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Min Jin Lee
A victorian epic transplanted to Japan, following a Korean family of immigrants through eight decades and four generations.Yeongdo, Korea 1911.In a small fishing village on the...

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Comment from [Reddit user] with 19 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee.

I started this about a month ago and took my sweet time reading it, not so much because it's a long novel sprawling over five-hundred pages and is not engaging enough (it very much is), but because I wanted to savour it slowly and deliberately for the things and happenings in the story to fully sink in and for me to properly reflect on them along the way. This also sort of helped 'simulate' the broad scope of the narrative, which unfolds over a long course of time – a sizeable chunk of the twentieth century – and spans across five generations of a family and their acquaintances and associates.

As I look back on my experience of reading the book and put my thoughts into words, I can only begin to describe it as an emotional roller-coaster. It's intensely poignant, and I had tears running down my cheeks on a number of occasions. Certain parts and plot points were, for me, reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, to varying degrees.

My biggest takeaway from the book, though, is its exploration of expatriate life, identity, the notion of family, and what it means to belong to a community or nation. It has taught me quite a bit about the turbulent dynamics between Koreans and Japanese, and the plight of Korean immigrants and the successive generations in Japan in the twentieth century – a slice of history which is not often addressed or explored in mainstream media and which, I have to ashamedly admit, I was ignorant of until this book came along. And it saddened me to think how social discrimination, in all forms and ways, has been a constant through human history across nations and cultures, which is not exactly a newfound realization, but reading this book really drove that home once again. I appreciate how it never feels like history lessons are being dumped on the reader. Everything is skilfully incorporated into the narrative and the characters' experiences, struggles, and musings, so it makes for a good 'edutaining' novel.

Insofar as the shortcomings of the book are concerned, I feel like the story kinda falters during the last quarter or so. I generally like narratives with a huge cast taking 'detours' to explore secondary/supporting characters outside of the main clique, but the way a couple of characters were introduced and dealt with at the tail end of the book felt like the author was writing about them just for the sake of it. I understand the intention behind writing about these characters, but I was left underwhelmed by the way it was executed and wasn't quite sold on their stories. Also, I'm not sure if this counts as nitpicking, but I can't help being on the fence about how the author has recurrently resorted to cancer as a cause of character death and/or to evoke sympathy in at least three instances. It felt like a lazy and convenient cop-out to me, especially since a handful of other characters are already established to be suffering from some or the other illness and because surely there must be other, more inventive means to the same end of making the reader conscious of a character's mortality or evoking sympathy. Thankfully the story picks itself up again at the end and concludes on a satisfactory note. I had to put the book down and cry after reading the last few pages because it was so bittersweet but also beautiful.

Finally, I liked how the running motif of pachinko is cleverly integrated in the story – both at the literal level with the pachinko industry serving as a key backdrop to significant parts of the second half of the narrative, and at the figurative level through the recurring suggestion that life is much like a game of pachinko. The comparatively weak writing in the last quarter of the book keeps it from reaching perfection, but overall it's a good and emotionally powerful story and certainly one of the most impactful among the books I have read this year so far.

About halfway through Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke.

Started The Palace of Illusions, by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 12 upvotes on /r/books/

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende — finished... not last week but relatively recently and I really, really liked it. The descriptions were great, the characters were great and very individual (I hated all the Estebans in the book, which was also great — I love when a book makes me feel something). About 3/4 of the way through the book I did find myself thinking "what's the point, though" and that it was a little long.

Also finished ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times, by Andrew MacLean, which was okay. I liked the cat the best, and he (it?) didn't even feature much in the comic.

Just started reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, and I'm having a tough time getting personal with the characters, but I'm also comparing it to The House of the Spirits quite a bit. On the other hand, I like that it reads a bit like a nonfiction biography. Also relearning/remembering things I learnt in Asian History. Aaaand still trekking through The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, but I feel like it's not one of them collections that you just sit and read through, so I don't expect to finish it this month.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 10 upvotes on /r/books/

Started Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee yesterday -- about 70 pages in and hugely enjoying it. I'm trying to take my time to savour the passages but it's difficult to slow down!

