Reading to illuminate an enigmatic culture and its conflicts old and new.



Nothing to Envy:
Ordinary Lives in North Korea

By Barbara Demick


Demick, the Beijing-based correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, gets an illuminating perspective on everyday life in North Korea—from salaries that go unpaid to stacks of corpses—by talking with six escapees from its closed society. She's taken home the Overseas Press Club's award for human rights reporting for her efforts.



The Coldest Winter:
America and the Korean War

By David Halberstam


Mao, MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Truman are just a few of the figures whose personalities come to life in David Halberstam's soaring account of the Korean War—in many ways a devastating local consequence of a global struggle. From his analysis of the strategic and tactical maneuvers to his portraiture of the men who fought and died in a conflict whose nature few understood, the author of The Best and the Brightest creates a mournful epic, grippingly readable and highly informative.



The Two Koreas:
A Contemporary History

By Don Oberdorfer


Oberdorfer, who wrote for the Washington Post for a quarter century and served on its Asia beat, first went to Korea in 1958 as an Army lieutenant. Here, he writes the definitive history of contemporary Korea with analysis of policy, critiques of leaders, and in-depth studies of the region's culture.



Great Leader, Dear Leader:
Demystifying North Korea Under The Kim Clan

By Bertil Lintner


Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il have been the men behind the curtain of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (otherwise known as North Korea) since its founding in 1948. Lintner's goal in this eye-opening book is to make the family's poorly-understood personalities fully alive for readers, the better to show how this family has literally molded the country they have ruled for half a century.



The Last Parallel:
A Marine's War Journal

By Martin Russ


Called one of the best accounts of combat ever, The Last Parallel derives its great power from combat veteran Russ's vivid descriptions of the many bloody battles he and his fellow Marines took part in during the waning days of the ill-starred conflict, as well as the author's sensitive response to the everyday devastation around him.


April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.