[Download] Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea By Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

By: Barbara Demick
Narrated by: Karen White
Length: 12 hours
Release date: Jan 6, 2010
Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (822 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
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Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years-a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and 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 never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today-an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life.



Demick's subjects-a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers-all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.



Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.
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69 Responses to “[Download] Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea By Barbara Demick”

  1. Tatum Harke

    Everyone in the world should read this book
    I knew things were bad in North Korea, but I did not know what individuals lives were like. The real life stories in this book moved me to tears. The narration is top rate. I am not one to believe the USA needs to solve the worlds problems, but I would support an overthrow of the current NK govt. Alas, it will never happen. The poor souls are brainwashed from birth. This is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It will take several miracles for the oppressed of NK to be freed from this tyrannical crazy leader. This book should be read by everyone in the world. You will appreciate how good you have it – no matter where you live.

  2. Lyman Ritterbush

    Human perspective on a shadowy topic
    This book offers an intimate glimpse at what life is actually like in North Korea, told firsthand by North Koreans who managed to escape to the south. Beyond the appalling devastation, there is some really interesting imagery in these stories, due to the unique conditions of a country trapped in a time capsule.

  3. Erwin Schwister

    A very eye opening read!
    What made the experience of listening to Nothing to Envy the most enjoyable?

  4. Bernardine W.

    Orwell was prophetic
    Any additional comments?

  5. Reta Hovi

    Not a Good Narrator
    This book should have been read by a fluent speaker of Korean. The narrator’s terrible pronunciation of many Korean words detracted from her credibility.

  6. Kennith Kretsinger

    I wanted more!
    Each individual’s story was so compelling, I wanted to know more. I wanted to hear about more people. I didn’t want the book to end.

  7. Tessa the cat

    More fantastic than science fiction
    I enjoyed this book on tape so much that I could not wait to return to North Korea in my mind. It is a totally wacky place, better than any fantasy or science fiction. This is my favorite book on tape since signing up with service. You might think, “Do I really want to listen to nine hours of depressing stories about North Korea?” Yes, you do, and it’s not depressing, it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s really quite funny. Also, it’s a dire warning for those who might think increased government involvement in our lives is a good thing. I only wish this book was longer.

  8. Zenobia H.

    First Non-Fiction I Wanted to Hear Every Word Of
    I don’t know about other service listeners, but I generally find it more difficult to stay focused on non-fiction audiobooks than fiction ones… and I rarely feel the need to rewind if I happen to zone out.

    This book is a huge exception. I was rapt from the start, and found myself rewinding if I thought I missed something, and even bookmarking parts that I found particularly striking. The stories of the six North Korean defectors are simply fascinating, especially for someone like me who doesn’t know much about the country. The story keeps up a nice pace as it moves from one person to another and the narrator is very listen-able*.

    Highly recommended, even if you don’t generally consider yourself a “non-fiction listener.”

    *Worth noting here that I love the service app, especially because it gives me the chance to listen at a higher speed, as I did in this case.

  9. Earle Sowder

    Great listen
    Educational and enjoyable. Makes me appreciate my freedom. All Americans should read this book. It might make us get along better and appreciate what we have.

  10. Raleigh Kingwood

    Powerful
    What made the experience of listening to Nothing to Envy the most enjoyable?

  11. Mabelle Crinklaw

    Surprisingly Wonderful Book
    One sure sign of a great book is that after you put it down you think about it and cannot wait to get back to it. This was my experience of Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea.”
    It is almost impossible to imagine living in a place where the “Thought Police” described in George Orwell’s 1984 abound, where one cannot so much as whisper a phrase of anything less than praise and gratitude for the most repressive regime in the world – but this place exists. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) is a place shut off from the rest of the world, with virtually no telephone service, mail or internet to the outside, where it is a serious crime to own a radio or television tuned to anything but government-run programming; a place where the community standards police inspect your home to ensure that you keep a picture of Kim Il Sung on the wall or your home and that it is clean and dust-free. This is a country where private enterprise is forbidden, while people are starving to death. Electricity runs only a few hours per week for most people.
    Compiled from interviews from defectors this book reads like a novel, detailing “ordinary” lives that are anything but ordinary. For no matter where on earth a person may live, he or she is still a human being with basic needs and desires. We all need to eat, to learn, to grow, to love.
    “Nothing to Envy” is a wonderfully written expose’ on North Korea as experienced by it’s “ordinary” citizens. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

