Adult Recommendations

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power, by Paul Fischer

In this fascinating book, film producer Paul Fischer combines interviews, research, and first-hand investigation to tell the strange story of Kim Jong-Il’s kidnapping of South Korea’s leading director and his star actress ex-wife. Obsessed with film since he was a child, Kim Jong-Il used North Korea’s Ministry for Propaganda to build his power within the regime, making the only movies that the isolated North Korean people were allowed to view. As Kim’s ambitions eclipsed his country’s limited filmmaking ability, he decided to recruit new talent—forcibly.

Choi Eun-Hee was South Korea’s biggest and most beloved star; Shin Sang-Ok, her director ex-husband, ran the largest film production company in South Korea. Kim kidnapped both in 1978, and after torturing Shin into compliance, the two began making films for North Korea’s captive audience. With success—their films played to packed theaters for months and won international awards—came the opportunity to escape via a chase straight out of a spy novel.

A must-read for anyone interested in the history and culture of North Korea. 

Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel José Older

Carlos Delacruz is an agent of New York City’s Council of the Dead, charged with protecting the living and maintaining order among New York’s ghosts. He’s also an Inbetweener: after dying and coming back to life, Carlos gained the ability to see and speak with ghosts—and lost all memory of his past. He believes he’s the only Inbetweener in New York until the Council of the Dead orders him to hunt down a rogue sorcerer who turns out to be an Inbetweener, too. Soon, Carlos is untangling the threads of a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the walls between the dead and the living for good—and whose mastermind might be the man responsible for Carlos’s almost-death.

While the plot occasionally meanders, veteran short-story writer Older’s voice crackles with profane and hilarious life in his debut novel. A must-read for fans of urban fantasy.

When Books Went To War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II, by Molly Guptill Manning

On May 10, 1933, German students (with official encouragement) burned an estimated 25,000 books in a symbolic act meant to “purify” Germany of Jewish influence. The Nazis would continue to burn books throughout their reign, both in their country and in the countries they invaded, in an attempt to stamp out any thought they deemed dangerous to National Socialism, ultimately destroying over 100 million volumes. People around the world reacted in outrage and horror, and in the US, groups of librarians, citizens, politicians, writers, and publishers came together to fight back. Through organized book donation drives and the invention of an entirely new book format—the Armed Services Edition—these fighters in World War II’s “War of Ideas” put 132 million books in the hands of American servicemen and their allies. Their work inspired an entire generation with a love of reading and enshrined books like Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as American classics. When Books Went to War tells their unforgettable story.