100 books like Secondhand Time

By Svetlana Alexievich, Bela Shayevich,

Here are 100 books that Secondhand Time fans have personally recommended if you like Secondhand Time. 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 Moscow, 1937

Steven G. Marks Author Of How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism

From my list on modern Russian history.

Who am I?

Steven G. Marks is a historian who has written extensively on Russian economic and cultural history, the global impact of Russian ideas, and the history of capitalism. He received his PhD from Harvard University and has spent more than 30 years teaching Russian and world history at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Steven's book list on modern Russian history

Steven G. Marks Why did Steven love this book?

Karl Schlögel’s masterpiece, Moscow,1937, is a gripping study of Moscow at the peak of the Stalinist Great Terror. With short chapters and a multitude of illustrations, the book leads the reader on a panoptic tour of every aspect of the city’s life in this year of mass arrests and waves of executions. Step by step, Schlögel builds a convincing case that as the Communist regime struggled to get a grip on the chaos unleashed by the regime’s own collectivization and industrialization drives, its reflexive response was to resort to political violence. The murderous frenzy that resulted changed the society beyond recognition.

By Karl Schlogel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Moscow, 1937 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Moscow, 1937: the soviet metropolis at the zenith of Stalin s dictatorship. A society utterly wrecked by a hurricane of violence. In this compelling book, the renowned historian Karl Schlogel reconstructs with meticulous care the process through which, month by month, the terrorism of a state-of-emergency regime spiraled into the Great Terror during which 1 1/2 million human beings lost their lives within a single year. He revisits the sites of show trials and executions and, by also consulting numerous sources from the time, he provides a masterful panorama of these key events in Russian history. He shows how, in…


Book cover of The Russian Revolution, 1905-1921

Steven G. Marks Author Of How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism

From my list on modern Russian history.

Who am I?

Steven G. Marks is a historian who has written extensively on Russian economic and cultural history, the global impact of Russian ideas, and the history of capitalism. He received his PhD from Harvard University and has spent more than 30 years teaching Russian and world history at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Steven's book list on modern Russian history

Steven G. Marks Why did Steven love this book?

There are many excellent histories of the Russian Revolution that chronicle the main events, but none convey the complexity of experiences in Tsarist Russia during its final years and the Soviet regime in its initial phase as Mark Steinberg’s short but powerful and original work. This book gives us the bird’s-eye view of developments as they unfold, but also places them under the microscope to give us personal stories and experiences from different wakes of life. Using contemporary journalism and diaries, Steinberg recovers the voices of a range of ethnic groups in various regions of the empire—Jews, Ukrainians, and Central Asians--as well as workers, peasants, women, and members of the intelligentsia. As we witness their lives being thrown into upheaval by rapid political and economic transformation in the first years of the 20th century, followed by World War I, the two revolutions of 1917, and civil war, we gain…

By Mark D. Steinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian Revolution, 1905-1921 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Russian Revolution, 1905-1921 is a new history of Russia's revolutionary era as a story of experience-of people making sense of history as it unfolded in their own lives and as they took part in making history themselves. The major events, trends, and explanations, reaching from Bloody Sunday in 1905 to the final shots of the civil war in 1921, are viewed through the doubled perspective of the professional historian looking backward and the contemporary
journalist reporting and interpreting history as it happened. The volume then turns toward particular places and people: city streets, peasant villages, the margins of empire…


Book cover of Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Who am I?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

You may recognize Fiona Hill from her damning testimony in the first impeachment of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, at which time she was senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. Prior to that, she—along with co-author Cliff Gaddy—were two of the top minds on Russian politics at the Brookings Institute.

Together their book, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin goes beyond the standard biographies of Vladimir Putin’s rise from the streets of Leningrad to the KGB to the Kremlin. More importantly, it highlights the variety of roles that Putin plays in the role he currently occupies: the embodiment of the state, the interpreter of Russian history, the survivalist, the outsider, the free marketeer, and the case officer. Understanding how Putin switches from one role to another atop the Russian political system is crucial to understand that system.

By Clifford G. Gaddy, Fiona Hill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fiona Hill and other U.S. public servants have been recognized as Guardians of the Year in TIME's 2019 Person of the Year issue.

From the KGB to the Kremlin: a multidimensional portrait of the man at war with the West.

Where do Vladimir Putin's ideas come from? How does he look at the outside world? What does he want, and how far is he willing to go?

The great lesson of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was the danger of misreading the statements, actions, and intentions of the adversary. Today, Vladimir Putin has become the greatest challenge…


Book cover of Imagining the Unimaginable: World War, Modern Art, and the Politics of Public Culture in Russia, 1914-1917

Steven G. Marks Author Of How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism

From my list on modern Russian history.

Who am I?

Steven G. Marks is a historian who has written extensively on Russian economic and cultural history, the global impact of Russian ideas, and the history of capitalism. He received his PhD from Harvard University and has spent more than 30 years teaching Russian and world history at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Steven's book list on modern Russian history

Steven G. Marks Why did Steven love this book?

Fully abstract art was a Russian invention, but until this remarkable book by Aaron Cohen came out, there was no treatment of the subject that explained the historical context in which it emerged in the work of Kandinsky, Malevich, Tatlin, and others. Other art historians have traced the aesthetic process that led, seemingly ineluctably, toward abstraction, but Cohen shows us how closely linked it was to the despair felt during the First World War. In this short but accessible work that makes extensive use of previously untouched Russian sources, he brings to life the debates over the issue among Russian artists and critics and details the response of the art market to the turmoil of the period and the birth of avant-garde movements that revolutionized art worldwide.

