World Association of Volunteering Elites; Nulbom Publishing Co.: 272 pp., 12,000 won
With the upcoming G20 Seoul Summit in November, a number of government branches, media outlets and everyday citizens are looking to put Korea’s best foot forward, introducing the characteristics of the nation they know and love. The World Association of Volunteering Elites (WAVE), comprised of 14 ambitious, teenaged students, are no exception.
“A Cultural Guide to Korea” explores the economic, social and religious facets (from global statistics to public baths) of the country as they, contemporary youth, understand it, providing a refreshing if not always the most accurate account of life here. Written in English, the book demonstrates the writers’ impressive efforts, though the language is far from being fluent. More importantly, the informative guide offers a look into the minds of today’s rising youth, their priorities, their philosophies. The personable perspectives keep the reading entertaining and, while first-time visitors may want to explore other guide options, this book is certainly an opportunity to learn about the future of the country through its children.
Lee Dong-woo; Tree of Thoughts: 252 pp., 12,500 won
Many people go through painful phases in their lives, but Lee Dong-woo, went through an ordeal that was more than painful. The 40-year-old suffered from a rare disease that eventually led to blindness, and the popular comedian, plus his family, had to adapt to a completely different life.
Lee’s tells his story as a father and husband who had to go through one of the most difficult periods in his life, and also how he managed to find hope amid the darkness.
“If you wake up in the morning and find yourself healthy and still breathing, consider yourself a miracle,” he writes in the preface.
The book starts when he first heard the news that he was slowly losing his eyesight. Devastated as he may have been, the writer doesn’t show it through his words. Le’s tone is warm, hopeful and witty and may work as a wake-up call to those who have so much but fail to recognize and appreciate it.
Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical
Anthony Rapp; Translated by Ryu Han-won from English to Korean: New Venture Entertainment: 363 pp., 14,000 won
The New York Times best-selling memoir of Broadway musical star Anthony Rapp, best known for his role in the musical “Rent,” has been finally translated into Korean.
Rapp, who is now performing in Seoul for the musical based on his memoir with the same title, details his turbulent life while experiencing two life-changing events — the sudden death of Jonathan Larson, writer and composer of “Rent,” and the illness and death of his mother.
“Without You” depicts the whole making process of “Rent” from the audition when Rapp was working at Starbucks in New York in 1994 to rehearsals, and how he felt during the tribute performance after Larson suddenly died from a heart attack just one day before the premiere of “Rent.”
Also, the book reveals the solitude behind a successful musical actor’s life and his struggle to form a sexual identity. He declared himself bisexual in 1992 and has engaged in various activities to protect the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, as well as transgenders.
This book will be helpful to Rapp’s Korean fans and inspire also ordinary readers with his humanistic portrayals of artistic life, maturity and loss.
Flying the Sky of Europe
Min Seon-ock; Mento Press: 454 pp., 15,500 won
Walk into the travel aisle section in bookstores, and you will find a great number of guides for Europe. Here comes another one screaming cultural, hip and fun by Min Seon-ock and her husband Hwang Yong-hee.
Hwang had always been a big fan of postcards, and collecting them for 30 years ignited a desire to actually visit the places he only saw on paper, and thus the three-year journey around Europe began.
The book is thicker than most travel books and also carries more information. Traveling is not just about walking along famous streets and visiting museums: it’s an overall experience. The book obviously includes popular sites, restaurants and museums, but also features memories and cultural aspects such as cinema, music, poetry, literature, architecture and history.
It reads like a novel, rather than a travel book, which, for some, may seem unnecessary. But how can a travel book be just dry information, when there is so much room for creativity and fun?