Comment from [Reddit user] with 10 upvotes on /r/books/

I finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee and loved it. Also read Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, which was hilarious. Now on to Circe, by Madeline Miller.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 9 upvotes on /r/books/

Almost done with The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. I'm really enjoying it, though the majority of the hard science flies right over my head.

Starting Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee afterwards

Comment from [Reddit user] with 8 upvotes on /r/books/

4-star books:

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

Very funny, short play.

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Saga of a Korean family living in Japan, through the 20th century.

3-star books:

The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

Spy novel: two women track down a French collaborateur in both WWI and WWII.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

A day in the life of a zek in a Soviet gulag.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 8 upvotes on /r/books/

I finally finished up Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, which I ended up enjoying! A simple, but well-told, story of one family's history and them trying to make the best of some bad situations. The story struck a good balance of bittersweet- sometimes things didn't work out for this family, but it made the moments when things did work out even better.

I have yet to start anything new this week because of visiting family and prep for the holiday, but my next planned reads are Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik and Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin. And perhaps something nonfiction!

Comment from [Reddit user] with 7 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee — liked (not loved) it. Despite how distant I felt from the characters, I still managed to get attached to them because they frustrated me sometimes and it made them more "human". It's also very insightful re: the general Japanese population's attitude towards Koreans at the time. Would recommend.

Started The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin. I'm about 40% in and still not sure how I feel about this Bruce fella as he wrote himself; he was very clever but very pompy. Can't fault the writing itself though — that's great. Excited to read the rest. :-)

Comment from [Reddit user] with 7 upvotes on /r/books/

This week I finished The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn, which was a very interesting look at what scientific revolutions are and how they occur and affect the fields in which they occur. Definitely recommend for anyone interested in science or the history of science.

Still reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, which I am also enjoying. It's nothing crazy or out of the ordinary, but I'm enjoying that aspect of it; it's a simple, nicely-written story about a family.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 6 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood for my Wednesday book club meeting.

Started The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore.

Will finish listening to Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee this week.

Edited to add commas

Comment from [Reddit user] with 6 upvotes on /r/books/

I read Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Amazing book, I might be biased because I'm interested in Korean culture and am already quite familiar with it, but it's the first "family saga" that I read and I really enjoyed the way the story is told through all the different characters. It has some low lulls, but it's a very worthy read! Really recommended to anybody, and a must for those that have some kind of connection with Korea.

I read The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Quick and easy to read and it's really interesting to see where a lot of alien invasion stories took inspiration from. I found this story much better than his Time Machine. I really enjoyed the way he made the narration more plausible through the mention of fictitious scientists and papers.

I'm about to start Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Really excited!

Comment from [Reddit user] with 6 upvotes on /r/books/

Still reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee and picked up The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn last night. Haven't gotten much reading done lately, so here's hoping I make some good progress this week!

Comment from [Reddit user] with 5 upvotes on /r/books/

I finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee.

I started Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen and The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 4 upvotes on /r/books/

Reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee and I'm enjoying it so far. It's a little slower than I anticipated, but it works for the type of story being told.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 4 upvotes on /r/books/

I haven't posted the last couple of weeks, so playing catch-up.

I've read The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish, which is historically very interesting, but not very readable or of good literary quality. It's full of weird and fantastical ideas, and it's hard to tell when the author is having a flight of fancy and when she's proposing an actual scientific idea. (There may not be much difference.)

I've also finished Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, which is good, but not as good as folks were making it out to be.

Currently reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, and getting through it much faster than I normally would with a book of this length. I'm about 3/4 of the way through, and I'm absolutely loving it.

