100 books like On the Edge

By Franck Billé, Caroline Humphrey,

Here are 100 books that On the Edge fans have personally recommended if you like On the Edge. 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 The Russian Far East: A History

Sören Urbansky Author Of Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

From my list on Russia in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sören Urbansky was born and raised in East Germany next to the Iron Curtain. Since embarking on an overland journey from Berlin to Beijing after high school, he became hooked by peoples’ lifeways in Northeast Asia. In college, Sören began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by Russia and China, the world’s largest and most populous countries. He has published widely on this pivotal yet forgotten region. Sören is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington and is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments from a global perspective.

Sören's book list on Russia in Asia

Sören Urbansky Why did Sören love this book?

When I met John J. Stephan for the first time in 2017 in Honolulu, I immediately recognized the wit, irony, and ascetic prose style that I had encountered in his monographs about the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin Island, and the Russian fascists of Manchuria. Stephan has always succeeded in bridging the ideological schisms separating Russian, Chinese, and Japanese historians as a politically uninvolved bystander and avid traveler. Since the 1960s, Stephan was a frequent visitor of the Soviet Far East. He had many friends and colleagues who shared their hopes, worries, and anecdotes. His most important work is The Russian Far East. Published in 1994, it is the result of almost three decades of research and the ultimate proof that even in a Cold War world without access to archives, historians do not have to resort to wild guessing but can produce accurate, intimate, and entertaining historiography. His comprehensive history of…

By John J. Stephan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first truly comprehensive history of the Russian Far East in any language, this magisterial work reconstructs the area's experience from paleolithic times to the present. Wedged between China, Korea, Japan, and the United States, the Russian Far East has long been a meeting ground for Eurasian and Pacific peoples and cultures. Conventionally regarded as a peripheral region, it in fact has a unique identity and dynamic. The author adopts a Eurasian perspective to chronicle the area's rich history.


Book cover of Spies and Scholars: Chinese Secrets and Imperial Russia’s Quest for World Power

Sören Urbansky Author Of Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

From my list on Russia in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sören Urbansky was born and raised in East Germany next to the Iron Curtain. Since embarking on an overland journey from Berlin to Beijing after high school, he became hooked by peoples’ lifeways in Northeast Asia. In college, Sören began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by Russia and China, the world’s largest and most populous countries. He has published widely on this pivotal yet forgotten region. Sören is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington and is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments from a global perspective.

Sören's book list on Russia in Asia

Sören Urbansky Why did Sören love this book?

In recent years, we have seen a surge in books on contemporary Russia-China relations. Gregory Afinogenov’s Spies and Scholars takes us back to their humble beginnings in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. This pioneering study sheds new light on how the emergence of the Russian Empire as a global power was shaped through intelligence gathering in imperial China. A must-read not only for historians. 

By Gregory Afinogenov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

The untold story of how Russian espionage in imperial China shaped the emergence of the Russian Empire as a global power.

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire made concerted efforts to collect information about China. It bribed Chinese porcelain-makers to give up trade secrets, sent Buddhist monks to Mongolia on intelligence-gathering missions, and trained students at its Orthodox mission in Beijing to spy on their hosts. From diplomatic offices to guard posts on the Chinese frontier, Russians were producing knowledge everywhere, not only at elite institutions like the…


Book cover of We Shall Be Masters: Russian Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin

Sören Urbansky Author Of Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

From my list on Russia in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sören Urbansky was born and raised in East Germany next to the Iron Curtain. Since embarking on an overland journey from Berlin to Beijing after high school, he became hooked by peoples’ lifeways in Northeast Asia. In college, Sören began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by Russia and China, the world’s largest and most populous countries. He has published widely on this pivotal yet forgotten region. Sören is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington and is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments from a global perspective.

Sören's book list on Russia in Asia

Sören Urbansky Why did Sören love this book?

Chris Miller has written a well-argued account of Russia’s various attempts to gain great power status in the Asia-Pacific over the five centuries – and its repeated setbacks. Russia’s imperial expansion to Alaska, Hawaii, and California reminds us that Russia’s expansionist dreams often amounted to little. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is another example that Putin’s ambitions in the East are restrained by the country’s firm rooting in Europe.

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Shall Be Masters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An illuminating account of Russia's attempts-and failures-to achieve great power status in Asia.

Since Peter the Great, Russian leaders have been lured by opportunity to the East. Under the tsars, Russians colonized Alaska, California, and Hawaii. The Trans-Siberian Railway linked Moscow to Vladivostok. And Stalin looked to Asia as a sphere of influence, hospitable to the spread of Soviet Communism. In Asia and the Pacific lay territory, markets, security, and glory.

