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


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

1. Non-Fiction Stories about Russian People

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.

2. Stories about the Gulag System

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.

3. 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.

4. 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

5. Classic Russian Books

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak

6. Guidebooks for Russia

Travel Guides for Russia

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Insight Guides – Russia

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides – Russia

Lonely Planet Travel Guides – Russia

Products from Amazon

Travel Guides for Russia

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Lonely Planet Travel Guides – Moscow

Trans Siberian Handbook

Lonely Planet – Russian Phrasebook & Dictionary

Products from Amazon

7. Books about Russia in Dutch

Jelle Brandt Corstius woonde en werkte in Rusland als correspondent voor Trouw en RTL Nieuws. Deze boeken gaan over zijn reizen in Rusland, zijn makkelijk te lezen en vol met leuke anecdotes die bizarre aspecten van het land laat zien op een respectvolle manier.

Tips, Suggestions, Feedback?

Interested in more books about Russia? Check out this list.

Do you have suggestions on books about Russia that I should add to my list? I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share them in the comment section below or send me an email. Thanks!

Originally published in February 2018 / Updated December 2018

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