100 books like Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Here are 100 books that Doctor Zhivago fans have personally recommended if you like Doctor Zhivago. 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 Memoirs of Hadrian

Larry Mellman Author Of The Man With Sapphire Eyes

From my list on historical fiction with a twist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved historical fiction as a reader, but my passion to write it caught fire during the years I lived in Venice, Italy, when I discovered the curious institution of the ballot boy within the Byzantine complexities of the thousand-year Venetian Republic. Since ballot boys were randomly chosen over a period of six hundred years, choosing my particular Doge and ballot boy required a survey of the entire field before I circled in on Venice, 1368, IMHO the peak brilliance of that maritime empire. It is a peculiarity of history that the names of all 130 doges of Venice are recorded, but none of their ballot boys are mentioned. The challenge was irresistible. 

Larry's book list on historical fiction with a twist

Larry Mellman Why did Larry love this book?

It’s not Hadrian’s love affair with the beautiful boy Antinous that swept me off my feet, nor the way Hadrian makes him a god after his mysterious death and builds a city dedicated to worshiping him.

That’s only a small part of a book overflowing with the emperor’s interior life, his fears and doubts and dreams. Yourcenar spent most of her life on and off writing this book, her life’s work. Filled with the exhilaration and perplexity of achieving absolute power and then holding onto it, we experience Hadrian as a profoundly paradoxical genius from the inside out. 

By Grace Frick, Marguerite Yourcenar,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Memoirs of Hadrian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Framed as a letter from the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian is translated from the French by Grace Frick with an introduction by Paul Bailey in Penguin Modern Classics.

In her magnificent novel, Marguerite Yourcenor recreates the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world. The Emperor Hadrian, aware his demise is imminent, writes a long valedictory letter to Marcus Aurelius, his future successor. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing his accession, military triumphs, love of poetry and music, and the philosophy that informed his powerful…


Book cover of Cold Mountain

David L. Robbins Author Of War of the Rats

From my list on love and war and describing both battlefields.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve penned (so far) seventeen novels, most set during some historical conflict or other, all of them revolving around intense personal relationships (loyalty, love, betrayal, those sorts of profound truths). I tend to read the sorts of books I wish to write. I also teach creative writing at a university (VCU); I tell my students that if they want to really know what a character is made of, shoot at them or have them fall in love. In my own work, I do both.

David's book list on love and war and describing both battlefields

David L. Robbins Why did David love this book?

When Inman decides he’s had enough of the Civil War, he takes a very long walk home. Along his path, he encounters the detritus of the conflict in shattered land and people. Meanwhile, his love, Ada, tries to cobble together some remnants of her former life.

Maybe a book out of fashion these days because it’s set in the defeated South, and that I understand. However, it remains a masterclass in style, vision, plot, and insight. 

By Charles Frazier,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Cold Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1997, Charles Frazier’s debut novel Cold Mountain made publishing history when it sailed to the top of The New York Times best-seller list for sixty-one weeks, won numerous literary awards, including the National Book Award, and went on to sell over three million copies. Now, the beloved American epic returns, reissued by Grove Press to coincide with the publication of Frazier’s eagerly-anticipated second novel, Thirteen Moons. Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada, the woman he loves.…


Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Jill Wallace Author Of War Serenade

From my list on impossible odds and satisfying endings.

Why am I passionate about this?

My ultimate read is when the action is fast, but the character's discovery of self is slow. Besides, being engrossed in the challenges of others makes my own pale by comparison. The author needs to get me to empathize with the characters - even if their struggles are nothing like my own - and once they’ve done that, I’ll be in for the long haul! Journeying through life’s mire and finding the rainbow with a character you believe - and believe in - makes for the ultimate in vicarious living. And ‘Heck, YES’ to a satisfying ending!

Jill's book list on impossible odds and satisfying endings

Jill Wallace Why did Jill love this book?

This book, with its prose as poetry, made me want to read it again the minute I finished. To absorb Mr. Doerr’s majestic words was to be transformed into a little blind girl with the heart of a lion, the wit of a comic, the determination of a world leader. I became Marie-Laure LeBlanc and felt all the while sublimely grateful that I could see. And then I met Werner Flemming and wept for him. I understood him. I was deeply moved by him. 

I felt it was profoundly destined that these two should meet and fall in love, but my imagination carried me far into the future. I was surprised to find though I should have been disappointed, I was not. You see, this book made me realize that while many people touch our lives, some can change the course of our trajectory even by a single degree. And…

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2015 PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR FICTION

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…


Book cover of The Wealth of Nations

Sylvana Tomaselli Author Of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

From my list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.

Sylvana's book list on the eighteenth-century you should read for yourself

Sylvana Tomaselli Why did Sylvana love this book?

Even though Adam Smith is often said to be the father of all that is good or bad about capitalism very few people have read his famous Wealth of Nations. Why? Well, 1) they think they already know what’s in it: no government intervention in the economy, thank you. 2) It is two volumes. 3) It must be very dreary because it is about economics, and 4) they are not good at economics or math.  

