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The Best Books On North Korea: 8 Books You Have To Read

Photo by Johen Redman on Unsplash

If you want to begin to understand the extraordinary political and cultural background and present of North Korea, then these are the 8 books you should read.

Each of the books on this list is suggested by Fupping contributors and through outreach. 

#1 Nothing to Envy By Barbara Demick

[This book] offers a narrative about the everyday lives of North Koreans under the Kim regime.

Ms. Demick is an expert on North Korea. In preparing to write her book, sheconducted interviews with refugees who escaped North Korea. She masterfully paints five biographies of her interviewees that gives readers a view into the Hermit Kingdom.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsDavid Samms from George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers

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#2 Somewhere Inside By Laura and Lisa Ling

This [book] was written by journalists Laura and Lisa Ling and ping-pongs between narratives from Laura's imprisonment and Lisa's attempts to rescue her sister. It offers the often-unspoken story of the family of the imprisoned and their often futile attempts to rescue their loved ones.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsDavid Samms from George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers

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#3 In Order to Live By Yeonmi Park

Yeonmi was born in North Korea and she and her mother escaped when she was 13. She thought she was going to be treated with kindness once she and her mother escaped to the China border, but in reality, she and her mother entered the cruel world of human trafficking.

The book tells the tale of her incredible life as she faced tragedy in every step she took as she tried to make the best life for her family. It opened my eyes to the reality of a world I'm so ignorant to through the eyes of a girl that is my age and had to live through it all.

Yeonmi's story is not only an eyeopening one, but one that demands you to be inspired to do all you can with what you have and to recognize what you have been given.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsJazmin Cybulski from Bella Ella Boutique

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#4 Without You, There Is No Us By Suki Kim

Kim's year in a North Korean all-boys university is a heartbreaking and eye-opening look at what it's like to live under the North Korean regime. Her students, subject to absolute rule, are surprisingly relatable in their joy, enthusiasm, and optimism, yet struggle to make connections with each other in ways that most in the western world would not recognize. Kim's account reveals that in a totalitarian state, even the ruling class are not free.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsEmily McCrary from House Method

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#5 Escape from Camp 14 By Blaine Harden

Harden's storytelling ability brings Shin Donghyuk, No Kumsok, and Donald Nichols to life as more than footnotes in North Korean history that would've otherwise gone untold.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsLisa Kindel from LRKindelMedia

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#6 Aquariums of Pyongyang By Kang Choi-Hwan

From the eyes of a child, this first-hand account tells the story of one family's fall from grace. Kang's family (ethnic Koreans living in Japan) provides a unique perspective into the prison camp system at Yodok where the family lived for 10 years. The descriptions of life in Yodok opened my eyes to what one family can experience at the whim of one dictator.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsLisa Kindel from LRKindelMedia

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#7 Inspector O Novels By James Church

Church's insider knowledge of North Korea brought the country to life through the eyes of the hard-boiled gumshoe O. Because Inspector O toes the regime line, he uncovers more details about the propaganda machine that doesn't necessarily want him to find the truth. O's ability to see outside the regime makes him more real and accountable for what he can do as a detective and as a human being.

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsLisa Kindel from LRKindelMedia

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#8 The Orphan Master’s Son By Adam Johnson

I didn't know what to expect from fiction about North Korea. What I'd read prior to Johnson was memoir and history-truth is stranger than fiction. However, this book did not disappoint. Pak Jun Do tells his own story in an extremely believable voice. When the narrative changes voices to entwine with Jun Do, the story becomes more fantastic, changing from prison memoir to highly evolved espionage thriller. When a famous actress goes missing, what will Jun Do decide? Will he adhere to the mission of the State or the mission of his own conscience?

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

ContributorsLisa Kindel from LRKindelMedia

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