CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
The Six-Point Inspection

Histories That Go Above the 38th Parallel, Beneath the Pasties, and Behind the Bar

  • The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia

    by Andrei Lankov

    The Nutshell:

    Lankov, a historian at South Korea’s Koomkin University who lived as an exchange student (from the Soviet Union) in North Korea in the 1980s, reveals the methods behind Pyongyang’s seeming madness and what it’s like to be an ordinary citizen of North Korea.

    Literary Lovechild Of:

    Bradley K. Martin’s Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty and Julia E. Sweig’s Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know.

    You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

    You have any interest in creating your own multigenerational dictatorship, and you think the Assads are lightweights.

    Cocktail Party Fodder:

    North Korea has 32.9 physicians per 10,000 people, while the U.S. has only 26.7. Still, life expectancy at birth is in North Korea is about a decade less than it is in the U.S.

    For Optimal Benefit:

    Read before Kim Jong-un’s next overhyped nuclear test so you can experience it as more of a human-interest story.

    Snap Judgment:

    Lankov is so measured that at times he can seem even sympathetic to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. But ultimately he offers a lucid and revealing portrait of North Korea from its invention to the present-day.

  • Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America

    by Leslie Zemeckis

    The Nutshell:

    Using interviews with burlesque performers and their families (including Alan Alda, the son of a straight man), filmmaker Zemeckis—who wrote and directed a documentary of the same name—explores life, love, art, and commerce on America’s burlesque circuit.

    Literary Lovechild Of:

    Rachel Shteir’s Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show and Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns’ Jazz: A History of America’s Music.

    You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

    You once punched an elderly man in a fight over tickets to Gypsy.

    Cocktail Party Fodder:

    At the height of burlesque in the 1930s, 14 shows ran on Broadway simultaneously.

    For Optimal Benefit:

    Have two burlesque dancers read this to you at bedtime.

    Snap Judgment:

    The performers’ stories are wonderfully colorful—and the struggles and pleasures of their work are illuminating—but the book doesn’t rise above the level of documentary companion.

  • Shakespeare’s Pub: A Barstool History of London As Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub—The George Inn

    by Pete Brown

    The Nutshell:

    British beer writer Brown uses the story of a bar, London’s George Inn, to tell the story of a city—blending literary anecdotes (Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens all make cameos), accounts of urban development (like the building of the London Bridge), and economic, political, and social history (the George survived the end of the stagecoach trade and the Luftwaffe).

    Literary Lovechild Of:

    Jerry Ellis’ Walking to Canterbury: A Modern Journey Through Chaucer’s Medieval England and Gregg Smith’s Beer in America, The Early Years—1587-1840: Beer’s Role in the Settling of America and the Birth of a Nation.

    You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

    The author had you at “barstool.”

    Cocktail Party Fodder:

    The most popular pub name in the U.K. is The Red Lion, with 729 pubs sharing the moniker.

    For Optimal Benefit:

    Read with a mug of ale in each fist. Figure out how to turn the pages later.

    Snap Judgment:

    You can hear Brown’s accent and smell the stale beer on the floor—all making for a delightful history grounded in place.