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Best Books on North Korea

Recommendations from 10 articles, Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, Peter King and 5 others.
18 books on the list
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Nothing to Envy
Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Barbara Demick - Sep 20, 2010
Goodreads Rating
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 journali...
Without You, There Is No Us
Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea's Elite
Suki Kim - Oct 13, 2015 (first published in 2014)
Goodreads Rating
A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign   Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but grad...
Recommended by
Jon StewartPeter King
Dear Leader
My Escape from North Korea
Jang Jin-Sung - Jan 27, 2015 (first published in 2014)
Goodreads Rating
In this rare insider's view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom."The General will now enter the room."Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il...
The Orphan Master's Son
A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
Adam Johnson - Aug 07, 2012
Goodreads Rating
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—-a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—-and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a profe...
Recommended by
Barack Obama
The Aquariums of Pyongyang
Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
Chol-Hwan Kang - Aug 24, 2005 (first published in 2001)
Goodreads Rating
"Destined to become a classic" (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking), this harrowing memoir of life inside North Korea was the first account to emerge from the notoriously secretive country -- and it remains one of the most terrifying. Amid escalating nuclear tensions, Kim Jong-un and North Korea's other leaders have kept a tight grasp on the...
North Korea Confidential
Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors
Daniel Tudor - Apr 14, 2015
Goodreads Rating
**Named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist** Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors.North Korea is one of the most troubled societies on earth. The country's 24 million people live under a violent dictatorship led by a single family, which relentlessly pursues the development of nuclear arms, which perio...
The Girl with Seven Names
Hyeonseo Lee - May 19, 2016
Goodreads Rating
With this compelling and unforgettable memoir based on her acclaimed TED Talk, which has over 10 million views, Hyeonseo Lee becomes one of the first female defectors from North Korea to share her story; like I Am Malala and Infidel, this is a narrative of sacrifice, survival, and extraordinary courage.As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo...
Escape from Camp 14
One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Blaine Harden - Mar 26, 2013 (first published in 2012)
Goodreads Rating
A New York Times bestseller, the shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived.North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice a...
Recommended by
Quentin Hardy
The Real North Korea
Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia
Andrei Lankov - Dec 22, 2014 (first published in 2013)
Goodreads Rating
Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been. A native of the former Soviet Union, he lived as an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980s. He has studied it for his entire career, using his fluency in Korean and personal contacts to build a rich, nuanced understanding. In The Real North Korea, Lankov substitutes cold, clear analys...
In Order to Live
A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom
Yeonmi Park - Sep 27, 2016 (first published in 2015)
Goodreads Rating
Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape. Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically me...
A River in Darkness
One Man's Escape from North Korea
Masaji Ishikawa - Jan 01, 2018 (first published in 2000)
Goodreads Rating
The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirtee...
Star of the North by D. B. John
The Great Successor by Anna Fifield
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin
The Accusation by Bandi
The Impossible State by Victor Cha
The Cleanest Race by B. R. Myers
Drifting House by Krys Lee