Monday, July 23, 2007


I've been fairly content with my life in Korea -- I enjoy teaching EFL, and the pay's not too bad -- it more than covers those mad journeys to the bookstore and the craziness between Amazon and me.

On the minus side, the library situation has been a downer; I hadn't realized before I left home how many books I borrowed and how often. [Hometown library, I love you! I'll see your rows and rows of books and smell your lovely dust-and-book glue aroma in a few days! Whee!]

But never mind the Korea library situation for now, because something wonderful has happened. I found something that I wanted just as much as a library (although, mind you, that would still be really nice!) I have found and joined a: BOOK GROUP!!!

Remember when I went to What The Book? back on July 13, and there was a bulletin board notice about a book group? I wrote down the email on the notice, thinking that this person wanted to start one up. Wrong! Happily, the group already existed (since 2005) and the next meeting was July 22. The group even had a name: Bookleaves. Bookleaves. I savored the name in blissful silence, sort of the way I used to dreamily savor a new boyfriend's name. Wow. That's a nice name...

Bookleaves is a Seoul-based group, and I'm located 3 hours south in a whole nother province. A problem? Hello? I crossed the line from bookworm to bibliomaniac several years ago and I've never looked back. Why would I start now? I found my Seoul subway card and packed the book we'd be discussing (The Witch Of Portobello by Paulo Coehlo) and went downtown and bought a train ticket.

The meeting was in a cozy corner room of a coffee shop. A bookstore was one or two floors above us. Eight women showed up for the meeting, and the talk about books was fast and furious. It was a little strange to be in a room with so many readers; I've only had Pablo these past couple of years to talk to.

The founder of the group, Veronica, seems so committed and organized. Although we just met yesterday, the notes for the next meeting are already up on Facebook! I only now just remembered that she had her notebook computer at the meeting. She's been thorough about putting out the word about Bookleaves; I was amused that one new person found out about the group on the internet (high-tech) and I found out from a card on a bulletin board (low-tech).

Sadly, one of the members of Bookleaves is moving to Singapore, so my first meeting was her last meeting. That's the way the expat world turns. Sigh. I hope she'll visit Korea again. Even more, I hope she finds a book group in Singapore. She looked so nice and bookwormy, clutching her copy of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

I've been wanting to move to Seoul for the past couple of months, and finding a book group has strengthened my resolve. Autumn will definitely find me job-hunting.

Bookleaves meets approximately every 3 weeks on Sunday afternoons. During the last part of the meeting, we went upstairs to the bookstore and examined the English-language books available and chose books for the upcoming meetings. A Conspiracy Of Paper is up next on August 5, but of course I'll be in the US. (For the first time, I thought: "Oh, damn.")

The next meeting after that is August 26, when we'll discuss You Remind Me Of Me by Dan Chaon. After that, we'll read Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller and In The Company Of The Courtesan by Sarah Dunant. I've read none of these, so of course, I'm looking forward to discovering each book and more than that, discussing it!

I'm finally in a book group in Korea. Finally, finally, finally. I've been content in Korea, satisfied with the way my life is going, but now I think I've just upgraded to happy.


lazy cow said...

Good for you! I searched 2 years for a bookgroup that would have me in Melbourne, and finally had to start my own. Yours sounds very organised, and I'd be travelling to get to it too if I were you!

Tara said...

How wonderful that you've found a group of fellow booklovers so far from home. I don't blame you one bit for traveling so far to get to the bookclub meeting. Congratulations on your find. May I ask, what brought you to Korea, or perhaps there is a post of yours you could suggest? I'm so curious about how people wind up in such exotic places.

Gentle Reader said...

How great that you have found a book group! I love my group, but it was easy to find them--they all live nearby and our kids mostly go to school together. How great that as an expat in Korea you found a group! Makes me happy that book lovers find each other everywhere...

Anonymous said...

No. Library? Argh. Understandable, but tough.

The book group sounds great! Nice name and nice titles. Too bad they're not closer, but at least you can get to them.

kookie said...

Bybee, I'm so glad you found a group of people who understand your obsession. That's just awesome.

Sam said...

Congratulations on that great find! I can feel your excitement all the way to Houston. :-)

BTW, when do you start your home leave trip?

Bobby D. said...

Glad you found a book group--

I go to the local library group which meets only twice during the entire summer. The members are really nice though, because they are complete and utter readaholics.

love the motto on your banner ...if a tree falls...
I have to take that to the next meeting!

Bybee said...

Lazy Cow,
Are you saying that there were bookgroups that rejected you? If so, that's just stupid! Glad you were able to start your own, though.

Luckily, I consider the train ride a luxury as well. I came to Korea after 18 out of the 80 teachers in my district got laid off. Thanks to budget cuts in Missouri, it was difficult to find another position, meanwhile, it was (and is) raining jobs in South Korea, so here I've been since fall of 2004.

Gentle Reader,
It's easy to find church buddies or drinking buddies here, but finding reading buddies takes a little more effort. Glad it finally paid off.

Carrie K.,
One woman in the group said she didn't realize how much she missed her library. Not only did she go and borrow materials, but it was her Number One Hangout on a Sunday afternoon. So there is definitely a gaping library-shaped hole in her life!

Yep, we're all on the same page, so to speak...

I passed over from excitement into euphoria sometime during the meeting. My trip...going by your time, I fly at ten p.m. on the 24th, which is noon on the 25th my time. I'll arrive about a thousand hours later on...the 25th.

d. chedwick,
I like your blog. All those references to Dylan...great.
I'm glad your group has "complete and utter readaholics"...nothing annoys me more than people just farting around with a bookgroup so it'll make them look smarter or more profound or something.

Bybee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
darkorpheus said...

It's great you found a book group that makes you happy. Wishing you fun with Bookleaves.

And one of your group is moving to Singapore, huh? Well, there's some decent bookstores for English books there, so she'll be okay.

1morechapter said...

That's wonderful! So glad it was a good group!

Melwyk said...

Sounds like a great bookgroup! I love that you travelled to go to it and that it was so worth it.

I'd like to join one too but as Lazy Cow says, I think I'll have to start my own. My husband belongs to a great all-men's club and I am jealous!

jenclair said...

I'm so glad for you. Book Groups are kind of like get to know each other more quickly with the common topic of books.

I don't know how I'd function without a good library! Can't imagine the expense...

Unknown said...

It's Veronica from BOOKLEAVES!!!
How's everything?
We're thinking of having the meeting this weekend(Aug. 26th).
I'll probably e-mail you this info again.. but since I'm browsing through your blog thought I'd leave a message. Anyhow, let me know what your schedule's like and hopefully we'll see you soon!