100 books like The Porcupine

By Julian Barnes,

Here are 100 books that The Porcupine fans have personally recommended if you like The Porcupine. 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 Life and Fate

Paul Clark Author Of The Price of Dreams

From my list on life in the Soviet Union.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of 16, I briefly joined the International Socialists, a small British Trotskyist party. Though I soon became disillusioned, it was a formative experience that left me with a lifelong fascination with communism and the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, I read everything I could about the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. In the years after the fall of communism, the ideas that eventually culminated in the writing of this book began to form in my head.

Paul's book list on life in the Soviet Union

Paul Clark Why did Paul love this book?

Grossman consciously attempted to write the War and Peace of the Second World War, and in this panoramic masterpiece, he pulled it off. Like War and Peace, the book focuses both on the travails of a single family and the broader sweep of history, as we witness events from the perspective of persecuted Jewish scientists, soldiers (both Soviet and German), partisans, peasants, and generals.

This is an intensely personal work – Grossman covered the battle of Stalingrad for the Soviet press and knew his subject matter firsthand. Writing it was also an extremely courageous act. The KGB confiscated the manuscript and Grossman never lived to see the book published.

By Vasily Grossman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Life and Fate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based around the pivotal WWII battle of Stalingrad (1942-3), where the German advance into Russia was eventually halted by the Red Army, and around an extended family, the Shaposhnikovs, and their many friends and acquaintances, Life and Fate recounts the experience of characters caught up in an immense struggle between opposing armies and ideologies. Nazism and Communism are appallingly similar, 'two poles of one magnet', as a German camp commander tells a shocked old Bolshevik prisoner. At the height of the battle Russian soldiers and citizens alike are at last able to speak out as they choose, and without reprisal…


Book cover of Stalin's Door

Paul Clark Author Of The Price of Dreams

From my list on life in the Soviet Union.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of 16, I briefly joined the International Socialists, a small British Trotskyist party. Though I soon became disillusioned, it was a formative experience that left me with a lifelong fascination with communism and the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, I read everything I could about the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. In the years after the fall of communism, the ideas that eventually culminated in the writing of this book began to form in my head.

Paul's book list on life in the Soviet Union

Paul Clark Why did Paul love this book?

A brilliant evocation of the paranoia of the Stalin regime and the extraordinary extent of its surveillance of members of the Communist elite. We follow the story of a young girl as her family is destroyed and she is sent to the GULAG. Although it delves deep into the horrors of Stalinist persecution, this book is also an uplifting tale of love, courage, and survival.

By John St. Clair,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dangerous time of Russia’s Great Terror, a knock on the door late at night could mean only one thing!

Moscow, 1937. As mortal fear engulfs the capital city, a singular man cements his lethal grip of absolute power over an entire nation. Accusations, mass arrests, executions, and deportations become de rigueur. Stalin’s cult of personality is so fearsome, that even a simple question could get you killed—or worse. Stalin’s dreaded secret police, the NKVD, would pit neighbor against neighbor in the insatiable hunt for the spies and saboteurs which threaten the supreme leader’s tyranny. The crisis will irrecoverably…


Book cover of The White Guard

Paul Clark Author Of The Price of Dreams

From my list on life in the Soviet Union.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of 16, I briefly joined the International Socialists, a small British Trotskyist party. Though I soon became disillusioned, it was a formative experience that left me with a lifelong fascination with communism and the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, I read everything I could about the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. In the years after the fall of communism, the ideas that eventually culminated in the writing of this book began to form in my head.

Paul's book list on life in the Soviet Union

Paul Clark Why did Paul love this book?

This book goes back to the chaos of the years after the Bolshevik revolution. It is set in Kyiv, which changed hands more than a dozen times during the brutal civil war that followed. The story is very autobiographical and focuses on a middle-class family that supports a pro-German faction in its struggle against Bolsheviks, Russian Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists. This isn’t a panoramic novel in the style of War and Peace but a worm’s-eye view of the chaos that has been unleashed. Brilliant.

By Mikhail Bulgakov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev during the chaotic winter of 1918-19, The White Guard, Bulgakov's first full-length novel, tells the story of a Russian-speaking family trapped in circumstances that threaten to destroy them. As in Tolstoy's War and Peace, the narrative centres on the stark contrast between the cosy domesticity of family life on the one hand, and wide-ranging and destructive historical events on the other.

