The best books that were banned, or based on stories forbidden to be told

Oyungerel Tsedevdamba Author Of The Green Eyed Lama
By Oyungerel Tsedevdamba

The Books I Picked & Why

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

By Jack Weatherford

Book cover of The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

Why this book?

I couldn’t put it down when I read it, maybe because I am a woman. The most famous 13th century tale about Genghis Khan and his creation of Mongolia doesn’t mention women’s involvement in the creation of Mongolia. Jack Weatherford, a famous writer and historian, noticed a line in the Secret History of the Mongols which might have indicated a censorship in the story. He further explores the censored parts of the Secret History only to find fascinating and active involvement of women in Mongolian history. Anyone who is interested in history, truth, and women’s empowerment will find this book amazing. Jack writes so well and his books are always a fast read.  


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Wolf Totem

By Jiang Rong, Howard Goldblatt

Book cover of Wolf Totem

Why this book?

When traditional nomadic herders live under communism and alongside aggressive social development, their lifestyle and environment will be disturbed to the core. So, it happens in the Wolf Totem. This book’s main characters are a Chinese young student, a Mongol family, and a wolf. Even though the book was initially censored in China, later it became an official market item and a sensational bestseller. I read Wolf Totem in Mongolian language when it was translated from Chinese. It was a slow but beautiful read. I spent one month to digest the book fully. For those, who find it difficult to read quickly, I would recommend sticking with the book till the end. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Wealth of Nations

By Adam Smith

Book cover of The Wealth of Nations

Why this book?

This is a big, yet easy-to-read, theoretical discourse on market economy that is meant to be a popular read. Reading or even possessing a copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was forbidden before 1990. I studied in a Soviet Union university in the 1980s and was taught how to criticize Adam Smith’s positions using Lenin’s and Marx’s arguments. However, I, like all other students, was not permitted to read the actual book. When I finally held The Wealth of Nations in my hands in 1999, I “devoured” the book in one night. Either, it was that fast a read or I was that hungry for the original story following years of communist misinformation and censorship. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky

Book cover of Doctor Zhivago

Why this book?

This is one of the most popular books of Russian literature known outside Russia. Until the 1990s, Russians themselves and those living in the communist bloc were not allowed to read Doctor Zhivago. The book follows the story of a young doctor, Zhivago, and his love interest during the turbulent time of WWI. The beautiful read will be only slightly slowed by complex long Russian names and the style of Pasternak’s writing. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia

By Manduhai Buyandelger

Book cover of Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia

Why this book?

Many people became shamans. Suddenly. Was it related to democracy and freedom and the end of cultural censorship in Mongolia, or was it related to the growing magical energy of some localities? Mandukhai, a Mongolian anthropologist tries to find an answer to such a phenomenon and discovers that shamans are related not just to magic, but to the tragic past of Mongolia’s rural communities. This is a serious read for those interested in history, political influence on indigenous culture, anthropology, magic, gender, and Mongolia’s nomadic lifestyle.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists