100 books like Between Two Fires

By Joshua Yaffa,

Here are 100 books that Between Two Fires fans have personally recommended if you like Between Two Fires. 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 Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?

David Satter Author Of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

From my list on contemporary Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the U.S.S.R. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He has been a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, and an associate of the Henry Jackson Society in London.

David's book list on contemporary Russia

David Satter Why did David love this book?

The late Karen Dawisha offers the best account so far of Putin's early career and the connections and corruption that paved his path to power. Her historical examples of Putin's greed and connections with organized crime shed important light on the way Russia is ruled today.

By Karen Dawisha,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Putin's Kleptocracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The raging question in the world today is who is the real Vladimir Putin and what are his intentions. Karen Dawisha’s brilliant Putin’s Kleptocracy provides an answer, describing how Putin got to power, the cabal he brought with him, the billions they have looted, and his plan to restore the Greater Russia.

Russian scholar Dawisha describes and exposes the origins of Putin’s kleptocratic regime. She presents extensive new evidence about the Putin circle’s use of public positions for personal gain even before Putin became president in 2000. She documents the establishment of Bank Rossiya, now sanctioned by the US; the…


Book cover of Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult

Mark Galeotti Author Of We Need to Talk about Putin: Why the West Gets Him Wrong, and How to Get Him Right

From my list on understand today’s Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s all about the stories. Although I have been a professor, a think-tanker, and a secondee to the Foreign Office, by training I am a historian, so I love compelling, vivid, extraordinary stories, and for me, the best ones come from Russia. Having been traveling there since Soviet times, done my Ph.D. on it, drunk there with spooks and gangsters, talked late in the night in the kitchens of artists and journalists, I am as hooked as I ever was, and privileged to be able to write, teach, lecture and think about this splendidly bizarre place.

Mark's book list on understand today’s Russia

Mark Galeotti Why did Mark love this book?

Most studies of modern Russia, under the shadow of Vladimir Putin, start from the top down. This elegantly quirky study, by a journalist working in Russia, looks bottom up: why has Russia so often been ruled by autocrats, and why did the Russian people – at first, at least – accept this rather grey ex-KGB officer as their new tsar so enthusiastically? It’s a biography of modern Russia more than anything else, framed around a range of characters Arutunyan encountered in her travels around this fascinating country.

By Anna Arutunyan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH RUSSIA’S 21ST CENTURY TSAR Vladimir V. Putin has confounded world leaders and defied their assumptions as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again. The Putin Mystique takes the reader on a journey through the Russia of Vladimir Putin, named by Forbes magazine in 2013 as the most powerful man in the world. It is a neo-feudal world where iPads, WTO membership, and Brioni business suits conceal a power structure straight out of the Middle Ages, where the Sovereign is perceived as both divine and demonic, where a man’s riches are…


Book cover of All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin

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?

Of course, it takes more than one man to run a country, and in All the Kremlin’s Men, opposition journalist Mikhail Zygar expands that scope to examine various important figures within Putin’s inner circle. From good friends to politicians, important bureaucrats, and oligarchs—and in many cases, the lines between those categories are very much blurred. Zygar builds on a decade’s worth of interviews and investigative journalism to give a rare, behind-the-scenes look at Russia’s elites, how they relate to one another, and to Putin. The book presents an immensely readable history of post-Soviet Russian politics, moving the chronology forward from 1980s reformism to the tumultuous 1990s, and into the era of High Putinism, with each chapter highlighting the role of this leader or that. The Russian-language original, Vsya kremlevskaya rat’, quickly became a bestseller in Russian nonfiction, which also resulted in ever greater political pressure by the Kremlin…

By Mikhail Zygar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Kremlin's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All the Kremlin's Men is a gripping narrative of an accidental king and a court out of control. Based on an unprecedented series of interviews with Vladimir Putin's inner circle, this book presents a radically different view of power and politics in Russia. The image of Putin as a strongman is dissolved. In its place is a weary figurehead buffeted--if not controlled--by the men who at once advise and deceive him.

The regional governors and bureaucratic leaders are immovable objects, far more powerful in their fiefdoms than the president himself. So are the gatekeepers-those officials who guard the pathways to…


Book cover of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

Stephan Lewandowsky Author Of The Debunking Handbook 2020

From my list on the perils facing democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had a lifelong interest in history and in particular the history of democracy. When I became a cognitive scientist, I initially studied basic memory processes using a mix of computer simulations and experimentation. I became interested in misinformation during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the purported “Weapons of Mass Destruction” never materialized but large segments of the American public continued to believe in their existence. Some 20 years later, misinformation has taken center stage in public life and has metastasized into a danger to democracy in many countries around the world. The books on this list should present a warning and inspiration to all of us.