But all these expansionist dreams amounted to little. In We Shall Be Masters, Chris Miller explores why, arguing that Russia's ambitions have repeatedly outstripped its capacity. With the core…


Book cover of To the Harbin Station: The Liberal Alternative in Russian Manchuria, 1898-1914

Sören Urbansky Author Of Beyond the Steppe Frontier: A History of the Sino-Russian Border

From my list on Russia in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sören Urbansky was born and raised in East Germany next to the Iron Curtain. Since embarking on an overland journey from Berlin to Beijing after high school, he became hooked by peoples’ lifeways in Northeast Asia. In college, Sören began studying history in earnest and grew intrigued by Russia and China, the world’s largest and most populous countries. He has published widely on this pivotal yet forgotten region. Sören is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington and is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments from a global perspective.

Sören's book list on Russia in Asia

Sören Urbansky Why did Sören love this book?

Published in 1999, David Wolff’s To the Harbin Station was a pioneering work that paved the path for many historical studies that followed, and which remains an unparalleled analysis of Russia’s only colony and its imperial expansion into China in the two decades leading up to the 1917 revolution. The monograph is more than an urban history of Harbin. It is the history of a region, a railroad, and the nature of late tsarist imperialism.

By David Wolff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To the Harbin Station as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1898, near the projected intersection of the Chinese Eastern Railroad (the last leg of the Trans-Siberian) and China's Sungari River, Russian engineers founded the city of Harbin. Between the survey of the site and the profound dislocations of the 1917 revolution, Harbin grew into a bustling multiethnic urban center with over 100,000 inhabitants. In this area of great natural wealth, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and American ambitions competed and converged, and sometimes precipitated vicious hostilities.

Drawing on the archives, both central and local, of seven countries, this history of Harbin presents multiple perspectives on Imperial Russia's only colony. The…


Book cover of Border Politics: Social Movements, Collective Identities, and Globalization

Leela Fernandes Author Of Governing Water in India: Inequality, Reform, and the State

From my list on to understand inequality in a world in crisis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent close to thirty years researching and teaching about questions of inequality and change. Most of my focus has been on the Global South, with a particular focus on India. I've written about intersecting class, gender, and caste inequalities. I've pursued this research agenda through extensive field research on labor politics, democratization, and the politics of economic reform in India. My interest stems from my background. I am originally from India and have lived and travelled extensively in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. I'm an author, public speaker, and consultant and have been a professor for three decades at the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, The University of Washington, and Oberlin College.

Leela's book list on to understand inequality in a world in crisis

Leela Fernandes Why did Leela love this book?

This book provides an excellent overview of the inequities produced by globalization. It covers a broad set of countries and regions and helps us to understand the complex processes that lead to fears about immigrant and border security. It gives us an understanding of history, people’s lives as they migrate in difficult circumstances, and the possibility for change.

By Nancy A. Naples (editor), Jennifer Bickham Mendez (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the current historical moment borders have taken on heightened material and symbolic significance, shaping identities and the social and political landscape. "Borders"-defined broadly to include territorial dividing lines as well as sociocultural boundaries-have become increasingly salient sites of struggle over social belonging and cultural and material resources. How do contemporary activists navigate and challenge these borders? What meanings do they ascribe to different social, cultural and political boundaries, and how do these meanings shape the strategies in which they engage? Moreover, how do these social movements confront internal borders based on the differences that emerge within social change initiatives?…


Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

June Carolyn Erlick Author Of A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War

From my list on classics for understanding Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I accidentally fell in love with Latin America, a love that has lasted my lifetime. When I was young, I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York, learning Spanish from my neighbors. After I graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism I got a job covering the Cuban community in New Jersey because I spoke Spanish. Eventually I ended up living in Colombia and then Managua as a foreign correspondent. Now I edit a magazine at Harvard about Latin America. It's not just the news that interests me; I love the cadence of the language, the smell and taste of its varied cuisine, the warmth of the people, the culture, and, yes, soccer.

June's book list on classics for understanding Latin America

June Carolyn Erlick Why did June love this book?

Greg Grandin is a historian's historian, a brilliant researcher, a captivating writer. It's honestly hard to pick which of his books to feature here. But since The End of the Myth won the Pultizer Prize, I'll choose it as my favorite. What I loved about this book is that it gives me a new perspective about the history of my own country—about which, frankly, I do not know that much—and the region I have reported on for most of my life, Latin America. He makes connections and does so in a compelling fashion.

The book focuses on the United States and the border, but it sheds much light on how the myth of manifest destiny has shaped the way we think of ourselves and our relationship with our southern neighbors.

By Greg Grandin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall.

Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history…


Book cover of Finder

Kater Cheek Author Of Mulberry Wands

From my list on real-world fantasy with a unique and creative premise.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started writing urban fantasy because that’s what I wanted to read more of, and at the time there wasn’t much on offer. I started the Kit Melbourne series with the aim of creating a world in which magic was real, but most people don’t believe in it. I aim for believable, realistic characters with plausible relationships. I’m not a fan of prophets, noble bloodlines, or destiny; magic in my worlds are much more egalitarian. Vampires are not sexy superheroes. Faeries are more like aliens than pinup girls. My inspirations are mystery, true crime, anthropology, psychology, history, natural sciences, ecology, and neo-Paganism—and books like those on this list!

