Understanding North Korea

Article by Danielle

North Korea has been all over the news lately due to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s renewed threats of military action against the United States. Because North Korea is so carefully controlled from within, it has been historically difficult for authors of both fiction and nonfiction to write about it. However, more and more interest in this secret world has spurred writers from all fields to imagine the North Korean experience from the point of view of its silenced citizens. Here are some of our favorite perspectives on this mysterious nation. -Danielle

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385523912
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Spiegel & Grau - September 21st, 2010

Demick’s intimate portrayal of six ordinary North Korean citizens is visceral and haunting. This book serves as a vivid reminder of how a repressive government can exert control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives. Demick followed her subjects for fifteen years, through Kim Jong-il’s ascent to power and a famine that decimated the population. A gripping, masterful, and beautifully crafted piece of nonfiction.

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143122913
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - March 26th, 2013

In our era of Google Maps, no country can hide all of its secrets. Although the prison camps that North Korean elites use to punish and kill undesirables are clearly visible from any personal computer with an internet connection, few people have lived to tell the world about the horrors found within. Shin Dong-hyuk is one of those very few people, and his story, told here in spare and unflinching prose by Blaine Harden, is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Orphan Master's Son Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812982626
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade - August 7th, 2012

Adam Johnson is one of the few Americans who has been to North Korea, although his trip was of course very carefully orchestrated by the government handlers in charge of his stay. Still, Johnson’s firsthand knowledge of the country came in handy in the creation of this masterful novel, which was one of my personal favorites of 2012. Pak Jun Do, Johnson’s hero, rises from humble origins to the upper ranks of the North Korean state and then is imprisoned for fighting for the woman he loves. A thought-provoking page turner!

Architectural and Cultural Guide: Pyongyang Cover Image
By Philipp Meuser (Editor)
ISBN: 9783869221878
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Dom Publishers - February 28th, 2012

A beautiful slipcased two-volume set that presents the reader with a panoramic overview of North Korea’s capital city. The first volume of this set presents buildings, streets, and squares with no commentary provided, while the second volume places these architectural wonders in their proper cultural context. The eerily empty streets of Pyongyang are odd, beautiful, and haunting. The careful study of propaganda posters alone is worth the price of admission.

Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons Cover Image
ISBN: 9780547857879
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) - January 15th, 2013

Wilson’s passionate plea for disarmament is based around his refutation of five crucial tenets that undergird the popular argument for nuclear proliferation. Although this book is not specifically about North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s threat of nuclear attack makes this book topical and timely, especially for a post-Cold War generation unfamiliar with the intricacies of nuclear policy.

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