Stephan's book list on the perils facing democracy

Stephan Lewandowsky Why did Stephan love this book?

This is a page-turner that I read in one go from front to finish. It reads like a thriller and keeps you hooked, although it is also a very serious analysis of contemporary Russia by one of the UK’s most skilled journalists and authors. It is as thrilling as it is frightening because there are so many signs that western countries are heading in a similar direction—a country that “is a dictatorship in the morning, a democracy at lunch, an oligarchy by suppertime, while, backstage, oil companies are expropriated, journalists killed, billions siphoned away”, as Peter put it in one of his memorable phrases.

By Peter Pomerantsev,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the new Russia, even dictatorship is a reality show. Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell's Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the glittering, surreal heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship--far subtler than twentieth-century strains--that is rapidly rising to challenge the West. When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook…


Book cover of Russia's War

Keir Giles Author Of Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West

From my list on why Russia is the way it is.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional explainer of Russia. For over 20 years I’ve been studying the country and trying to understand what makes it (and its leaders and people) so intent on attacking those around it and perceived adversaries further afield. That’s never been more important to understand than today when Ukraine and its soldiers are the only thing preventing Russia from once again rampaging across Europe. These books are ones that have helped me understand one part or several parts of the Russia problem, and I think they’ll be helpful for anybody else who wants to, too.

Keir's book list on why Russia is the way it is

Keir Giles Why did Keir love this book?

Another question I permanently get asked as a professional Russia-watcher is what Russia’s own population really thinks about its war on Ukraine and the atrocities committed there.

Surely, people think, if only ordinary Russians knew the truth about what their troops are doing in this unprovoked war of aggression – and how many of them are dying alongside innocent Ukrainian civilians and children – they would turn against the war. That’s why Jade McGlynn’s Russia’s War is such an important book.

Jade spent years researching Russian propaganda, its twisting of history, and the effect on what Russians think – and found, disturbingly, that yes, ordinary Russians really do support the horrors inflicted on Ukraine. It’s a disturbing read but another vital one for understanding what it will take to stop Russia.

By Jade McGlynn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the early hours of 24 February 2022, Russian forces attacked Ukraine. The brutality of the Russian assault has horrified the world. But Russians themselves appear to be watching an entirely different war - one in which they are the courageous underdogs and kind-hearted heroes successfully battling a malign Ukrainian foe.

Russia analyst Jade McGlynn takes us on a journey into this parallel military and political universe to reveal the sometimes monstrous, sometimes misconstrued attitudes behind Russian majority backing for the invasion. Drawing on media analysis and interviews with ordinary citizens, officials and foreign-policy elites in Russia and Ukraine, McGlynn…


Book cover of Black Wind, White Snow: Russia's New Nationalism

Keir Giles Author Of Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West

From my list on why Russia is the way it is.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional explainer of Russia. For over 20 years I’ve been studying the country and trying to understand what makes it (and its leaders and people) so intent on attacking those around it and perceived adversaries further afield. That’s never been more important to understand than today when Ukraine and its soldiers are the only thing preventing Russia from once again rampaging across Europe. These books are ones that have helped me understand one part or several parts of the Russia problem, and I think they’ll be helpful for anybody else who wants to, too.

Keir's book list on why Russia is the way it is

Keir Giles Why did Keir love this book?

So much of what Russia and its leaders say about their own country and its place in history makes no sense to the rest of the world. And as a result, I routinely get asked whether the fantasies that Russia creates for itself are genuine beliefs or just convenient fictions to excuse the Kremlin’s attacks against other countries or its own people.

Charles Clover, a former Financial Times correspondent in Moscow, charted how a particular strand of deranged nationalism took hold of Russia’s rulers – laying the groundwork for the war on Ukraine. This book helps understand not only the dangerous ideas promoted by Russia’s nationalist gurus but also how they now drive the Russian state to war.

It’s a sobering read and essential for understanding what it would take to divert Russia from being intent on regaining its empire. 

By Charles Clover,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Wind, White Snow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating study of the motivations behind the political activities and philosophies of Putin's government in Russia

"Part intellectual history, part portrait gallery . . . Black Wind, White Snow traces the background to Putin's ideas with verve and clarity."-Geoffrey Hosking, Financial Times

"Required reading. This is a vivid, panoramic history of bad ideas, chasing the metastasis of the doctrine known as Eurasianism. . . . Reading Charles Clover will help you understand the world of lies and delusions that is Eurasia."-Ben Judah, Standpoint

A powerful strain of Russian nationalism now lies at the heart of the Kremlin's political thinking:…


Book cover of First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President

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?

