100 books like 1989

By Mary Elise Sarotte,

Here are 100 books that 1989 fans have personally recommended if you like 1989. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From my list on the end of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Why did Sarah love this book?

In How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulić details the everyday indignities of living under communist Yugoslavia, including thin toilet paper and no access to luxuries such as strawberries or fruit juice. Her essays show the impact of high politics on everyday living but also how communism failed – to produce washing machines, manufacture tampons, or meet the needs of its citizens.

By Slavenka Drakulić,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an account of what life is like for women in communist Europe - from the lack of toys for their children to their own lack of privacy. This book charts the tentative strings of feminist movements from the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Slavenka Drakulic is the co-founder of the first feminist group in Yugoslavia and she holds teaching Fellowships in several European and American universities.


Book cover of Empowering Revolution: America, Poland, and the End of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From my list on the end of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Why did Sarah love this book?

Domber details how Americans aided and supported the Polish trade union movement Solidarity in the 1980s and the ways U.S. assistance was effective in aiding Poland’s democratic transition. Importantly, in Domber’s account, it was the Polish opposition, leading by moral example, who became heroes to Americans inside and outside the government, and American officials in Washington and Warsaw who looked to Solidarity for guidance on U.S. policy rather than the reverse.

By Gregory F. Domber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empowering Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the most populous country in Eastern Europe as well as the birthplace of the largest anticommunist dissident movement, Poland is crucial in understanding the end of the Cold War. During the 1980s, both the United States and the Soviet Union vied for influence over Poland's politically tumultuous steps toward democratic revolution. In this groundbreaking history, Gregory F. Domber examines American policy toward Poland and its promotion of moderate voices within the opposition, while simultaneously addressing the Soviet and European influences on Poland's revolution in 1989. With a cast including Reagan, Gorbachev, and Pope John Paul II, Domber charts American…


Book cover of The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From my list on the end of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Why did Sarah love this book?

In The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy, Chris Miller compares the political and economic reforms undertaken in the Soviet Union and China in the 1980s. His account portrays Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as weak and unable to make difficult choices, and Miller reveals the dire consequences of Gorbachev's policies for the cohesion of his country. Miller argues effectively that Gorbachev did not have the option to follow the “authoritarian path” of China’s Deng Xiaoping.

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For half a century the Soviet economy was 'inefficient' but stable. In the late 1980s, to the surprise of nearly everyone, it suddenly collapsed. Why did this happen? And what role did Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's economic reforms play in the country's dissolution? In this groundbreaking study, Chris Miller shows that Gorbachev and his allies tried to learn from the great success story of transitions from socialism to capitalism, Deng Xiaoping's China. Why, then, were efforts to revitalize Soviet socialism so much less successful than in China?

Making use of never-before-studied documents from the Soviet politburo and other archives, Miller…


Book cover of Unwanted Visionaries: The Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From my list on the end of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Sarah B. Snyder Why did Sarah love this book?

In Unwanted Visionaries Radchenko reveals the very different ways the Cold War ended in Asia, not with the jubilant breaching of the Berlin Wall and largely peaceful transitions of power, but with the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Vietnamese departure from Cambodia. 

By Sergey Radchenko,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unwanted Visionaries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The European and American dimensions of Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign policy captured the imagination of contemporary observers and, later, historians. The collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall were the grand events that marked the European finale of the Cold War. The Cold War ended differently in Asia, where there was no easy closure, no great fanfare, and little credit awarded for changing the world. Yet Gorbachev was fascinated
by Asia and in his early years in power, he addressed the subject of Asia's rise and the importance of Soviet engagement with the region. He…


Book cover of Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia

Adam Zamoyski Author Of Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

From my list on to truly understand the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Zamoyski is a British historian of Polish origin. He is the author of over a dozen award winning books. His family originates in Poland. His parents left the country when it was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, and were stranded in exile when the Soviets took it over at the end of World War II. Drawn to it as much by the historical processes at work there as by family ties, Zamoyski began to visit Poland in the late 1960s. His interest in the subject is combined with a feel for its connections to the history and culture of other nations, and a deep understanding of the pan-European context.

Adam's book list on to truly understand the First World War

Adam Zamoyski Why did Adam love this book?

The outbreak of war was hastened, if not actually caused by, the fact that the whole of Central and Eastern Europe was governed by failed states. The Russian, German and Austrian empires had outlived their respective raisons d’être and, either unwilling or incapable of forging new ones through radical reform, hoped to justify their survival through the pursuit of success in the international arena, and ultimately through war. This is a brilliant account of the doomed attempts to reform the greatest yet most fragile of these states, and of the slow car-crash that ensued.