Kater's book list on real-world fantasy with a unique and creative premise

Kater Cheek Why did Kater love this book?

Emma Bull wrote urban fantasy before that was really a thing, and this one is set in a shared world which straddles the human world and the world of the fey. Two unlikely friends are misfits in their own life. The titular character was kicked out of his family because his magic power made him seem too “weird” in the human realm, and his elven friend never felt at home in her fey family because her skill as a mechanic made her an outcast among the magic users. The fragile peace of their community is damaged when a new drug promises to turn humans fey.

This book is about making a home when you didn’t fit in with your family of origin, and the lengths people will go through to find a new identity. It may not feel as fresh as it did in the 1980s, but it will probably…

By Emma Bull,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Death and dark magic hang like a shadow over the city called Bordertown. Orient has a magical gift—or maybe a curse—for finding lost objects. But can he find a way to save the people he loves?


Book cover of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe

Dana Facaros Author Of Northern Greece

From my list on evocative travel about Greece.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Greece 50 years ago, when I had the good fortune of spending a summer on my father’s native island of Ikaria. I bagged my first writing job four years later when I wrote a guide to all the Greek islands. As a travel writer I tend to fall in love with all the places I write about! But Greece is where I feel most at home, and it has inspired some truly memorable travel books. I hope you like some of my all-time favorites.

Dana's book list on evocative travel about Greece

Dana Facaros Why did Dana love this book?

I came across this book while researching my guide to Northern Greece. Kapka Kassabova is a Bulgarian writer now living in the Scottish Highlands, who returned to the land she knew as a child: the once heavily militarized border between Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Her account of the places and people she meets in this forgotten corner of the world are uncanny, full of wonder, tragedy and horror, comedy and beauty, in a place where even in the 21st-century magic and the supernatural still live on.  

By Kapka Kassabova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Remarkable: a book about borders that makes the reader feel sumptuously free.” —Peter Pomerantsev

In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece. When she was a child, the border zone was rumored to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall, and it swarmed with soldiers and spies. On holidays in the “Red Riviera” on the Black Sea, she remembers playing on the beach only miles from a bristling electrified fence whose…


Book cover of The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia

James Borton Author Of Dispatches from the South China Sea: Navigating to Common Ground

From my list on dive deeply into the South China Sea territorial disputes.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer and waterman, I have traversed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, setting crab pots and communing with fellow watermen who share a deep love for the estuary. I honor their livelihoods by responsibly harvesting blue crabs and oysters. My field notes have taken me beyond the Chesapeake, onto Hilton Head shrimping boats, onto the oyster beds in Bull's Bay in South Carolina, and into the contested South China Sea aboard Vietnamese fishing trawlers.

James' book list on dive deeply into the South China Sea territorial disputes

James Borton Why did James love this book?

Bill Hayton’s book helped guide me into this theme of the significant value and importance of the South China Sea. He offered a comprehensive historical narrative of the region from ancient times to the early 2010s while scrupulously outlining the territorial disputes and power struggles it has fostered.

His use of academic sources and journalistic articles was most readable. As a journalist, I welcomed his non-wonkish writing style and digressions on key actors in the unfolding dramas playing out in real-time on the ocean. I also met the author at several South China Sea conferences, and his open style and manner reflected in person were also present in his narrative. 

By Bill Hayton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why the world can't afford to be indifferent to the simmering conflict in the South China Sea

"The greatest risk today in U.S.-Chinese relations is the South China Sea, through which passes 40% of world trade. . . . Hayton explains how this all came about and points to the growing risks of miscalculation and escalation."-Daniel Yergin, Wall Street Journal

China's rise has upset the global balance of power, and the first place to feel the strain is Beijing's back yard: the South China Sea. For decades tensions have smoldered in the region, but today the threat of a direct…


Book cover of China and Russia: The New Rapprochement

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?

Too often, Russia is seen through Euro-Atlantic eyes and in European terms. But the Russian leadership has long spoken of a shift in global power, the emergence of a “post-West” worldand of the 21st Century being a “Pacific Century.” China has long been at the heart of this view, and an important priority in Russian foreign policyand this book by a prominent Russian expert traces a Russian view of the emergent Sino-Russian rapprochement. Not everyone will agree with his analysis, but I like thinking about things from different angles, and the intellectual challenge he poses becomes ever more important as sanctions take hold of the Russian economy and as the Sino-Russian partnership becomes one of the central questions of international affairs today.

By Alexander Lukin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With many predicting the end of US hegemony, Russia and China's growing cooperation in a number of key strategic areas looks set to have a major impact on global power dynamics. But what lies behind this Sino-Russian rapprochement? Is it simply the result of deteriorated Russo-US and Sino-US relations or does it date back to a more fundamental alignment of interests after the Cold War?

In this book Alexander Lukin answers these questions, offering a deeply informed and nuanced assessment of Russia and China's ever-closer ties. Tracing the evolution of this partnership from the 1990s to the present day, he…


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