Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea

, Barbara Demick's incisive look at daily life in North Korea, has won the $30,000 Samuel Johnson Prize, Britain's most prestigious award for nonfiction books. The announcement was made Thursday in London.

Demick, Beijing correspondent of the Los Angeles Times and a former Inquirer reporter, focuses on six defectors from the North Korean city of Chongjin, including a university student, a teacher, a doctor and a thief. She used interviews and smuggled photographs and videos to tell their story.

Frank Langfitt, who reviewed Nothing to Envy for The Inquirer, wrote that Demick "has crafted an oral history of a single city in the darkest days of one of the world's worst regimes."

Langfitt, a business correspondent for National Public Radio and former Beijing correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, added that Demick "takes us inside the minds of her subjects, rendering them as complex, often compelling characters - not the brainwashed parodies we see marching in unison in TV reports." (Read Langfitt's review online at

The award, named for 18th-century essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson, is open to English-language books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography, and the arts.