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Sung J. Woo's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Sung J. Woo recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Sung J. Woo's favorite book recommendations of all time.



As the Los Angeles Times noted in its profile of the author, "few writers have mined the [genre of ethnic literature] as shrewdly or transcended its limits quite so stunningly as Don Lee." Harking "back to the timeless concerns of Chekhov: fate, chance, the mystery of the human heart" (Stuart Dybek), these interconnected stories "are utterly contemporary,...but grounded in the depth of beautiful prose and intriguing storylines" (Asian Week). They paint a novelistic portrait of the fictional town of Rosarita Bay, California, and a diverse cast of complex and moving... more
Recommended by Sung J. Woo, and 1 others.

Sung J. WooBut my next book is by a fourth generation Korean American and what I really love about this is that, even though there is talk of race in the book, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a backdrop and you could substitute the race for African American or Hispanic because the stories are much more human. It’s nice to have an Asian American writer that transcends race. This collection is like Joyce’s... (Source)

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Recommended by Sung J. Woo, and 1 others.

Sung J. WooThis is a very interesting book….It turns out that Minnesota has the highest number of Korean adoptees in the country. There are 14,000 of them there. There was this social worker, an older lady from Korea who had lived through the Korean war and seen all these orphaned children at the side of the road and decided to do something about it. So, she emigrated to America and started getting them... (Source)

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A Journey in North Korea

Famously referred to as one of the "Axis of Evil" countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation's capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, Delisle observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered; his findings form the basis of this graphic novel.

Guy Delisle was born in Quebec City in 1966 and has...
Recommended by Sung J. Woo, and 1 others.

Sung J. WooWell, this is a comic book really, or a graphic novel if you want to make it sound more serious. Although it’s non-fiction, actually. It’s by a French guy, which is surprising. He went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, to supervise an animation and he was there for two months getting to know the country. So this book is really a collection of his observations and how he saw the country... (Source)

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If you think McDonald's is the most ubiquitous restaurant experience in America, consider that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendys combined. New York Times reporter and Chinese-American (or American-born Chinese), Jennifer 8 Lee, traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese food, and weaves a personal... more
Recommended by Sung J. Woo, and 1 others.

Sung J. WooThe Fortune Cookie Chronicles is all about Chinese restaurants. It starts with this power ball lottery draw. You know all states have a lottery draw? Well, this is when all the states are put together for a massive lottery. What happens is it’s impossible for a lot of people to win, statistically impossible. Usually there are one or two winners, but a few years ago, in March 2005 there were 110... (Source)

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a...

Brian KoppelmanIf you have always wanted to read [this author], I think this [Covid-19] period of time is perfect for it. He could have conceived of this whole thing. (Source)

Bernard TanI’m also a Murakami and Vonnegut fan, Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, Slaughterhouse-Five, etc. Now that I look at the books listed, they seem to carry an existential theme. I guess I like to understand humanity and human behaviour ultimately to better understand myself. I find reading a means to connect with people who may have lived before my time, or in a... (Source)

Sung J. WooHe’s the best-known Japanese writer right now and this book I would consider to be his opus. It’s a big sprawling book that deals with weighty subjects like the Second World War and Japan’s part in that. There is a horrifying section set when the Japanese had occupied Manchuria and the Chinese are approaching and it’s told from the point of view of a soldier who is told to kill all the animals in... (Source)

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