Saturday, 21 September 2013

Korea - Tools for research: The Books

I think I went overboard this time, with the number of books I read and movies I watched related to Korea!  So much so, that I have to separate the books and movies into two blog posts, otherwise it would be a very long list for you to read, all in one go!

I've also spent two months on Korea, which is a long time - although this did include my summer vacation and other real-life travel. 

The Books

I read way too many books about Korea - although I finished most of them, I had to stop myself in the end, otherwise I could have spent another few weeks reading and writing about Korea!  If you're interested in finding out more about Korea, I would recommend all of the following:

Korea: Insight Guides (2003) - ed. Tom Le Bas - I always find the Insight guides really useful, to give me an overview of the history and culture of the place that I'm blogging about.  I don't usually buy the most up-to-date versions, as they cost a lot of money, but I get older versions for a penny (literally!) online. This guidebook mostly covers South Korea, but I'd recommend it nevertheless.

Korea: Culture Smart! (2012) - James HoareCulture Smart! is another great little series of books and I always really enjoy reading them - the edition on Korea is particularly good and James Hoare is an ex-British diplomat who has written quite a few books on East Asia, including a book on the conflict in Korea that he co-wrote with his wife, Susan Pares.  I did buy the newest edition of this book, as I've got quite a nice collection of these cultural guides building up on my bookshelf!

Nothing to Envy (2010) - Barbara Demick - this is a great book and I really got a lot out of it.  Barbara focuses on the stories of refugees from Chonjin, in the far north of North Korea and tries to piece together a picture of what life must be like for North Korea's 25 million inhabitants.  I blogged about this in my post Something to Envy?

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future (2012) - Victor Cha - it really pains me that I didn't have time to finish this book, but I discovered it quite late into my blogging experience and, at more than 400 pages long, I just didn't have time to read the whole thing.  In the 100 or so pages that I did read, I found Cha's writing incredibly engaging and interesting.  Ah well, perhaps I will be able to return to it at a later date!  I'd definitely recommend this book, if you are interested in learning more about North Korea.

Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behaviour and Evolution (2001) - Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger.  This is a brilliant book and really made me question man's relationship with dogs.  The Coppingers are champion sled dog racers and passionate advocates of a greater, more scientific understanding of dogs than we currently have.  It's a bit heavy-going at times, but worth the brain power, if you want to understand the evolution of dogs and dog psychology.

My Sister Bongsoon (2005) - Ji-young Gong - somewhere in the midst of all this research, I even managed to read a Korean novel (in translation, of course!).  It was really interesting and covered a lot of social issues related to the treatment of maids and class differences in Korean society.

Literature from the Axis of Evil (2006) - a Words without Borders anthology, which includes writing from North Korea, but also Iran, Iraq and 'other enemy nations'.  This is a great collection and I read all of the North Korean texts - the first time I've ever read literature of this kind.  According to the editors, only 3% of books in the English-speaking world are in translation, which is pretty shocking and makes me wonder how much great literature we're missing out on, because it isn't translated into English?  I'm a passionate believer in discovering the literature of other countries and this book embodies the spirit of discovery and understanding that I think is so important in our increasingly globalised (and anglicised era)

The Food and Cooking of Japan and Korea (2010) - Emi Kazuko and Young-jin Song - last, but definitely not least, I discovered this wonderful book of Japanese and Korean recipes.  Having initially borrowed a copy from my local library, I felt the need to buy my own copy, in the end, as it's probably one of the best recipe books I've ever come across.  Not only does it give you lots of great recipes, with plenty of pictures and easy explanations, but there are also extensive sections on the Japanese and Korean kitchens - everything you might expect to find there, as well as detailed descriptions of the ingredients used in Korean and Japanese food. It's a book that I'm sure I will treasure for a long time to come!

Image credits:

The image of the book cover was taken by me. 

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