Book Club Picks: Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko and Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee Hachette Book Group Featured Image

If you were to have a discussion about literary sensations of the last few years, one book that would certainly come up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A sweeping family saga, starting in Korea at the turn of the 20th century, there are few books that have received as many commendations as Pachinko. It is a National Book Award finalist, a New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and winner of the Medici Book Club Prize. There have been countless Pachinko book club discussions, it has been translated into over 27 different languages, and it has a rating of over four stars after 116,000 reviews on Goodreads! And when Apple launches its streaming service in the fall of 2019, it will include a series adaptation of the novel. TL;DR: Pachinko is a marvel.

And here’s something else to marvel at: Pachinko is only Min Jin Lee’s second novel. In 2007, she gave the world Free Food for Millionaires, a family epic about greed, ambition, love, and immigration. It has also achieved huge success; it was a national bestseller that landed on a lot of the end-of-the-year lists and a 2019 One Book, One New York nominee.

A few years ago, I had the fortune of seeing Min Jin Lee talk about what inspired her to write Pachinko. She told such a sad, beautiful tale about a Korean family she had read about, I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the house. It inspired me to pick up Free Food for Millionaires while I waited for the release of Pachinko, and I loved it.

If you have never read either of Min Jin Lee’s novels or would like to be inspired to read them again, allow me to tell you about each of them! I think they are both excellent and have as many similar themes and situations as they do different ones. Both novels make for great book club discussions. But which one would you pick first?



Min Jin Lee has said she is working on a third Korean saga. Until then, we have two tremendous novels—and an upcoming television show!—to tide us over.


Resources for Book Clubs:

Free Food For Millionaires Reading Group Guide

Pachinko Reading Group Guide


About Min Jin Lee:

Min Jin Lee is a recipient of fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2018-2019). Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and one of the New York Times’ “Ten Best Books of 2017.” Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (2007) was one of the best books of the year for the Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air, and USA Today. She will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College from 2019-2022.

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Most of Tirzah Price’s life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. She began blogging at in 2007, focusing primarily on YA and children’s lit. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, aka the closest thing to a real Hogwarts that Muggles can find. She has worked as an independent bookseller since 2011, and when not reading you’ll likely find her knitting socks and thinking about narrative structure. Follow her on Twitter: @TirzahPrice.