By Dominic Lieven,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Towards the Flame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINANCIAL TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015

The Russian decision to mobilize in July 1914 may have been the single most catastrophic choice of the modern era. Some articulate, thoughtful figures around the Tsar understood Russia's fragility, and yet they were shouted down by those who were convinced that, despite Germany's patent military superiority, Russian greatness required decisive action. Russia's rulers thought they were acting to secure their future, but in fact - after millions of deaths and two revolutions - they were consigning their entire class to death or exile and their country to a uniquely terrible generations-long experiment…


Book cover of War with Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate

John Philipp Baesler Author Of Clearer Than Truth: The Polygraph and the American Cold War

From my list on Russia in Western eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in West Germany, surrounded by American soldiers and with a father who had escaped communist East Germany, the Cold War always fascinated me. What was it about? Would it ever end? When it did, it took everybody by surprise. This lesson, that nothing is certain and that history can always make a turn when you least expect it, stayed with me as I pursued my degrees in history, first in Heidelberg and then at Indiana University Bloomington. As an immigrant to the United States, I study the United States from the outside and the inside. How Americans see themselves, and how they see others, is my main interest that I keep exploring from different angles.

John's book list on Russia in Western eyes

John Philipp Baesler Why did John love this book?

For readers following coverage of Russia in the American press, this treatment of recent US-Russian relations will be a revelation. Historian Stephen Cohen, while never downplaying the serious shortcomings of Russia under Vladimir Putin, provides a much-needed correction of the widespread idea that the dangerous decline of US-Russian relations is simply the fault of one man. Cohen meticulously chronicles the many American missteps since the end of the Cold War that any Russian leader would have had to consider acts of U.S. aggression. I love this book because it holds a mirror to American views of innocence and benevolence and paints a much more realistic picture of great power conflict than is presented in the news.

By Stephen F. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War with Russia? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prescient and even more relevant than when originally released in 2019, this Memorial Edition of War With Russia ? provides keen perspective to help readers understand the current Ukraine crisis. Are we in a new Cold War with Russia? Does Vladimir Putin really want to destabilize the West? War With Russia? answers these questions and more.

America is in a new Cold War with Russia even more dangerous than the one the world barely survived in the twentieth century. The Soviet Union is gone, but the two nuclear superpowers are again locked in political and military confrontations, now from Ukraine…


Book cover of The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West

Douglas Kellner Author Of American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald Trump

From my list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work since the 1970s has focused on the major political struggles of the day as they impact U.S. democracy and provide challenges for understanding and action. As a professional philosopher, I focused on ways that history, philosophy, and theory provide key tools for the interpretation and critique of salient issues. I've written books on U.S. politics and the media, the Gulf War and Iraq War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and am particularly interested in the interaction between Russia, the U.S., and Europe; hence, the rise of Putin in Russia, the New Cold War, and the 2020s conflict in Ukraine and the response of Western democracies.

Douglas' book list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy

Douglas Kellner Why did Douglas love this book?

Lucas’s book provides a geopolitical context for understanding Putin’s Russia and its relations with the West as a “New Cold War.” Lucas documents how Putin and his KGB cronies seized state power and the dominant institutions of Russian society in the early 2000s to form an autocratic state; how they merged with oligarchs controlling state economic institutions and formed a kleptocracy that used financial institutions and their resources to constitute autocratic state power. Lucas puts Putin, his KGB and military cronies, and the oligarchs in a geopolitical framework and demonstrates how their aggressive military and economic policies constitute a clear threat to the West, which Western leaders have not responded to, seeking instead to do business with Putin and Russia, misperceiving his geopolitical intentions. The conclusion indicates how the Western democratic countries need to band together to counter Putin’s threats and aggression, and need to develop a more aggressive counter-policy,…

By Edward Lucas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a preface by Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History. Revised and updated following Russia's attack on Georgia. In the 1990s, Russia was the sick man of Europe, but the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in 1999 coincided with a huge hike in world oil and gas prices, and after Yeltsin's downfall Putin set about re-establishing Russian autocracy. Now with its massive gas and oil reserves Russia has not only paid off its debts but amassed huge cash reserves which it is investing in easily accessible European businesses. Putin's Russia is hostile to open debate.…


Book cover of Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev

Douglas Kellner Author Of American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald Trump

From my list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work since the 1970s has focused on the major political struggles of the day as they impact U.S. democracy and provide challenges for understanding and action. As a professional philosopher, I focused on ways that history, philosophy, and theory provide key tools for the interpretation and critique of salient issues. I've written books on U.S. politics and the media, the Gulf War and Iraq War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and am particularly interested in the interaction between Russia, the U.S., and Europe; hence, the rise of Putin in Russia, the New Cold War, and the 2020s conflict in Ukraine and the response of Western democracies.

