Three categories may describe university students’ choice for non-academic books they read: literature, newly published works and Japanese novels. Recent data regarding the number of books borrowed from the libraries of several universities in South Korea show that university students tend to prefer these genres.
Ewha is no exception. According to the data provided by the Ewha Centennial Library, among its ten classifications of books, the literature section ranked first (20.20%) as the most frequently borrowed. “Novels are fun and easy to read. It is a great way to spend time and rest from workloads” said Jung Hye-jung (Life Sciences, 2).
The data from Sogang University showed similar results. According to the data of books borrowed during the fall semester 2007, eight out of ten frequently borrowed books were novels.
In Yonsei University, except for the Principle of Economics which is used as a textbook, “The Girl who Leapt through Time,” a novel by Susuyi Yastaka, was the most frequently borrowed book. Four out of the top ten books on the most frequently borrowed lists were novels.
Seoul National University (SNU) listed nine novels among the top ten and the essay, “Spain, You are Freedom” by Son Mi-na was ranked tenth.
“Students read novels because it is a genre that everyone can read regardless of their major,” said Chung Rack-choon, the director of the Centennial Library.
Another tendency is that university students often prefer new works rather than classic books. An interesting contradiction can be found between the 100 books preferred by students of Seoul National University and Harvard University. The top ten most frequently borrowed books by students at SNU for spring semester of 2008 were recent works. However, the steady seller list of an in-campus book store at Harvard University was filled with classic books. “1984” by George Orwell was at the top of the list.
“Unlike law and ethics which tell us what to do, literature teach us without any enforcement. Classic literatures are especially important as they are all time beloved pieces,” said Jang Gyung-ryul (SNU) in an interview with The JoongAng Ilbo.
The popularity of the Japanese novels was also conspicuous in the data. According to Maeil Business News Paper, among the top ten preferred books of students in five universities (Konkuk, Korea, SungKyunKwan, Hankuk University of Foreign Languages, HanYang), 36 percent were Japanese novels. “Japanese novels are the most popular books at the Kyobo Bookstore in the ECC. The simplicity and emotional content of the books seem to attract students,” said Byun Jae-woo, a staff member of the bookstore. “This is not a trend limited to Ewha, Japanese novels in other Kyobo book stores also sell very well,” said Byun.
Ranking of the frequently borrowed books cannot be ultimate evidence of deciding the reading habits of university students. However, many agree that the data provides important information. “It is good to start reading with easy and interesting books. Then, students should broaden the sphere of the kind of the book they read and try to read difficult ones too,” said Chung.
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