Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Book - 2009
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An eye-opening account of life inside North Korea--a closed world of increasing global importance--hailed as a "tour de force of meticulous reporting" ( The New York Review of Books )


In this landmark addition to the literature of totalitarianism, 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 (the father of Kim Jong-un), 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 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. She 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.

Praise for Nothing to Envy

"Provocative . . . offers extensive evidence of the author's deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details." -- The New York Times

"Deeply moving . . . The personal stories are related with novelistic detail." -- The Wall Street Journal

"A tour de force of meticulous reporting." -- The New York Review of Books

"Excellent . . . humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Nothing to Envy. . . . Elegantly structured and written, [it] is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction." --John Delury, Slate

"At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2009, c2010
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780385523905
Branch Call Number: 306.095193090511 Dem 3558ad 1
Characteristics: xii, 314 p. :,ill., maps


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Aug 03, 2018

This book follows the lives of six ordinary North Koreans over fifteen years. I am typically not a non-fiction reader, but this one provided so much insight to what it means to be living under a repressive regime. These North Koreans raise families, have ambitions and also struggle for survival. Read this wonderful book to find out why someone would leave, but then return!

Mar 23, 2018

This book was honestly a very good read. I thought that the story each of the six characters in their North Korean life and describing what it's like is what intrigued me and made for an interesting book. It is sad how they live compared to us and how they are restricted to what they can do and if one bad thing happens, it could affect the entire bloodline of a family.

cals_readers Dec 13, 2017

Personal narratives of six defectors from the Republic of North Korea. Contrasts the reality of daily suffering and famine under tyranny with the grandiose images of their propaganda.

Nov 01, 2017

"Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick is an oral history of North Koreans who managed to settle in South Korea. It's reads as a biography of about a dozen people whom we first meet in the early '90s. The cohort experience the severe North Korean famine of the mid-90s. They then leave North Korea in the late '90s and early 2000s. Demick collected the stories from interviews conducted in South Korea from about 2005 to 2010. Worth the read.

Sep 21, 2017

Heartbreaking stories from defectors of North Korea. This book is really great if you are interested in learning about the country and the true lives of people under a complete Dictator.

Jun 13, 2017

This book takes us into the lives of 6 North Koreans during the great famine of the 90's. This is something that everyone could benefit from reading; if only to be made more grateful for the lives we have. The book is inspiring and shocking.

Jan 14, 2017

This is a very interesting book on how the reign of a few tyrants can completely destroy a countries people, economy and lifestyle. I think it might make it worse for those that remember what life was before the current regime or those who immigrated into this country, which seems crazy now but was apparently considered a good prospect at one time.
If you have grown up knowing nothing but this type of poverty I imagine it will be difficult to assimilate into a capitalist type society, which the author does address a little at the end of the book with the interviewees and what the South Korean government does to help now.
Not being a stranger to literature and commentary on the difficulties of the people in other communist countries, nor even the plight of this particular country, it did enlighten me in just how controlling the government is here and how hard it is for the average person to live. It made for a compelling read.

Jan 02, 2017

Outstanding! I read it in four days. This is Orwell's "1984" in nightmarish detail-and it's real.

NinaAlt Sep 24, 2016

An upcoming trip to south korea urged me to read up on the country's history and I am so glad I did. This is a fascinating book giving you a glimpse into what it was like during the famine in the 90's and what it probably still is like to live in north korea in 2016. it's heartbreaking to read people's stories and inspiring that despite their circumstances, they managed to turn their life around completely. an absolutely inspiring read!

martins_mom Jul 25, 2016

Amazing that all of this was going on and the information lockdown made it impossible to know about it. Stories of starving schoolchildren and desperate adults are heartbreaking. Demick has done a great job of synthesizing the period.

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