The result is a disturbing, often shocking story, illuminated, however, by shafts of light that testify to people's resilience, humanity and ability to love in even the most adverse circumstances.


Book cover of Conquered City

Paul Clark Author Of The Price of Dreams

From my list on life in the Soviet Union.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of 16, I briefly joined the International Socialists, a small British Trotskyist party. Though I soon became disillusioned, it was a formative experience that left me with a lifelong fascination with communism and the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, I read everything I could about the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. In the years after the fall of communism, the ideas that eventually culminated in the writing of this book began to form in my head.

Paul's book list on life in the Soviet Union

Paul Clark Why did Paul love this book?

Serge was a supporter of the Bolshevik revolution, though he never lost sight of its flaws. 

This extraordinary novel centres on Petrograd at the height of the civil war, as economic collapse, hunger, the threat from the Whites, and the depredations of the Red Terror crush the city’s spirit and ultimately destroy the revolution, even if the Bolshevik regime it spawned survives.

By Victor Serge, Richard Greeman (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1919–1920: St. Petersburg, city of the czars, has fallen to the Revolution. Camped out in the splendid palaces of the former regime, the city’s new masters seek to cement their control, even as the counterrevolutionary White Army regroups. Conquered City, Victor Serge’s most unrelenting narrative, is structured like a detective story, one in which the new political regime tracks down and eliminates its enemies—the spies, speculators, and traitors hidden among the mass of common people. 

Conquered City is about terror: the Red Terror and the White Terror. But mainly about the Red, the Communists who have dared to pick up…


Book cover of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism

Neal Thompson Author Of Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991

From my list on America’s path through the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I entered the United States Army in August 1970, two months after graduation from high school, completed flight school on November 1971, and served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in Troop F (Air), 8th US Cavalry, 1st Aviation Brigade. After my discharge, I served an additional 28 years as a helicopter pilot in the Illinois National Guard, retiring in 2003. I graduated from Triton Junior College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University Law School in 1981. My passion for this subject arises, as one would expect, from my status as a veteran. My expertise is based on my own experience and 16 years of research and writing that went into the preparation of my book.

Neal's book list on America’s path through the Cold War

Neal Thompson Why did Neal love this book?

Paul Kengor provides a steady, detailed analysis of Reagan’s successful attempt to end the Cold War by driving the USSR to economic collapse. From technological embargoes, economic warfare and disinformation that the Soviets believed were intelligence successes to driving the price of oil down to $10 per barrel, Reagan’s policies were disastrous for Soviet interests. In just one year, the USSR moved from a $700 million trade surplus with the West to a $1.4 billion deficit, which tripled during the following year. “In my view,” wrote Gorbachev in the end, “the 40th President of the United States will go down in history for his rare perception.”

By Paul Kengor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on extraordinary research: a major reassessment of Ronald Reagan's lifelong crusade to dismantle the Soviet Empire–including shocking revelations about the liberal American politician who tried to collude with USSR to counter Reagan's efforts

Paul Kengor's God and Ronald Reagan made presidential historian Paul Kengor's name as one of the premier chroniclers of the life and career of the 40th president. Now, with The Crusader, Kengor returns with the one book about Reagan that has not been written: The story of his lifelong crusade against communism, and of his dogged–and ultimately triumphant–effort to overthrow the Soviet Union.

Drawing upon reams…


Book cover of Gleaning for Communism: The Soviet Socialist Household in Theory and Practice

Brandon M. Schechter Author Of The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects

From my list on books about Soviet stuff.

Why am I passionate about this?

Things have always been a window into the past for me, and from an early age I was fascinated by communism as a rejection of the world in which I was raised. Looking at how people from a very different society made and used stuff allows you to access aspects of their experience that are deeply human. As such my research has focused on how people interacted with things as a way to examine how politics, ideology, and major historical events play out on the ground – as a way of capturing individual human experience.

Brandon's book list on books about Soviet stuff

Brandon M. Schechter Why did Brandon love this book?

Cherkaev also offers us a series of amazing stories informed by theory but written in a highly readable fashion. Many of her cases are about things that weren’t supposed to exist – about the stuff gleaned from the Soviet economy that allowed people to go on expeditions into nature, bury their loved ones, and make do in an economy infamous for its shortages.