By Aaron J. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As World War I shaped and molded European culture to an unprecedented degree, it also had a profound influence on the politics and aesthetics of early-twentieth-century Russian culture. In this provocative and fascinating work, Aaron J. Cohen shows how World War I changed Russian culture and especially Russian art. A wartime public culture destabilized conventional patterns in cultural politics and aesthetics and fostered a new artistic world by integrating the iconoclastic avant-garde into the art establishment and mass culture. This new wartime culture helped give birth to nonobjective abstraction (including Kazimir Malevich's famous Black Square), which revolutionized modern aesthetics. Of…


Book cover of Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: A Memoir and a Reckoning

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Who am I?

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?

Alex Halberstadt’s paternal grandfather was the last living bodyguard for Josef Stalin. His maternal grandparents were Lithuanian Jews who watched firsthand as their world caught fire in the Holocaust. And Alex, who grew up in Moscow but moved to New York as a teenager, is now an out gay American man. From this mad tapestry of personal history, Halberstadt weaves an incredibly moving story of identity, family, and inherited trauma.

By Alex Halberstadt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Young Heroes of the Soviet Union as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this “urgent and enthralling reckoning with family and history” (Andrew Solomon), an American writer returns to Russia to face a past that still haunts him. 
 
NAMED ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS’ TOP BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Alex Halberstadt’s quest takes him across the troubled, enigmatic land of his birth, where decades of Soviet totalitarianism shaped and fractured three generations of his family. In Ukraine, he tracks down his paternal grandfather—most likely the last living bodyguard of Joseph Stalin. He revisits Lithuania, his Jewish mother’s home, to examine the legacy of the Holocaust and the pernicious anti-Semitism that…


Book cover of Behind Putin's Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Who am I?

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?

Stephan Orth has a lot of nerve. The author of Couchsurfing in Iran, he decides to take his talents to Russia, stopping in places no tourist would dare to go and getting to know actual Russian people. And then he writes a funny, insightful, mind-bendingly entertaining book about them. Who does this guy think he is? Do yourself a favor: Read his book and find out. Stephan is a fabulous tour guide of the real Russia and its people.

By Stephan Orth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind Putin's Curtain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Journalist Orth delivers a jaunty description of his travels...[that] armchair travelers will enjoy."
-Publishers Weekly

"Funny, insightful, and mind-bendingly entertaining. Stephan Orth is a fearless and fabulous tour guide to the real Russia and its people."
-Lisa Dickey, author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys across a Changing Russia


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.

Who am I?

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 Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Who am I?

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?

I’m recommending this because if have any interest in Russia but haven’t yet read it, you simply must. No, really, listen: You must. David Remnick writes like Muhammad Ali boxed: with grace, power, and an unfair amount of skill. This is a deeply researched, carefully crafted, incredibly absorbing account of the final days of the Soviet Union. Never mind the “tomb” title; the book is filled with colorful characters and delicious slices of life, all captured during a time of historic upheaval.

By David Remnick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lenin's Tomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times 

From the editor of The New Yorker: a riveting account of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which has become the standard book on the subject. Lenin’s Tomb combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism. Remnick takes us through the tumultuous 75-year period of Communist rule leading up to the collapse and gives us the voices of those who lived through it, from democratic activists to Party members, from anti-Semites to Holocaust survivors, from Gorbachev…


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.

Who am I?

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 The Idiot

Clancy Martin Author Of How Not to Kill Yourself: A Portrait of the Suicidal Mind

From my list on teaching you how not to kill yourself.

Who am I?

I am passionate about the subject of suicide because I have lived with suicidal thinking all of my life, have made multiple suicide attempts, have lost loved ones to suicide, and have so many new friends who are survivors of suicide attempts. I am a philosophy professor and writer who spends a lot of his time thinking about the meaning of life, and reading other philosophers, writers, and thinkers who have taught us about the meaning of life. I think the Buddha is especially smart and helpful on this question, as are the existentialist philosophers.

Clancy's book list on teaching you how not to kill yourself

Clancy Martin Why did Clancy love this book?

If you only read one book by Dostoevsky, this should be the one. The psychiatrist who directed the Mayo Clinic’s mental health division for years often had his patients read all of Dostoevsky’s works.

The Idiot is about a truly innocent and good man, Prince Myshkin, who is thrust into the highest levels of Russian aristocratic society. Although he understands that deception is essential to thrive in this world, he refuses to give up his guilelessness.

He is always as honest as he can be with everyone around him, and as kind as he can be, and as caring as he can be (he is a Christ figure, also a child figure). This all turns out very badly, unsurprisingly, and results in heartbreak and murder.

There is no greater novel ever written for teaching us about the human capacity and need for human love, and the many obstacles we have…

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Translated by Constance Garnett, with an Introduction and Notes by Agnes Cardinal, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Comparative Literature at the University of Kent.

Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from an asylum in Switzerland. As he becomes embroiled in the frantic amatory and financial intrigues which centre around a cast of brilliantly realised characters and which ultimately lead to tragedy, he emerges as a unique combination of the Christian ideal of perfection and Dostoevsky's own views, afflictions and manners. His serene selflessness is contrasted with the worldly qualities of every other character in the novel. Dostoevsky supplies a harsh indictment of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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