I became a K-drama fan when my mom recommended I watch Crash Landing On You. This was right around the time it aired on Netflix in early 2020. My entire perception of TV shows has shifted since then. Now that I watch K-dramas, I feel like I’ve finally found my TV series niche. My mom, sister-in-law, and I are always talking K-dramas now. We share which shows we’ve loved, which ones we can’t wait to watch, and who our favorite K-drama stars are. There’s so much to be said for the magic of K-dramas.
For starters, there’s the endearing characters, along with truly memorable character arcs. In the K-dramas I’ve watched, the characters are so well developed, nuanced, and multi-faceted. We really get to know them and connect with them. The friends and neighbors are hilarious and charismatic, the protagonists relatable, and love interests dreamy. Characters that may seem awful initially can show incredible growth by the end of the season. After watching Mr. Sunshine, I became so invested in each of the five main characters of that series that their stories still haunt me in the most heartbreaking yet perfect way.
K-dramas also seamlessly interweave flashbacks into compelling narratives, revealing events that help us piece together the characters and stories. My heart broke after every flash back to Yoon Se-Ri’s childhood in Crash Landing On You. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach every time Ri Jeong Hyeok and Yoon Se-Ri interacted in Switzerland all those years ago before they knew each other.
K-dramas draw me further into the characters and their journeys by digging into relatable, important, and poignant conflicts. With consideration and care, Was it Love?, One Spring Night, and Where the Camellia Blooms provide a lens into life as a single parent and the stigmas single parents face. Something in the Rain and Rookie Historian both thoughtfully tackle family pressures about relationships, as well as sexism in the workplace.
Beyond the characters and conflicts, K-dramas offer so much more. There’s the on-point humor, delicious food scenes, and epic soundtracks. And, don’t even get me started on the pure beauty of Ri Jeong Hyeok playing the piano on the lake in the Alps. When I’m not watching K-dramas, I crave books that remind me of the shows I love so much. As these series span various genres, I’ve chosen a selection of K-drama genres that I’ve enjoyed watching and matched them to good reads below.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at these books for K-drama fans! Which are your favorite K-drama genres?
Books for K-Drama Fans: Romances
XOXO by Axie Oh
Like many K-drama romances, this sweet YA romance by Axie Oh promises a forbidden love trope. Plus, the protagonist is a musical prodigy like Captain Ri in Crash Landing. Gifted cellist Jenny dreams of getting into a prestigious music conservatory, and yet, one magical night of adventures with a mysterious boy named Jaewoo has Jenny nearly forgetting all of her careful plans. When Jenny and her mom travel to South Korea to take care of her grandma, Jenny is shocked to find Jaewoo in attendance at her arts academy. His secret identity will prove all the more shocking, though.
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, Translated by Anton Hur
This cover is absolutely gorgeous, and my K-drama fan heart wants it printed on a T-shirt. A bestseller in Korea, this book is the English language debut of up-and-coming Korean author Sang Young Park. This poignant and tender story explores themes of coming-of-age, love, family, friendship, and millennial loneliness. Like many K-drama romances, it digs into the feelings of being single when everyone else around you is in a relationship. Korean student Young and his best friend Jaehee enjoy going out and frequenting the bars to forget the many anxieties of their lives. Yet when Jaehee eventually settles down, Young finds himself on his own caring for his mother and going on a series of dates with men, holding out hope that he’ll eventually meet the one.
Books for Fans of Family and Relationship Stories in K-Dramas
So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
Reminiscent of Something in the Rain, this book follows investment banker Jessie Kim as she deals with a toxic work environment and finds an old acquaintance returning to her life. Having just been laid off, Korean American Jessie moves back home to live with her parents in Tennessee. There, Jessie runs into her former archenemy, Daniel Choi, who much to her surprise, offers to help her relaunch her Korean cooking YouTube channel.
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
Switching between the perspectives of four main characters, something K-dramas do so well, this story takes place in Seoul and examines impossible standards of beauty in society, along with the power of female friendships. While the lovely Kyuri entertains businessmen in a secret salon, her roommate, the talented artist Miho, finds herself in a tumultuous relationship with the heir to a top Korean company. Down the hall, Ara works as a hair stylist and obsesses over a K-pop band. On the floor below them, newlywed Wonna tries to get pregnant despite her financial concerns over raising a baby.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Written by Korea American Michelle Zauner, the singer and guitarist of Japanese Breakfast, this heartfelt memoir captures many of the powerful themes found in K-dramas, including family, identity, and grief. After her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, Michelle goes on a personal journey to reclaim the gifts her mother has passed on to her, including her connections to Korean cuisine, language, and history.
Books for K-Drama Fans: Speculative Adventures
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
In the vein of Tale of the Nine Tailed and The King, this supernatural thriller meets romance makes for a must-read suspenseful adventure! In Seoul, 18-year-old Gu Miyoung lives in a secret as a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who hunts and feeds off the energy of evil men. When Miyoung finds the human boy Jihoon being attacked by a goblin in the forest, she makes a choice that will have lasting consequences on her fate.
I’m Waiting for You And Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young
Like the K-drama Sisyphus: The Myth, this intriguing short story collection by Kim Bo-Young plays with ideas of time travel and star-crossed lovers. From an engaged couple trying to make it down the aisle in time despite working on missions in separate corners of the galaxy to mysterious creators sharing judgements about humanity, this speculative masterpiece will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading.
Books for Fans of K-Drama Historical Sagas
The Mermaid From Jeju by Sumi Hahn
With its immersive historical setting and themes of love, loss, family, loneliness, and adventure, this novel by Sumi Hahn is perfect for fans of historical K-dramas. In the wake of World War II on the breathtakingly beautiful island of Jeju, we meet Goh Junja as she joins her mother amongst the deep sea diving women of the island. As she comes of age during a turbulent political time period, Junja faces great tragedy and meets a mountain boy who will change the course of her fate forever.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I couldn’t recommend historical sagas for K-drama fans without mentioning this powerful and heartbreaking novel by Min Jin Lee. Like Mr. Sunshine, this moving story provides a window into Korean history over the course of more than one generation of the same family, with a focus on the conflict between Japan and Korea. After teenage Sunja gets pregnant by a married man, she refuses to become his mistress. Instead, she marries a kind minister and journeys with him to Japan. There, she will do everything in her power to build a better life for her sons.
Or, If You’re Here for the Food!
Cook Korean! A Comic Book With Recipes by Robin Ha
I don’t know about you, but I am always here for the food. Something I love about K-dramas is that they don’t shy away from food details. Meeting love interests and friends over dinner and drinks, or sitting with family around a table covered in mouth-watering spread comes up throughout my favorite K-dramas. Food, and sharing a meal with others, is an important part of my life, and I love that it gets the spotlight it deserves in K-dramas. Plus, it provides a more immersive experience in Korean culture. From an illustrated guide to a Korean pantry to chapters dedicated to different core dishes in Korean cooking, this graphic novel cookbook by Robin Ha is a pure delight for fans of K-dramas. Ha’s illustrations are beautiful, and she provides an incredible educational experience in the Korean culinary world, along with sweet stories from her own experiences cooking.
Looking for More Books for K-Drama Fans?
It’s hard to fit into one list everything I love about K-dramas. If you’re looking for the perfect book recommendation that’s just like your favorite K-dramas, try our book subscription service, Tailored Book Recommendations, and get paired with a bibliologist who will choose books just for you! While you’re at it, check out these excellent book lists below, too!