100 books like Behind Putin's Curtain

By Stephan Orth,

Here are 100 books that Behind Putin's Curtain fans have personally recommended if you like Behind Putin's Curtain. 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 Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

Henry Virgin Author Of Exit Rostov

From my list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats.

Why am I passionate about this?

Certain books have the ability to inspire you or help you go beyond the boundaries of your understanding, to teach you something new or to show you how to look at things differently, to alter and enhance your perception. Each of these texts have encouraged and enchanted me, with hard-won truths. I appreciate the style of writing which draws you further and further into the author's psyche, and thus into your own, like deep diving into uncharted depths. Also, as someone who tries to write poetry and prose, I find each of these writers have a refreshing and interesting technique and method of communicating their thoughts and ideas.

Henry's book list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats

Henry Virgin Why did Henry love this book?

If you would like to try and understand the Soviet and post-Soviet psyche, these first-hand, verbatim interviews from 1991-2012, by Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian Nobel Laureate, question and discuss what it means and meant to be a Soviet. With a wide selection of individual testimonies from different backgrounds of the Soviet Union, from ordinary folk to officials, prisoners, relatives of those who were murdered, the executioners, the book also investigates how they coped when the Soviet Union broke down. Written from transcribed, spoken recordings, these documentary / reportage texts get to the heart of the matter—often that there is a gaping vacancy in the place of what one had previously believed in, from one's earliest of days, even before becoming a red-scarfed Pioneer. When one's whole philosophical fabric has been torn down, how do you exist? How do you cope and make sense of the world? What really is so…

By Svetlana Alexievich, Bela Shayevich,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Secondhand Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia, from Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY • LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Wall Street Journal • NPR • Financial Times • Kirkus Reviews

When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the…


Book cover of Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lisa Dickey is an author and book collaborator who’s helped write 20+ nonfiction books, including 10 New York Times Best Sellers. She’s also a Russophile from way back:  her first post-college job was working as a nanny at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union. Lisa began her writing career in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, writing for the Moscow Times and USA Today, and she’s the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia.

Lisa's book list on the Russian people

Lisa Dickey Why did Lisa love this book?

Alex Halberstadt’s paternal grandfather was the last living bodyguard for Josef Stalin. His maternal grandparents were Lithuanian Jews who watched firsthand as their world caught fire in the Holocaust. And Alex, who grew up in Moscow but moved to New York as a teenager, is now an out gay American man. From this mad tapestry of personal history, Halberstadt weaves an incredibly moving story of identity, family, and inherited trauma.

By Alex Halberstadt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Young Heroes of the Soviet Union as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this “urgent and enthralling reckoning with family and history” (Andrew Solomon), an American writer returns to Russia to face a past that still haunts him. 
 
NAMED ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS’ TOP BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Alex Halberstadt’s quest takes him across the troubled, enigmatic land of his birth, where decades of Soviet totalitarianism shaped and fractured three generations of his family. In Ukraine, he tracks down his paternal grandfather—most likely the last living bodyguard of Joseph Stalin. He revisits Lithuania, his Jewish mother’s home, to examine the legacy of the Holocaust and the pernicious anti-Semitism that…


Book cover of A Russian Journal

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lisa Dickey is an author and book collaborator who’s helped write 20+ nonfiction books, including 10 New York Times Best Sellers. She’s also a Russophile from way back:  her first post-college job was working as a nanny at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union. Lisa began her writing career in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, writing for the Moscow Times and USA Today, and she’s the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia.

Lisa's book list on the Russian people

Lisa Dickey Why did Lisa love this book?

While sipping cocktails in a New York City bar in the late 1940s, John Steinbeck and the famed war photographer Robert Capa began musing about Russia. “What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner? Do they have parties?... How do they make love, and how do they die?” Though gallons of ink were routinely spilled in newspaper stories about the political situation there, no one covered the private lives of the Russian people, which is what these two great artists wanted to know about. So, they decided to find out for themselves. They detail the fruits of their fascinating and frequently madcap journey in A Russian Journal.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Steinbeck and Capa’s account of their journey through Cold War Russia is a classic piece of reportage and travel writing.

A Penguin Classic

Just after the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travelers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad – now Volgograd – but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. Hailed by the New York Times as "superb" when it first appeared in 1948, A Russian Journal…


Book cover of Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lisa Dickey is an author and book collaborator who’s helped write 20+ nonfiction books, including 10 New York Times Best Sellers. She’s also a Russophile from way back:  her first post-college job was working as a nanny at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union. Lisa began her writing career in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, writing for the Moscow Times and USA Today, and she’s the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia.

Lisa's book list on the Russian people

Lisa Dickey Why did Lisa love this book?

