100 books like A Sacred Space Is Never Empty

By Victoria Smolkin,

Here are 100 books that A Sacred Space Is Never Empty fans have personally recommended if you like A Sacred Space Is Never Empty. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

Shira Shmuely Author Of The Bureaucracy of Empathy: Law, Vivisection, and Animal Pain in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain

From my list on getting familiar with multispecies history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination and emotional connection with animals have been lifelong. However, it wasn't until my second year as an undergrad student that I realized that human-animal relationship could be examined from philosophical, historical, and anthropological perspectives. Over the past couple of decades, the conversations around the roles of non-human animals in diverse cultural, social, and material contexts have coalesced under the interdisciplinary field known as Animal Studies. I draw upon this literature and use my training in law and PhD in the history of science to explore the ties between knowledge and ethics in the context of animal law.  

Shira's book list on getting familiar with multispecies history

Shira Shmuely Why did Shira love this book?

This is an extraordinary study about life in and around the strait between the Pacific and Arctic oceans, home for Iñupiaq, Yupik, and Chukchi people and many other lively things, before and after the arrival of Russian and American colonial powers.

I admire the nuanced way in which Demuth exemplifies how capitalist and communist resource management transformed not only human but also animal cultures (whales, for example, strategize against whaling ships).

By Bathsheba Demuth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Floating Coast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Along the Bering Strait, through the territories of the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia, Bathsheba Demuth explores an ecosystem that has long sustained human beings. Yet when Americans and Europeans arrived, the area became the site of an experiment and the modern ideologies of production and consumption, capitalism and communism were subject to the pressures of arctic scarcity.

Demuth draws a vivid portrait of the sweeping effects of turning ecological wealth into economic growth and state power over the past century and a half. More urgent in a warming climate and as we…


Book cover of A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia

Paul W. Werth Author Of 1837: Russia's Quiet Revolution

From my list on Russian history—with an imperial twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been studying Russia and its history for over 30 years and find that it continues to intrigue me. Having previously focused my attention on religion and its imperial dimensions (including The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths, with Oxford University Press in 2014), I have more recently sought to understand the importance of Russia’s nineteenth century and I am now exploring the history of Russia’s territory with a view to writing a history of the longest border in the world. I teach at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Paul's book list on Russian history—with an imperial twist

Paul W. Werth Why did Paul love this book?

This is a remarkable book that defies categorization. Establishing a concept of property that existed between private property and the property of the state, Pravilova imaginatively unites a seemingly unrelated collection of topics: forests, rivers, icons, copyright, archaeological treasures, and much more besides. She offers a profoundly new way of thinking about property and about Russians’ attitudes towards ownership. Deeply rooted in the particularities of Russia, the book also raises issues of universal significance.

By Ekaterina Pravilova,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Public Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Property rights" and "Russia" do not usually belong in the same sentence. Rather, our general image of the nation is of insecurity of private ownership and defenselessness in the face of the state. Many scholars have attributed Russia's long-term development problems to a failure to advance property rights for the modern age and blamed Russian intellectuals for their indifference to the issues of ownership. A Public Empire refutes this widely shared conventional wisdom and analyzes the emergence of Russian property regimes from the time of Catherine the Great through World War I and the revolutions of 1917. Most importantly, A…


Book cover of The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution

Paul W. Werth Author Of 1837: Russia's Quiet Revolution

From my list on Russian history—with an imperial twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been studying Russia and its history for over 30 years and find that it continues to intrigue me. Having previously focused my attention on religion and its imperial dimensions (including The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths, with Oxford University Press in 2014), I have more recently sought to understand the importance of Russia’s nineteenth century and I am now exploring the history of Russia’s territory with a view to writing a history of the longest border in the world. I teach at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Paul's book list on Russian history—with an imperial twist

Paul W. Werth Why did Paul love this book?

This is a book of uncommon imagination and historical reconstruction. It focuses on the life of the eccentric Baron von Ungern-Shternberg and uses the Baltic German aristocrat’s adventures to reveal key characteristics of the late Russian Empire and the early Soviet years. Especially striking is the book’s geographical scope, which ranges from Austria to Mongolia and stops at many places in between. Written in engaging and fluid prose, the book is a truly original work of historical imagination that allows one to understand Russia and its place in the wider world—and in Asia, in particular.

By Willard Sunderland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Baron's Cloak as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (1885-1921) was a Baltic German aristocrat and tsarist military officer who fought against the Bolsheviks in Eastern Siberia during the Russian Civil War. From there he established himself as the de facto warlord of Outer Mongolia, the base for a fantastical plan to restore the Russian and Chinese empires, which then ended with his capture and execution by the Red Army as the war drew to a close.

In The Baron's Cloak, Willard Sunderland tells the epic story of the Russian Empire's final decades through the arc of the Baron's life, which spanned the vast…


Book cover of The Jewish Century

Jannis Panagiotidis Author Of The Unchosen Ones: Diaspora, Nation, and Migration in Israel and Germany

From my list on the history of German, Jewish, and Eastern European migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for the topic of migration was kind of overdetermined, given that my grandparents were refugees, my father is an immigrant, and I have been on the move quite a bit myself. It might not have been a conscious choice to study something so close to home, but the more I think about it, the less likely it seems that this was all a coincidence. This personal dimension might also explain my choice of books, which all combine scholarly-analytics with deeply human perspectives on the topic of migration.

Jannis' book list on the history of German, Jewish, and Eastern European migration

Jannis Panagiotidis Why did Jannis love this book?

