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These words are my diary screaming out loud

Monday, February 14, 2011

This is why I love books

I used to be a really avid reader. I taught myself to read at the age of four, and my kindergarten teacher basically let me choose my own reading curriculum because I was so far ahead of my peers. By the time we moved back to the States (middle of my 1st grade year) I had read almost every book on the "up through 4th grade" shelf in my school's library.  All the way through high school, I read all the time, because I didn't raelly need to study - school always came pretty easily for me.

When I hit USNA, that all changed. I was too exhausted to read, it would put me to sleep. And for the first time in my life, I didn't really have time to read for pleasure - I had to actually study. This continued through my years in the Navy - once I had my SWO pin, I read some books on deployment, but that was about it. I started reading a bit more when Matt's dad started sending me books, and I did the audiobook thing for a while. When I was unemployed, I read a bit more, but still not as much as I would have liked - I was broke, books aren't cheap!  Last fall, though, I decided to get myself a Kindle. I figured if I didn't have to go to the bookstore, maybe I'd read more. Its semi-working :)

A few months back, I joined a Book Club with a few ladies I met through Yelp!  The first few books we read were good, but the one we read for this month's meeting absolutely blew me (and the rest of us, based on the discussion we had) away.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick, is one of the most compelling works of nonfiction I have ever read.  Demick, a reporter for the LA Times Seoul bureau, spent several years interviewing North Korean defectors, and profiled six of them for the book. She told their stories factually, with no agenda or attempt to bias a reader one way or the other. She stuck to the facts and the stories, with very little mention of what the average American thinks of North Korea - nuclear weapons. As someone who maintains a fairly tunnel-visioned view of North Korea based on my line of work, I can truly say that I was moved nearly to tears more than once in this book.

I'd forgotten what it was liked to really be moved by a book, to feel such a connection to the characters that you feel as if they're real people. In this book, they really are real people, yet the concept of what life in North Korea is like is so foreign to those of us that have grown up with the benefit of being Americans that it doesn't seem as though its possible. Books like this are why I love reading so much, and reading them makes me miss reading.

Do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy of Nothing to Envy. Its not super long, and a fairly quick read. It doesn't read like non-fiction, in that the stories are really well told. You can get it on Amazon for under $10, hard copy or Kindle, and you should be able to get it at your local bookstore or library, although I hear a lot of libraries have pretty long waiting lists for it.

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