Nothing to Envy

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296 Ratings

Nothing to Envy Book Summary

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
Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara 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, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where 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. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them. 

Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick Reviews

  • Nothing to Envy

    This book was really well told. I enjoyed learning how this difficult way of life was through the shoes of each one interviewed. All the while: it wasn't depressing. I have recommended it to people I feel would appreciate it as much as I did. It's an important read.
  • Enthralling and eye-opening

    By EJE76
    Very interesting, well-researched book. I could never understand how people could stand for such a corrupt government and not revolt. However, now I understand after reading the personal accounts in this book. The people in that country live in constant fear, not just for their own lives, but also for all the lives of their families.
  • Nothing to Envy: A Fascinating Read

    By Szeducate
    This book turned out to be a real page-turner. The book held my interest from the first to the last page. The author is certainly an accomplished writer who knows how to keep her reader very interested. I have read several books about North Korea in the past, and by far this one is the best of the group.
  • Eye-opener about life in North Korea

    By CarrotBean
    This book is riveting. I had no idea that life in North Korea is and has been as bad as it is. No electricity, no glass for replacement windows, no transportation, no mobility, no food (not even rice), no paycheck, no freedom, no medicine -- no anything. Slowly starving their citizens to death, imprisoning their citizens for trying to obtain sufficient food or get out, and executing their rivals have been the unconscionable hobbies of the Kim "dynasty" for 3 generations. The horror of watching everyone around you starve to death is very vivid in these intertwining stories of defectors who survived and thrive in South Korea.
  • Glimpse of life in DPRK

    By Rifledoc
    In “Nothing to Envy” author Barbara Demick presents a compelling narrative of what day-to-day life is like for many in North Korea. For the U.S. military reader, the vivid descriptions of the desperate plight of so many living under a repressive regime gives a better sense of understanding and empathy for the people of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and a more refined sense of purpose on why it continues to be important for the U.S. to help underwrite the security of South Korea. From a military planning perspective though, the book gives a better understating of the colossal scope of humanitarian assistance and stabilization operations that will be required in the event of a North Korean regime change and reunification, either with, or without, preceding combat operations. I enjoyed the description of life in modern day North Korea though the lives of a handful of different people. My only complaint is that all were defectors, understandably disenfranchised with life under the current Kim dynasty. It would have been interesting to also hear the uncensored side of party members in the higher echelons of the social hierarchy of North Korea who still actively support the government.. Of course that is not something that the North Korean regime would have allowed, but I think it would quite interesting to hear the views of some of the people who actively work to to maintain the status quo.
  • Compelling!

    By jonrod88
    Another jaw-dropping example of truth being far stranger than fiction. Kudos to Ms. Demick for doing such great investigative legwork in order to be able to bring us these stories; then for weaving them together such that we experience an "up-close and personal" look at what life is like in the prison known as North Korea. I couldn't put this book down!
  • Nothing to envy

    By Bcfuller8
    Very interesting book. How the Korean people have endured their misery astounds me.
  • Nothing to Envy

    By Ruthie Q
    I read this book after watching the special on North Korea on Frontline. Well written and held my interest. I had trouble putting it down. It was made even more interesting because of the present (so called) leader of North Korea being in the news lately. It always boggles my mind how these people manage to brainwash so many for so long. The author does an excellent job explaining how. Truly a touching account of the lives of six different defectors and what they went thru.
  • Good one

    By CullyMcLibby
    I love that this author gave so much background and history to why events happened in North Korea. She did a great job of intertwining history and multiple defectors stories.
  • Two thumbs up

    By LRH
    This book gives names and faces to a country that we know very little about. It really draws you in with every detail. I love how the author is telling multiple stories at one time. She makes it feel as though you are hiking up a mountain and taking in all the views on your way. I loved the book! I feel as though I had no idea about North Korea and now I can't wait to tell other people what's going on. Definitely read this book! You will no regret it.

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