  12. Jim "The Impatient"

    Orwell’s 1984 for real
    Satellite pictures over Asia show between the bright lights of South Korea and China a big black hole. As I listened to this I kept having to remind myself that they were talking about the 1990’s thru 2009.

    In a time when South Korea leads the world in the production of cell phones, most North Koreans have never used a phone. A letter takes months to go a couple of hundred miles. Millions have starved while the government will not allow other countries to help. When they do the food goes to the military.

    The government is suppose to provide everything: food, jobs, clothing, schooling, etc. The individual is not allowed to do anything to help out there situation. They are cut off from the rest of the world, no internet, no TV, no radio, no phone service. The country is surrounded by fences so the people can not escape. Say anything bad about the government and your neighbor hears, then you could be shot. Children do not celebrate there own birthdays, but they do celebrate the birthday of the leader.

    This book follows the lives of several North Koreans who finally defected. You also get some history in how the country came to be and how the leaders became the leaders. You see how the people are brainwashed to believing that they live in the best county in the world and that China, USA and South Korea are the devils. This book was a major eye opener and a great read.

    If you are a fan of Orwell’s 1984, Hosseini ‘s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Or Buck’s The Good Earth, you want to read this.

  13. Dawna Hovard

    Enlightening story and well read
    I really found this book to give soul to the plight of the people under the tyranny of true communism. Great narration of a great book.

  14. Pat Carasco

    Very Worthwhile!
    Hard to fathom that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the de facto economic transformation of China that there still exists in North Korea an extreme Stalinist-model dictatorship. Not quite Stalinist of course, since the North Korean regime seems to follow a “royalist” model, with the Supreme Leader passing the baton to a son as successor. This book shows in a wealth of everyday detail and very engaging personal stories exactly how terrible such a regime makes life for ordinary people who are unfortunate enough to live there. The author is skilled enough that we not only learn the facts about life in everyday North Korea, but also identify with the characters whose stories she presents. In that respect the book reads like a novel and not just a news article. Very informative and worthwhile.

    My only quibble about the book is the quality of the narration. While the narrator is lively enough and has a pleasing enough voice, on many occasions her reading was not in proper context. That is, she accented the wrong phrase or failed to accent the right phrase in a sentence, or failed to make a clear transition through a pause or other means from one thought to the next. Suggest she do her homework a bit more thoroughly next time.

  15. Jane Y.

    Fascinating book on N. Korea–Couldn’t put it down
    This is an amazing book. We know so little about N. Korea. It is the most isolated, repressive country in the world. They have no access to phones to call outside of the country, the radios and TVs are fixed on the government approved stations. I learned more about the country than I had ever known before. Unlike many non-fiction books, this one was so compelling it was hard to put down.

  16. Judith

    This book opened my eyes.
    I am indebted to any author who writes a book that enlightens me on a topic. This book was not only fascinating, but it was an eye-opener. After reading this book, I find North Korea and it’s future much more real and immediate to me.

    Through the stories of North Koreans who have defected to South Korea, Demick exposes the reader to a society of people who are using every means possible to survive under a suffocating system of government. They are brave and creative, but every direction they turn for relief, they are pounded down. They are lonely and insecure in their lives because neighbors or friends may be informants. Even those who escape can’t avoid guilt and frustrations caused by leaving family behind or adapting to a free society.

  17. Brandon Peer

    Riveting
    I felt like I was brought into the darkest hole and the darkest secret on planet earth with credibility. Both journalistic AND very moving. It was a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down.

