100 books like Black Earth City

By Charlotte Hobson,

Here are 100 books that Black Earth City fans have personally recommended if you like Black Earth City. 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 Sakhalin Island

Sara Wheeler Author Of Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

From my list on to read when visiting Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sara Wheeler is a prize-winning non-fiction author. Sara is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Contributing Editor of The Literary Review, a Trustee of The London Library, and former chair of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. She contributes to a wide range of publications in the UK and US and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio. Her five-part series, ‘To Strive, To Seek’,  went out on Radio 4, and her book Cherry was made into a television film. 

Sara's book list on to read when visiting Russia

Sara Wheeler Why did Sara love this book?

The writer’s account of a journey across Siberia and into the Russian Far East to investigate prison conditions on an island in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan. A book of investigative journalism and a finely worked travel narrative conjuring spongy mud, ‘smoky, dreamy mountains’ and ‘lithe’ rivers while the author dreams of turbot, asparagus and kasha.

By Anton Chekhov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1890, the thirty-year-old Chekhov, already knowing that he was ill with tuberculosis, undertook an arduous eleven-week journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony on the island of Sakhalin. Now collected here in one volume are the fully annotated translations of his impressions of his trip through Siberia and the account of his three-month sojourn on Sakhalin Island, together with his notes and extracts from his letters to relatives and associates. Highly valuable both as a detailed depiction of the Tsarist system of penal servitude and as an insight into Chekhov's motivations and objectives for visiting the colony…


Book cover of On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers

Sara Wheeler Author Of Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

From my list on to read when visiting Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sara Wheeler is a prize-winning non-fiction author. Sara is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Contributing Editor of The Literary Review, a Trustee of The London Library, and former chair of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. She contributes to a wide range of publications in the UK and US and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio. Her five-part series, ‘To Strive, To Seek’,  went out on Radio 4, and her book Cherry was made into a television film. 

Sara's book list on to read when visiting Russia

Sara Wheeler Why did Sara love this book?

Also published in 1893, the same year as Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island. Marsden, a London-born nurse, found her vocation tending to sick and abandoned Russians. The book offers a remarkable portrait of the remotest reaches of the Russian Empire, as well as the author’s indomitable spirit.

By Kate Marsden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kate Marsden (1859-1931), the youngest of eight children from a poor family, was a highly committed nurse. She cared for soldiers in the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-8, and undertook missionary travels to various countries, but she was especially concerned about the plight of those suffering from leprosy. This volume, published in 1893, describes her remarkable journey to Siberian leper colonies. At first she travelled by sledge with a friend, but continued alone on horseback, facing appalling weather conditions with her customary courage. Her commitment to leprosy sufferers led her to found the St Francis Leprosy Guild in London in 1895,…


Book cover of Among the Russians

Steven Faulkner Author Of Bitterroot: Echoes of Beauty & Loss

From my list on travel that enrich landscape with history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After reading travel books that voyaged beyond mere tourism into the life of the land, its people, and its histories, I found myself longing to launch my own journeys. I took a thousand-mile canoe trip with my son following the 1673 route of the French explorers Marquette and Joliet; I crossed the Rockies with two sons by foot, mountain bike, and canoe following Lewis and Clark and their Nez Perce guides; I took to sea kayak and pontoon boat with a son and daughter, 400 miles along the Gulf Coast in pursuit of the 1528 Spanish Narvaez Expedition. Writing of these journeys gave me the chance to live twice.

Steven's book list on travel that enrich landscape with history

Steven Faulkner Why did Steven love this book?

Colin Thubron showed me real travel writing: a journey in words that leads the reader through detailed landscapes, personal encounters with local people, and a depth of understanding that can only come through the human history of these landscapes.

I took this trip with Thubron when Russia was still the Soviet Union. Thubron met dissidents living in Moscow, drank vodka with them late into the night, traveled north to the remnants of Soviet concentration camps, took the rails through that vast continent across the steppes, over the mountains, around huge lakes, all the way to the Pacific coast. The book is beautifully written and introduced me to a travel writer I have read many times since.

