Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (by Barbara Demick: Nonfiction) © 2009

Book JacketRating: 5/5

Summary: Have you seen the satellite photograph taken at night of the Korean peninsula? The one where South Korea is lit up like a Christmas tree and the only light in North Korea comes from the capital, Pyongyang? What does this mean? How can this be?

Barbara Demick’s book has the photo and the answers to these questions. Using detailed research and heart wrenching interviews with several defectors from North Korea to China and South Korea, the author writes an eye-opening work of nonfiction relating the first-person accounts of life in North Korea shaped by its government. This country is the most closed society in the world controlled by the same family for three generations.

After reading Nothing to Envy, a library patron compared North Korea to the fantasy world created in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. “It’s the Hunger Games for real. All the wealth is in the hands of a few people living in the capitol and the rest are struggling to survive.”

Review: North Korea is a disturbing yet very relevant and threatening society to the United States and to the world. Barbara Demick educates the reader on the country’s history, its leaders and why North Korea ‘became dark.’ Her writing is sensitive, moving, realistic and very readable as she allows one to peek into the everyday life of North Koreans. The reader will be aghast at why the everyday citizens believe they have Nothing to Envy.

Read-a-Likes: Both Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992 by Charles Armstrong, and the novel, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson are part of the adult nonfiction and fiction collections.

Availability: This book is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library’s nonfiction collection in print format.

Reviewed by: Carol Ann

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