Paul Sun-Hyung Lee shares the books and authors that made him a reader
The Kim's Convenience star is championing Hench on Canada Reads 2021
Actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is a lifelong reader and someone who believes in the power and importance of storytelling.
The Kim's Convenience star is drawn to genre fiction and was influenced by comic books and sci-fi throughout his life — particularly Star Wars. Perhaps it was foreshadowing his recurring role on hit Disney Plus series The Mandalorian.
"Reading is something that is calming and it centres me. I love reading because you can choose what kind of stories you want to consume. It can transport you someplace else and make you think about that instead of what we're living in right now," he told CBC Books.
Here are some of the books Sun-Hyung Lee loved reading.
James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory & Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
"I remember the first book that was ever read to me was James and the Giant Peach. That story left such an impression on me. James came from a family where his mom and dad were killed — he's an orphan — and he was raised by his two rotten aunts and lived a hard life.
Both these books were read to me by my teacher in elementary school, so those stories still stick with me and were very formative for me.
"In a lot of Roald Dahl's books, the protagonists live really hard lives. Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator lived in abject poverty. Both these books were read to me by my teacher in elementary school, so those stories still stick with me and were very formative for me. That was the first instance where I identified with the characters that were written about — being James or Charlie Bucket."
Sgt. Rock & Archie comics
"Growing up, my gateway to reading was comic books. My dad would be opening up the family restaurant and I'd help him. Then he'd give me a dime and I would run to the 7-Eleven and grab a comic book.
My gateway to reading was comic books.
"The comic books I loved to read were Sgt. Rock and G.I. Combat and Archie, because I loved the artwork as well. The artwork was something that always captivated me and comparing the art with the stories was what opened up my imagination."
G.I. Combat by DC Comics
"G.I. Combat was about a tank crew led by Jeb Stuart. They start off in a Stuart tank, named after General J.E.B. Stuart, who was a Confederate general of all things. The main character — the commander of the tank — would see these visions of J.E.B. Stuart. G.I. Combat was often called the haunted tank because he would have this spirit of the general guiding him.
They were mini morality tales, in that they were telling stories with clear-cut bad guys and good guys.
"They were mini morality tales, in that they were telling stories with clear-cut bad guys and good guys. I loved the pictures of airplanes and tanks. Growing up, I would draw a lot as well and I would use these things as reference."
Star Trek and Star Wars novels
"As I got older, the idea of reading novels for fun started to take shape. I was into Star Wars and Star Trek when I was younger. There were a lot of Star Trek novels out there because the Enterprise had an open five-year mission. There were some great authors like D.C. Fontana, whose stories I would read.
It's really nerdy stuff, and I like that
"With Star Wars, it was the Chuck Wendig books. They take place after Return of the Jedi and deal with the Battle of Jakku and the fall of the Empire and the establishment of the Republic. It's really nerdy stuff, and I like that."
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
"There was a British author by the name of Harry Harrison, and I read his series of novels called The Stainless Steel Rat, which I adored because they centred around a young con-man by the name of Slippery Jim DiGriz. It was told in first-person and he was just so slick.
He was very much Han Solo in terms of his bravado.
"He was very much Han Solo in terms of his bravado — but he'd always screw up a little bit. He was a little bit too smart for his own good sometimes. But I love those stories."
"A friend of mine introduced me to Stephen King when I was in university. The first book I ever read of his was Salem's Lot. Then I read Carrie, and then his whole body of work. I voraciously consumed it. A lot of genre books get a bad rap for not being particularly deep. Just because it's genre, it doesn't mean you can't go deep with themes or character. There are just as many moral conundrums, issues and deeper themes in the novels of Stephen King.
Just because it's genre, it doesn't mean you can't go deep with themes or character.
"Reading Stephen King was the first time I cried when a character died on the page. That's the power of good storytelling.
"I have a whole stack of Stephen King novels, from Doctor Sleep to Mr. Mercedes and Under the Dome that I need to read. I get them in hardcover too. Something about a hardcover book is really, really cool. I've got a whole stack of them."
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
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