But read it for yourself, and you will find that it is readable, nuanced, and you can skip the bits that you can’t make out, enjoy the examples, and decide for yourself what he actually argued and whether you agree with it or not.

By Adam Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. First published in 1776, the book offers one of the world's first collected descriptions of what builds nations' wealth, and is today a fundamental work in classical economics. By reflecting upon the economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the book touches upon such broad topics as the division of labour, productivity, and free markets.


Book cover of Parade's End

Reiner Prochaska Author Of Captives

From my list on characters who preserve their humanity in war.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in postwar Germany, I have always been fascinated by how people survive wars emotionally and retain their humanity. In my extensive research for Captives, I came across an account of a German soldier in North Africa, whose tank had been hit and was engulfed in flames. A human torch, he jumped from the tank, expecting to be killed by British soldiers who were nearby. Instead, they rolled his body in the sand to extinguish the flames and called a medic, saving his life. This act of humanity moved me and inspired me to make the preservation of one’s humanity in war the central theme in my novel.

Reiner's book list on characters who preserve their humanity in war

Reiner Prochaska Why did Reiner love this book?

Parade’s End has been described by Mary Gordon as “the best fictional treatment of war in the history of the novel.” 

What made me truly connect with the story is its protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, who serves in the British Army during the “Great War.”

A member of a prominent, landowning family, Tietjens is driven by a strong sense of duty and commitment to marriage and country—whatever the cost to himself. Although he is in love with Valentine, he remains married to his promiscuous wife, Sylvia, and accepts as his son a child who may not be his.

But Tietjens’ experiences in the trenches on the Western Front eventually teach him that truth and happiness are more important than societal duties.

By Ford Madox Ford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ford Madox Ford's great masterpiece exploring love and identity during the First World War, in a Penguin Classics edition with an introduction by Julian Barnes.

A masterly novel of destruction and regeneration, Parade's End follows the story of aristocrat Christopher Tietjens as his world is shattered by the First World War. Tracing the psychological damage inflicted by battle, the collapse of England's secure Edwardian values - embodied in Christopher's wife, the beautiful, cruel socialite Sylvia - and the beginning of a new age, epitomized by the suffragette Valentine Wannop, Parade's End is an elegy for both the war dead and…


Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Genevieve Kingston Author Of Did I Ever Tell You?: A Memoir

From my list on young women on journeys of self-discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young girl and aspiring writer, I was shocked when I learned how recently women had been afforded the right to publish under our own names. As a life-long reader of female authors, and lover of complex female protagonists, I’m passionate about supporting and sharing stories by and about women. As an author and playwright, I love to seek out buried narratives or minor characters, and put them center stage. I hope you enjoy these extraordinary books by these extraordinary women.

Genevieve's book list on young women on journeys of self-discovery

Genevieve Kingston Why did Genevieve love this book?

I’m always astonished and grateful when someone who has lived through extraordinary events also has the skill to describe them brilliantly.

Tara Westover’s gorgeous writing won me over before I could even begin to appreciate the strange, dangerous, and ever-shifting terrain of her childhood. Her descriptions of growing up in a fundamentalist, survivalist home with no formal education, and no official record of her existence, never stopped surprising me as I gobbled up the pages.

I was amazed and inspired by her determination to forge her own path as an adult and to see the world for herself rather than simply accept the stories she’d always been told.

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Educated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Selected as a book of the year by AMAZON, THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES, ECONOMIST, NEW STATESMAN, VOGUE, IRISH TIMES, IRISH EXAMINER and RED MAGAZINE

'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…


Book cover of My Family and Other Animals

Ayser Salman Author Of The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit in

From my list on new worlds that made me feel less like an outsider.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Iraq, and grew up mostly in the Southern United States—with a brief stint in Saudi Arabia. My father taught me the importance of books and reading. And I found it was the best way to escape from the constant fish-out-of-water feeling that followed me through my nomadic childhood. I grew up, and grew out of those feelings… most of the time. But I never outgrew reading and I still love when a book sucks me in and makes me lose myself completely. These are a few of those books. 

Ayser's book list on new worlds that made me feel less like an outsider

Ayser Salman Why did Ayser love this book?

I was nine and still getting used to life in America after moving from Iraq five years prior, when my family moved us to Saudi Arabia. Scared and lonely, I felt more like an outsider than ever before and reading became my solace. I discovered this hilarious book and instantly fell in love with it; mainly because it depicted the author’s dysfunctional British family during their time living abroad in Corfu. In addition to the humor that naturally comes from “fish out of water” stories, it was the first time I’d read a literary account about a family as colorful as mine. It encouraged me to view my family not as a source of annoyance (as I’d been doing prior to that point) but as a source of entertainment.

By Gerald Durrell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked My Family and Other Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind ITV's hit family drama, The Durrells.

