10 books like The Grass Roof

By Younghill Kang,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Grass Roof. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee,

Book cover of Pachinko

Wow! I felt intimately connected to the family depicted in this turbulent but big-hearted saga. I rooted for them at every turn, from their humble beginnings in Korea through their struggles as immigrants in Japan. The world changes dramatically from 1910 to 1989, but despite tragedy, they hold tight to their values of loyalty, hard work, independence, and honesty. Inspiring.

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Pachinko as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* The million-copy bestseller*
* National Book Award finalist *
* One of the New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2017 *
* Selected for Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club *

'This is a captivating book... Min Jin Lee's novel takes us through four generations and each character's search for identity and success. It's a powerful story about resilience and compassion' BARACK OBAMA.

Yeongdo, Korea 1911. In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja…


The Surrendered

By Chang-Rae Lee,

Book cover of The Surrendered

What happens after you survive the atrocities and randomness of war? Chang-rae Lee examines the deep intricacies of this question and its ramifications, portraying three survivors (Korean War, Sino-Japan War) whose lives mesh at an orphanage somewhere in South Korea after liberation. From that common crossroad, the lives of Sylvie, a missionary wife, Hector, a G.I., and June, a Korean orphan, are forever intertwined, shadowed by pervasive doom pitted against the human need to endure. Lee’s intense focus on physicality seems to reflect the characters’ bodily will to continue life, even as their hearts are blackened by tragedy. It is an intense and absorbing read, frightening for what we do to ourselves and how, despite all the darkness and violence we create in the name of war, some continue to persist in a semblance of life, and helplessly pass along the damage of war to those they touch as they…

The Surrendered

By Chang-Rae Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Surrendered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

June Han has forged a life thousands of miles from her birthplace: she has built a business in New York, survived a husband, borne a child. But her past holds more secrets than she has ever been able to tell, and thirty years after her escape from war-ravaged Korea, the time has come for her to confront them.

Hector Brennan, fighter, drinker and 'failure grand and total', is the man who long ago saved June's life. And between them lies the story of the beautiful, damaged Sylvie Tanner, whose elusive love they both once sought. On a journey that takes…


This Burns My Heart

By Samuel Park,

Book cover of This Burns My Heart

This book will capture you with a heroine who is both irresistible and flawed, and will engross you with increasing twists in a triangle of love and sacrifice. The story explores how a fateful choice colors a decade of marriage, and challenges a young woman’s ambition already constrained by traditional Korean culture. Sam Park paints all the flavors of post-war Korea in this vivid debut, and his understanding and expression of the human heart is universal.

This Burns My Heart

By Samuel Park,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Burns My Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chamara is difficult to translate from Korean to English: To stand it, to bear it, to grit your teeth and not cry out? To hold on, to wait until the worst is over? Such is the burden Samuel Park's audacious, beautiful, and strong heroine, Soo-Ja Choi, faces in This Burns My Heart, an epic love story set in the intriguing landscape of postwar South Korea. On the eve of marriage to her weak, timid fiance, Soo-Ja falls in love with a young medical student. But out of duty to her family and her culture she turns him away, choosing instead…


The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories

By Caroline Kim,

Book cover of The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories

Caroline Kim’s The Prince of Mournful Thoughts is packed with stories that juggle humor and heartbreak. The book, set in California, Korea, and France, hosts a cast of rich and complex characters. Kim plumbs the experiences of Koreans and Korean-Americans with sensitivity and a fluidity that makes for a rich reading experience. “Lucia, Russell and Me,” one of my favorite pieces, follows an irreverent adolescent girl, whose family has just moved to America. That story, like the others, is filled with arresting details and characters that shift and change in unexpected ways. Other terrific stories are the genre-bending, historical titular story, and the futuristic piece about a suburban housewife and her therapy robot. Kim is an uncanny observer of everyday life and her way of seeing makes for gratifying reading. 

The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories

By Caroline Kim,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Exploring what it means to be human through the Korean diaspora, Caroline Kim's stories feature many voices. From a teenage girl in 1980's America, to a boy growing up in the middle of the Korean War, to an immigrant father struggling to be closer to his adult daughter, or to a suburban housewife whose equilibrium depends upon a therapy robot, each character must face their less-than-ideal circumstances and find a way to overcome them without losing themselves. Language often acts as a barrier as characters try, fail, and momentarily succeed in connecting with each other. With humor, insight, and curiosity,…


Nation-Empire

By Sayaka Chatani,

Book cover of Nation-Empire: Ideology and Rural Youth Mobilization in Japan and Its Colonies

Sayaka Chatani begins with a simple question. Why did tens of thousands of young men from across the empire in the 1930s and 1940s enthusiastically embrace Japanese nationalism and volunteer for service in the Japanese military? She finds the answer in village youth associations, which served as a vehicle for youth mobilization in rural Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Her most original argument is that ideological campaigns mattered less than the social mobility and the chance for empowerment that youth associations offered. More strikingly, assimilation was not limited to the colonies. Japanese youths in Tohoku, Chatani shows, were “Japanized” in similar ways to those in Korea and Taiwan. This is an innovative and imaginative book. I cannot praise it highly enough.  