  18. Georgie F.

    Fascinating!
    This is a fascinating book that nicely weaves together the history of Korea and the creation of North Korea, with the stories of 6 defectors from North Korea who were interviewed in their new home of South Korea. Not just the stories of their defections, but of their lives in North Korea for decades before that……what their lives were like in the North Korea of Kim Il-sung and, later, Kim Jong-il. The book was published in 2009, a few years before the current leader, Kim Jong-un took control, though he is mentioned as Kim Jong-il’s son. What really makes the book interesting is that it’s a look at the lives of these average people (factory workers, students, teachers, farmers, etc) inside what is the most secretive and unknown country on earth. Their families, their homes, their jobs, the totality of how their entire existence was created, maintained, and shaped by the whims of the current leader. The continued existence of the repressive regimes well into the 22nd century remains a fascinating mystery.

  19. SRP18

    Not exactly what I was expecting
    How did the narrator detract from the book?

  20. Gerardo Spearin

    Engaging story
    Engaging from the very beginning. A real insight into hidden North Korean society. The amount of control maintained by the North Korean government over its citizens is amazing. This book was a real eye opener.

  21. Noel Earnest

    Best Non Fiction you may read this year
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

  22. Tomeka Sams

    Compelling and tragic
    Would you listen to Nothing to Envy again? Why?

  23. amazonman

    Fascinating Window into the Lives of North Koreans
    What made the experience of listening to Nothing to Envy the most enjoyable?

  24. Candace Helgerman

    Excellent Information on N. Korea
    I’ve lived in NE China and have tried to follow the twists and turns of North Korean society but I learned more from this book than any other source I have consulted. The stories the author tells of the lives of North Koreans before and after they defected are disturbing and the images created in my mind by the stories will linger for a long time. Highly recommended if you’re interested in Korea and the Korean people.

  25. Roger Vicic

    Eye-opening, jaw-dropping
    This is a very well told story of an admirable and proud people who are being sacrificed at the behest of a brutal, uncaring, solipsist regime that early on classified the bulk of its population as “hostiles.”

    The book is organized around a number of family accounts, based on interviews with “defectors” (escapees would be a more accurate term), and the author’s limited and strictly monitored visits to North Korea. These accounts are illuminating, many are touching, revealing story the humanity of the oppressed.

    The Kim dynasty is simply another cult of personality which has long outlived whatever credibility it once had, and it survives simply through a vast repressive apparatus of spies, informants, agents provocateur, and brute force. This story, rooted in the political catastrophes of the 20th century, shows once again that even in the most “total” of totalitarian societies, the human spirit always survives. The regime will inevitably collapse, sooner rather than later; but the question is how many more must starve to death or die in detention camps before that happens.

  26. Sang Huelsman

    I’m now fascinated by North Korea
    Outstanding. Prior to reading this book, I had little to no interest/knowledge about North Korea. No longer. Excellent balance of overall history and what life is like for ‘normal’ people living in North Korea.

  27. ilene

    Bad reader but good book
    I never understood what a bad reader can do to a book until I read this one. The reader has an irritating voice that gets to you and interferes with the enjoyment of the material. I recommend that you read this book rather than listen to it.

  28. Titus Voorhees

    Great story and writing but the voice was dull.
    Moving story that was will written. The ninth chapter was the most depressing because of the children. Just needed a better narrator.

  29. Isela G.

    It’s worth the listen despite the narrator
    A fascinating ,discerning, and disturbing account of the sufferings of the North Korean people under the heavy hands of the Kims, father and son dictators. It’s also a tribute to the courage and resilience of the North Koreans who want nothing more than to be left alone by the government to live their lives.The story is so compelling that I was able to overlook the extremely weird sing-song narration. Was Karen White trying to mimic Asian speech patterns?

  30. Kurt

    Best book I’ve listened to this year.
    I don’t usually take time to write reviews, but this is an exceptional book. Everyone in America should listen to it.

