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North Korea: Books on the 'Hermit Kingdom' are positioned as page-turners

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(Read caption) 'The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot' is by Blaine Harden.

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True tales of North Korea are among the more interesting books to be published this year, according to selections by Monitor writers and Amazon editors. 

Both the Monitor and Amazon selected the title “The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot,” by Blaine Harden as one of the best books to be released this month. “Leader” is being published on March 17 and tells the story of pilot No Kum Sok, a pilot in North Korea who declared his love for his leader Kim Il Sung but privately planned his escape. Monitor staff called “Leader” “a real-life thriller,” while Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson had a similar comparison, saying that it “reads like a thriller.” 

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Meanwhile, Amazon selected the book “A Kim Jong-il Production” by Paul Fischer, which tells the story of how the leader arranged the kidnapping of South Korean director Shin Sang-Ok and actress Choi Eun-Hee to improve North Korea’s own film community, as one of the best books of February 2015, with Nelson calling it “wild… it’s sort of madcap but it’s creepy.” 

And “Leader” author Harden is also the writer of “Escape From Camp 14,” a bestselling 2013 title that told the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in a North Korean prison. Monitor writer Terry Hong called it “a book without parallel.” (Harden writes in a new foreword for “Escape” that “early in 2015, Shin Dong-hyuk changed his story." Harden says that the subject of his book "told me by telephone that his life in the North Korean gulag differed from what he had been telling government leaders, human rights activists, and journalists like me.” Harden details some of the changes in the story on his site.) 

Successful books about North Korea in recent years include the award-winning nonfiction title "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick in 2009 and the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2012 novel "The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson.

As North Korea continues to make international headlines, it seems inevitable more books will be published on the subject, but the caliber of these releases will be hard to beat.