By Colin Thubron,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Among the Russians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thubron learnt Russian and entered the then Soviet Union in an old Morris Marina in which he camped and drove for almost 10,000 miles between the Baltic and Caucasus. This book provides a revealing picture of the many races who inhabit the country and the human side behind state socialism.


Book cover of Journey into Russia

Sara Wheeler Author Of Mud and Stars: Travels in Russia with Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Other Geniuses of the Golden Age

From my list on to read when visiting Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sara Wheeler is a prize-winning non-fiction author. Sara is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Contributing Editor of The Literary Review, a Trustee of The London Library, and former chair of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. She contributes to a wide range of publications in the UK and US and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio. Her five-part series, ‘To Strive, To Seek’,  went out on Radio 4, and her book Cherry was made into a television film. 

Sara's book list on to read when visiting Russia

Sara Wheeler Why did Sara love this book?

The author was an old fraud but this is a delightful period piece which reveals a good deal, sometimes inadvertently, about the lives of Russians in the benighted Soviet sixties.

Book cover of Looking for Mr. Smith: A Quest for Truth Behind The Long Walk, the Greatest Survival Story Ever Told

R. M. Mace Author Of Wolves of Russia

From my list on accounts of the Stalinist Siberian Deportations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read modern history as an undergraduate and then trained as a primary school teacher. Unsurprisingly, our classroom topics were often historical. My interest in the experiences of people, especially children, in Europe during WWII stems from the fact that my own father grew up in Germany and had numerous tales to tell. My first book was a recount of his wartime childhood. My father gave a copy of his book to his friend and neighbor who happened to be a Polish wartime veteran with his own remarkable stories to tell and this led to three years’ intensive historical research for his book.

R. M.'s book list on accounts of the Stalinist Siberian Deportations

R. M. Mace Why did R. M. love this book?

Having read The Long Walk, like so many others, I wondered about the identity of the character known as Mr. Smith, so I was intrigued to discover that Linda Willis had spent some ten years researching this character.

As I had myself spent three years trying to locate evidence to authenticate the story in my own book, I could empathize with all Linda’s frustration in following dead ends and scrabbling down rabbit warrens. 

By Linda Willis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Looking for Mr. Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn the facts behind the blockbuster film The Way Back.
Since 1956, The Long Walk has been, for many, the symbol of an immense love of freedom and has become one of the greatest true-life adventure stories of all time. The harrowing story about a group of POWs who escaped a labor camp in Siberia and walked to freedom in India during WWII deeply affected thousands of its readers, and Linda Willis was one of those moved by the story. But she had questions about its authenticity:

Was it all true?
What happened after their arrival in India?
Were there…


Book cover of Russia and the Idea of Europe: A Study in Identity and International Relations

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 has historically connected to Europe as its significant other. This book describes the nature of the country’s identity development through the love-hate relations with European nations and search for recognition by Western other. Sometimes, Russia has sought to borrow Europe’s institutions and values. Other times, it has positioned itself as a great power and a superior system of internal values relative to “corrupt” Europe. 

By Iver B. Neumann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The end of the Soviet system and the transition to the market in Russia, coupled with the inexorable rise of nationalism, brought to the fore the centuries-old debate about Russia's relationship with Europe. In this revised and updated second edition of Russia and the Idea of Europe, Iver Neumann discusses whether the tensions between self-referencing nationalist views and Europe-orientated liberal views can ever be resolved.

Drawing on a wide range of Russian sources, this book retains the broad historical focus of the previous edition and picks up from where the it off in the early 1990s, bringing the discussion fully…


Book cover of The Russian Tradition

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?

I found the first 100 pages of this book, covering Russia’s early history, to be the clearest explanation anywhere of how the country has developed – or failed to – the way it has.

It was published in 1974, so the frame of reference is the Soviet Union – but the way Tibor Szamuely drew on Russia’s early history to explain the present day is just as valid for post-Communist Russia. That proves the point: that Russia is condemned by its own history, and no social or political upheaval to date has enabled it to break free from that trap and move forward to be a country that can co-exist with others. 

