Book Recommendations: Picture Books

All three of these were given to me as gifts and while I haven’t digested every page word for word and picture by picture, the topics continue to be captivating.  North Korea is basically the same country, Circus Life still has its major flaws, and Earth still tries to regenerate and heal itself.


The first picture book covers of North Korea as a nation under its dictators, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il.  We all know about the current viciousness and power of Kim Jong-un today.  The book is divided by its major cities and focusing on Panmunjom as well.

The only time I’ve ever been out of the United States was in 1995 when I went back to South Korea.  I had little interest in North Korea at the time, and was unaware it was in the second year of their famine.  By the end of it in 1998, between 240,000 to 3.5 million people had died.

It wasn’t only the North that had poverty.  During one of my outings, I walked by this man with rubber tubes tied where his knees should have been.  He was getting around Seoul on a wooden board with small wheels attached underneath.  You could tell he had been like that for a while as his hands were dirty and he moved as if it was just another day.

Back to North Korea, the country continues to be repressive as ever as the government places citizens into camps for the slightest infraction and Kim Jong-un has no issue killing family members he views as rivals to his authority.  While this is a country that piques the interest of many, there’s a good reason to have a noticeable military force along the DMZ.  It’s basically not the ideal country to live in for people who don’t like to be brainwashed and controlled on every level.  The Arirang Mass Games is a great example where this massive celebration is basically only for one person.  If it’s any indication how miserable it can be and is to live there, look to the soldiers who risk their lives defecting to South Korea, and they are one of the groups who are given the best rations of food.

This book was published by Chronicle Books (March 2007) and is 192 pages in length.

circusThe second picture book is the shorter version of a much longer page turner of circus life between 1870s  and 1950s.  While I don’t advocate attending any circus including live animals especially those with tigers, elephants, and bears, they continue to be used in various circuses around the world.  Hopefully the Circus Roncalli in Austria has paved the way to the next generation of what a circus is and means by using holographic images of animals instead.  Hailed as the “Greatest Show on Earth” by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the company no longer is in existence due to controversies that piled up over the years.  This shouldn’t diminish their 146 year longevity because no matter how you view it, they are a part of American history.

I would hope that current performers and workers are paid what they are due, but I’m sure some are not.  It’s because of this and for other reasons I was given this book because I plan to write a fiction story about circus life from the “oddities” you find on the stages, the greed of managers and owners, and what I view as the improper use of animals.  Whether it be the silliness of bears dressed up  in cute costumes or blatant misrepresentation of the perceived inferior people, there were performers and workers who truly loved what they did and believed in it as well.  This can be a bitter pill to swallow because to them it was what they drank, ate, and breathed.  It also makes the book even more fascinating.

It was published by Taschen (2012) and is 384 pages in length.

miracleplanetThe third picture book is longest one I own.  Most of us agree the Earth is round, not flat, and that global warming does exist.  It’s the third planet from the Sun and was formed approximately 4.54 billion years ago.  The Earth is the only planet not named after a god.  How did that happen?  Beyond these facts you can find most anywhere, this book is a simple one stop shop for facts and theories about the Earth.  It includes information about geology, paleontology, meteorology, and geography.

I admit I haven’t browsed through this book in a while, but my interest and fascination of Planet Earth started in high school.  It was the one constant I could go to and not be disappointed.  There’s a lot you can learn from this book and in regards to today, being aware of human consumption and waste as we continue to inhabit this planet.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the connection between A (high consumption) and B (lack of sustainability).  Yet, here we are at C (human misunderstanding) of what D (preservation) actually means for us all.  And of course, the photographs are good too.

It was published by Gallery Books (January 1990) and is 257 pages in length.


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