Nation-Empire

By Sayaka Chatani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nation-Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands of young men in the Japanese colonies, in particular Taiwan and Korea, had expressed their loyalty to the empire by volunteering to join the army. Why and how did so many colonial youth become passionate supporters of Japanese imperial nationalism? And what happened to these youth after the war? Nation-Empire investigates these questions by examining the long-term mobilization of youth in the rural peripheries of Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Personal stories and village histories vividly show youth's ambitions, emotions, and identities generated in the shifting conditions in each locality. At…


China, Korea & Japan at War, 1592-1598

By J. Marshall Craig,

Book cover of China, Korea & Japan at War, 1592-1598: Eyewitness Accounts

This book is valuable because it combines the first-person perspective of Yu Songnyong’s account with deft historical analysis. Craig chooses a number of interesting subjects for his work, including a Japanese Buddhist monk who accompanied the armies, a Korean scholar who became a war refugee, a Chinese doctor-spy, a samurai warrior, and a Korean diplomat. He translates excerpts from their works and adds historical context. This gives readers the opportunity to see the varying views of the belligerents side by side and it also offers a broader perspective on the effects of the war on different levels of the populace.

China, Korea & Japan at War, 1592-1598

By J. Marshall Craig,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China, Korea & Japan at War, 1592-1598 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The East Asian War of 1592 to 1598 was the only extended war before modern times to involve Japan, Korea, and China. It devastated huge swathes of Korea and led to large population movements across borders. This book draws on surviving letters and diaries to recount the personal experiences of five individuals from different backgrounds who lived through the war and experienced its devastating effects: a Chinese doctor who became a spy; a Japanese samurai on his first foreign expedition; a Korean gentleman turned refugee; a Korean scholar-diplomat; and a Japanese Buddhist monk involved in the atrocities of the invasion.…


Samurai Invasion

By Stephen Turnbull, Peter Dennis (illustrator),

Book cover of Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592 -1598

This is a lavishly illustrated popular account by a prolific author of books about the samurai. It is written from the Japanese perspective in a very accessible style. The author tends to be somewhat uncritical about Japanese accounts and the book is not nearly as academic as some others on this list, but he presents a clear narrative that is easy to follow and could serve as a useful introduction for readers before moving on to more academic studies.

Samurai Invasion

By Stephen Turnbull, Peter Dennis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Samurai Invasion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the end of the sixteenth century the Samurai, Japanese warrior-nobles, had taken total control of their domestic territory. Their unforgiving militarism needed a new foe to conquer: the target was China, the route to victory through Korea. But the Koreans were no pushover. It was a hard fought and, in the end, an unsuccessful campaign, the only time in their 1,500 year history that the Samurai had attacked another country. The Koreans drove them off. Retribution was inevitable. The Samurai returned in 1597 to wreak vengeance and terrible, wanton havoc on the Koreans in a war of unbelievable savagery.…


The Book of Corrections

By Yu Song-Nyong, Choi Byonghyon,

Book cover of The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis During the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

This book is not a page-turner by any means, but what it does have is hidden information through imagination. It is an eyewitness account in Korean, translated into English concerning the 16th-century Japanese Invasion. It is a step-by-step recounting of how one administrator had to flee the Japanese army as they burned their way through his native lands. The hidden joy is knowing that the samurai army is on his heels and you can feel them in the shadow of the book all the way through. It was a joy to read because it allowed me to see how the Japanese behaved in real war if only from a distance and without the problems of an impassioned samurai pen behind the words. 

The Book of Corrections

By Yu Song-Nyong, Choi Byonghyon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Book of Corrections as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Korean


Brokers of Empire

By Jun Uchida,

Book cover of Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876-1945

This is a masterful study of settler colonialism in Korea. Jun Uchida focuses on ordinary Japanese settlers, from petty merchants and traders to educators, journalists, carpetbaggers, and political adventurers who made a new home in the Korean peninsula between 1876 and 1945. These settlers were Uchida’s “brokers of empire.” The “brokers” cooperated with the state while pursuing colonial projects of their own, and helped shape Japan’s empire in Korea. Uchida has a meticulous eye for detail and highlights evolving dynamics between settlers, Koreans, the colonial government in Korea, and the Japanese metropole. This is a long book, but I simply couldn’t put it down—it left me wanting more. 

Brokers of Empire

By Jun Uchida,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brokers of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1876 and 1945, thousands of Japanese civilians-merchants, traders, prostitutes, journalists, teachers, and adventurers-left their homeland for a new life on the Korean peninsula. Although most migrants were guided primarily by personal profit and only secondarily by national interest, their mundane lives and the state's ambitions were inextricably entwined in the rise of imperial Japan. Despite having formed one of the largest colonial communities in the twentieth century, these settlers and their empire-building activities have all but vanished from the public memory of Japan's presence in Korea.

Drawing on previously unused materials in multi-language archives, Jun Uchida looks behind the…


One Left

By Kim Soom, Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton (translator),

Book cover of One Left

The novel One Left begins when the elderly protagonist hears a TV report on the last surviving Korean “comfort woman.” She is in fact also a comfort station survivor, one who has remained silent and hence unknown to the public. At the age of thirteen, she was kidnapped into a Japanese military comfort station in northeast China. The protagonist's thoughts flash back and forth between her present-day life and the wartime horrors, the details of which are drawn from  real survivors’ testimonies. “Fifteen men a day was normal,” she recalls, “but on Sunday fifty men or more might come and go from a girl.” “If a girl got pregnant, her uterus was removed fetus and all as a preventive measure.” It is a difficult read, but necessary, moving, and profound. 

One Left

By Kim Soom, Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Left as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the Pacific War, more than 200,000 Korean girls were forced into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers. They lived in horrific conditions in "comfort stations" across Japanese-occupied territories. Barely 10 percent survived to return to Korea, where they lived as social outcasts. Since then, self-declared comfort women have come forward only to have their testimonies and calls for compensation largely denied by the Japanese government.

Kim Soom tells the story of a woman who was kidnapped at the age of thirteen while gathering snails for her starving family. The horrors of her life as a sex slave follow her back…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, Korea, and childhood?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Japan, Korea, and childhood.

Japan Explore 371 books about Japan
Korea Explore 32 books about Korea
Childhood Explore 140 books about childhood