My Family and Other Animals is Gerald Durrell's hilarious account of five years in his childhood spent living with his family on the island of Corfu. With snakes, scorpions, toads, owls and geckos competing for space with one bookworm brother and another who's gun-mad, as well as an obsessive sister, young Gerald has an awful lot of natural history to observe. This richly detailed, informative and riotously funny memoir of eccentric family life is a twentieth-century classic.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics…


Book cover of Wolf Totem

Fan Wu Author Of Beautiful as Yesterday

From my list on China’s cultural revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in China, I grew up on a remote state-run farm where my parents, as condemned intellectuals during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, lived for 20 years. It wasn't until mid-80s they were allowed to return. I have heard many stories and read many books about this tumultuous period in China. I didn’t know much about my parents’ personal experiences until I was in my 30s. Today’s China is very different but I believe that history extends its roots deep into the present. As a writer, what interests me the most is the impact of history on individuals and society. My latest book is a historical wartime novel set in China and Europe.

Fan's book list on China’s cultural revolution

Fan Wu Why did Fan love this book?

Rong’s Wolf Totem is not a typical Cultural Revolution book, and its focus is on relationships between humans and the wildlife of the grasslands. The protagonist is an urban youth, who’s a Han (the majority ethnic group in China), sent to inner Mongolia for “reeducation.” While trying to raise a wolf cub captured from the wild, he encounters a cultural clash between the Han Chinese and the locals, learns about the wolf and other wildlife, and reflects on history, nature, and humanity. 

By Jiang Rong, Howard Goldblatt (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen volunteers to live in a remote settlement on the border of Inner and Outer Mongolia, where he discovers life of apparent idyllic simplicity amongst the nomads and the wild wolves who roam the plains. But when members of the People's Republic swarm in from the cities to bring modernity and productivity to the grasslands, the peace of Chen's solitary existence is shattered, and the delicate balance between humans and wolves is disrupted. Only time will tell whether the grasslands' environment and culture will ever recover...

Wolf Totem has been a sensation ever since it shot to…


Book cover of Small Island

Eleanor Shearer Author Of River Sing Me Home

From my list on history in all its strange and unsettling glory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I fell in love with History as an academic subject, I fell in love with stories. And as the granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants, true stories of my grandparents’ early lives could transport me to another place as vividly as fiction. So although I have studied History to Master’s level, where I specialized in the legacy of slavery, it is always to fiction that I turn to breathe life into the past. My favourite books are those that are unsettling in the unfamiliarity of the world they create, and yet deeply moving because, at heart, the characters are motivated by timeless and human things like grief, ambition, or love. 

Eleanor's book list on history in all its strange and unsettling glory

Eleanor Shearer Why did Eleanor love this book?

This novel is about the experience of the Windrush generation – the Caribbean people who moved to Britain after the Second World War.

Andrea Levy so perfectly captures the experiences of these people that I feel like I can see my own grandparents on the page.

But what I love most about this book is that it sees itself as telling a part of British history – showing how the Caribbean and Britain were connected, but also exploring with equal empathy the experiences of white British characters during and after the War.

As someone mixed race, it is so rare to find books that speak to both sides of my heritage, and this is one of them. 

By Andrea Levy,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Small Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hortense shared Gilbert's dream of leaving Jamaica and coming to England to start a better life. But when she at last joins her husband, she is shocked by London's shabbiness and horrified at the way the English live. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was. Queenie's neighbours do not approve of her choice of tenants, and neither would her husband, were he there. Through the stories of these people, Small Island explores a point in England's past when the country began to change.


Book cover of Ninety-Three

Joy Sheridan Author Of Charity Amour

From my list on the French Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by the Regency Period, and because of this fascination, I explored its historical context in full. That includes, of course, the French Revolution and its repercussions in England and globally. I am also obsessed with the literary concept of the heroine, and wanted to create characters who in some ways synthesized Moll Flanders and Jane Eyre, bridging the gap between 18th and 19th Century expression.

Joy's book list on the French Revolution

Joy Sheridan Why did Joy love this book?

A total feeling for the pulse of the Revolution, and a focus on its core in that fatal year – the end of the Monarchy, the ushering-in of the Reign of terror. Its reverberations spread everywhere. It gave me such a strong sense of the decadence of the ancien régime, and the fury of the populace that aroused.  

By Victor Hugo,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ninety-Three as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ninety-Three (1874) is the final novel of Victor Hugo. As a work of historical fiction, the story is set during the period of conflict between the newly formed French Republic and the Royalists who sought to reverse the gains of the revolution. Praised for its morality and honest depiction of the horrors of war, Ninety-Three influenced such wide-ranging political thinkers as Joseph Stalin and Ayn Rand. "The soldiers forced cautiously. Everything was in full bloom; they were surrounded by a quivering wall of branches, whose leaves diffused a delicious freshness. Here and there sunbeams pierced these green shades." Advancing through…


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