100 books like Moscow Diary

By Walter Benjamin, Gary Smith (editor), Richard Sieburth (translator)

Here are 100 books that Moscow Diary fans have personally recommended if you like Moscow Diary. 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 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 Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language

Andreea Ritivoi Author Of Intimate Strangers: Arendt, Marcuse, Solzhenitsyn, and Said in American Political Discourse

From my list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Romania, a closed society during the Cold War, and I never expected to live anywhere else, especially not in the West. When communism ended, I rushed out of Eastern Europe for the first time, eager to find places and people I could only read about before. I also discovered the power longing and homesickness can have on defining our identities. I moved to the United States, where I now live and work, cherishing my nostalgia for the world I left behind, imperfect as it was. The books I read and write are always, in one way or another, about traveling across cultures and languages.

Andreea's book list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself

Andreea Ritivoi Why did Andreea love this book?

This is a Cold War chronicle of homesickness and identity change, written by a Polish woman who came to Canada as a child with her family.

Hoffman had to learn not only how to live in a radically new culture, or how to speak a new language, but also how to get used to a new name and to a new lifestyle. This book showed me how to make a potentially cheap sentiment, nostalgia, into a tool of lucid introspection.

As an immigrant myself, I learned from Hoffman to not feel like I must choose between loyalties—to my previous self, before I left my country, and to who I am now, in a new culture. In key moments, Hoffman likes to imagine who she would have been if she had stayed in Poland, not to compare to who she is in North America but to find a third, middle point…

By Eva Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lost in Translation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A marvelously thoughtful book . . . It is not just about emigrants and refugees. It is about us all." -The New York Times

When her parents brought her from the war-ravaged, faded elegance of her native Cracow in 1959 to settle in well-manicured, suburban Vancouver, Eva Hoffman was thirteen years old. Entering into adolescence, she endured the painful pull of nostalgia and struggled to express herself in a strange unyielding new language.

Her spiritual and intellectual odyssey continued in college and led her ultimately to New York's literary world yet still she felt caught between two languages, two cultures.…


Book cover of In Other Words

Andreea Ritivoi Author Of Intimate Strangers: Arendt, Marcuse, Solzhenitsyn, and Said in American Political Discourse

From my list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Romania, a closed society during the Cold War, and I never expected to live anywhere else, especially not in the West. When communism ended, I rushed out of Eastern Europe for the first time, eager to find places and people I could only read about before. I also discovered the power longing and homesickness can have on defining our identities. I moved to the United States, where I now live and work, cherishing my nostalgia for the world I left behind, imperfect as it was. The books I read and write are always, in one way or another, about traveling across cultures and languages.

Andreea's book list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself

Andreea Ritivoi Why did Andreea love this book?

At the height of her success as an American writer, Lahiri moved to Italy to pursue her dream of mastering the Italian language.

She got more than what she had hoped for—a new voice, not just a new language. But this discovery comes after many trials and tribulations that show her that a language is a whole universe that demands we completely re-invent, not merely translate ourselves. 

This is the memoir of a writer who is keenly aware of language as a key part of our human condition, bilingual already before leaving Italy (in Bengali and English) and never fully at home in any language.

Italian teaches her the humbleness of sounding simple and modest; the courage of making mistakes; the patience to build a vocabulary, storing new words like a collector obsessed with having more and more items; the confidence to speak with natives, including judgmental ones who always…

By Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

National Best Seller

On a post-college visit to Florence, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri fell in love with the Italian language. Twenty years later, seeking total immersion, she and her family relocated to Rome, where she began to read and write solely in her adopted tongue. A startling act of self-reflection, In Other Words is Lahiri’s meditation on the process of learning to express herself in another language—and the stunning journey of a writer seeking a new voice.


Book cover of Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir

Andreea Ritivoi Author Of Intimate Strangers: Arendt, Marcuse, Solzhenitsyn, and Said in American Political Discourse

From my list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Romania, a closed society during the Cold War, and I never expected to live anywhere else, especially not in the West. When communism ended, I rushed out of Eastern Europe for the first time, eager to find places and people I could only read about before. I also discovered the power longing and homesickness can have on defining our identities. I moved to the United States, where I now live and work, cherishing my nostalgia for the world I left behind, imperfect as it was. The books I read and write are always, in one way or another, about traveling across cultures and languages.