Edit: a word

Comment from [Reddit user] with 4 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished A gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Toyles: starts in the 1920s and spans several decades, A Russian nobleman is judged to have written a poem that goes against the state, he is sentenced to life imprisonment within the Metropol Hotel in moscow, if he is ever seen outside of it he is to be shot on sight and while he was once the owner of a grand suite that room is now off-limits and he must live within a tiny attic space instead(though he is still free to roam the remainder of the hotel as he sees fit), so it follows the count throughout his time there as he comes to forge friendships with other residents, not sure how else to describe this without getting into spoilers but its well worth a read.

and now reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Comment from [Reddit user] with 3 upvotes on /r/books/

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (audiobook) after 15 weeks on hold at the library I finally got the chance to start! I'm almost halfway through and I am so loving it. I've always been a sucker for historical fiction and for sweeping family drama and this book has it all! I'm right at the end of WWII.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (eBook) Also just received after 15 weeks on hold! I've heard mixed things, so I am excited to get deeper into it.

Just finished The Ministry of Upmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy and wasn't sure what to think, I'd love to talk about it with someone.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 3 upvotes on /r/books/

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee Finished it in 2 days. Great family saga and look at an experience that isn’t explored much — what life what like for Koreans living in Japan during Japanese imperialism and beyond.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 3 upvotes on /r/books/

I started Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild and Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee this week. Haven’t made much progress in either (flu, ugh), but I’ve enjoyed the little bit in each that I have read.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 2 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished this week:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates Finished listening about an hour ago, still processing. I don't read a lot of memoirs and I have never listened to an audiobook read by the author, but I found it a compelling listen. I live in DC, so hearing him talking about Howard, Baltimore and PGC resonated particularly strongly. I'm not sure if memoir is my preferred way to learn about social justice, however. I'm also reading Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School, which takes a much more academic and researched focused approach and I found that more engaging. Coates certainly uses language in a very powerful way, and I was often wondering if reading it would have been better for me than listening.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin I did not like this book. The ending seemed to make the entire book pointless, and all of the characters were one dimensional.

Currently Reading

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy I'm still trying to figure out what exactly this book is about, but it is certainly keeping my interest with the extensive character list and unfamiliar setting.

About to start: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee Just came off hold, very excited!

Comment from [Reddit user] with 2 upvotes on /r/books/

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Comment from [Reddit user] with 2 upvotes on /r/books/

Finished: Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Started: Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James and China Cowboy, by Kim Gek Lin Short

Comment from [Reddit user] with 2 upvotes on /r/books/

Just finished Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Written over the course of thirty years in her own words, it is a gem of a book chronicling four generations of Koreans living in Japan. Recommended to people who also liked East of Eden by Steinbeck.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 1 upvotes on /r/books/

just finished in the past 3 weeks:

The Waves, by Virginia Woolf

V., by Thomas Pynchon

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

the waves is great and it was my second read of it, really found myself connecting with some of Susan's passages. V. was very cool, third Pynchon I've read. As with most of his books I find its better to accept the fact you won't always fully understand the story. Pachinko was great, read it on a whim and loved it.

Comment from [Reddit user] with 1 upvotes on /r/books/


Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty I’d just finished season 2 of Big Little Lies and was craving more of the same. Liane’s books always have me flying through the pages. This one was good too, but a little tedious in a few places, only because I was living the tedium of the characters as they went through something that felt like it was going to never end. It wasn’t bad, I was just sucked in enough to feel the frustration, etc. I recommend!

Queenie, by Candace Carty-Williams So good, but made me cry. I relate so much to Queenie. I’m white and she’s black, I’m American and she’s British, but I had a similar childhood as she did and deal with some of the same ptsd-like effects as she does. I also had some of the same relationship issues and sexual dysfunction she has. So it was a poignant read for me. I love how current it is, and I love all the main characters. Also recommend.


Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee Got it from BOTM Club, so I hope it’s good.