100 books like Young Heroes of the Soviet Union

By Alex Halberstadt,

Here are 100 books that Young Heroes of the Soviet Union fans have personally recommended if you like Young Heroes of the Soviet Union. 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 Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

Henry Virgin Author Of Exit Rostov

From my list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats.

Why am I passionate about this?

Certain books have the ability to inspire you or help you go beyond the boundaries of your understanding, to teach you something new or to show you how to look at things differently, to alter and enhance your perception. Each of these texts have encouraged and enchanted me, with hard-won truths. I appreciate the style of writing which draws you further and further into the author's psyche, and thus into your own, like deep diving into uncharted depths. Also, as someone who tries to write poetry and prose, I find each of these writers have a refreshing and interesting technique and method of communicating their thoughts and ideas.

Henry's book list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats

Henry Virgin Why did Henry love this book?

If you would like to try and understand the Soviet and post-Soviet psyche, these first-hand, verbatim interviews from 1991-2012, by Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian Nobel Laureate, question and discuss what it means and meant to be a Soviet. With a wide selection of individual testimonies from different backgrounds of the Soviet Union, from ordinary folk to officials, prisoners, relatives of those who were murdered, the executioners, the book also investigates how they coped when the Soviet Union broke down. Written from transcribed, spoken recordings, these documentary / reportage texts get to the heart of the matter—often that there is a gaping vacancy in the place of what one had previously believed in, from one's earliest of days, even before becoming a red-scarfed Pioneer. When one's whole philosophical fabric has been torn down, how do you exist? How do you cope and make sense of the world? What really is so…

By Svetlana Alexievich, Bela Shayevich,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Secondhand Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a new Russia, from Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY • LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Wall Street Journal • NPR • Financial Times • Kirkus Reviews

When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the…


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.

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?

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.

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 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.

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?

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 Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Sean McMeekin Author Of Stalin's War: A New History of World War II

From my list on Stalin and the Second World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1992, I graduated high school and although I did not then know how to read or speak Russian, I interviewed six Soviet veterans who happened to live in a nursing home in Rochester NY. I was blown away by their stories; each was missing at least one limb and had a tale to tell about it. The timing was fortuitous in that there was an exhibition at the U.S. Library of Congress that summer on “Revelations from the Russian archives,” which has just opened to researchers. Although it took me some years to master Russian, I resolved then and there to go to the source and research Soviet history in Moscow itself. I am a historian now and I have been working in Moscow archives for nearly a quarter-century now. Stalin’s War is my eighth book to date, all of which draw on this work in the Russian archives.

Sean's book list on Stalin and the Second World War

Sean McMeekin Why did Sean love this book?

Sebag Montefiore was the first western historian to really take advantage of the opening of Russian – and Georgian – archival sources on Stalin and his career. Court of the Red Tsar offers a precious glimpse into Stalin’s inner circle and the way the USSR was governed in the 1930s and 1940s. Although gossipy at times, and written in a popular style some professional historians resent, the book is deeply researched and a treasure trove of information which is hard to find elsewhere.

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the British Book Awards History Book of the Year

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize

This thrilling biography of Stalin and his entourage during the terrifying decades of his supreme power transforms our understanding of Stalin as Soviet dictator, Marxist leader and Russian tsar.

Based on groundbreaking research, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals in captivating detail the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with extraordinary narrative verve, this magnificent feat of scholarly research has become a classic of modern history writing. Showing how Stalin's triumphs and crimes were the…


Book cover of Yezhov: The Rise of Stalin's Iron Fist

Roger R. Reese Author Of The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution, 1856-1917

From my list on Stalinism from every angle.

Why am I passionate about this?

Roger Reese has studied, researched, and or taught Soviet history since 1984. He has been on the faculty of Texas A&M University since 1990. He has published five books and numerous articles and book chapters on the military history of Russia and the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. book prize for his most recent book, The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution, 1856-1917.

Roger's book list on Stalinism from every angle

Roger R. Reese Why did Roger love this book?

This is a great book because it is probably the only truly even-handed treatment of one of the most reviled people in Soviet history, Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD during the great terror. The authors by no means treat him as a sympathetic character, but they convincingly dismiss the many myths about him that have gotten in the way of understanding his relations with Stalin and his true motivations and behavior during the purge. They show that he played a truly significant role in convincing Stalin to let him purge the party and then the whole Soviet population because he believed there was a vast conspiracy to undermine Stalin’s version of Soviet power. Rather than a psychophant who groveled at Stalin’s feet, it is clear that he exercised agency to accomplish a task he believed in. You almost get to know Yezhov as a real human being, which is…

By J. Arch Getty, Oleg V. Naumov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive study of Nikolai Yezhov's rise to become the chief of Stalin's secret police-and the dictator's "iron fist"-during the Great Terror

Head of the secret police from 1937 to 1938, N. I. Yezhov was a foremost Soviet leader during these years, second in power only to Stalin himself. Under Yezhov's orders, millions of arrests, imprisonments, deportations, and executions were carried out. This book, based upon unprecedented access to Communist Party archives and Yezhov's personal archives, looks into the life and career of the enigmatic man who administered Stalin's Great Terror.