  31. Kevin

    accurate detailed loves of North Koreans
    I was looking for a book that would give me a realistic perspective of the “hermit kingdom” and this book was perfect at capturing it. its difficult to try to understand north korea through statistics or the news due to how much is truly unknown about the country from the outside. This book was composed of interviews with deserters, which is the only true way to get a realistic understanding of such a closed country.

    I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding North Korea.

    Most valuable lessons:
    1. The people are truly starving worse than most African Countries.

    2. The people know their government is full of it, but they just have to keep going along with it so they don’t get sent to hard labor camps.

    3. Their citizens are just people. just like everyone else. They are trying to take care of their families and survive.

    4. Capitalism can’t be stopped, their government failing at providing food for their citizens, gave birth to a black market just like in all other communist countries. The black market is the start of capitalism and proved to feed the people better than communism.

  32. Jean Seiger

    I had to write a review for this one
    This audiobook blew me away. Is it really possible that a country like this exists on the planet… in my lifetime? A very well-written book with great source material of North Korean defectors, that tells the unbelievable story of life in North Korea. Worth every minute you will put into it.

  33. Francina Feistner

    I don’t often give five stars
    but this is a real breakthrough book on conditions in North Korea. Demick has done a terrific job of creating a gripping narrative, based upon her extensive interviews with the defectors, including transitions between stories – one person arrives, fresh out of the Yalu River border, at a house in China, sees a bowl of rice and meat just sitting there on the doorstep, thinks to herself, “That’s more food than I’ve had at any meal back home in many years!”, and then realizes it means there’s a potentially fierce dog nearby … fade to next story.

    Karen White’s audio narration is especially noteworthy – obvious that she made an extra effort to pronounce Korean words correctly.

    Highly recommended!

  34. Fidge

    Just horrible
    I couldn’t endure more than about half an hour of this atrocious narration. Her voice and speaking style were completely ill suited to the content. White sounded like a fashion show commentator – not the right match for a book about North Korea.
    To make matters worse, her timing and phrasing were off as well. Ugh.

  35. Tera Schmieder

    Excellent!!
    I knew little about North Korea before listening to this book but I feel like I know it and it’s history much better now. It was an amazing narrative of what it must be like to live there and what the country has gone through over the past 40 years. I usually enjoy fiction, but I couldn’t get enough of each person’s story and what became of them. Really a wonderful book!

  36. Rhett Docimo

    I told everyone I know . . .
    I read historical fiction, trying to bring to my mind’s eye what history studies left to wither on the vine. China, which was closed to me during my traveling life started my interest in such cultures. Perhaps it is a morbid fascination, but we do need a jolt of reality about Totalitarianism. North Korea is a country where they can tell citizens that the rest of the world is a cesspit and that they “have nothing to envy”. Meanwhile people literally freeze, starve and die on the streets. This is a riveting story with no self-pity and no whining. The writer’s courage glows—and this book stays with you.

  37. Murray Calco

    A little tough at first…
    I am a North Korean novice, so it took me a few hours of listening before I caught up to the terms and places. The narrator is a little dull, but once you get into the characters she fades away. The actual story itself has me obsessed with this country, because the stories are so remarkable. Download it, and get through the first couple of hours and you wont be sorry.

  38. Rickie Nolf

    Great Material, Wrong Reader
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

  39. David

    A bleak, non-fictional dystopia
    This story of the lives of several ordinary North Korean citizens, put together from interviews over a period of several years with defectors who made it to South Korea, gives a grim and fascinating look at what it’s really like inside this isolated, almost hermetically-sealed dictatorship. Although much of it is what you’d expect from the little we can see from outside — the cult of personality around the “Dear Leader,” the bankrupt economy that pumps money into nuclear weapons and the military while the citizens starve — you really cannot appreciate just how impoverished the people of North Korea are until you read these stories. Particularly heartbreaking is the story of the famine that killed millions in the 1990s. Every person interviewed for this book was literally watching friends and family drop dead of starvation all around them, while the government continued denying a problem and forbidding them even to grow gardens. The book covers the time period up until late 2009, when Kim Jong Il is still in power, could easily live for decades yet, and there is no telling just how much longer this regime can continue. For North Koreans, the future seems bleak no matter what.

