Drama Reviews, There's Something About Dramas

3 Korean Dramas That Are Perfect for Book Lovers

Our lovely friends at Frolic gave us the opportunity to publish a post on their website, and we’re pretty happy to share it with you here! We’ve returned each U to its rightful place, and invite you to share your recommendations too! And ABSOLUTELY go ahead and send this to your book-loving friends who haven’t yet discovered the delights of dramaland!


Since quarantine living has slimmed down our social lives and made us maaaybe just a little bit lazier than usual, Korean dramas are everything right now—and even better, they’re everywhere. It has never been so easy to curl up with your remote, your favourite snacks, and perhaps your favourite creature (human or otherwise), to nom your way through sixteen hours of delicious words, gorgeous clothes, superlative music, so many, many feelings, and above all, a proper ending.

At Dramas Over Flowers, the three of us were book-lovers before we’d ever heard a word of Korean, and if books are stories you watch in your head while the words you read translate seamlessly into images, Korean dramas are exactly the same, except you get to watch it on your screen (and size really doesn’t matter!).

We’ve picked three of our road-tested favourites for you to try (so you can be sure that they end as well as they start), but a word of warning: don’t stay up all night, the drama will still be there tomorrow!

To make life easy, you can find all our picks on Netflix:

1. Romance is a Bonus Book

Paroma: I’m always drawn to friends-to-lovers stories, and when that change creeps up gradually and sucker-punches the heart, it’s a hilarious ride to watch the friends struggle against the inevitable.

Dan-i is a freshly divorced single mother, back in the job market a decade after exiting a promising marketing career. She finds that none of her past accomplishments can get her a position at the companies she interviews at. So, instead of giving up, she pretends to be less qualified and takes up a job as an intern at a publishing house. 

At first resentful, Dan-i comes to realise that while the system is unfair and needs to be changed, she also needs to start fresh and learn how the art of marketing has evolved in the last few years. And while she travels this hard path to a job she loves, she finds herself boarding with a school friend she’s always regarded in the light of a younger brother. But Eun-ho, a boy she once rescued, and who’s grown up to be a successful author, isn’t content to stay a reliable friend for the rest of their lives, and soon Dan-i begins to see him in a new light.

 [Listen to the podcast episode]

This show ticks another box for me too. The creators of this drama love books! Not just the stories inside, but the process of their birth and distribution. One of the most poignant scenes in this love story is when Dan-i first visits the factory where unsold books are scrapped. The camera lingers on the torn pages carpeting the factory floor like it’s a grave. For the characters in this story, each book printed is a book in search of a home. And that’s a sentiment any avid reader can understand.

When I think of this drama, I always think of a warm romance, strong bonds between good people, and beautiful dialogues that linger in your heart after the episodes end. 

2. Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung

Anisa: Rookie Historian is the perfect show for anyone who loves Jane Austen, costume dramas, history—or all three! This fierce and funny ode to self-determination centres around a fictional court historian during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. Hae Ryung is a spinster at the ripe old age of 26, impatient with her family’s plans to marry her off and yearning for the quiet life of a scholar. It’s an impossible dream for a woman of her class, raised solely to become a respectable wife—until the king announces a new position for female court historians. As she struggles to adjust to her new job in the palace, she meets Rim, a captive prince who secretly writes banned romance novels.

[Listen to the podcast episode]

The drama is wonderfully acted, beautifully written, and a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Hae Ryung finds her vocation and her handsome prince, balancing work and love for an unconventional happy ending that’s the perfect blend of realism and fantasy. It’s reminiscent of a fairy tale, but with a flipped dynamic between the leads: Rim is basically a Disney princess, and Hae Ryung is the one who vanquishes the villains with her wit, bravery, and a little help from her friends. She and her fellow historians wrestle with the risks and rewards of speaking up for justice to a ruling power that could crush them, a theme as relevant now as it was under the absolute monarchs of Joseon. All that, and it’s hilarious! It’s a show with a big brain, lots of heart, and a heroine for the ages. 

3. I’m Not a Robot

Saya: I’m Not a Robot has the wackiest premise, but somehow, it takes it all and turns it into no less than a luscious, poignant modern fairytale.

The leads, Yoo Seung-ho and Chae Soo-bin, are two of my favourite young actors. Yoo Seung-ho plays an eccentric, lonely recluse with an allergy to humans (practising isolation and extreme social distancing long before the rest of us!). He’s rich as a prince and gets himself the latest AI robot as the next best thing to human contact. But thanks to a series of accidents, instead of being sent the robot, he’s sent a very human girl instead, who has to pretend to be the robot. It’s a venture that can easily go wrong, and to be quite honest, it does! But Chae Soo-bin brings a no-nonsense warmth to the “fauxbot”, and is so much more than just an average heroine. She’s entirely her own person, and handsome hermits notwithstanding, she’s intent on achieving her goals, even when the world tries to tell her “no”.

