10 books like Omon Ra

By Victor Pelevin, Andrew Bromfield,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Omon Ra. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

By Alexei Yurchak,

Book cover of Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation

Alexei Yurchak was part of the last Soviet generation—the last citizens born in the USSR who also lived through its collapse as adults. As the title suggests, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is a profound and poetic work about truth and what we come to accept as real. Yurchak wants to explain the paradox that, while Soviet people knew by the 1970s that their government was telling them almost nothing but untruths, they were still shocked to their core by their country’s demise. What I loved most about the book was Yurchak’s descriptions of ordinary life among his generation (their intriguing taste for the operatic qualities of metal, the elaborate public pranks they staged, the way they treated life like performance art). With pathos and humor in equal measure, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More paints a brilliant portrait of a world that millions of…

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

By Alexei Yurchak,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soviet socialism was based on paradoxes that were revealed by the peculiar experience of its collapse. To the people who lived in that system the collapse seemed both completely unexpected and completely unsurprising. At the moment of collapse it suddenly became obvious that Soviet life had always seemed simultaneously eternal and stagnating, vigorous and ailing, bleak and full of promise. Although these characteristics may appear mutually exclusive, in fact they were mutually constitutive. This book explores the paradoxes of Soviet life during the period of "late socialism" (1960s-1980s) through the eyes of the last Soviet generation. Focusing on the major…


Good Stalin

By Victor Erofeyev,

Book cover of Good Stalin

The Brezhnev era was when the Soviet elite decided not to come to terms with Stalin. This “fictional” memoir by one of Russia’s most interesting living writers is a penetrating meditation on fathers and sons, set against the backdrop of post-War Moscow. Erofeyev senior was Stalin’s official French interpreter, a believer in world revolution, avid tennis player, and tender parent. Erofeyev junior was a literary enfant terrible, who, by helping edit an almanac of underground writing in 1979, ended his father’s diplomatic career. The book is a beautifully crafted window into the personal and political of late communism.

Good Stalin

By Victor Erofeyev,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The novel Good Stalin is inspired by Erofeev's experience growing up amidst the Soviet political hierarchy. His father, a staunch Stalinist who has dedicated his life and soul to the party, begins as Stalin's personal interpreter, and rises rapidly to the top of the political ladder and into the leader's inner circle. The book reflects the family's prestigious - and yet precarious - position as members of the nomenklatura. In one memorable scene, the main character Victor recalls how he would walk past the Kremlin as a child and comment to friends, "that's where my father works - he and…


The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

By Joshua Rubenstein, Alexander Gribanov,

Book cover of The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

The emergence of a dissident movement and the KGB’s efforts to control it were one of the dramas of the Brezhnev era. What better way to read the history than through the agency’s reports on the period’s premier dissident? Andrei Sakharov, nuclear physicist and “Domestic Enemy Number One,” survived the mind games and isolation, emerging to lead the campaign for memory in the late 1980s as Gorbachev loosened up. The book is fascinating on the fumbling efforts of Politburo gerontocrats, who often seem confused and outplayed, as well as on the circumlocutions and ideological distortions of a security agency determined to blur the true character of its operations.  

The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

By Joshua Rubenstein, Alexander Gribanov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), a brilliant physicist and the principal designer of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, later became a human rights activist and-as a result-a source of profound irritation to the Kremlin. This book publishes for the first time ever KGB files on Sakharov that became available during Boris Yeltsin's presidency. The documents reveal the untold story of KGB surveillance of Sakharov from 1968 until his death in 1989 and of the regime's efforts to intimidate and silence him. The disturbing archival materials show the KGB to have had a profound lack of understanding of the spiritual and moral nature of…


The Suitcase

By Sergei Dovlatov,

Book cover of The Suitcase

Another literary take on the era that’s impossible to leave out. The suitcase of the title is the one Dovlatov took into exile when he rode the wave of Jewish emigration to New York in 1979. On the bottom of the suitcase, a picture of Karl Marx; on the inside lid, a photograph of Joseph Brodsky—and in between the debris of a life lived between the dual myths of revolution and poetry. Each story in the collection takes off from a different item in the suitcase—three pairs of Finnish stockings, a pair of driving gloves, a prison guard’s belt… Dovlatov is one of those authors who is hard to imagine writing in any other period—his style, mentality, humor, and turn of phrase are so perfectly attuned to time and place. Whimsical, dark, and often funny.