I’m recommending this because if have any interest in Russia but haven’t yet read it, you simply must. No, really, listen: You must. David Remnick writes like Muhammad Ali boxed: with grace, power, and an unfair amount of skill. This is a deeply researched, carefully crafted, incredibly absorbing account of the final days of the Soviet Union. Never mind the “tomb” title; the book is filled with colorful characters and delicious slices of life, all captured during a time of historic upheaval.

By David Remnick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times 

From the editor of The New Yorker: a riveting account of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which has become the standard book on the subject. Lenin’s Tomb combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism. Remnick takes us through the tumultuous 75-year period of Communist rule leading up to the collapse and gives us the voices of those who lived through it, from democratic activists to Party members, from anti-Semites to Holocaust survivors, from Gorbachev…


Book cover of Authoritarianism Goes Global: The Challenge to Democracy

Natasha Lindstaedt Author Of Democratic Decay and Authoritarian Resurgence

From my list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a political science professor who has always been interested in authoritarian regimes, how they function, and how they control their citizens. In particular, I find it fascinating why citizens may genuinely adore and respect the (sometimes outrageous) autocrats that lead them, even though they rule with an iron fist. Additionally, the rise of authoritarianism in democracies also caught my attention. Terms like “slow-moving coups” and “insurrections” are being used when referring to democracies now. In some ways, this is shocking to me—but it’s motivated me to better understand how this happenedand the ways in which autocracies and democracies seem to be mimicking each other.

Natasha's book list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian

Natasha Lindstaedt Why did Natasha love this book?

Authoritarian Goes Global is an edited volume by Larry Diamond, Marc Plattner, and Christopher Walker—all distinguished experts in the study of democracy—which explains why authoritarian regimes have been so resilient. More specifically, the book offers evidence of how authoritarian regimes have been able to defend against democracy promotion, and in some cases, spread authoritarian norms and tactics. To help understand this better, the book provides interesting case studies on some of the most notable autocracies such as China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela—and also gives insights into how authoritarian regimes use new (and old) tools of propaganda and surveillance to control their citizens. For example, if you want to understand why Russia has shifted to a war footing, this book explains why this happened.

By Larry Diamond (editor), Marc F. Plattner (editor), Christopher Walker (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Authoritarianism Goes Global as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the past decade, illiberal powers have become emboldened and gained influence within the global arena. Leading authoritarian countries-including China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela-have developed new tools and strategies to contain the spread of democracy and challenge the liberal international political order. Meanwhile, the advanced democracies have retreated, failing to respond to the threat posed by the authoritarians. As undemocratic regimes become more assertive, they are working together to repress civil society while tightening their grip on cyberspace and expanding their reach in international media. These political changes have fostered the emergence of new counternorms-such as the authoritarian…


Book cover of Véra: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov

Megan Marshall Author Of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

From my list on women’s writing on women’s lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the grown-up little girl who loved to read. I loved novels and children’s biographies—Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Annie Oakley. I imagined that if I could learn to write books that inspired readers and moved them to tears like my favorite books, I would have accomplished a great good. My first biography, The Peabody Sisters, took twenty years and won awards for historical writing. My second biography, Margaret Fuller, won the Pulitzer. But what matters more than all the prizes is when people tell me they cried at the end of my books. I hope you, too, will read them and weep over lives lived fully and well.    

Megan's book list on women’s writing on women’s lives

Megan Marshall Why did Megan love this book?

Stacy Schiff is a master biographer. Any subject she chooses (Cleopatra, Benjamin Franklin, Antoine de St. Exupéry, the accused witches of Salem) is elevated by the passion and persistence she brings to research and writing. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Véra Nabokov, the wife of Vladimir, is another pioneering work that proves you don’t have to be at center stage to be worthy of a book. What did Véra do for Vladimir, and he for her? This is no take-down, not the kind of exposé that reveals the great man’s wife as the true genius, exploited and forgotten. It’s a love story of equals, two against (and for) the world.

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the award–winning author of The Revolutionary and The Witches comes “an elegantly nuanced portrait of [Vladimir Nabokov’s] wife, showing us just how pivotal Nabokov’s marriage was to his hermetic existence and how it indelibly shaped his work.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
ONE OF ESQUIRE’S 50 BEST BIOGRAPHIES OF ALL TIME

“Monumental.”—The Boston Globe
“Utterly romantic.”—New York magazine
“Deeply moving.”—The Seattle Times

Stacy Schiff brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time: Vladimir Nabokov, émigré author of Lolita; Pale Fire;…


Book cover of Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

Fergus Craik Author Of Memory

From my list on how your memory works – and why it often doesn't.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a cognitive psychologist, originally from Scotland, but I have lived and worked in Canada for the last 50 years, first at the University of Toronto, and then at a research institute in Toronto. My passion has always been to understand the human mind – especially memory – through experimental research. Memory is fundamental to our mental life as humans; to a large extent it defines who we are. It is a complex and fascinating topic, and my career has been devoted to devising experiments and theories to understand it better. In our recent book, Larry Jacoby and I attempt to pass on the excitement of unravelling these fascinating mysteries of memory.

