Popular Books in the Overseas Market: Second Half of 2020

The United States and Japan


<The Laws of Virtue (Munhakdongne)> by Pyun Hye-Young has been drawing positive reviews from a number of newspapers and websites since its publication in May. This book is her third full-length novel translated and published in the United States after <City of Ash and Red (Changbi)> and <The Hole (Munji Publishing Co.)>. The New York Times Book Review introduced it as “A simmering thriller,” while Books & Bao commented “The Laws of Virtue is a mystery masterpiece of two interwoven and tragic narratives drawn along by power, fear, and corruption. Hye-young Pyun at her best.” Plus, CrimeReads called <The Laws of Virtue> one of “The Best Books of 2020 (So Far).”


<The Laws of Virtue>

<City of Ash and Red>

<The Hole>

<The Laws of Virtue>, <City of Ash and Red>, <The Hole>


The Japanese edition of the full-length novel <Almonds (Changbi)> written by Son Won-Pyung ranked first in the “2020 Bookseller Awards” for translated novels, becoming a driver for Korean literature in Japan. The Japanese edition was published in 2019 by Shodensha, and won the “2020 Bookseller Awards” in early April. While becoming a big hit in Japanese bookstores, <Almonds> is settling as the most popular Korean book in the Japanese market following <Kim Ji Young, Born 1982 (Minumsa)> by Cho Nam-Joo, curently in its 12th printing since mid-July. The English edition of <Almonds> was published on May 5th by HarperVia, US, and was designated as “An Amazon Best Book of May 2020” and as one of “The best books of 2020 so far, according to Amazon” last July. The translation rights of <Almonds> have been sold to 16 countries so far. <Kim Ji Young, Born 1982> that led the wave of Korean literature on Japanese shelves before <Almonds> brought about a huge impact in the US market as it was published one month ahead of <Almonds> in April. Vulture called <Kim Ji Young, Born 1982> one of the “Best Books of the Year (So Far),” while New York Times chose it as “A New York Times Editors Choice Selection.”



<Kim Ji Young, Born 1982>

<Almonds>, <Kim Ji Young, Born 1982>


Korea’s self-development books also achieved a positive outcome in the first half of this year in the Japanese publication market. Best titles leading the trend are <I Decided to Live as Myself (Woods of Mind’s Books)> by Kim Soo-Hyun, <I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki (Heun)> by Baek Se-Hee, and <I Almost Lived Hard (Woongjin ThinkBig)> by Hawan. These books are recording good sales in Japan. Riding the wave, there is news that <Take It Easy, Don’t Try Too Hard (Noll)>, a new self-development essay by Kim Soo-Hyun was exported to Japan for a high advance. Dasan Books, the Korean publisher of the book, announced on June 15th that <Take It Easy, Don’t Try Too Hard> was sold to Japan with an advance of more than 20 million JPY. While <Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982> and <Almonds> have been leading the trend of Korean literature in one part of the Japanese publication market in recent years, non-novel Korean books are reaping good outcomes in another part, raising expectations for a wider variety of Korean publications to further expand into the local market.


<I Decided to Live as Who I am>

<Take It Easy, Don’t Try Too Hard>

<I Decided to Live as Who I am>, <Take It Easy, Don’t Try Too Hard>


<I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki>

<I Almost Lived Hard>

<I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki>, <I Almost Lived Hard>


* <K-Book Trends> Vol. 22 – Article about writer Son Won-Pyung
* <K-Book Trends> Vol. 22 – Article about publisher Woods of Mind’s Books
* <K-Book Trends> Vol. 25 – Article about writer Baek Se-Hee


Written by Joseph Lee (President of KL Management)


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