Andreea's book list on memoirs about crossing cultures to find yourself

Andreea Ritivoi Why did Andreea love this book?

Written in elegant prose and with vivid visual detail, this book uncovers an exotic lost world—lost both to the author, with the death of her parents, and to all of us, with the march of history.

This is the world of a British bookshop owner and his Italian-born wife, in Cairo after World War II, in the years leading up to the 1952 revolution that marked the awakening of independent feeling in Egypt. The city Warner uncovers, on the brink of the revolution and after a devastating war, is her childhood paradise, and she is not afraid to portray it as exotic even as she understands the risk of betraying a colonial gaze.

To recreate this world, she uses not only old photographs and her own memories, but also artefacts, from furniture to clothing, shoes, most of all books (not just their content, but as objects), which she researches meticulously,…

By Marina Warner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By one of the finest English writers of our time, a luminous memoir that travels from southern Italy to the banks of the Nile, capturing a lost past both personal and historical.

Marina Warner’s father, Esmond, met her mother, Ilia, while serving as an officer in the British Army during the Second World War. As Allied forces fought their way north through Italy, Esmond found himself in the southern town of Bari, where Ilia had grown up, one of four girls of a widowed mother. The Englishman approaching middle age and the twenty-one-year-old Italian were soon married. Before the war…


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 Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey

Robin Cherry Author Of Garlic, an Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology Behind the World's Most Pungent Food--With Over 100 Recipes

From my list on traveling that are also insanely funny.

Why am I passionate about this?

Robin Cherry is a Cleveland-raised, Hudson Valley-based author of Garlic: An Edible Biography and Catalog: An Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping. When not zeroing in on the microhistory of unusual things, she writes about food, wine, and travel. Her father’s family hails from Moldova which may explain why two of the five books on this list are about, or include, chapters on, Moldova. The fact that two concern Mongolia is inexplicable as she’s never been there. Her story on visiting Moldova was included in Lonely Planet’s 2016 Travel Anthology. 

Robin's book list on traveling that are also insanely funny

Robin Cherry Why did Robin love this book?

Legendary physicist Richard Feynman’s intrigue with the remote Siberian country of Tanaa Tuva was inspired by the country’s triangular postage stamps he collected as a child. As an adult, he asked his friend, Ralph Leighton if he knew anything about the country and when the two men discovered the capital was the “legitimate vowel-less” Kyzyl, they become obsessed with visiting it. Feynman and Leighton spent over ten years trying to reach Tuva, foiled by ridiculous Soviet bureaucracy and ultimately, Feynman’s death from cancer. While the ending is bittersweet, this story of friendship and obsession is a fitting tribute to Feynman’s passion, playfulness, and curiosity. 

By Ralph Leighton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1977, Feynman and his sidekick- fellow drummer and geography enthusiast Ralph Leighton-set out to make arrangements to visit Tuva, doing noble and hilarious battle with Soviet red tape, befriending quite a few Tuvans, and discovering the wonders of Tuvan throat-singing. Their Byzantine attempts to reach Tannu Tuva would span a decade, interrupted by Feynman's appointment to the committee investigating the Challenger disaster, and his tragic struggle with the cancer that finally killed him. Tuva or Bust! chronicles the deepening friendship of two zany, brilliant strategists whose love of the absurd will delight and instruct. It is Richard Feynman's last,…


Book cover of The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga

Bill Murray Author Of Out in the Cold: Travels North: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada

From my list on to understand the high north.

Why am I passionate about this?

There’s nothing like personal experience. You have to read the literature, it’s true. That’s how we’ve all met here at Shepherd. But you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to visiting, too, if you want to write about travel. I first approached the Arctic in 1991 and I return above sixty degrees north every year, although I must confess to a secret advantage; I married a Finn. We spend summers at a little cabin north of Helsinki. I know the region personally, I keep coming back, and I invite you, whenever you can, to come up and join us!

