a book club where you can have fun and easy discussions about books just like its name, even though the books themselves could be challenging and difficult. The founder of the book club says that she decided to create one after being frustrated by the complex sign-up procedures or early-closed registrations of other book clubs. Reflecting her idea, Agreable allows readers to join freely to improve the inconvenience she felt as a participant and relies on the values of diversity and autonomy to diversify the scope of book selection.

 

A meeting at Agreable Bookclub

A meeting at Agreable Bookclub

 

Unlike various fixed programs or classes that you need to participate in for a certain number of times, Agreable suggests diverse types and schedules of meetings which you can apply for any time on the website. An “Open Bookclub”, where you can bring the book you read and introduce it to others in turn was held for the first time as well, upgrading the value of Agreable. The biggest Open Bookclub was when 100 people had to be divided into sub-groups to have book discussions. Agreable says that they suggested various types of meetings to readers so that they do not need to be constrained to a certain style, and can have a fun experience in them. There are experts in each field among the book club leaders, but most of the leaders are like a “super fan” of the field of the book that they play the role of a pathfinder that helps others to read the shared book further afterwards. Yet, Agreable is not pursuing a certain preference in fields such as politics or religion. It is to have open and free discussions only through the medium of books.
Agreable is now working to create “slow reading book clubs” where those that are uncomfortable participating in such a meeting after reading a book or those that find reading difficult can build a reading habit. So even though it is an offline-based book club, online meetings for reading habits are being held as well. Agreable says that with the help of group leaders that read and interpret books deeply, it will not stop providing good content for meetings to help participants take away more ideas and values shared by others than just thinking to yourself after reading a book.

 

Recommendations of Agreable

 

<Contradictions>, <A Good Discriminator>

Contradictions, A Good Discriminator

 

Agreable also chose If We Cannot Move at the Speed of Light by writer Kim Cho-Yeop. It is a novel written by a promising writer, and with its heartwarming SF contents, you can share ideas about things that we have been neglecting in our daily life.
Other recommendations were Contradictions (Sseuda) by Yang Gui-Ja and A Good Discriminator (Changbi) by Kim Ji-Hye. Even though it has been 20 years since Contradictions was published, it is often chosen as one of “the best books in life” by many people and has received continuous appreciation. Agreable explains that “You can feel the story soothing your heart and going beyond the boundary of time.”
Also, Agreable commented that A Good Discriminator is a book where you can see the naked discriminatory perception that you could not notice through real cases; it provides multiple topics for discussions as it implies that such a perception can exist anywhere in life including words or behaviors you thought were good.

 

 

A Book Platform where Books and People Get Together: Check N Grow (https://checkngrow.modoo.at)

 

Logo of Check N Grow

Logo of Check N Grow

 

Saturday Morning Book Meeting: “A good morning at Check N Grow!”

Check N Grow is a neighborhood bookstore opened in Mapo, Seoul, in Autumn last year. After becoming famous for its wide Han River view, more visitors are stopping by. Check N Grow, a book cafe and a bookstore at the same time, provides an opportunity for people to get closer to books by opening various events such as book meetings, lectures, and seminars, not to mention providing a convenient space for reading books. Check N Grow welcomes anyone that finds book reading difficult – it is the goal of the crew to help rookie readers to build up mental fitness.

 

Interior of Check N Grow and Saturday Morning Book Meeting “A good morning at Check N Grow!”

Interior of Check N Grow and Saturday Morning Book Meeting “A good morning at Check N Grow!”

 

The most significant characteristic of “A good morning at Check N Grow!”, a book meeting held every Saturday, is that it begins at 7 am. Before the sun has totally risen, participants breathe in the cool morning air and gather at Check N Grow to talk about books. It is good that you can experience “miracle mornings” as you begin the weekend fully when it can be easy to spend the two days idly doing nothing. Check N Grow says that the participants are filled with passion and will power. They gain energy for self-development and are stimulated by others just by participating in the meeting at 7 am. The Saturday morning book club is divided into two parts: during the first hour, people spend time summarizing the book led by the Check N Grow captain, and during the next hour, people share their ideas about the book and have free discussions.

 

Recommendations of Check N Grow

 

<Rest in 30 Years>, <Emotionally Born Rich, Emotionally Born Poor>, <Eight>, <Wind, Water, and Fire>

Rest in 30 Years, Emotionally Born Rich, Emotionally Born Poor, Eight, Wind, Water, and Fire

 

The first recommended book of Check N Grow is Rest in 30 Years (Duranno), which was praised for its simply-written story about psychoanalysis by a well-known psychiatrist in Korea. Check N Grow says that the book helps you to face and recognize your true self and further understand those that broke your heart to ultimately achieve inner peace.
Another recommendation is Emotionally Born Rich, Emotionally Born Poor (Hainaim). In Korea, people often use the expressions “born with a silver spoon (born rich) in the mouth” and “born with a plastic spoon (born poor) in the mouth” depending on the economic level of the parents. In the book, the writers call those that are emotionally secure and healthy with high self-esteem as “emotionally born rich”, and those that are not as “emotionally born poor.” They argue that the type of spoon is determined by a stable relationship established with parents during childhood; Check N Grow adds that the book suggests solutions to raise children as emotionally born rich kids.
Check N Grow also recommended Eight (Chai Jungwon), a best seller by Lee Ji-Sung. It explains that the book talks about ways to prepare and survive in this era in which AI has begun to replace manpower.
The next recommended book was Wind, Water, and Fire (Max Education) which it says is a masterpiece that organizes about 100 books written by Bertrand Arthur William Russell of Korea (the author is a comparative linguist, a historian, and a mathematician). Adding that you can feel as if you are in a time machine while reading through a lively story so vivid it is like talking with the author, Check N Grow explains that not a single sentence is trivial in the book – everything is like a precious jewel.

 

Due to COVID-19, meetings are taking place on Social Media and online.

 

Apart from the introduced book clubs, a countless number of book clubs in Korea are reading diverse books and sharing stories together. Even though COVID-19 restricted them from having offline meetings, nothing can stop them – meetings are continuing on Social Media and online platforms. Amidst the busy daily life and social crisis induced by a disease, the passion for reading and talking about books hasn’t faded.

 

 


Organized by Choi Ha-Yeong

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