This book is an eye-opening – and sad – description of life in North Korea, which I previously knew nothing about. As someone who’s unhappy with the selfishness and inequality brought about by modern capitalism, I found it particularly interesting to see how alternative systems like communism claim to solve these problems in theory but in practice fail miserably to do so.

The book’s content was great, but I have a few minor gripes about the way it was presented. I loved the way Demick uses individuals’ stories to illustrate the plight of an entire nation of people; I never really figured out what her strategy for weaving the stories together is, though. It wasn’t strictly chronological, nor did she tell one person’s story in its entirety before moving onto the next. My best guess is that she was trying to group together similar phases – the death of Kim Il-sung, the slow descent into starvation, the decision to defect – across individuals, even though some of these phases happened at different times for different people.

I also noticed that the book felt a bit repetitive in a few places. Tidbits of information seemed to be duplicated word-for-word in multiple spots, as if Demick had forgotten which pieces from her notes she had already included.

Despite these nitpicks, I enjoyed Nothing to Envy. I felt like I was traveling across the world from the comfort of my couch.