By Tibor Szamuely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Russian Tradition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This analysis of Russian history traces the essential features of Revolutionary Russia back to medieval times when authoritarian rule first became a prerequisite of survival and is intended as a contribution to our understanding of the Soviet Union.


Book cover of Russia And The Russians

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?

I found it hard to choose between several of Edward Crankshaw’s books explaining Russia. Each, in its own way, uncovers a particular aspect of history or society that makes the country what it is. In the end, I settled on this, his first: published in 1947, not long after Crankshaw had been posted to Moscow during WWII, and while he was still reeling from the vast gulf between what he experienced there and the image of the USSR that was being sold abroad. 

Crankshaw was sometimes accused of being too sympathetic to Russia, but while he does his best to explain why the country behaves as it does, he doesn’t seek to excuse it. For that reason I find this one of the most clear-headed appraisals of Russia. And given the continuities that run through all of Russian history, his rationalising of how Russia works and what it does is…

By Edward Crankshaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the "public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank…


Book cover of Moscow - 2042

David Satter Author Of Never Speak to Strangers and Other Writing from Russia and the Soviet Union

From my list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet 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 Soviet Union. He has been affiliated with the Hudson Institute and the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is presently a member of the academic advisory board of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

David's book list on understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

David Satter Why did David love this book?

Vladimir Voinovich was probably the greatest Russian satirical writer since Gogol. After the fall of the U.S.S.R., he was asked if it was still possible to write satire in Russia. He insisted that it was. “The Soviet Union was a giant mental hospital but it was organized,” he explained. “Now, the inmates have been told that they can do whatever they want. So Russia is funnier than ever.”

In this novel, published in 1986, Voinovich demonstrated his stunning ability to divine the future. He described a new Russian regime dominated by state security and based not on Marxism-Leninism but on the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Like Russia today, the regime of his novel tells its citizens that they are surrounded by “three rings of hostility.” The first is the former Soviet republics; the second, the former Soviet satellites, the third, the West – the former “capitalist enemy.” This makes…

By Vladimir Voinovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moscow - 2042 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this satire that pokes fun at the future of communism, socialist life, and the Kremlin, an exiled Soviet writer enters a time warp and lands in Moscow in the year 2042.


Book cover of Archangel: A Novel

Michael Khodarkovsky Author Of Russia's 20th Century: A Journey in 100 Histories

From my list on Russia and USSR in the 20th Century.

Why am I passionate about this?

History has always been my passion. Since I was 16, I tried to understand the world around me and the forces that shaped it. I thought that history as a discipline provided the best answers. In the 1970s, because of the official anti-Semitism, it was impossible to get into the history department programs at the Soviet universities. Nonetheless, I resolved to study history after my emigration to the US in 1979 and joined a graduate program at the University of Chicago. For four decades I have been writing about Russian history, although I also read, teach, and write on global history.

Michael's book list on Russia and USSR in the 20th Century

Michael Khodarkovsky Why did Michael love this book?

A brilliant novel set in 1990s Russia. The plot involves Stalin and one of his deep secrets. The author seamlessly moves the story from the 1930s to 1990s and back. One rarely sees a historical novel so accurate in capturing the historical events and so utterly captivating. It is on par with some of the best thrillers.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

_______________________________________
'With Archangel, Robert Harris confirms his position as Britain's pre-eminent literary thriller writer' The Times

'He has a talent for heart-poundingly tense story-telling, and an ability to conjure up atmospheres almost palpable with menace' Sunday Times
_______________________________________
Deadly secrets lurk beneath the Russian ice.

Historian Fluke Kelso is in Moscow, attending a conference on recently unclassified Soviet papers, when an old veteran of the Soviet secret police visits his hotel room in the dead of night. He tells Kelso about a secret notebook belonging to Josef Stalin, stolen on the night of his death.

Though Kelso expects little, he…


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