  40. Rosario Heims

    Excellent book
    Really enjoyed learning what goes on in NK…wow, eye opening! Every time I read books like this, I am so thankful to be an American, and a woman in America. My heart goes out to the citizens of NK. My only downside is that I would have liked it to be more of a novel, and I felt the author jumbled characters and I was sometimes confused as to the timeline. But definitely worth the listen!

  41. Deangelo S.

    Eye-opening. Magnificent!
    Any additional comments?

  42. Connie H.

    Fascinating yet Chilling
    This was a well written book depicting the lives of average North Koreans. These people have truly led incredible yet horrific lives. The North Korean regime is evil on a level that’s hardly conceivable to the average North American. I enjoyed this listen very much and agree whole heartedly with the title. I wish with all my heart that better things are to come and soon to the North Korean people.

  43. Joshua T.

    Simply amazing
    Truly an amazing piece of work. The author does a wonderful job of taking us on the journey of the lives of ordinary North Koreans. I found myself unable to shut off my ipod because I felt so connected to the people in the book.
    Please some one make this into a film.

  44. Byron Yuk

    A must-read for understanding North Korea
    I came away from this book with a greater understanding of North Korea and a deep emotional attachment to the real people interviewed after hearing about their lives in an oppressive regime. The author gives vivid descriptions – often to the finest, most poignant detail – of barren lives and the courageous people who dared to leave. She follows a few separate people from their lives in North Korea through their defection and on to their new lives in South Korea. Truly amazing journalism and highly recommended for anyone who is curious about what goes on in the last communist dictatorship on the planet.

  45. Rosita Chapek

    Truly Amazing Insight
    I am amazed by the amount of suffering North Koreans have endured for so long. The resilience of mankind is equally amazing. The author brought me down to personal level of understanding by following people and not listing facts or reporting on occurrences. I could not recommend the book highly enough. Well worth the time and cost!

  46. Shantay Zdanowicz

    Great book, terrible narrator.
    I almost stopped listening because of the narrator’s stilted and condescending style. Really off-putting! Glad I stuck with it because the book itself is fascinating and heartbreaking.

  47. CAROLE

    Amazing listen
    I stumbled across this title and was mildly interesed. What luck! This was an incredible audio book. I was sorry when it ended and the only aspect I regret was not having anything visual to see. Don’t miss this fascinating listen!!

  48. Sid Buden

    Great Story; Weak Peformance
    What made the experience of listening to Nothing to Envy the most enjoyable?

  49. Wilfred Lahaie

    Sobering…as long and you can handle the reader.
    This is an eye-opening, riveting look at a world that any of us in this over-privileged, money-driven country would think existed only is the archaic past. While most Americans think “nuclear” and “communist” when we hear news of North Korea, and the one man behind the self-made wall, rarely do we think of the lives being controlled away from our view. I found myself realizing over and over that these lives and these stories being told were in my lifetime, in this decade. Absolutely sobering. My ONLY reason for rating it one less star is the reader. If you can block out the over-breathing that is extremely distracting in the firs few chapters, you will stumble across an intense need to be thankful for every small convenience you’ve ever dared taken advantage of. Highly recommend this book.

  50. Ranee V.

    Outstanding reporting AND story-telling
    I wasn’t sure I wanted to listen to a book about North Korea (figured it would be dreary and depressing), but I am so glad I did! The author vividly conveys life in this strange and oppressive country by telling the stories of several individuals — all of whom eventually made it out. During the first few hours of listening, I almost felt that I was hearing a science fiction novel — the specifics of life in North Korea are that weird! The author also weaves in occasional statistics to help you grasp the “big picture.” This book will instruct you and make you more thankful for your freedom and prosperity.

