Book review of "Nothing to Envy," by Barbara Demick, and "The Cleanest Race," by B.R. Myers

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By Stephen Kotkin
Sunday, February 28, 2010

NOTHING TO ENVY

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

By Barbara Demick

Spiegel & Grau.

314 pp. $26

THE CLEANEST RACE

How North Koreans See Themselves -- and Why It Matters

By B.R. Myers

Melville House.

200 pp. $24.95

"If you look at satellite photographs of the Far East by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light," writes Barbara Demick on the first page of "Nothing to Envy." "This area of darkness is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

As a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Demick discovered that the country isn't illuminated any further by traveling there. So she decided to penetrate North Korea's closed society by interviewing the people who had gotten out, the defectors, with splendid results.


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