“We’re basically family, if you think about it… When they suffer, I want to be next to them, and when they rejoice, I want to laugh with them, and when they have worries I want to listen to them… I think that’s who we are to each other.”
This week the first official BTS book, Beyond the Story: 10-Year Record of BTS, was released, and it is already a best-selling hit on Amazon and in bookstores.
It is no surprise the book was received with great appreciation and reviews from their ARMY fandom, but is this something casual admirers of the group would enjoy? What about those who love contemporary music history but not BTS or even the entire K-Pop genre per se?
Here are seven things you might want to know about this book that may convince you to give it a look.
This Book Is Written With a Love for ARMY in Mind.
This does not mean it is packed with content primarily meant for readers “in the inner circle” of BTS fandom, it just has such a loving look at how large-scale and instrumental the ARMY is in making them what they are today. The name “ARMY” was created less than a month after their first single album release, so ARMY and BTS are consistently seen together. Jimin said of his reaction to ARMY’s response in the live tours: “Sometimes, when ARMY roars for us in unison, I could feel my soul blasting away behind me. That’s when (all reason) just comes crumbling down.”
You Aren’t Going Get Any Tell-All Revelations.
This book isn’t about the typical celebrity “who had a relationship with who” or “who is a jerk in the industry.” What this is, however, is the musical and professional rise of this group, their hard work, and their struggles along the way both as individuals and as a group. My daughter has been ARMY for as long as they existed, and I can tell you these poor guys have almost no aspect of their private lives fans don’t seem to know. They are constantly followed by cameras, and when they aren’t, they set up their own little live cams… to talk with fans! There may be few surprises in the book, but readers will get to experience what they think they already know in a much greater emotional depth.
BTS Did Contribute Original Commentary Throughout.
Although the book’s main author is Myeongseok Kang, isn’t a typical bio, where someone A-lister tells a professional writer what they want to say and they share credit on the book. This was set up based on at least three years’ worth of personal interviews by Kang with all seven members of BTS. As a result, it includes several passages from each member. This gives it a more genuine feel than the typical “all about me” bio. There is no getting confused over who is saying what, as the book is very straightforward as to which member is speaking.
This Isn’t a “Fan-Mag” Photo Book by Any Means.
It isn’t as filled with photos as you would think, but there are plenty of visuals. Many of the images are group photos over the years and cover two-page spreads. This is my biggest issue with the book, as when you have a group photo of seven guys, one may end up smashed in the fold. Shame, because the images they chose create a nice look at their evolution over the decade.
English Versions Will Lose a Little in Translation.
I am currently trying to learn Korean, so I know it isn’t easy to create a true translation from one to the other. This book made use of three translators—Anton Hur, Slin Jung, and Clare Richards—but there was still some awkward wording in places and even what seems to be, well, syntax inconsistencies. This was something, as a former editor, that made me a little twitchy, but if you go in knowing there will be translation issues, it isn’t too big of a problem.
The QR Code Content Is the Biggest Surprise.
There have got to be around 300 QR codes in this book, so I suggest reading it with your smartphone or tablet at hand. This includes more photo content, music videos, music teasers, variant music videos, additional interviews, and other content. Not all the content is in English, and I found at least one QR listed more than once (intentionally). Still, this is such a cool feature. I wish more music and art books included these on such a huge scale.
It Was Released at an Ideal Time to Get to Know BTS.
As I am writing this, BTS is still setting records. Just today (July 12) Jung Kook alone has arrived in New York for a sold-out Good Morning America concert this weekend and has just released a teaser for his first single off his forthcoming solo. It reached 1 million views in 10 minutes. The group just celebrated their big 10th Anniversary Festa in June, Suga’s D-Day concert tour and album were a huge success, and both his and j-hope’s documentaries (now available on Disney+) are also being released in theatres. And there is plenty more to come. You might not be ARMY, but you won’t be able to avoid them much longer. BTS is everywhere.
Fortunately, the book has a nice, simple timeline to follow if you want to catch up starting with their first single album 2 Cool 4 Skool released in June of 2013 to their latest Grammy nomination in 2023.
I think the essence of this book is how well it manages to give something completely new to a fan base that seems to know and have everything concerning their Bangtan Boys. This is an efficient way to combine their stories, music, and images together in one easy package.
For those who aren’t ARMY, this is a loving representation of how seven young men took a particular music genre, spread it worldwide, and built an unprecedented bond with each other and their fans that in itself is an amazing story.
“There may be moments when we don’t quite connect, but we’ve always overcome that through communication,” j-hope said of his fellow BTS members. “I’m just too blessed to have met them in this life.”
I’m very happy I picked up a couple of copies, but then again I live in an unapologetic ARMY house.
Beyond the Story: 10-Year Record of BTS (Flatiron Books) retails for $45.