Download Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Audiobook

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Audiobook, by Barbara Demick Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Barbara Demick Narrator: Karen White Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2010 ISBN: 9781400179848
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (13,362 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Strongly written and gracefully structured...[Demick] vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state within a saga of unfathomable suffering punctuated by faint glimmers of hope. Booklist Starred Review
  • “Excellent…lovely work of narrative nonfiction…a book that offers extensive evidence of the author’s deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details.”

    New York Times

  • “A deeply moving book.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “These are the stories you’ll never hear from North Korea’s state news agency.”

    New York Post

  • “The ring of authority as well as the suspense of a novel.’’

    Washington Times

  • “Elegantly structured and written, Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.”


  • “Excellent new book is one of only a few that have made full use of the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors. A delightful, easy-to-read work of literary nonfiction, it humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad that North Koreans are often compared to robots… The tale of the star-crossed lovers, Jun-sang and Mi-ran, is so charming as to have inspired reports that Hollywood might be interested.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “There’s a simple way to determine how well a journalist has reported a story, internalized the details, seized control of the narrative and produced good work. When you read the result, you forget the journalist is there. Barbara Demick, the Los Angeles Times’ Beijing bureau chief, has aced that test in Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, a clear-eyed and deeply reported look at one of the world’s most dismal places.’’

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea…As Demick weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country’s descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “In spite of the strict restrictions on foreign press, award-winning journalist Demick caught telling glimpses of just how surreal and mournful life is in North Korea… Strongly written and gracefully structured, Demick’s potent blend of personal narratives and piercing journalism vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state.”

    Booklist (starred review)

Listener Reviews

Write a Review
  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Al | 2/17/2014

    " Fact-filled yet horrific, human and heart-wrenching(alliteration!) nonfiction. I can't believe how little I knew about what has been/is going on in North Korea, and this book was eye-opening on many levels. It isn't a book you curl up with and read in an afternoon. It's a book you read a chapter of, set down, and go appreciate your life and your country. It isn't for the faint of heart reader. Demick portrays starvation, hardship and loss, but it isn't a one-sided picture. She shows how those who have left their country still have love for it and its people. Moving, intelligent and informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jacob | 2/1/2014

    " I liked the book. Very interesting story of around 6 different North Korean defectors. My only critique of this book is that it can become confusing with the stories changing each chapter (Each chapter shows a different persons perspective eg. Story 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, etc.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 R | 1/28/2014

    " This is the second time I've read this, the first time was an audiobook, so I wanted to read it in print for myself. No matter how many times I've heard the stories of the defectors, I am still always left in awe and confusion. We're used to how the media tends to portray North Korea as "the axis of evil" however, we rarely get a glimpse of what is actually going on inside. How does the average person live? Or more appropriately, how do they survive? We also ridicule the citizens for being too stupid or naive or gullible to believe the party lies, but we don't know or realize the brainwashing they have received since childhood. This is an excellent book that delves into the average life of a North Korean and the struggle to survive in a totalitarian regime. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsay | 1/26/2014

    " This book was captivating. I find true stories more intriguing than fiction. The ironic title, "Nothing to Envy" is a part of a patriotic song that all North Koreans learn as children. How much they have to envy! The overriding theme for me was HUNGER. Reading their accounts certainly made me grateful for my life and country. It was interesting to read how the "Great Leader" was a god-like figure in their lives. Although religion was banned, a religious worship and loyalty were expected towards the "Father of the People" and the "Great Sun of Life." "True believers" knew that all good came from him, he provided for all their needs, was omniscient, and that they relied on his mercy. The stories told by these defectors (all different individuals with different reasons for leaving, but telling similar stories of hardship, starvation, and life in North Korea) helped me to realize why an entire country can be "brainwashed" into believing what they did. Other interesting points were the similarities identified between most dictatorial regimes throughout history. Certainly made me interested in learning more, especially with recent accounts in the news of the young new leader and nuclear tests. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janis | 1/8/2014