Yuri Slezkine’s classic book on the history of Russian Jewry is not a work of migration history strictly speaking. But there is no Jewish history without migration, and Slezkine shows us, among many other things, how Russian Jews ended up in the US, Israel, and the Soviet Union, representing three ideological choices—liberalism, nationalism, and communism.

I read this book back in university, and few works, if any, have had such a profound impact on my historical thinking.

By Yuri Slezkine,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Jewish Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This masterwork of interpretative history begins with a bold declaration: "The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieth century, in particular, is the Jewish Century." The assertion is, of course, metaphorical. But it drives home Yuri Slezkine's provocative thesis: Jews have adapted to the modern world so well that they have become models of what it means to be modern. While focusing on the drama of the Russian Jews, including emigres and their offspring, The Jewish Century is also an incredibly original account of the many faces of modernity-nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and liberalism. Rich in its insight, sweeping…


Book cover of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union

Fabian Baumann Author Of Dynasty Divided: A Family History of Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism

From my list on the long prehistory of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was through learning Russian in my Swiss high school that I first got interested in the history of Eastern Europe. When I became fascinated by the theory of nationalism during my university studies, my geographical focus shifted to Ukraine, a society whose aspiration to nationhood has been repeatedly been contested by the neighboring great powers. For my first book, I researched the history of a fascinating nationally bifurcated family whose members have left archival traces from Moscow to Liubljana and from Kyiv to Stanford. I hold a BA degree from the University of Geneva, an MPhil from the University of Oxford, and a PhD from the University of Basel.

Fabian's book list on the long prehistory of Russia’s war against Ukraine

Fabian Baumann Why did Fabian love this book?

Putin’s war, among other things, is aimed at reversing Ukraine’s move towards independence after the crumbling of the Soviet Union in the wake of Gorbachev’s perestroika.

Serhii Plokhy, one of the most respected experts in Ukrainian history, explains in detail how the Ukrainian party leadership and population played a central role in the dissolution of the union. An essential read to understand the processes that ultimately led towards Ukraine’s democratization and towards the rise of a revisionist authoritarianism in Russia.

By Serhii Plokhy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On Christmas Day, 1991, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation to declare an American victory in the Cold War: earlier that day Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned as the first and last Soviet president. The enshrining of that narrative, one in which the end of the Cold War was linked to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the triumph of democratic values over communism, took centre stage in American public discourse immediately after Bush's speech and has persisted for decades,with disastrous consequences for American standing in the world.As Prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy reveals in The Last Empire ,…


Book cover of The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev's Adaptability, Reagan's Engagement, and the End of the Cold War

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?

This book tells it like it is: The end of the Cold War was not the fulfillment of President Reagan’s grand plan to destroy communism, but neither was it the natural outcome of the decline of the Soviet Empire. In Wilson’s telling, based on an array of documents from both sides of the Iron Curtain, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism were, more than anything else, an accident. At crucial points, decision-makers on both sides made the right calls, but they had to respond to events that increasingly took on a dynamic of their own. I love this book because it emphasizes that history is chaos: Not random, but unpredictable!

By James Graham Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Triumph of Improvisation, James Graham Wilson takes a long view of the end of the Cold War, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. Drawing on deep archival research and recently declassified papers, Wilson argues that adaptation, improvisation, and engagement by individuals in positions of power ended the specter of a nuclear holocaust. Amid ambivalence and uncertainty, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, and George H. W. Bush-and a host of other actors-engaged with adversaries and adapted to a rapidly changing international environment and information age in which global…


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 Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War

Gerhard Weinberg Author Of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II

From my list on World War 2.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gerhard Weinberg fled Germany at the end of 1938 and experienced the first year of World War II – including the beginning of the Blitz – in England. He completed his PhD after serving in the US Army of Occupation in Japan, researched the captured German documents, established the program for microfilming them, and after writing an analysis of the origins of World War II decided to prepare a book covering the war as a whole.

Gerhard's book list on World War 2

Gerhard Weinberg Why did Gerhard love this book?

A truly extraordinary examination of the army that would do a majority of the fighting and suffer as well as inflict the largest portion of the military casualties of the European part of World War II. The "Bibliographic Essay and Selective Bibliography" is extraordinarily helpful in its account of the fate of Soviet archives and publications over the years.

By David M. Glantz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Germany's surprise attack on June 22, 1941, shocked a Soviet Union woefully unprepared to defend itself. The day before the attack, the Red Army still comprised the world's largest fighting force. But by the end of the year, four and a half million of its soldiers lay dead. This new study, based on formerly classified Soviet archival material and neglected German sources, reveals the truth behind this national catastrophe.

Drawing on evidence never before seen in the West-including combat records of early engagements-David Glantz claims that in 1941 the Red Army was poorly trained, inadequately equipped, ineptly organized, and consequently…


Book cover of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I read this unforgettable, true story, cover to cover while sitting for hours in the Denver airport waiting for a long-delayed flight to Seattle.

Thanks to Ben Macintyre’s brilliance, my day of stress became a meaningful and hugely informative adventure into the double life of Oleg Gordievsky. How this man, like his father and brother, joined the KGB; why certain realities and events during his KGB assignments changed him; what motivated his decision to become a double agent for British intelligence; and how he survived it all filled this saga with astute lessons about espionage.

There’s a simple yet profound line that stuck with me about the double life, something like: You love those around you while you conceal your true inner self.

By Ben Macintyre,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Spy and the Traitor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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