Books about Russia – (Travel) Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Fiction, Guidebooks

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“So many books, so little time.” ~Frank Zappa

Originally published in February 2018 / Updated December 2018

 

Travel Memoirs about Russia

 

Off the Rails: 10,000 km in fourteen months – Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, and China, by Tim Cope and Chris Hatherly

This story had me captivated from beginning to end. What a feat to cycle on recumbent bikes in all seasons through such wilderness. Kudos to them.

 

Under the Flight Path: 15,000 kms Overland Across Russia, Mongolia & China, by Simon Pridmore

A similar trip across similar countryside but travel experiences and ways of telling them are unique and so this is a different account that inspires me.

 

Travels in Siberia, by Ian Frazier

On the Best-Book Lists of the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more, Ian Frazier chronicles his various trips to Siberia that includes many insights into its history and culture.

 

Non-Fiction Stories about Russian People

 

Lisa’s three journeys across Russia, in 1995, 2005, and 2015, detail the lives of people and their changes over those years in various parts of the country.

 

Secondhand Time; the Last of Soviets Through interviews with people from Russia and former Soviet states, the author discusses the demise of communism

 

The Gates of November, by Chaim Potok

Author of the award-winning novels The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok unravels the history of the Jewish People in Russia. The focus of his story is the Sepak Family, the father a fervent Bolshevik while the son and his wife became the center of the movement to help Jews emigrate to Israel. A fascinating read.

 

Non-Fiction Books about Russia

 

Russia: A Short History, by Abraham Ascher

A very readable, fascinating overview of Russia’s history from its early age to modern time with a focus on the last 300 years. Updated after Putin’s third election as president it includes very recent history.

 

Russia, what everyone needs to know, by Timothy J. Colton

Apart from an introduction to Russia’s history, this book gives an introduction to Russia’s political climate. Colton has written several books about Russia, so other titles may follow on my list.

 

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen

Hopefully this book will help me understand the workings of Russia’s autocracy.

 

About the Gulag System (Fiction and Non-Fiction)

 

Prisoner of the OGPU: Four Years in a Soviet Labor Camp (non-fiction), by George Kitchin

After hearing from a couple of Russians that they doubt whether it was really that bad in the gulags, or if it did happen it needed to be done for a greater good, I figured I had some reading to do. Unable to buy the above-mentioned Gulag Archipelago, I bought this.. What can I say? It’s a harrowing story and reading it with the critical notes from locals in my mind, I’d argue that even if only ten percent were true and the rest lies or exaggerated, this kind of treatment is still unacceptable for a greater good of a country.

 

Journey into the Whirlwind (non-fiction), by Eugenia Ginzburg

A critically acclaimed memoir of the harrowing eighteen years she spent in prisons and labor camps under Stalin’s rule.

 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: A Novel (fiction), by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

In the madness of World War II, a dutiful Russian soldier is wrongfully convicted of treason and sentenced to ten years in a Siberian labor camp. I’d like to read The Gulag Archipelago as well, his most controversial work (non-fiction) but it’s not available on Kindle.

 

Zuleikha, by Guzel Yakhina (fiction).

Winner of the Big Book Award, this fiction details a life in the gulag inspired by Guzel Yakhina’s grandmother’s childhood memories.

 

Fiction Books set in Russia

 

Rasputin’s Daughter, by Robert Alexander

A historical novel about imperial Russia’s most notorious figure of Rasputin.

 

The Master of Petersburg, by J.M. Coetzee

Classic Russian Books

Time to read up on some classic Russian literature such as:

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

 

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

 

Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak

 

Guidebooks for Russia

 

Insight Travel Guides are rich in photographs, inspiring you to go and visit a place. Strong on images and maps, not very detailed in practical information

 

There are many online ways to learn Russian (more about the Russian language in this blog post), but nothing beats a small, handy phrasebook/dictionary.

 

Lonely Planet Russia Guidebook I always try to get two guidebooks of a country. Each writer, each brand has its way of looking at a country and writing about it. Lonely Planet is strong on detailed information such as how to get there/ where to eat, etc.

Russian Books In Dutch

Jelle woonde en werkte in Rusland als correspondent voor Trouw en RTL Nieuws. Dit boek gaat over zijn reisen in Rusland, is makkelijk te lezen en vol met leuke anecdotes die bizarre aspecten van het land laat zien op een respectvolle manier.

Jelle Brandt Corstius heeft ook interessante documentares gemaakt over Rusland:

Read More: Organizing your Visa for Russia

These books have provided me with insights into Russia’s history, politics, and culture, although I am well aware that a handful of books and traveling in such a vast country for merely a year will only allow me to scrape the surface. But it’s a beginning.

Next, I’d like to find a couple of good movies about Russia.

Tips, Suggestions, Feedback?

What book (or movie) on Russia do you think we should add to our list? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks!

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