The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
*Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide*
If you’re a BTS fan, you know that leader RM (Kim Namjoon) is an avid reader. Whether it’s curling up in a corner on the group’s reality shows or going to the library, that man is always reading. It honestly fascinated me how much he loves books, and the way he takes what he reads and incorporates it into his daily life. I mean, it’s clearly seen in his songwriting how insightful he is. I used to be much more of a reader myself until academic burnout hit and I lost motivation to pick up a book. But luckily, Namjoon has inspired me to actually roam the library again and read every chance I get.
His reading list has gotten so vast and popular that websites, bookstores, and archives all over the world have compiled RM’s Reading List (coined by Barnes & Noble). Similar to modern trends like BookTok and the simple idea of taking a tote bag to the park and reading in the grass, this list goes through basically every book that RM has mentioned in the media, personally recommended, or was seen reading. It made me think — what was so interesting about these books that had him laser-focused on them despite the other BTS members creating chaos around him in their reality shows? What inspired some of his incredible lyrics?
I have a lot of love and respect for Namjoon, so I thought, why not? So, for the past two years, I have been going through this list with a new, random motivation to get back into reading. With that, I would like to present: my top five books from RM’s *iconic* reading list!
5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This 1979 novel is very satirical, which is most likely why I enjoyed it so much. It’s a commentary on the sort of absurd nature of human society. The book follows an ordinary man who stumbles through the universe with his friend (who is actually an alien) after they discover galaxies that are in much different periods of time. On their adventures, they learn more about Earth and the insane things that happen on other planets. It reminded me of Monty Python with how random yet creative it was. RM mentioned the novel in a 2017 VLIVE, saying that he had been planning on reading it, and honestly, that was a ride. (In case you’re wondering, the answer to the universe is 42).
4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood was added to RM’s list after he revealed that two books by Murakami inspired some BTS songs (one of them being the beloved hidden track “Sea”), but one served as an important basis for the BTS storyline, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. The BTS ‘HYYH’ lore follows the members through their depressing, chaotic journey of youth and is represented by songs, albums, short films, music videos, and books. One of the main inspirations behind these songs was Norwegian Wood, as the book is a beautiful depiction of coming-of-age in terms of mental health, loneliness, and adulthood. I personally enjoyed this book because of the fact that I am entering that stage of my life where I am in between childhood and adulthood – with college, I’m learning a lot about myself, but also struggling to navigate certain aspects of being on my own. This is a great read for fellow college students, and if you like well-written, engaging books that take you to another world while reading, Norwegian Wood is for you.
3. Almond by Won-pyung Sohn
In a season two episode of BTS’ reality-relaxation show In the Stop, both RM and SUGA are seen reading Almond. Watching them relax and read this novel, the cover and title caught my eye. And let me just say — that book kind of destroyed me. It follows a boy with Alexithymia who struggles to feel emotions like empathy and anger. He befriends a boy who is the complete opposite — he feels strong emotions, especially anger and fear because of his past. The way the novel showed the character’s internal emotions was very interesting, and it gave me a new perspective on navigating the disorder the main character had. I love how the book slowly builds to become a beautiful story of friendship, and how two boys help each other evolve. But warning: this book did make me tear up a few times. Overall, it gave an amazing view of the world through different eyes.
2. Demian by Hermann Hesse
Demian is for people struggling with transition into adulthood, BTS fans confused about the WINGS storyline, and everyone in between. RM, along with the rest of the group, has dubbed this novel as the prime inspiration for their 2016 album WINGS, which followed the seven members through different stages of good and evil – and in each short film/music video relating to the album, an excerpt from Demian is narrated by RM. He was often found reading the book behind the scenes as well. This novel is a classic, which is why I was so eager to read it. Not only did it give me some background on WINGS, but it was also a very insightful read. Yes, it is kind of confusing – but that’s what life is about. The book is a man’s adventure through life and how people that come in at different times change his path, and that’s what makes the confusion so intriguing. I could go on and on about the connections between Demian and WINGS, or Demian and Carl Jung’s Map of the Soul, but for now I will leave you with this: The book will stick with you, and will truly have you thinking about the meaning of life and every decision you make in the path to finding yourself.
1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Coming in at number one is the sci-fi novel The Midnight Library. RM also reads this book during In the Soop, so one day I picked it up at a local bookstore after recognizing it from the show. And I’m glad I did, because this has truly become one of my all-time favorite books. The plot is very simple yet unique: It’s about a woman named Nora Seed who (trigger warning!) decides to end her life one night after feeling that her life is pointless. But she ends up getting stuck in between life and death in a place called the Midnight Library, the librarian being her childhood mentor. Each book in the library is a new life she could have lived, and she is able to undo regrets to create a life where she is endlessly happy. This book had me on edge, since a lot of the character’s decisions weren’t expected, but it left me with the same question that the main character was trying to solve: What is the perfect life?
As someone who once had a deep love for reading but lost it due to burnout, I can happily say that this list was an amazing dive back into the hobby. Personal thanks to Kim Namjoon for guiding me back to that passion I had. The experience was truly enjoyable; these novels even had me driving all the way to parks this summer, sprawling out in the grass on a picnic blanket. Whether you’re a heavy reader, or casual, these will surely have you on the edge of your seat. And who knows? Maybe they can get you back into it too! As The Midnight Library constantly reiterates, the possibilities are endless. This list (which, by the way, embodies RM’s personality so well) made me question things about myself and the world that I hadn’t thought about before – and that is the beauty of books.