Good Minds Suggest—Adam Johnson's Favorite Books About North Korea

Posted by Goodreads on January 2, 2012
Adam Johnson's adventurous literary novel, The Orphan Master's Son, offers a rare peek inside one of the world's most cloistered countries. Opening with a propaganda-rich radio broadcast praising "our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il," the novel launches into the improbable life of a remarkable North Korean living under the dictatorship. Pak Jun Do rises in the ranks of the regime as a tunnel soldier beneath the DMZ, a kidnapper, a spy, an interrogator, and finally an impersonator of a military hero in a story that is part thriller and part romance. Johnson, a Stanford professor who visited North Korea and researched the enigmatic country extensively, is also the author of the short story collection Emporium and the novel Parasites Like Us. He shares the best books that will transport you to North Korea, with or without a tourist visa.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-hwan and Pierre Rigoulot
"[This book] is the place to start for any reader trying to understand the harsh realities of life in the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]. Kang Chol-hwan's memoir is truly terrifying, a rare portrait from one of the few people ever to escape from a North Korean gulag. I'll never forget the depiction of Kang at age nine, insisting that he take his fish tank with him as he's being transported to the notorious work prison known as Yodok."

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
"Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy is also a must-read. Her reporting on North Korea for the L.A. Times was something I valued a great deal while writing my novel. By following the lives of six North Koreans over the course of 15 years, Demick has pieced together, through exhaustive interviews and research, the most accurate nonfiction survey of the living conditions in that elusive country. Most amazingly, she captures the hopes, dreams, and fears that finally led her subjects to risk defection."

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin
"[This] is Bradley Martin's exhaustive examination of the Kim Dynasty. It's also a bible of all things North Korean, from Kim Jong Il's hair care obsession to the Orwellian propaganda machine that creates a constant state of paranoia."

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
"With humor and insight, Guy Delisle chronicles his year spent as an animator in the North Korean capital in Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. The graphic novel captures through illustration a thousand subtleties, like Delisle's discovery that North Korean radios are set to receive only one radio station, or how subversive throwing a paper airplane can be."

North Korea, Bradt Travel Guide by Robert Willoughby
"Personally, I want to recommend the Bradt North Korean Travel Guide by Richard Willoughby. The book is well researched and proved invaluable on my trip. Even if you only plan to visit North Korea in your imagination, it helps to have a good guide."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books on North Korea

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa "By the time I was twenty-two years old, as a qualified parachute infantry officer, I volunteered for duty with the 187th Airbourne Infantry Regiment, The Rakkasan's, then fighting in Korea." A.Louis "Peter" Smith - Faithful Devotion.

By age Twenty-three, my husband, Peter, went on to command 1400 Korean guerrillas called the Tiger Brigade (Tigu Yodan). He ended all interrogation torture. On the last day of his tour, his 1400 men formed a mile long human corridor from the command post to the port.

"As I made my way through this corridor of troops, as I passed each guerrilla, the soldier would come to present arms and shout, 'T'ujaeng!'"

This is the Korean term translating to: "I will fight!"

Faithful Devotion, Author


message 2: by Mari (last edited Jan 17, 2012 01:00PM) (new)

Mari I would add The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.
The Ginseng Hunter: A Novel

message 3: by Brian (new)

Brian I've heard good things about The Cleanest Race by B.R. Myers.

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