In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park and Maryanne Vollers

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: North Korea is worse than I thought, amazingly.

Quick synopsis: The story of Yeonmi Park, who escaped North Korea only to end up being human trafficked in China.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Children are taught that Kim Jong Il wrote fifteen hundred books while at Kim Il Sung (his father) University. I’ll do the math for you. He would have had to write at least a book a day, every single day.  

Fun Fact for History Nerds: During the Korean War, the U.S. dropped more bombs on North Korea than in the entire Pacific campaign in World War II.

My Take: Yeonmi Park is pretty extraordinary. North Korea is a hellhole. Those two facts permeate this entire book which, ultimately, is a masterclass in understatement.

Park was born in North Korea only knowing one way of living. She does an amazing job of painting the picture of North Korea without belaboring the point. In fact, she seems almost restrained in many ways. Which makes it even funnier that North Korea has her on their hit list! I’d ask if they had anything better to do, but apparently starving your people to death is not all that time consuming.

Park escaped North Korea only to end up in a different type of hell. Turns out, escaping from North Korea runs you right into Chinese human trafficking.

Park’s story is amazing and she tells it in a way that seems unspectacular, when it most certainly is.

Verdict: It is riveting. Read it.

If You Liked This Try:

  • David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Sheri Fink, Five Days at Memorial
  • Julian Rubinstein, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber and The Holly
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In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park and Maryanne Vollers
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