Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop

Hwang Bo-reum, Shanna Tan (trans.)

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
United Kingdom
30 October 2023

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop

Hwang Bo-reum, Shanna Tan (trans.)

There was only one thing on her mind.

'I must start a bookshop.'

Yeongju did everything she was supposed to, go to university, marry a decent man, get a respectable job. Then it all fell apart. Burned out, Yeongju abandons her old life, quits her high-flying career, and follows her dream. She opens a bookshop.

In a quaint neighbourhood in Seoul, surrounded by books, Yeongju and her customers take refuge. From the lonely barista to the unhappily married coffee roaster, and the writer who sees something special in Yeongju - they all have disappointments in their past. The Hyunam-dong Bookshop becomes the place where they all learn how to truly live.

A heart-warming story about finding comfort and acceptance in your life - and the healing power of books.


As a reader, you’ve probably been asked numerous times by non-readers in your life, ‘Why do you like to read so much?’ And if you’re like me, your first thought might be, ‘How can I possibly explain this to you?’ How can I explain the extraordinary and unrivalled experience of getting lost in a book? The intimacy of finding parts of yourself in one? How do I tell you what it’s like to discover a book you feel you were meant to read, that – if you’ll excuse the self-importance – almost feels like it was written for you?

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum is one such book for me, and I think it will be for many people. It understands exactly how I feel about reading, about books and bookshops, and the role of these in capitalist society. Reading isn’t only a pastime, or form of entertainment, it’s something that makes you more empathetic, introspective, creative, and humane. In a world where we are increasingly pressured to turn minutes into money, the act of devoting yourself to the hours it takes to finish a novel resists what larger society might see as a valuable use of time. But Hwang truly gets what it’s like to love reading with every fibre of your being, and to want to chase your own versions of happiness and success in a world that wants to define these things for you. Hwang’s characters grapple with real-world dilemmas: is it worth following my dreams? Should I find a job doing something I like or something I’m good at? The answer to these questions is that there will be different answers for everyone, but life would be a lot kinder if we accepted the answers people choose for themselves. This book reminded me of I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki and Convenience Store Woman, but it’s also a book I don’t want to compare to others, for its level of sincerity is unparalleled.

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