  51. Julienne Perone

    Axis of Evil Indeed!
    If you could sum up Nothing to Envy in three words, what would they be?

  52. Quinn Whisenton

    reads like a novel
    i bought this out of a vague sense of interest and obligation to be interested. it turned out to be so well written and full of such interesting and dramatic stories that i could not stop listening.

    there is potential to be moralistic or overly sentimental in telling these stories, but the author allows them to speak for themselves which i greatly appreciated. they are poignant enough on their own.

  53. Anton Pientka

    Especially Timely Now
    This is how I like to read about history. It takes the lives of several North Koreans and uses their stories to explain the country and its living conditions. The story was interesting and certainly timely.

    I had no idea how bad conditions were (and probably still are) in North Korea. The country is run like a prison and the family dynasty that continues to rule have set themselves up as deities as much as dictators.

    With all of the saber-rattling that is going on now, I suggest you give this book a listen, as it will enlighten you on the indoctrination and suppression of the people of this country.

    Other readers have complained about the narrator and her gasping for breath. I agree with them, it was very annoying and hard to ignore, but I made the effort because I wanted to hear this story. But I was very disappointed in the narrator, and in service for putting out such a poor production.

  54. Eric Nicolas Morgan

    One of the best audiobooks I’ve come across
    I could devote paragraphs to gushing on the particulars but won’t; this audiobook was excellent in every way that matters. The narrator is excellent, clear and compelling without being distracting. The subject itself is horrifyingly surreal and absolutely gripping.

    This book really drove home how sophisticated social control and propaganda systems can be, and how effective they can be in controlling entire populations. It also drove home how important free speech and critical thinking really are to democracies. A must for understanding the humanity of the North Koreans and how an entire people could be held so firmly under the thumb of someone who shouldn’t even rate as a plausible cartoon super-villain.

    Absolute must listen.

  55. Wilhemina B.

    Fabulous Read – History I never kneew
    I found this book haunting. Whoever knew? This book is gripping. Makes you feel so grateful for freedom. I love America. I am so grateful I was born in a free country. Want to be appreciative of your lifestyle. Listen to this book. A great historical novel

  56. Randolph Tolontino

    A story that must be told!
    This is an amazing account of life in North Korea, right up to the last decade. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author balanced the accounts of multiple lives under the harsh regimes. It was well written and I would recommend it, except for the narrator. She narrated the entire book in a staccato that at times made me want to quit–except the stories were so compelling! A different narrator would make this book perfect. It’s still a great read.

  57. Jess Napper

    I had no clue… so informative and inspiring
    The book starts slowly with lots of telling and an irritating narrator and you will want to turn off – don’t! Barbara Demick interviewed about 100 refuges from North Korea and shares what she has learned in a generalized way – that is the boring part. But then she shares the stories of 6 of these people and their life in and escape from North Korea – this is the amazing part. The people chosen reflect all walks of life in society: teacher, orphan, student, party member, physician, housewife… you also meet their families and friends. The stories weave as the years pass and you grow to love the resilience of the North Koreans and understand better what is going on culturally and politically. Honestly, I had no clue. It is a brutal life but told honestly, simply and without dramatics. I am grateful for the insights and courageous folks she introduces to us. Great read.

  58. Kristian Wilbon

    Excellent insights
    What made the experience of listening to Nothing to Envy the most enjoyable?

  59. Dennis

    Amazing journey inside
    This book is extremely well done, it follows the paths, from early life until escape from one of the hardest countries to escape from, or death in some instances, of people who lived the horror that is North Korea. This is not just a story revolving around hardship and privation, it is a peek into the society, a sick and twisted world of leftists dreams and control and the tortured world it creates. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly, it is important on many levels and answers the question of ‘what do those who live inside that country think?’. If you think you would not be interested in this book because it would not be relevant to you think again, the echo of what you read in this book will come back to you at interesting times in your own life, especially if you pay attention to current events.
    Highly recommended

  60. Donn Takaki

    Almost impossible to believe
    The comparison between life in North Korea and George Orwell’s 1984 is hard to avoid. The society is so paranoid and brutal that you have a hard time believing that it’s true. Honestly, it sounds like a futuristic dystopia dreamed up in some science fiction writer’s word processor. This book is so well written and narrated, it’s one of the best books I’ve read here.

