Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I read this for my One Drink Minimum Book Club.  I would not have picked this on my own to read but I am so glad that I did.  North Korea is in the news a great deal, but I will admit to being pretty ignorant about it other than in broad generalities.  Barbara Demick painstakingly reveals the horrors of life in North Korea through interviews with people who escaped to the south.  The book is extremely well written and detailed in descriptions.  I will say that it is not a light or uplifting read.  At points, it is unbelievably depressing.  Reading about what the escapees and indeed most citizens of North Korea endure makes it hard to believe that it is real.  You almost get the sense you are reading some dystopian novel.  The casual treatment of family members dying of starvation and illness, a kindergarten class whittling down from 50 to 15 due to starvation and disease, and a mother saying at one point “everyone who was going to die already had” and then you remind yourself this is real, happening now, in your lifetime and that  realization is like a slap in the face.

Highly recommended for readers of non-fiction, people interested in events occurring in Korea, and even people who read dystopian literature.


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Finished reading this today.  I’ve been reading bits and pieces of it for the last 3 or 4 days.  Fascinating study of habits, controlling them and changing them.  The author presents a multitude of examples, everything from alcoholism to gambling and from the military to Starbucks.  For my purposes,  tackling some bad habits of my own, it was almost too much information.

For practical application, the Appendix contains a section called aptly enough:  A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas.  This is a very brief section that explains how to apply the research based methods to your own habits.  Great synopsis of the Cue, Routine, Reward model and guide to using it.