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10 Showstopper Books for K-Drama Fans

collage of book covers for k-drama read alikes
Written by Publishing Team

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I became a K-Drama fan when my mom recommended that I watch Crash landing on you. That was around the time it premiered on Netflix in early 2020. My whole perception of TV shows has changed since then. Now that I’m watching K-Dramas, I feel like I’ve finally found my niche in TV series. My mom, sister-in-law and I are still talking about K-Dramas now. We share the shows we loved, the ones we can’t wait to watch and who are our favorite K-Drama stars. There is so much to say about the magic of K-dramas.

For starters, there are the endearing characters, as well as some really memorable character arcs. In the K-dramas I’ve watched, the characters are so well developed, nuanced, and multi-faceted. We really get to know them and connect with them. Friends and neighbors are hilarious and charismatic, the protagonists are relatable, and love interests are dreamy. Characters who can seem horrible at first can show incredible growth by the end of the season. After having watched Mr. Sun, I’ve been so invested in each of the five main characters in this show that their stories still haunt me in the most heart-wrenching yet most perfect way.

K-Dramas also seamlessly interweave flashbacks into compelling narratives, revealing events that help us piece together characters and stories. My heart broke after each flash back to Yoon Se-Ri’s childhood in Crash landing on you. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach every time Ri Jeong Hyeok and Yoon Se-Ri interacted in Switzerland all those years ago before I knew each other.

K-Dramas draw me more into the characters and their journeys by digging into relatable, important, and poignant conflicts. With consideration and attention, Was it love?, A spring night, and Where the camellia blooms provide insight into lone parent life and the stigma lone parents face. Something in the rain and Beginning historian both thoughtfully address family pressures on relationships, as well as sexism in the workplace.

Beyond the characters and the conflicts, K-dramas offer much more. There’s on-point humor, delicious food scenes, and epic soundtracks. And, don’t even get me started on the sheer beauty of Ri Jeong Hyeok playing piano on Alpine Lake. When I’m not watching K-Dramas, I crave books that remind me of the shows I love so much. As these series cover a variety of genres, I picked a selection of K drama genres that I enjoyed watching and paired them with some great reads below.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at these books for K-drama fans! What are your favorite K-Drama genres?

Books for K-Drama Fans: Romances

XOXO by Axie Oh

Like many K-drama romances, this sweet YA romance from Axie Oh promises a forbidden love trope. In addition, the protagonist is a musical prodigy like Captain Ri in Crash landing. Gifted cellist Jenny dreams of stepping into a prestigious conservatory of music, and yet a magical night of adventures with a mysterious boy named Jaewoo almost causes Jenny to forget all of her cautious plans. When Jenny and her mother travel to South Korea to take care of her grandmother, Jenny is shocked to find Jaewoo in her art academy. His secret identity will prove all the more shocking, however.

Cover of the book Love in the big city

Love in the Big City of Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur

This cover is absolutely gorgeous, and my K-drama fan heart wants it printed on a t-shirt. A bestseller in Korea, this book is the first work in English by up-and-coming Korean author Sang Young Park. This poignant and tender story explores themes of coming of age, love, family, friendship and millennial loneliness. Like many K drama novels, it digs into the feeling of being single when everyone around you is in a relationship. Korean student Young and his best friend Jaehee like to go out and hang out in bars to forget about the many anxieties in their lives. Yet, when Jaehee does eventually settle in, Young finds himself alone taking care of his mother and having a series of dates with men, hoping he will eventually meet this one.

Books for fans of family and relationship stories in K-Dramas

Cover of the book So We Meet Again

So we meet from Suzanne Park

Reminding Something in the rain, this book follows investment banker Jessie Kim as she faces a toxic work environment and reunites with an old acquaintance who returns in her life. Having just been laid off, the Korean American Jessie returns home to live with her parents in Tennessee. There, Jessie meets her old nemesis, Daniel Choi, who, to her surprise, offers to help her relaunch her Korean food YouTube channel.

