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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North…

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009)

by Barbara Demick

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,2051474,203 (4.41)458
  1. 82
    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (lorax)
    lorax: Pyongyang is an outsider's view of the one part of the country where foreigners are generally permitted; Nothing to Envy is an inside look at ordinary life elsewhere in the country where the situation is even grimmer.
  2. 20
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 20
    Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are compelling, fascinating reads. Nothing to Envy covers a broad scope, and Without You, There is No Us has a tight focus. They explore the North Korean regime from different angles.
  4. 20
    Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden (Stbalbach, rebeccanyc)
    Stbalbach: Amazing story of escape from a North Korea prison camp.
    rebeccanyc: Demick's book explores the lives of several people who lived in and escaped from North Korea, while Harden's focuses on one individual who was born in and escaped from a North Korean slave labor camp. The two books complement each other.
  5. 10
    Kim Il-song's North Korea: by Helen-Louise Hunter (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Credited in Nothing To Envy as one of the sources of info about DPRK.
  6. 00
    The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B. R. Myers (g33kgrrl)
  7. 00
    This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang (justine28)
    justine28: This is Paradise is a first-hand account of North Korean regime and especially the 1990s famine as experienced by a defector. Very similar to the stories gathered by Demick - a journalist. The two books complement each other.
  8. 00
    Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal by Geoff Childs (meggyweg)
  9. 03
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (weener)
    weener: One is fiction, one is non-fiction. One is in Latin America, one is in Asia. Both are heartbreaking, deeply affecting tales of life under totalitarianism.

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» See also 458 mentions

English (143)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 143 (next | show all)
Cannot say I loved this book, because what the people of north Kore have been subjected to is criminal and inhumane, but I throughly recommend it. It was eye opening, informative and engrossing. A glimpse at a world that is hidden from us. ( )
1 vote jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
Cannot say I loved this book, because what the people of north Kore have been subjected to is criminal and inhumane, but I throughly recommend it. It was eye opening, informative and engrossing. A glimpse at a world that is hidden from us. ( )
  jslantz1948 | Sep 15, 2018 |
In this book, Demick immerses us in what it was like to grow up, live in and escape from North Korea. She does this by portraying the lives of six individuals and their families in the 1990's and 2000's. There is a lot of insight into why so many have put up with the regimes of the Kims for so long. The horrors inflicted on the North Korean people by their government are chilling, yet the indoctrination prevailing in their lives from birth caused many to believe that things are worse in the west.

Millions died in the famines of the 1990's when most families were reduced to walking out of town each day to gather weeds and grass to make a soup for their daily meal. Factories closed down because there was no electricity or raw materials to run them. People died of starvation and from rampant epidemics. The development of a generation of children was stunted by prenatal starvation and lack of sufficient nutrition in childhood. Doctors were helpless to save starving children. There were also packs of children called "kochebi" or "wandering sparrows" left to fend for themselves when their parents died or abandoned them to go in search of food.

Each of the six people profiled in this book ultimately made the difficult decision to defect to South Korea. We learn how they accomplished their escapes. Even when they arrived in South Korea their difficulties continued: they had to learn how to live in a free capitalistic society, which was not easy.

This is an excellent book, and it reads like a novel or a series of excellent memoirs. I couldn't put it down while I was reading it. Even though it is almost 10 years old at this point, it did not feel out of date at all.

Highly recommended.

4 stars (maybe 4 1/2) ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 19, 2018 |
This book was recently shortlisted for a National Book Award, and Demick totally deserves to win for her meticulous reporting on six North Korean defectors to South Korea. I didn't realize how little I knew about North Korea until I read this book. It is full of indelible images: the doctor who discovers that in China, dogs eat better than the people of North Korea; the two young lovers sneaking into the darkness, too frightened and too innocent to do anything more daring than holding hands; a wife watching her foodie husband die of starvation.

Nothing But Envy is heartbreaking in places, but ultimately hopeful (although even the hope is tempered by the realization that so many people lost so many years they can never get back). It's a cliche to say that a nonfiction book is "as compelling as fiction," but I could not put this book down, and even after I finished it I was scouring the Internet for updates on the lives of the six defectors. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Nonfiction story of 6 defectors from North Korea. Well written journalism and history of the development of North Korea under a totalitarian regime. ( )
  tangledthread | May 4, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 143 (next | show all)
Barbara Demick's book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea opens with a nighttime satellite image of northeast Asia that shows the bright lights of South Korea and China. In the middle of the photograph is a dark spot — a nation of 23 million people that has little electricity.
added by bongiovi | editNPR (Jan 6, 2010)
Nothing to Envy – the title comes from a piece of propaganda aimed at hoodwinking gullible North Korean citizens – is a fascinating work which highlights in the lives of the individuals concerned the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.
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If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light.
[...] she couldn't deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
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'Im Land des Flüsterns' ist eine ergänzte Neuauflage von 'Die Kinogänger von Chongjin'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385523912, Paperback)

A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens
Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:06 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years, a chaotic period that saw the rise to power of Kim Jong Il and the devastation of a famine that killed one-fifth of the population, illustrating what it means to live under the most repressive totalitarian regime today.… (more)

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