Their chemistry is absolutely off the charts, and as ridiculous as the premise may seem, it’s impossible not to buy into it. At its heart, it’s about loneliness and making connections, about acceptance and the courage to face yourself, about what it feels like to be seen and known, about grief and healing—it’s all that, but also, it’s very, very funny. It’s a show that made me cry with laughter as much as heartbreak—and don’t let that put you off. From someone who always hates the angst parts of relationships, the angst this show serves up is the purest, most exquisite I have ever tasted and I would not want to live in a world where I hadn’t felt what this show made me feel.

[Listen to the podcast episode]

~

[This article was originally published on the Frolic website, and you can check it out here.]

Now go ahead and glut yourself on all the lovely shows! Let us know in the comments what you’d add to the list and why! We definitely had more to add, but we figured limiting ourselves to just three for now was much wiser (plus we have shows to watch, can’t spend all our time writing, amirite?). Also, I really want you guys to write in about why It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, Run On, and A Poem a Day should be here. Then I can carry out my secret plan of putting together a crowdsourced list of bookish dramas!

11 thoughts on “3 Korean Dramas That Are Perfect for Book Lovers”

    1. Aaahhh I had forgotten about those! I should try that again – if you remind me at the end of the year, I’ll give it a shot!

      The problem is that my reading is absolutely, shamefully meagre these days, so I barely read enough to compare to anything. And if I do read something, it’s a book everyone else already read seven years ago XD

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No judgement, Saya! I’m a literature student, so I’m always reading, but rarely do I have time or energy to do it for fun.
        (Actually, I say this, but I read The Women’s Coffee Shop for one of my modules this week and it stole my heart and soul)
        I actually never thought to make a good reads account, maybe I should? I have a feeling I would get really into it the way I am with MDL 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love these recommendations! Haven’t seen Romance is a Bonus Book, but it’s on my list now. Cha Eun-Woo’s character in Rookie Historian IS a total Disney Princess and I love it! Haha. That was such a lovely drama. I Am Not a Robot was one of the first dramas I watched after a multi-year drama hiatus, so it holds a special place in my heart. The Beauty and the Beast vibes are strong and Yoo Seung-Ho breaks my heart every time I see him cry.

    Although it didn’t live up to my expectations in the end, I think I’ll Go to You When the Weather is Fine is another drama that book lovers would like because of the book club and references to stories. Watching it gave me a similar feeling to being curled up with a good book. It’s Okay to not be Okay, Run On, and A Poem a Day are all great additions. I would kill for the books/illustrations we see in IOTNBO! I only watched A Poem a Day for Lee Joon-Hyuk but was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it. I work with OTs (I’m an SLP) so it was an interesting look into their world. I don’t remember the poems, though, to be honest.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Weather really would have been a lifetime favourite if it hadn’t messed up that ending. I’m still so upset about it!! I think I might learn to forgive it with time, but it’s still too fresh right now.

      I understand what you mean about not remembering the poems. I also don’t. But I remember how the show made me feel, how Bo-young/Lee Yubi made me feel, and how I felt about Lee Joon-hyuk as a romantic hero in that show. It was just such a kind, touching show all around, and had a comfort in its pace and delivery that made it stay with you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I nominate Extraordinary You, on the understanding that manhwas are books. The premise is that a character in a high school manhwa, Eun Dan-oh, played by Kim Hye-yoon, becomes self-aware and, deciding she doesn’t like her role in the story, sets about trying to change it. I’d say it’s for book lovers because it continually provokes thought about the way we think of our lives as a story: can I control my own fate? what makes me an important person? can I reconcile my inner self with my public persona? can I escape the events of the past? what makes me real? how will my story end?
    There’s also plenty of satire on manhwa (and drama) clichés, and we the audience come in for an occasional skewering too. The use of light is gorgeous. Kim Hye-yoon acts her heart out, and the rest of the cast (Rowoon plays opposite her, and Lee Jae-wook is second lead) are excellent.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I love this drama so much. Despite its story problems in the latter half, it was easily my favourite drama of 2019. The metafictional element is a great reason to recommend it to book lovers, and it goes hand and hand with these brilliant existentialist underpinnings like “if life has no meaning, I’ll make my own meaning”. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said people who read Camus would enjoy this.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. I missed you asked about Run On (I haven’t seen the others, duly noted). If I wanted to be nitpicky*, I’d say Run On isn’t so much a book-lovers’ drama as a story-lovers’ drama. There’s a discussion among the main characters in the final episode about what constitutes a happy ending: this drama feels to me like one that was born when some people had a similar discussion, and decided to write a drama around it.

    *I always want to be nitpicky. Sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We love reading your comments, please don’t be sorry! We’re all nitpickers around here, so you’re in good company! As long as we don’t flick the nits at others, it’s alright, right?

      I haven’t finished Run On yet, but I love that interpretation. When we initially discussed what dramas belonged on a list like this, Anisa saw Run On as more of a goldmine for film-lovers. As a person with low literacy in films, to me, Run On is very deeply grounded in relationship psychology and mashing brains together. And difference in perspectives is exactly why we talk to other people instead of ourselves all the time.

      Liked by 2 people

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