The Suitcase

By Sergei Dovlatov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Several years after emigrating from the USSR, the author discovers the battered suitcase he had brought with him gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe. As he opens the suitcase, the items he finds inside take on a riotously funny life of their own as Dovlatov inventories the circumstances under which he acquired them. A poplin shirt evokes a story of courtship and marriage, a pair of boots calls up the hilarious conclusion to an official banquet, two pea-green crepe socks bring back memories of his attempt to become a black-market racketeer, while a double-breasted suit reminds him of…


Almost Heaven

By Betty Ann Holtzmann Kevles,

Book cover of Almost Heaven: The Story of Women in Space

Based on extensive interviews with women astronauts and cosmonauts, this remarkable book traces the thorny path of women into the elite corps of space travelers. This book made me realize that, despite all ideological differences between the Cold War superpowers, the human spaceflight programs in both the Soviet Union and the United States were woefully similar in their cult of masculinity and competitive spirit. Kevles skillfully combines her sharp analysis of gender attitudes in different national space programs and historical periods with a poignant human story of women’s struggle for the right to fly into space.

Almost Heaven

By Betty Ann Holtzmann Kevles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The fascinating-and untold-tale of space-faring women, from Valentina Tereshkova to Kalpana Chawla. When we first blasted our way into space a generation ago, we did so with men from each of the superpowers. Women were excluded from one of the most exciting adventures of the century-and not because they weren't up to the challenge. In 1962, three accomplished female pilots took their case before the U.S. Congress, but they were dismissed as unpatriotic. We were in a Cold War-a space race-and NASA had already chosen the Mercury Seven to represent America. In Almost Heaven , acclaimed writer Bettyann Kevles gives…


The Cosmonaut Who Couldn't Stop Smiling

By Andrew L. Jenks,

Book cover of The Cosmonaut Who Couldn't Stop Smiling

This book explores the Soviet efforts to turn a living person into a propaganda icon that would embody and transmit communist values around the world. While Gagarin’s open and warm personality did resonate with wide audiences, he felt increasingly uneasy about his assigned public role, which forced him to lie, distort, and pretend. 

I find this well-documented story an excellent illustration of the Soviet use of cosmonauts in the propaganda machine: to function effectively as propaganda tools, the cosmonauts had to fulfill ritual public functions at the expense of training for new flights, and to swap their professional identity for the role of an ideologically engaged public speaker.

The Cosmonaut Who Couldn't Stop Smiling

By Andrew L. Jenks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cosmonaut Who Couldn't Stop Smiling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Let's go!" With that, the boyish, grinning Yuri Gagarin launched into space on April 12, 1961, becoming the first human being to exit Earth's orbit. The twenty-seven-year-old lieutenant colonel departed for the stars from within the shadowy world of the Soviet military-industrial complex. Barbed wires, no-entry placards, armed guards, false identities, mendacious maps, and a myriad of secret signs had hidden Gagarin from prying outsiders-not even his friends or family knew what he had been up to. Coming less than four years after the Russians launched Sputnik into orbit, Gagarin's voyage was cause for another round of capitalist shock and…


Spacefarers

By Michael J. Neufeld,

Book cover of Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight

I was fascinated by how much cultural representations of astronauts and cosmonauts reveal about our societies in this rich and diverse volume. US pop culture is analyzed through astronaut gender representations in TV series, different portrayals of pilots-astronauts and scientists-astronauts in the movies, and the use of American frontier mythology tropes. Comparing representations of spacefarers in different national cultures shows that even glossy magazines carried an ideological message: Soviets traced their achievements to the advantages of socialism, while Americans touted liberty and openness. Finally, cultural attitudes are revealed by media attention to the changing professional, gender, and race demographics of the astronaut corps in the 1980s. In particular, the media treated women astronauts differently from men by emphasizing their feminine traits and family life instead of focusing on space work.

