Live the Fantasy of Running Your Own Bookshop with This Cozy Read

A place to read books and build bonds

If you’re looking for a feel-good book that doesn’t feel like an assigned reading and will make you feel seen, then this cozy read might be the one for you. 

Related: 8 Books That Helped Me Navigate My Life in My 20s

The desire to quit your job, pack your bags, move to a completely new place, start over, and open a bookstore – slash – café may call to some more strongly than others. But if you’re an avid reader chances are the thought has crossed your mind at least once. 

More than just an occupational cover to justify to your well-intentioned if slightly nosy parents your penchant for reading the day away, the idea of a place where people can come together to silently share their love of books and meet interesting people is tempting regardless of where you fall on the scale of introversion. This is the world that Hwang Bo-reum creates in her sensational book: “Welcome to Hyunam-Dong Bookshop”.

What’s it about?

Despite the cover’s whimsical but warm palette, you may be surprised to find that this cozy book isn’t in the fantasy genre. At its core, “Welcome to Hyunam-Dong Bookshop” is a big bear hug for those who have something heavy in their hearts they need to let go of, as well as a survey of different perspectives towards the corporate grind. 

How do these two fit together? Hwang Bo-reum’s first foray into the world of full-length novels (with the help of translator Shanna Tan) presents a narrative that is devoid of intense action but is far from boring. If the plot was laid out simply and objectively, one might say that this is a book where “almost nothing happens”. But what keeps you going is the emotional struggles of the characters – seeing yourself in them and occasionally holding back tears when their inner monologue hits a little too close to home. 

What makes it special?

In this book, the reader is presented with a cast of characters – each at different stages in their life yet grappling with essentially the same question: What is the right way to live my life? From the burnt out owner of the titular bookshop running away from her past to chase her childhood dreams, to the frustrated barista who “did everything right” in his life only to find that “it do be like that sometimes”, to the angsty teen practically being dragged by the collar to the shop so he might finally find some inspiration for his future, and so on – all of these people find refuge in a space where the exchange of ideas and the expertly-brewed coffee are free flowing. 

This cozy read dares you to care deeply about people like the auntie who could talk your ear off about how unhappy her marriage is, as well as the auntie who crochets the cutest, softest figures despite the fiery rage that fuels her. As you watch these characters create a cozy community around each other that enables them the safety to grow, you may find yourself wondering if there’s something you could stand to let go of as well. 

Should you read it?

Should you read “Welcome to Hyunam-dong Bookshop”? There is no “should” where casual reading is concerned, but this book is about as cozy they come. Should you open a bookshop? This is not a business advice column, so please do your own research. Will you feel good after reading this? If reading about good people letting go of their baggage makes you smile, then absolutely.  

You can purchase a copy of this cozy read online here.

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