These are the Korean books that I recommend buying. I spent many hours pouring over Korean textbooks while I was in Korea, as I searched for the books that were engaging, well-written and as authentic as possible. This list constitutes the best of what I’ve been able to find.

When I lived in Korea I always ordered my books from Book Depository. Incredibly they offer free international shipping, on top of prices that are often cheaper than Amazon. I’ve used them for many years and never had any problems – in fact, books often arrived days after I’d ordered them. Click on the books below to get a direct link to them on Book Depository.

Finally, if you feel I’ve missed anything then please recommend a book by leaving a comment and I’ll look into it!



2000 Essential Korean Words for Beginners is a fantastic place to start your learning. It is a vocabulary book organized by topic (e.g. school life, making appointments) that includes translations to English, Chinese and Japanese, as well as an example sentence in Korean. Perhaps the best thing about it though is the CD it includes with all the words and sample sentences recorded, without any English translation. Another nice point is the reference section at the end of the book which includes charts for verb conjugations, antonyms, and other useful vocabulary reference charts.



500 Basic Korean Verbs is a book that would have been extremely useful for me if I had it when I was starting out in my learning. This book is indispensable for helping you to get into the groove of conjugating verbs correctly and knowing appropriate collocations (noun + verb combinations)



Colloquial Korean is one of the best beginner courses I’ve seen. The dialogues are engaging and natural, and it goes into some points that other beginner courses neglect, but are important for conversations like the ~더라(고) form for reporting things that happened based on your experiences.



Basic Korean: a Grammar and Workbook is the book that I recommend for taking your Korean from a beginner to a pre-intermediate level. If you only get one book then make sure it’s this one – it has the best translations and concise explanations of Korean grammar that I’ve ever seen. The vocabulary and conversations are well-chosen and appropriate. There are plenty of exercises to help you notice what’s happening in Korean sentences.



Korean Lonely Planet Phrasebook & Dictionary is another nice string to have to your bow. It’s perfect for when you land in Korea and want to be able to say things right off the bat.


Intermediate and Above


Intermediate Korean: a Grammar and Workbook is the next book in the series. It picks up where the last book finished and goes into all the aspects of Korean grammar and methods of expression that you’ll need to speak excellent Korean.



When Using Korean: a guide to contemporary usage came out I was literally ecstatic. For the first time I was able to read about so many of the expressions and turns of phrase I’d learned implicitly from spending so much time around Koreans. It also really helped to consolidate my understanding of speech levels, speech forms, and introduced me to plenty of other aspects like idioms and onomatopoeia. I recommend this book for enthusiastic beginners as well as intermediates and above.



Handbook of Korean Vocabulary is the business. This is the book that will need to take your Korean past the intermediate level to be able to read literary Korean, in newspapers and books. The book lists vocabulary by the common roots which are either Chinese characters (한자) or pure Korean roots. I plan to get stuck into this book again after I’ve learned all 2200 of the standard characters in my Japanese learning.



A new book for 2013, the Routledge Intermediate Korean Reader looks very promising indeed. Book Depository describe it as follows:

The Routledge Intermediate Korean Reader is a comprehensive reader designed to provide varied, stimulating and up-to-date reading material for learners of Korean at the intermediate level. The Korean Reader provides a bridge between basic literacy skills and the ability to read full novels and newspapers in Korean.

I’m going to purchase this book when I get back into learning Korean in the near future. I’m recommending it in the mean time based on the other excellent Routledge books that I’ve recommended above.



One Comment on “Books”

  1. Courtney says:

    Wow, I didn’t even know that the “Routledge Intermediate Korean Reader” was coming out. I’m going to order it as soon as it’s released. Thanks so much for posting book recommendations on your site. I’m so happy you’re writing about Korean again!

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