Douglas' book list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy

Douglas Kellner Why did Douglas love this book?

Andrey Kurkov is one of Ukraine’s most popular and best-known writers, acclaimed for the satirical Penquin Diaries and many other amusing and penetrating satires of Russia and Ukraine. His Diaries, written during 2014-2015 provide an illuminating first-hand account of the beginning of Russia’s plans to take-over Ukraine, beginning with the seizure of Crimea and Russia’s encouraging and arming of separatists in the Donbas region of Ukraine that is hotly contested militarily as I write in summer 2022. Kurkov combines insightful political analysis and documentation of the ongoing crisis in his country with poignant pictures of everyday life and his relations with his wife, children, and friends, ranging from personal crises to social celebrations. Kurkov also provides accounts of his literary activities and cultural activities in Ukraine and Europe, providing vibrant accounts of Ukraine culture, while also expressing his pro-democratic and often satirical and caustic accounts of Ukraine’s politics and…

By Andrey Kurkov, Sam Taylor (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ukraine Diaries as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed author Andrey Kurkov gives powerful insight into life in Kyiv following the 2013 protests and before the 2022 Russian invasion.

-16 DegreesC, sunlight, silence. I drove the children to school, then went to see the revolution. I walked between the tents. Talked with rev olutionaries. They were weary today. The air was thick with the smell of old campfires.

Ukraine Diaries is acclaimed writer Andrey Kurkov's first-hand account of the ongoing crisis in his country. From his flat in Kyiv, just five hundred yards from Independence Square, Kurkov can smell the burning barricades and hear the sounds of grenades…


Book cover of Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

The most recent book on the list, Timothy Frye’s Weak Strongman brings together many of the different factors and perspectives from previous readings. Rather than playing to contemporary stereotypes of the omnipotence of the Russian political system and its leader, Frye explores the limits of Putinism. It highlights the importance of maintaining a positive image for Russian public opinion, and how that weighs into the various policy tradeoffs and strategic decisions made by the Kremlin. These more distant, theoretical questions are couched in prescient and timely discussions of Putin’s enduring popularity, the prospects for Russia’s resource-based economy, the role of strategic repression and media manipulation, the roots of frayed relations with the West, and the questionable utility of foreign election meddling and cyber-warfare.

By Timothy Frye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Weak Strongman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looking beyond Putin to understand how today's Russia actually works

Media and public discussion tends to understand Russian politics as a direct reflection of Vladimir Putin's seeming omnipotence or Russia's unique history and culture. Yet Russia is remarkably similar to other autocracies-and recognizing this illuminates the inherent limits to Putin's power. Weak Strongman challenges the conventional wisdom about Putin's Russia, highlighting the difficult trade-offs that confront the Kremlin on issues ranging from election fraud and repression to propaganda and foreign policy.

Drawing on three decades of his own on-the-ground experience and research as well as insights from a new generation…


Book cover of Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order

Andrei P. Tsygankov Author Of Russia's Foreign Policy: Change and Continuity in National Identity

From my list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Russian academic living in the West and a contributor to both Western and Russian academia. I move between the two and try to build bridges by explaining the two sides’ differences and areas of potential cooperation. I do it in my teaching and research on international politics, which I understand through the lens of culture and politics. Most of my books analyze Russian and Western patterns of thinking formed through history and interaction with each other. I love reading good books about these topics and hope you enjoy my selected list!

Andrei's book list on Russia’s foreign policy after the Cold War

Andrei P. Tsygankov Why did Andrei love this book?

Russia remains a formidable power in international relations. While some in the West tend to dismiss Russia’s global capabilities, this book describes the country as a “good enough” power. It has a comprehensive review of Russia’s symmetrical and asymmetric capabilities including military, economic, geographic, and others. The author demonstrates that despite some shortcomings, Russia remains capable to challenge the West and its preferred international order and institutions. 

By Kathryn E. Stoner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russia Resurrected as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An assessment of Russia that suggests that we should look beyond traditional means of power to understand its strength and capacity to disrupt international politics.

Too often, we are told that Russia plays a weak hand well. But, perhaps the nations cards are better than we know. Russia ranks significantly behind the US and China by traditional measures of power: GDP, population size and health, and military might. Yet 25 years removed from its mid-1990s nadir following the collapse of the USSR, Russia has become a supremely disruptive force in world politics. Kathryn E. Stoner assesses the resurrection of Russia…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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