UChicagoLaw's Reviews > Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
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Recommended by Professor Mary Anne Case. [2010]

"In advance of a recent trip to Seoul, Korea, I read four books about this remarkable country. The first three were about North Korea. Nothing to Envy is an account of day-to-day life in the North pieced together by an American journalist who interviewed defectors to the South. It is gripping and tragic. You will not be able to put it down, and it will change your perspective on the world. The Aquariums of Pyongyang is a first-person account of a young boy who, simply because of his grandfather's relatively benign actions, spent 15 years in a North Korean gulag. Every time my kids complain, I want to read them passages of this book so that they realize how lucky they are to be Americans. The Orphan Master's Son is a fictional account of life in North Korea, including an extraordinary trip by a North Korean delegation to Texas. It is a fun yarn. The final book is a nice introduction to the remarkable transformation of South Korea from rubble to one of the world's most prosperous countries in just fifty years. (After the Korean War, South Korea had about the same wealth as Kenya; today it is about 30 times greater.) It is called The Koreans. I recommend them all highly." - M. Todd Henderson [2012]

I’d recommend The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson and Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. The first is a novel and the second is nonfiction, but both provide fascinating accounts of what it’s like to live under extreme oppression in North Korea. —Adam Chilton [2014]
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