If i had your face

If I had your Frances Cha face

Switching between the perspectives of four main characters, which K-Dramas do so well, this story takes place in Seoul and examines impossible standards of beauty in society, as well as the power of female friendships. While the charming Kyuri entertains the businessmen in a secret lounge, her roommate, the talented artist Miho, finds herself in a tumultuous relationship with the heir of a large Korean company. Down the hall, Ara works as a hairdresser and is obsessed with a K-pop group. Upstairs below them, newlywed Wonna is trying to get pregnant despite her financial worries about raising a baby.

Crying in H Mart book cover

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Written by Korean American Michelle Zauner, singer and guitarist of Japanese Breakfast, these heartfelt memoirs capture many powerful themes of K-Dramas, including family, identity and grief. After her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, Michelle sets out on a personal journey to reclaim the gifts her mother passed on to her, including her connections to Korean cuisine, language and history.

Books for K-Drama Fans: Speculative Adventures

Evil Fox Book Cover

Evil Fox by Kat Cho

In the vein of Tale of the Nine Tails and The king, this supernatural thriller that meets romance makes it a must-read suspenseful adventure! In Seoul, 18-year-old Gu Miyoung lives in secret as a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who hunts and feeds on the energy of evil men. When Miyoung finds out that the human boy Jihoon is being attacked by a goblin in the forest, she makes a choice that will have lasting consequences on her fate.

Cover of the book Je t'attends and other stories

I’m waiting for you and other Kim Bo-Young stories

Like the K-drama Sisyphus: the myth, this fascinating collection of short stories from Kim Bo-Young plays with the ideas of time travel and doomed lovers. From an engaged couple trying to cross the aisle on time despite working on missions in separate corners of the galaxy to mysterious creators sharing judgments about humanity, this speculative masterpiece will leave you thinking for a long time. after you finish reading.

Books for fans of historical K-Drama sagas

Jeju Siren book cover

Sumi Hahn’s Jeju Mermaid

With its immersive historical setting and themes of love, loss, family, loneliness and adventure, this novel by Sumi Hahn is perfect for fans of historical K-dramas. In the aftermath of WWII on the breathtaking island of Jeju, we meet Goh Junja as she joins her mother among the island’s female scuba divers. As she comes of age during a turbulent political period, Junja faces great tragedy and meets a mountain boy who will forever change the course of her destiny.

Min Jin Lee's PACHINKO cover

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I couldn’t recommend any historical sagas to K-drama fans without mentioning this powerful and heartbreaking novel by Min Jin Lee. Like Mr. Sun, this moving story provides a window into Korean history spanning more than a generation of the same family, with an emphasis on the conflict between Japan and Korea. After teenage Sunja becomes pregnant with a married man, she refuses to become his mistress. Instead, she marries a kind pastor and travels with him to Japan. There, she will do everything in her power to build a better life for her sons.

Or, if you are here for the food!

Cook Korean!  by Robin Ha

Cook Korean! A comic with recipes from Robin Ha

I don’t know about you, but I’m still there for the food. Something I love about K-Dramas is that they don’t shy away from the details of the food. Meeting love interests and friends over dinner and drinks, or sitting with family around a table covered in a mouthwatering spread comes back throughout my favorite K-dramas. Eating and sharing a meal with others is an important part of my life, and I love that she gets the attention she deserves in K-Dramas. In addition, it offers a more immersive experience in Korean culture. From an illustrated guide to a Korean pantry to chapters on various main dishes of Korean cuisine, this graphic novel cookbook by Robin Ha is a pure delight for K-drama fans. Ha’s illustrations are beautiful, and she offers an incredible educational experience in the Korean culinary world, as well as sweet stories from her own culinary experiences.

Looking for more books for K-Drama fans?

It’s hard to put everything I love about K-dramas in one list. If you’re looking for the perfect book recommendation that sounds like your favorite K-dramas, try our book subscription service, Tailored Book Recommendations, and match yourself with a bibliologist who will pick books just for you! While you’re at it, also check out these great book lists below!

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