Confucius Lives Next Door

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confucius

 

While you may tell yourself that you’re only interested in South Korea, Confucius Lives Next Door by T. R. Reid is my number one book for learning about Asian (not just South Korean) culture. Maybe there’s a better book out there that I haven’t read yet, but this book really takes the cake. Or the kimchi.

 

Kimchi. Yum.

Kimchi. Yum. Awful attempt at making an image of kimchi spell the word kimchi. Not yum. My apologies…

 

Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West is primarily written about the author’s experience with the culture in Japan; however, as the author spent time living in places throughout Asia, including South Korea, I find this relatively inconsequential, because there’s a lot to be learned about Asian culture in general from this book. The book is a goldmine of information about the reasons why Asian culture is the way it is -and how America can benefit from it.

So who’s the incredibly wise guy whose social, economic, and cultural influence is still going strong throughout China, Japan, South Korea, etc.?

 

Confucius - The Greatest Thinker and Educator

This guy. Confucius – The Greatest Thinker and Educator

 

T. R. Reid knows quite a lot about Confucius, yet the book doesn’t talk about Confucius’ life. The book details Reid’s experience and afterthoughts on moving with his family to Asia. It explains how Confucianism is pervasive to Asian culture and how it has helped create not only the incredible “Economic Miracle” of rapidly modernizing and prospering Asian countries but also the lesser known but equally important “Social Miracle.” It even explores comparisons between Asia and the United States, and, though the book is more than a decade old, it remains useful to the reader seeking cultural understanding.

Pick up a copy of Confucius Lives Next Door and start understanding why family is so important in South Korea, why honorifics, formal language, bowing, deferral to elders, and general social stability are a common element to much of Asia. Yeah, yeah, Confucius is part of the reason. But the other reasons are discussed in the pages of T.R. Reid’s book. Read it. You won’t regret it.

And if you’re afraid it’ll be boring, Reid’s humorous yet cuttingly informative writing style will keep you interested to the very end.

 

Read some goodreads opinions.

Read another person’s review of T.R. Reid’s book (it’s not just me!).

Find out more about T.R. Reid on the man’s own site.

confucius 2

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Please Look After Mom: a Korean novel of family, heartache, and loss

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I recently read Please Look After Mom, a novel revolving around a family’s search for their missing foundation – their mother and wife. The famous South Korean author, Kyung-sook Shin, spun her masterpiece so flawlessly that I thought it was at least partly autobiographical; I discovered in this article that I wasn’t the only one – “‘She thought the story was completely real,'” (x Kyung-sook Shin about one of her readers).

 

Please Look After Mom is an award-winning novel (published in English in 2011) that not only provides a tragic and beautiful tale of how a Korean family comes to terms with the disappearance of their aging mom, but it also gives insight into Korean culture and tradition. Yet as the story is in a modern setting, this insight isn’t limited to historical culture – it shows the reader the effect of Korea’s rapid development and how it has influenced the younger generation (the daughter and son) as opposed to the older (the father and the missing mother). And for the literary-lovers, it’s rich with symbolism that ices the cake of this book.

 

I absolutely recommend Please Look After Mom, whether you read it for its literary value, or to learn more about Korean culture, or even just because you’re looking for something new to read. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin is crafted to be accessible and rewarding for anyone.

 

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