Bill's book list on to understand the high north

Bill Murray Why did Bill love this book?

This is through and through simply a gorgeous little book.

I enjoyed rereading it for this article. The largest body of fresh water on earth is Lake Baikal, not far east of Irkutsk in Siberia.

(If you’ve never heard of Baikal, that’s a measure of the variety of wonders to be found in the high north. Baikal holds so much water because it’s so deep: the world’s deepest at more than 5300 feet). If you ever have the opportunity you must visit.

My wife and I have traveled together a good bit, and I don’t feel we’re cloistered in any way, but to turn up in the ramshackle town of Listvyanka, Russia, at the beginning of this century, and then to charter a small boat to cross Baikal made me feel, I don’t know, maybe like Dorothy in the Emerald City.

I was just a total alien in a place…

By Sylvain Tesson, Linda Coverdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sylvain Tesson, found a radical solution to his need for freedom, one as ancient as the experiences of the hermits of old Russia: he decided to lock himself alone in a cabin in the middle taiga, on the shores of Baikal, for six months. Noting carefully his impressions of the silence, Sylvain Tesson shares with us an extraordinary experience.


Book cover of One Hot Summer in St. Petersburg

Catriona Kelly Author Of St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past

From my list on modern St Petersburg.

Why am I passionate about this?

I particularly enjoyed writing this book about a city that I love and have visited many times (starting in the late 1970s, when I was a student), and whose history I know well too. Most books, by foreigners anyway, talk about the city from a distance; I wanted to write something visceral, about sounds and smells as well as sights, and above all, how locals themselves think about their city, the way in which its intense and in some respects oppressive past shapes St Petersburg’s life today – yet all the same, never gets taken too seriously. Readers seem to agree: as well as an appreciative letter from Jan Morris, whose travel writing I’ve always admired, I treasure an email message from someone who followed my advice and tramped far and wide – before ending up in the room for prisoners’ relatives to drop off parcels at Kresty (the main city prison) when he wrongly assumed he was using an entrance to the (in fact non-existent) museum.

Catriona's book list on modern St Petersburg

Catriona Kelly Why did Catriona love this book?

An extraordinary, high-pitched, Munchausenesque account of a visit to only-just-post-Soviet Leningrad during an especially overheated period of recent history. Not at all like the genteel memories of champagne receptions at the Mariinsky Theatre followed by strolls down the Moika during the White Nights that one gets in other travelogues.

By Duncan Fallowell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Hot Summer in St. Petersburg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of Fallowell's time spent in St Petersburg during the summer of 1992. He was there to write a novel, but was seduced away from his work by the world of clubs, bars and restaurants, and the extraordinary architecture. He also fell in love with Dima, a 17-year-old naval cadet.


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 57 Hours: A Survivor's Account of the Moscow Hostage Drama

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?

Vesselin Nedkov was in Moscow on a business trip when he decided to buy a ticket to the Broadway style musical Nord-Ost, which was being shown at the Theater on Dubrovka. This book is his harrowing account of the ordeal as the theater and its thousand visitors were seized by armed terrorists and held for 57 hours before being "liberated" by the Russian special forces who attacked the theater with lethal gas. Rich in detail, his book also raises the many unanswered questions about the massive loss of innocent life. 

By Vesselin Nedkov, Paul Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 57 Hours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To celebrate the last night of a business trip in Moscow, Canadian resident Vesselin Nedkov and a friend picked up two tickets to the hottest musical in town. Halfway through the show, his life was changed forever. 57 Hours is Nedkov's harrowing account of being trapped between two immovable and unpredictable forces: inside the theatre, suicidal Chechen rebels, loaded with explosives, demanded an end to the bloody civil war that was ravaging Chechnya; outside, Russian special forces prepared to storm the theatre, refusing to negotiate with the rebels. Through fifty-seven hours of fear and fatigue, Nedkov discovered courage and ingenuity…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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