Spacefarers

By Michael J. Neufeld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The recent 50th anniversaries of the first human spaceflights by the Soviet Union and the United States, and the 30th anniversary of the launching of the first U.S. Space Shuttle mission, have again brought to mind the pioneering accomplishments of the first quarter century of humans in space. Historians, political scientists and others have extensively examined the technical, programmatic and political history of human spaceflight from the 1960s to the 1980s, but work is only beginning on the social and cultural history of the pioneering era. One rapidly developing area of recent scholarship is the examination of the images of…


Full Moon

By Michael Light, Andrew Chaikin,

Book cover of Full Moon

As explorers carrying cameras, the Gemini and Apollo astronauts (1965-72) were like the pioneer photographers of the 19th century who, with their cameras, responded to the unknowns of the American West. These astronauts, however, were responding to the new and unexplored by photographing their experiences inside their spacecraft and outside in the vacuum of space. During the late 90s the photographer Michael Light gained access to NASA’s Apollo-era photo archive and made the first drum-scanned digital files from perfect copies of the original flight films. Light’s artful editing and juxtaposition of superbly reproduced full-page black and white, and color images creates a cinematic-like journey to the moon and back. In the annals of published space photography, there are very few well-designed books as timeless.

Full Moon

By Michael Light, Andrew Chaikin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The most thrilling of all journeys--the missions of the Apollo astronauts to the surface of the Moon and back--yielded 32,000 extraordinarily beautiful photographs, the record of a unique human achievement. Until recently, only a handful of these photographs had been released for publication; but now, for the first time, NASA has allowed a selection of the master negatives and transparencies to be scanned electronically, rendering the sharpest images of space that we have ever seen. Michael Light has woven 129 of these stunningly clear images into a single composite voyage, a narrative of breathtaking immediacy and authenticity that begins with…


Irina

By Keisuke Makino, karei (illustrator),

Book cover of Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

In this Japanese light novel, vampires are an oppressed people living in a country adjoining a Soviet Union-like country, the Republic of Zirnitra. In this world, almost all of the stories you've heard about vampires being evil and hunting humans are Zirnitran propaganda, but vampires do drink blood and are sensitive to sunlight. Irina is a young vampire woman who volunteers to be a test subject for the Zirnitran space program so she can get closer to the moon, which she loves. The story is based on the real Soviet space program of the 1960s and I rooted for Irina as she overcame her own fears and Zirnitran oppression to fly in orbit and see her beloved moon up close before any human went into orbit.

Irina

By Keisuke Makino, karei (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fierce space race between two global superpowers gives rise to the Nosferatu Project, a top-secret plan to train up some unusual cosmonauts - vampires! When Lev Leps, a human soldier, is ordered to supervise vampire test subject Irina Luminesk, the unlikely pair bonds over their shared dream of reaching the stars. Together, can the human and vampire duo rise above the chaos and corruption down on Earth and blast off into the final frontier?


All-American Boys

By Walter Cunningham,

Book cover of All-American Boys

Cunningham was one of those mean little SOBs, and his attitude was hardly improved when his astronaut career was torpedoed by the bad behavior of his mission commander on Apollo 7, Wally Schirra, which tainted the entire crew for the NASA brass. It turns out that Cunningham could also write, and the result is this pungent memoir — the title is loaded with irony. It is the least constrained of all the astronaut memoirs, unmistakably in Cunningham’s own pugnacious voice. 

All-American Boys

By Walter Cunningham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

EDITORIAL REVIEW: *The All-American Boys* is a no-holds-barred candid memoir by a former Marine jet jockey and physicist who became NASA's second civilian astronaut. Walter Cunningham presents the astronauts in all their glory in this dramatically revised and updated edition that was considered an instant classic in its first edition over two decades ago. From its insider's view of the pervasive "astropolitics" that guided the functioning of the astronaut corps to its thoughtful discussion of the Columbia tragedy, *The All-American Boys* resonates with Cunningham's passion for humanity's destiny in space which endures today. This is a story of the triumph…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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