    " Profiles of people from North Korea. Compelling. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Victoire | 1/8/2014

    " Being a Chinese, before reading this book, I thought I knew what it was about.However, the truth is knowing some kind of interesting facts by no means equals understanding the reality. This book is like a non-fiction version of 1984. The resemblances made me shiver with fear. I suppose by reading about DPRK, I am not exactly trying to understand a country completely beyond my imagination, but to understand my own country and the past century here that preceded the birth of my generation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erok | 12/30/2013

    " fascinating and terrifying. This reads like a novel, and the content is so unbelievable that it should be. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura | 12/29/2013

    " I was impressed with this rare and honest look at life in North Korea. The author did an impressive job of dealing with the political, without overly politicizing everything. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alison | 11/1/2013

    " This book is gripping from start to finish. But it's very very sad. I will be recommending it to all my friends. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Natalie | 9/15/2013

    " This is an excellent book about live in North Korea as told through those who escaped in the 1990s-2000s. North Korea is indeed a strange place unlike anywhere else in the world "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 9/14/2013

    " Not a fun book to read...but very eye-opening about ordinary people's lives in North Korea over 15 years. Quite shocking and informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 8/11/2013

    " Journalism at its best. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Zachariah | 7/24/2013

    " This was really good. Interesting and sad. It's non-fiction but reads easily, describing life with stories and facts about North Korean life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anastasia | 5/21/2013

    " just do it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 5/11/2013

    " Compulsively readable. Shockingly sad, yet inspiring. This is the story of life in North Korea as told through the eyes of defectors now living in South Korea. Demick is a storyteller of great empathy. High recommend. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Connie | 6/30/2012

    " Unbelievable that these people have endured so much while the rest of the world has moved on. A must read and I have recommended it to several people. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 2/5/2012

    " Fascinating, horrifying. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margie | 2/3/2012

    " What a story told by a journalist in Seoul. three years of researching the lives of 6 defectors from North Korea. Very engaging and unbelievably cruel. Life in North Korea in the 1990s and today. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Noah | 1/11/2012

    " Absolutely fascinating. Anyone in the least bit interested should read this to understand just how a theocratic starvation state can continue to exist in 2012. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 6/30/2011

    " Started this one last night. First impression--the two young people are as sheltered as Quiverfull kids are here only slightly worse. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 6/28/2011

    " Well written and fascinating, although subject matter difficult. Well worth reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jenny | 6/26/2011

    " This book us a must-read. It's like "1984" but real and less than 10 years ago. I had no idea how bad things are in North Korea. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 6/25/2011

    " Fantastic! Thoroughly recommend to anyone with an interest in the region. It is a sad set of personal histoires onf defectors but one of the few personal insights. I find it hard to laugh at the 'crack-pot' regime after these personal accounts. Very good and uplifting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter | 6/25/2011

    " This book has given me 1 x nightmare so far, albeit mixed up with some car chase videos I have been watching. So perhaps one star should be given to the car chase videos. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keith | 6/17/2011

    " Cordelia asked me to read it so I did. A good recomendation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat | 6/12/2011

    " A fascinating and compelling, yet disturbing, book which follows the lives of six North Koreans who eventually become defectors. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenna | 6/9/2011

    " An amazing, chilling look at the lives of ordinary people in North Korea. "

About the Author

Barbara Demick is the Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. Her reporting on North Korea won the Overseas Press Club’s award for human rights reporting as well as awards from the Asia Society and the American Academy of Diplomacy. Her coverage of Sarajevo for the Philadelphia Inquirer won the George Polk Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Barbara is the author of several books, including Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood and Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.

About the Narrator

Karen White has been narrating audiobooks of all genres since 1999. Honored to be included in AudioFile’s Best Voices, she’s also a four-time Audie Finalist and has earned multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards and Library Journal starred reviews.