One of the reasons behind Korean supergroup BTS’ unparalleled success and ascent to the top is the group’s brilliant and astute leader Kim Namjoon, or RM, who is, and there’s no other word for it, a genius.
Not only does the rapper have an IQ of 148, putting him in the one per cent of Koreans with that high of a number on the IQ scale, RM is fluent in multiple languages, can write transcendent lyrics that feature wordplays in both English and Korean, and give profound speeches at international platforms like the UN General Assembly or even the White House.
He recently released his debut solo studio album Indigo which featured tracks that spoke about his journey and relationship with fame. The lyrics, to nobody’s surprise, reflected his unique way of looking at the world and the clear influence of the art and literature he interacts with.
Aside from his well-documented love for art and philosophy, the rapper is known to be a voracious reader. RM can be spotted with his head buried in a book in between performances and recommending books to the millions who log in to see him during his live sessions.
RM’s favourites range from feminist reading essentials to deeply philosophical books that would make you question the way you view the world. He has also gone on record to talk about how different books have influenced his songwriting process, resulting in some of our favourite BTS tracks.
So if you’re looking for your next read, take a look at some of Kim Namjoon’s recommendations…
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam Ju
One of the most impactful books of recent times, this South Korean novel is a deeply profound and harrowingly simple look at gender dynamics in a typical household, While the characters and setting are Korean, the themes are universal, which makes the book even more special. The story focuses on the titular Kim Ji-young, an average Korean woman who becomes a stay-at-home mom and later suffers from depression. The book takes us through her life, since she was born, to help us see how she arrives at her breaking point in the present. When RM revealed that it was one of the books he read and loved, the rapper was faced with hate from anti-feminist conservative Korean groups who felt the book presented a false narrative of their society.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The rapper was spotted reading this book by eagle-eyed ARMYs during the last season of In the Soop. When other members of the band were also seen reading the book, fans were quick to jump to the theory that the book would have something to do with the coming album. While the theory was never officially confirmed, the book became an ARMY favourite. In the book, there is a library that is situated between life and death that lets you visit and explore all your different regrets and see how your life could have been if you had made different choices.
I Want To Die But I Want To Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee
This memoir and self-help book documents the author’s conversations with her therapist across 12 weeks. RM was seen reading the book during the third season of Bon Voyage. The book’s themes about mental health and self-love are reflected across BTS’ discography of the era and was even the subject of his speech at the UN General Assembly.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
In a 2016 live chat session with his fans, RM recounted how a conversation with a friend made him think of The Stranger by Albert Camus. The friend had commented how he feels his life had turned grey, which mirrored the opening lines of the book, according to RM. The 1942 novella which is considered a study in philosophy and absurdism, follows a French man living in Algeria who kills a man a few days after his mother’s death. The reader is taken through a journey that asks us to question our own beliefs of existence and morality through the eyes of the protagonist. Later in an interview, RM revealed that he was heavily influenced by Camus’ philosophy and interpretation of art.
Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami
RM is a big Murakami fanboy and has recommended books like Norwegian Wood to IQ84 in the past. The Japanese authour’s Kafka On The Shore, however, inspired the BTS leader to write the song ‘Butterfly’. The book is filled with magic realism and focuses on two parallel lives that are somehow connected. There’s 15-year-old Kafka Tamura, who has run away from home and Satoru Nakata, an old man who has the ability to talk to cats.
Demian by Herman Hesse
RM’s love for the book possibly inspired the band’s 2016 album Wings, which was instrumental in propelling BTS to the stratosphere. The music video for the title track ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ featured the central themes of the novel, which is the transition from youth to adulthood and the loss of innocence. The 1919 novel saw a resurgence in popularity following the release of the video and fans connecting it to RM being spotted with it in 2015.
Almond by Sohn Wonpyung
RM’s companion during the 2020 filming of In The Soop was this poignant book about overcoming adversity. The book follows a teenaged boy who suffers from a condition called Alexithymia, which prevents him from feeling emotions like fear or anger. A tragic incident causes him to go on a personal journey and form meaningful connections with people who would change his life forever.