  61. Lucien Perrault

    So good, I’ve listened to it twice!
    This is one of my favourite audiobooks. It’s well read, and very interesting. I’ve listened to it twice in the past year, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys cultural studies books.

  62. Mozell Hescock

    Great book, horrible narrator
    I am halfway through this book, and would love to finish it quickly, but I am constantly distracted by the breaths of the reader. I am not a professional speaker, but I genuinely believe that I could do a better job than this. Her voice is pleasant but the deep breath then she text in the middle of every sentence is driving me insane.

  63. Kelvin Goney

    shallow story, irritating narration
    I can usually ignore a narrator but in this case it is like listening to a computer generated voice. There is no passion, just monotone droning that makes a shallow book all the worse.

  64. Brandy K.

    one of the best I’ve heard on service
    I knew little about N. Korea prior to reading this book, just the usual inch deep news coverage and an occasional 60 Minutes or 20/20 story that went a little deeper. Those stories usually include pictures of giant celebrations for Kim Jong Il put on by brainwashed citizens. They almost make you pity the gullible N. Koreans. This book, on the other hand, tells the human stories behind the propaganda and the untold truth and knowledge that is known to all of those supposedly brainwashed people. I found myself quickly fascinated by the lives of the families chronicled. The book takes place mostly after Kim Il Sung’s death and relays the impact of the rapid spiral downward the country takes after the fall of communism. While tragic at times, the book doesn’t focus on tragedy to be exploitative, it just tells the stories as they happened from the mouths of the survivors. It humanizes the people behind the evil regime and what happens to them once they leave N. Korea into modern society. Fascinating, well written and informative, I highly recommend this book. The author reminds me a little of Jon Krakauer in the way she’s able to craft non-fiction into a compelling narrative.

  65. Debi Clear

    More riveting than fiction
    I listen nearly exclusively to thrillers and mysteries because I count on my monthly service download to distract me from thoughts about work, my to-do list, etc. I almost never download non-fiction audiobooks, and I only downloaded this one because I’m interested in North Korea and it was on sale.

    Oh, boy, am I glad I did. I think I can safely say this is the most riveting audiobook I’ve ever listened to since I joined service 6 years ago. I couldn’t stop listening, and I think I annoyed most of my friends because I also couldn’t stop talking about it. Demick is masterful at taking the real people she interviewed, weaving their stories together, and making you care deeply about them, like characters in the very best novels—it’s incredibly moving. And Demick also has an eye for absurdity, picking out the details in each person’s story that best illustrate the insanity of life in North Korea.

  66. Billie Prowse

    Different narrator, different story
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

  67. Cleveland Aldaz

    Ruined by the narrator
    I was really looking forward to this book, as I had heard so many excellent things about it. I am still looking forward to this book, only this time I will read it. The narrator’s wooden style and robotic pronunciation of Korean names and words made it impossible to finish. I was forced to give up half-way through because the weirdly over-enunciated narration was making it impossible for me to focus on the story. What a waste!

  68. Helaine M.

    incredable and heartbreaking. A look inside N.K.
    A huge amount of work must have gone into the research for this book. It is comprehensive and very well written. No matter how much you think you know about North Korea, this book will still astonish.

  69. Harold Pfahler

    Great. Personal and factual.
    This is a great book, it uses stories of ordinary people who escaped from North Korea to detail what has happened since the communist take over. It is a great blend of facts, statistics and most importantly first hand accounts. It it told in a enthralling way that makes you feel for the people who lived through it.

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