So many books, so little time. ~Frank Zappa

Yesterday, our passports were returned with one-year, multiple-entree business visas for Russia! Although there wasn’t a particular reason why we shouldn’t get those visas, it was a relieve to see the full-page stickers pasted in our little red books. And so, in March Coen and I will ferry the Land Cruiser and ourselves from South Korea to Vladivostok!

This will be the beginning of a new phase of our journey. The idea is to take our time – as much as visas will allow us – to drive through Russia, Mongolia and the Stans.

The preparation has started in earnest and books are an important part of this. Here is the books that already made the list. Unsurprisingly there are so-o many books about Russia. If you have read any of these books, or others, please share your insights with us in the comment section below.

Guidebooks & Phrasebooks

Insight Guides sent us a Russia Guidebook as well as a Russian Phrasebook & Dictionary.

I always like to have a second guidebook, preferably in Dutch because they may include different issues, particularly when it comes to Dutch history. During our colonial history – of which we learn way too little in school – our ancestors have left footsteps, from tiny to giant, in many countries all over the world. Unfortunately, there is not a Dutch guidebook to be had about Russia.

My second favorite option is Bradt Guides, but while they supply a rich selection of books about the Stans and Mongolia, Russia is not (yet) on their list.

Lonely Planet is last on my list as I find their books too heavy on lists with Best Places to Eat, Sleep, which are not of interest to us. But alas, I like to have more than one guidebook so I bought the Lonely Planet Russia Guidebook. However, that’s a 2015 edition, a new one will be published next month and I hope to score it in a bookstore in Seoul just before we set sail for Vladivostok.


Russia: A Short History, by Abraham Ascher

An overview of Russia’s history from its early age to modern time with a focus on the last 300 years.

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 if I like this one, other titles may follow.

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

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

Russia: Putin’s Playground: Empire, Revolution, & the New Tsar, by Anastasia Edel

Author and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexijevitsj won the Nobel Price for literature in 2015. She has a written a number of books I’m interested in, among which Secondhand Time; the Last of Soviets, the Unwomanly Face of War; history of women in WWII, and Voices from Chernobyl; the Oral History of Nuclear Disaster.


Alaska, by James Michener

While the focus of this book is on the history and development in Alaska, the first part of the book includes Russia, particularly the colonization of East Siberia and the hunt for sea lions in that region.

Why is the Hanging Noodles book in a search on Russia in my Calibre Library? Well, the intro of the book goes like this: “‘I’m not hanging noodles from your ear.’ In Moscow, this curious, engagingly colorful assertion is common parlance, but unless you’re Russian your reaction is probably ‘Say what?’ The same idea in English is equally odd: ‘I’m not pulling your leg.’ Both mean: ‘Believe me’.”

Travel Memoirs

Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys across a Changing Russia, by Lisa Dickey

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.


Time to read up on some classic Russian literature by Leo Tolstoy such as War and Peace, and Anna Karenina.

In Dutch

Rusland voor Gevorderden, by Jelle Brandt Corstius

Jelle woonde en werkte in Rusland als correspondent voor Trouw en RTL Nieuws. Dit boek gaat over zijn reisen in Rusland. Andere titels die ik mogelijk ga lezen zijn Kleine Landjes (over de Kaukasus)  en Van Moskou tot Medan.

Jelle Brandt Corstius heeft overigens ook documentares gemaakt over Rusland: Van Moskou tot MagadanGrensland, en Van Sochi tot Yerevan.

All this should provide me some basic insights in the history, politics, and culture of Russia, 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.

For books we read and contribute to, check out our Bookshop.

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

For more on Russia, check out these articles:

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