Fergus' book list on how your memory works – and why it often doesn't

Fergus Craik Why did Fergus love this book?

This classic book, unlike others in the list, is not so much about memory, as a collection of the author’s memories of his childhood and early years.

Nabokov was born into a wealthy family in pre-Revolutionary Russia in 1899. His childhood in St. Petersburg and at the family’s country estate are described in loving detail, as are aspects of later years in England, Germany, and France. Nabokov was one of the great writers of the 20th Century, and the memories are recounted in his glowing and evocative prose.

His writing is nostalgic, but also wryly humorous, aware that many aspects of his early life are gone forever. Many of the chapters first appeared as articles in The New Yorker; all are eminently readable. 

By Vladimir Nabokov,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Speak, Memory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An autobiographical volume which recounts the story of Nabokov's first forty years up to his departure from Europe for America at the outset of World War Two. It tells of his emergence as a writer, his early loves and his marriage, and his passions for butterflies and his lost homeland. Written in this writer's characteristically brilliant, mordant style, this book is also a tender record of lost childhood and youth in pre-Revolutionary Russia.


Book cover of The Memoirs of Princess Dashkova

Susan Broomhall Author Of The Identities of Catherine de’ Medici

From my list on women and power in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Professor and Director of the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre at the Australian Catholic University. I've always been interested in the power of ideologies about gender to shape people’s lives, and in the experiences of women in times past. I started off exploring these topics in early modern Europe and then looked at how women, and ideas about gender, shaped the ways European peoples engaged in the world at this period. This has helped me to see the very significant ways that the lives of women and men are always shaped by gender ideologies across the globe and across time, and the innovative ways that people respond to the challenges and opportunities that they encounter.

Susan's book list on women and power in history

Susan Broomhall Why did Susan love this book?

The eighteenth-century Russian princess Ekaterina Dashkova deserves your attention. This well-travelled woman was a friend of Catherine the Great, an author and playwright, wrote one of the earliest autobiographies known in Russia, held public office as President of the Academy of Sciences, and was instrumental in establishing the Russian Academy, of which she then became Director. 

Her entertaining memoirs take us into the inner circle of the Empress’ world, offer an entrée into the literary salons of Europe, and allow us to listen in on her scientific and intellectual exchanges with Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Diderot. Long accessible only in French, the language of Russian aristocratic society, this English edition opens up her world to new readers.

By Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova (1743-1810), Russian princess, playwright, author, President of the Academy of Sciences, and founder and Director of the Russian Academy, was one of the first women in Europe to hold public office. Her memoir, among the earliest examples of autobiography in Russia, is part of what has become a long and powerful tradition of autobiographical writing by Russian women. It offers a rare glimpse into the life of a strong and outspoken public figure who was well recognized in much of her own time for her potent intellect but who died in isolation and has largely been forgotten…


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 Russian Economy: A Very Short Introduction

Andrew Monaghan Author Of Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition

From my list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures. I started to learn Russian in 1998, and intrigued by the language, I began to study Russia more—delving into history and politics and then doing a PhD in Russian foreign policy. Ever since, trying to learn about and understand Russia has been my professional focus. Alongside books in Russian, these books are all to hand on my reference shelf, well-thumbed and marked up, as I try to write my own work. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! 

Andrew's book list on Russia and why the Kremlin does what it's doing

Andrew Monaghan Why did Andrew love this book?

The strength and resilienceor notof the Russian economy is one of the most important questions in international affairs since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022: policymakers and observers alike are asking what effects the wide-ranging sanctions are having, and whether the Russian economy will implode, thwarting Moscow’s aggression. I’m not an economist so I need help understanding this, and I found this book to be the best introduction to this complex and difficult subject. Connolly also wrote a fine book on the impact of sanctions on Russia since 2014, but I think this one gives a concise and accessible assessment of the Russian economy as a whole, the role of the state, and Moscow’s attempted diversification of economic partners and integration into the global economy.

By Richard Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Russia today is as prominent in international affairs as it was at the height of the Cold War. Yet the role that the economy plays in supporting Russia's position as a 'great power' on the international stage is poorly understood. For many, Russia's political influence far exceeds its weight in the global economy. However, Russia is one of the largest economies in the world; it is not only one of the world's most important exporters of oil and gas, but also of other
natural resources, such as diamonds and gold. Its status as one of the largest wheat and grain…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, Iran, and the Soviet Union?

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