Sunday, 15 November 2009

Books in Korea. Watchmen

Time on my hands and money to burn. So it would seem whilst being Korea. One of the pitfalls of ESL teachers here is how do you spend your time? Over the four years or so I've been here I've wasted a lot of time but not all of it! One pleasing thing about this excess of time is the chance to read. I spend a big chunk of the day reading the English newspapers and some selected blogs of people in Korea. And of course I also like to read books when I have the chance. I say "have the chance" because choice, on first inspection, is limited. Limited because where I live, there is only one main bookstore (Kyobo) in the downtown area of Daegu, where I live. The main bookstore downtown has a very limited choice in its store and also the prices are far too high. Getting books shipped in from home is too expensive so you can rule that out. So, looking at the Internet I have two main choices. The Kyobo book store website and WhatTheBook.

After my recent DMZ trip I spend the rest of the weekend in Seoul relaxing with my wife. This gave me a chance to visit the What The Book store in the Itaewon district. It was exciting to be in a real book store again with an emphasis much less on education than is the case with Kyobo. There was a decent selection but a few too many second hand books taking up shelf space. One good thing about What The Book is that they speak English, the website is in English and they have free delivery. However, for many publications, the Kyobo website is just a little bit cheaper and they do have a point card system where you can use your points as cash on purchases. The drawback here though is, realistically, you have to read Korean or get a Korean to order your book for you. It is manageable though.

During my time in Seoul at What the book I must have spent an hour there looking forlornly for things I wanted (many of the great titles on my shopping list needed to be ordered in advance) but also going through sections I would normally ignore. In the comic book section that I would normally ignore I saw a second hand copy of Watchmen, the famous Alan Moore graphic novel. Having seen the film earlier this year and enjoying it I thought I'd give the book a go, especially as a) the copy was in very good condition and b) the front cover is so damn cool. A few days later I picked it up and started to read. What an amazing book. A real page turner. Well written, compelling and challenging too with diverse and interesting characters. I would recommend the book to most people who can suspend belief, have an open mind and who don't detest violence. However I must say that I preferred the ending that we see in the film version over the book ending (good though it is). Has this opened up a new world for me of graphic novels? I look forward to spending my free time here in Korea.

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