You meet a lot of fascinating people, and she throws in some very provocative, well-argued, and cogently written discussion of the Soviet leadership’s changing understanding of how to build communism and the place of stuff in the project and its aftermath.

My consistent criticism of this book is that it ends too quickly – I wanted at least fifty more pages of Cherkaev’s witty prose and fascinating tales. 

By Xenia A. Cherkaev,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gleaning for Communism is a historical ethnography of the property regime upon which Soviet legal scholars legislated a large modern state as a household, with guaranteed rights to a commons of socialist property, rather than private possessions. Starting with former Leningrad workers' everyday stories about smuggling industrial scrap home over factory fences, Xenia Cherkaev traces collectivist ethical logic that was central to this socialist household economy, in theory and practice: from its Stalin-era inception, through Khrushchev's major foregrounding of communist ethics, to Gorbachev's perestroika, which unfurled its grounding tension between the interests of any given collective and of the socialist…


Book cover of Red Plenty

Mark Harrison Author Of Secret Leviathan: Secrecy and State Capacity under Soviet Communism

From my list on working inside Soviet communism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I visited Moscow for the first time in 1964. The Cold War was in full swing. I was still at school, learning beginners' Russian. I returned a few years later as a graduate student. By this point I was hopelessly infected with an incurable and progressive disease: curiosity about the Soviet Union under communism. I was full of questions, many of which could not be answered for decades, until communist rule collapsed. Becoming a professional scholar, I spent the next half-century studying the history, economics, and politics of communist societies. The biggest obstacle was always secrecy, so it seems fitting that the system of secrecy is the topic of my most recent book.

Mark's book list on working inside Soviet communism

Mark Harrison Why did Mark love this book?

This is the best (to be fair, the only) English-language novel about how the Soviet economy was supposed to work and how it actually worked in the 1950s and 1960s. (The author says it is “not a novel” but a Russian fairytale.)

I was reluctant to read it, and expected to find fault with it, but I found it both moving and utterly convincing. It has all the ingredients of a war story: the various characters are trying to survive, to find love, to protect their families, to serve the nation, or to better humanity, while being ground between the wheels of great-power politics and everyday existence.

The book’s only omission (I learned later, after years of research) is that it does not account sufficiently for the role of the secret police in Soviet-era workplace surveillance and the selection of managers.

By Francis Spufford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Bizarre and quite brilliant.' Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

'Thrilling.' Michael Burleigh, Sunday Telegraph

'Francis Spufford has one of the most original minds in contemporary literature.' Nick Hornby

The Soviet Union was founded on a fairytale. It was built on 20th-century magic called 'the planned economy', which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the penny-pinching lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working.

Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it…


Book cover of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

Neal Thompson Author Of Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991

From my list on America’s path through the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I entered the United States Army in August 1970, two months after graduation from high school, completed flight school on November 1971, and served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in Troop F (Air), 8th US Cavalry, 1st Aviation Brigade. After my discharge, I served an additional 28 years as a helicopter pilot in the Illinois National Guard, retiring in 2003. I graduated from Triton Junior College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University Law School in 1981. My passion for this subject arises, as one would expect, from my status as a veteran. My expertise is based on my own experience and 16 years of research and writing that went into the preparation of my book.

Neal's book list on America’s path through the Cold War

Neal Thompson Why did Neal love this book?

Starting in World War II, American cryptanalysts broke Soviet codes and determined that hundreds of Americans working for the Soviet Union were active within the federal government during the New Deal and throughout the Second World War. Code named Venona, this operation was a closely guarded secret until declassification in 1996. When these intercepts were combined with information acquired from Soviet archives after the collapse of the USSR, they revealed not only a massive penetration of American government, science, and industry by Soviet spies but an American Communist Party that had assisted in these efforts, serving as an arm of Soviet intelligence. In other words (quoting American Communist Party member Alfred Bernstein), “[Joseph] McCarthy was right.” “The system was loaded with Communists.”

By Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Only in 1995 did the United States government officially reveal the existence of the super-secret Venona Project. For nearly fifty years American intelligence agents had been decoding thousands of Soviet messages, uncovering an enormous range of espionage activities carried out against the United States during World War II by its own allies. So sensitive was the project in its early years that even President Truman was not informed of its existence. This extraordinary book is the first to examine the Venona messages-documents of unparalleled importance for our understanding of the history and politics of the Stalin era and the early…


Book cover of Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal

Brian Neve Author Of Film and Politics in America: A Social Tradition

From my list on Hollywood blacklist.

Why am I passionate about this?

Years ago, as part of my research, I interviewed Elia Kazan and Abraham Polonsky, two key figures in the blacklist story, and two men who were on different sides in terms of how they responded to the postwar Congressional investigations. These personal encounters – in New York and Los Angeles – fed a fascination with the anti-Communist purge in Hollywood, its dramaturgy, and the way filmmakers of that generation were caught up in it in different ways. There are more specialized works but the books recommended provide a substantive introduction to this still globally resonant topic, calling attention to the problematic and still difficult relationships between citizenship and cultural identity.

Brian's book list on Hollywood blacklist

Brian Neve Why did Brian love this book?

While several books have offered accounts of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings and the blacklist in the entertainment industry, Alan Casty questions liberal perspectives on the subject, and develops a distinctive perspective. In particular he challenges what he sees as an overly simple moral take on the actions of those who cooperated with HUAC and those who did not. He discusses the role of the Communist Party in Hollywood and the impact of Cold War politicsand the politics of Stalin and the Soviet Union—on the decisions that politicians and witnesses took. There is particularly interesting material here on Robert Rossen’s experience, as someone who ‘resisted’ the Committee but later cooperated with it. This Is the best account of those that challenge the dominant perspectives in the literature. 

By Alan Casty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Much has been written about the history of Communism in America, including the Party's appeal to many in the Hollywood community of the 1930s and 40s. While several books have offered standard accounts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings and the blacklist in the entertainment industry, Alan Casty provides a fresh and provocative perspective. In Communism in Hollywood: The Moral Paradoxes of Testimony, Silence, and Betrayal, Casty challenges the absolute dualisms of the period: cowardly informers and heroic martyrs. Drawing on newly available material, Casty illustrates the control by the international Communist movement and the role of the…


Book cover of Death of a Russian Priest

Iona Whishaw Author Of Framed in Fire

From my list on soothingly gentleman-like inspectors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the writer of an award-winning, best-selling series called the Lane Winslow Mysteries. They take place in British Columbia right after the Second World War, and feature an intelligent, canny, beautiful, polyglot who has just retired from spying for the British—this character inspired by my own beautiful multilingual mother, who did intelligence work in the war. I love the mystery genre, and while no one loves a burned-out, borderline alcoholic inspector who's divorced and has children who won’t return his calls more than I, I've always really adored what I call the “gentleman inspectors.” Men who are happily married, or will be soon, smart, educated, ethical, emotionally complex people you’d like to meet one day. 

Iona's book list on soothingly gentleman-like inspectors

Iona Whishaw Why did Iona love this book?

Stuart Kaminski brings us the wonderful detective, Porfiry Rostnikov, a barrel of a man who wanted to be a wrestling champion in his youth, and surely the only honest policeman in the Soviet system. He is kind and generous and will fix the plumbing of anyone in his building for the sheer joy of it. He is entranced by the geometry of pipes and their challenge. He is also a man of a certain age who has seen it all and has no illusions. His relationship with soviet authorities is tricky; they suspect his Jewish wife, and his love of Ed McBain books, but he’s the only man who can catch the crook and save the state embarrassment.

By Stuart M. Kaminsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death of a Russian Priest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Never miss a Kaminsky book, and be especially sure not to miss Death of a Russian Priest.” —Tony Hillerman, New York Times–bestselling author
 
In the darkest hours of communist rule, Father Merhum fought to protect the sanctity of the Orthodox Church. Now the Soviet Union is gone, but the bureaucracy survives, and within it lurk men who would do anything to undermine the fragile new Russian democracy. Father Merhum is on his way to Moscow to denounce those traitors when he is struck with an ax and killed.
 
As police inspectors Porfiry Rostnikov and Emil Karpo dig into the past…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Soviet Union, communism, and Eastern Europe?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Soviet Union, communism, and Eastern Europe.

The Soviet Union Explore 354 books about the Soviet Union
Communism Explore 85 books about communism
Eastern Europe Explore 69 books about Eastern Europe