So much has been written about Vladimir Putin since he came to power, from long biographies to short psychological assessments to fleeting conspiracy theories, all to try to better understand Russia’s long-term leader. This book is a publication of a series of interviews he gave to three Russian journalists when he first came to power back in 1999/2000. So much has happened since, but I found this book to be full of fascinating insights into Putin himself, but also how he views Russian (political) culture, and also those around him that he has continued to rely on ever since. “Surely there are more details?” one of the interviewers asks. “Yes, there are,” comes his reply. But I think this is the place to start.

By Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who is this Vladimir Putin? Who is this man who suddenly- overnight and without warning- was handed the reigns of power to one of the most complex, formidable, and volatile countries in the world? How can we trust him if we don't know him? First Person is an intimate, candid portrait of the man who holds the future of Russia in his grip. An extraordinary compilation of over 24 hours of in-depth interviews and remarkable photographs, it delves deep into Putin's KGB past and explores his meteoric rise to power. No Russian leader has ever subjected himself to this kind…


Book cover of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

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?

You may recognize Fiona Hill from her damning testimony in the first impeachment of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, at which time she was senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she—along with co-author Cliff Gaddy—were two of the top minds on Russian politics at the Brookings Institute.

Together their book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin goes beyond the standard biographies of Vladimir Putin’s rise from the streets of Leningrad to the KGB to the Kremlin. More importantly, it highlights the variety of roles that Putin plays in the role he currently occupies: the embodiment of the state, the interpreter of Russian history, the survivalist, the outsider, the free marketeer, and the case officer. Understanding how Putin switches from one role to another atop the Russian political system is crucial to understand that system.

By Fiona Hill, Clifford G. Gaddy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fiona Hill and other U.S. public servants have been recognized as Guardians of the Year in TIME's 2019 Person of the Year issue.

From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West.

Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go?

The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge…


Book cover of Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West

Mark Hollingsworth Author Of Agents of Influence: How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies

From my list on the KGB, Russia and espionage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing about Russia for the past 20 years for all the UK national newspapers, The Spectator and contributed to several TV documentaries. I am fascinated by Russia which is a unique country and has been a major influence on the world for the past 100 years. Based on new documents, my book Londongrad - From Russia with Cash revealed how Russian Oligarchs made their wealth, moved it out of Russia, hid their fortunes and then parked and spent it in London. My new book - Agents of Influence - provides an insight into how the KGB influenced the West based on new archives.

Mark's book list on the KGB, Russia and espionage

Mark Hollingsworth Why did Mark love this book?

This is a painstaking investigation into corruption at the highest level in Putin's Kremlin. 

The book demonstrates in vivid detail how Putin installed a group of former KGB officers in power who then carved up Russia's strategic assets for themselves.

They targeted one company after another, probing weaknesses and exploiting the chequered past of every businessman who had made a fortune in the chaos of privatisation during the 1990s.

By Catherine Belton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Putin's People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller | A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Named a best book of the year by The Economist | Financial Times | New Statesman | The Telegraph

"[Putin's People] will surely now become the definitive account of the rise of Putin and Putinism." —Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic

"This riveting, immaculately researched book is arguably the best single volume written about Putin, the people around him and perhaps even about contemporary Russia itself in the past three decades." —Peter Frankopan, Financial Times

Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in…


Book cover of The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

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?

Myers presents a powerful narrative of Putin’s rise from being an apparent “accidental president” to his consolidation of power and ability to use state terror to achieve dictatorial power in an authoritarian regime. The biography chapters show Putin emerging as a teenage street thug whose family suffered during World War II to his rise in Leningrad and then Kremlin politics where he emerged as a KGB agent in Dresden during the Fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-90. Putin was obviously traumatized by this experience and returning to Russia he became involved in Kremlin politics, eventually succeeding Boris Yeltsin as President. Myers documents his increasingly authoritarian politics in the 2000s, including the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and his increasingly aggressive oppression of his opponents in Russia, and threatening foreign policy toward his neighbors and the West. Although Myers’ analysis ends in 2015, his study sets the stage for his…

By Steven Lee Myers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The epic tale of Vladimir Putin's path to power, as he emerged from obscurity to become one of the world's most important and dangerous leaders.

Former New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief Steven Lee Myers has followed Putin since well before the recent events in the Ukraine, and gives us the fullest and most engaging account available of his rise to power. A gripping, page-turning narrative about Russian power and prestige, the book depicts a cool and calculating leader with enormous ambition and few scruples. As the world struggles to confront a newly assertive Russia, the importance of understanding Putin…


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