J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov seek to…


Book cover of Good Stalin

Daniel Treisman Author Of The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev

From my list on the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.

Why am I passionate about this?

Daniel Treisman is an expert on post-Soviet Russia, whose articles have appeared in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and CNN.com, among other publications. A professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, he is the founder of the Russia Political Insight project, an international collaboration to analyze Kremlin decision-making. He is the author of The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev and editor of The New Autocracy: Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin’s Russia.  

Daniel's book list on the Soviet Union under Brezhnev

Daniel Treisman Why did Daniel love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Stalin: A Biography

Daniel Kalder Author Of The Infernal Library

From my list on dictators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in the former Soviet Union for ten years, primarily in Moscow, the home of many a brutal tyrant. My obsession with dictator literature began after I discovered that Saddam Hussein had written a romance novel, following which I spent many years reading the literary output of all of the 20th century’s most terrible tyrants, from Mussolini to Stalin to the Ayatollah Khomeini. This monumental act of self-torture resulted in my critically acclaimed book The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, And Other Catastrophes of Literacy

Daniel's book list on dictators

Daniel Kalder Why did Daniel love this book?

If How to be a Dictator gives you an overview of the great tyrants of the 20th century, then Service’s biography of Joseph Stalin provides a close analysis of one of the great monsters of the 20th century. Everybody knows about Hitler’s terrible crimes, but Stalin’s are less familiar, due to a mystifying reluctance on the part of several generations of educators to teach “the youth” about the USSR. What I especially admire about Service’s book is that he really engaged with Stalin’s own writings (which are awful) and so he provides a lot of insight into the ideas that drove this ex-seminarian as he transformed himself into the supreme leader of the largest country in the world. The Stalin that ultimately emerges from this portrait is no raving lunatic but rather a highly intelligent and profoundly evil man who is completely in control of himself. Chilling.

By Robert Service,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Overthrowing the conventional image of Stalin as an uneducated political administrator inexplicably transformed into a pathological killer, Robert Service reveals a more complex and fascinating story behind this notorious twentieth-century figure. Drawing on unexplored archives and personal testimonies gathered from across Russia and Georgia, this is the first full-scale biography of the Soviet dictator in twenty years.

Service describes in unprecedented detail the first half of Stalin's life--his childhood in Georgia as the son of a violent, drunkard father and a devoted mother; his education and religious training; and his political activity as a young revolutionary. No mere messenger for…


Book cover of The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-36

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 other book I kept by my bedside during my three years as head of an academic department.

Every year (until 1937), Stalin took a long working holiday by the Black Sea. His secret line of communication with his subordinates in Moscow relied on daily handwritten letters and couriers. The letters were preserved and are translated and edited in this book. The collection taught me how a suspicious boss micromanages his subordinates and keeps close those he trusts least.

Stalin habitually complained that they overloaded him with trivia, but then complained and corrected them if they showed the smallest initiative. I learned a lot about how Stalin saw his enemies, and I was introduced to the concept of the “unconscious” enemy. For myself, I learned that trust is essential to effective delegation.

By R. W. Davies (editor), Oleg Khlevniuk (editor), E. A. Rees (editor) , Liudmila P. Kosheleva (editor) , Larisa A. Rogovaya (editor) , Steven Shabad (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-36 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From 1931 to 1936, Stalin vacationed at his Black Sea residence for two to three months each year. While away from Moscow, he relied on correspondence with his subordinates to receive information, watch over the work of the Politburo and the government, give orders, and express his opinions. This book publishes for the first time translations of 177 handwritten letters and coded telegrams exchanged during this period between Stalin and his most highly trusted deputy, Lazar Kaganovich.

The unique and revealing collection of letters-all previously classified top secret-provides a dramatic account of the mainsprings of Soviet policy while Stalin was…


Book cover of Terror by Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (an Archival Study)

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?

Stalin’s secret police was responsible for both foreign espionage and domestic repression. Until recently its domestic operations were a black box. This book unlocks the box.

It shows how and why quotas for executions arose, how the “productivity” (arrests and executions in a period of time) of secret police officers could rise and fall by an order of magnitude over a year or so, and why it made sense to detain or kill people in very large numbers “just in case.” The book’s patient investigations and logical deductions provide a contrast to the miserable fates of the human victims.

By Paul R. Gregory,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This original analysis of the workings of Soviet state security organs under Lenin and Stalin addresses a series of questions that have long resisted satisfactory answers. Why did political repression affect so many people, most of them ordinary citizens? Why did repression come in waves or cycles? Why were economic and petty crimes regarded as political crimes? What was the reason for relying on extra-judicial tribunals? And what motivated the extreme harshness of punishments, including the widespread use of the death penalty?

Through an approach that synthesizes history and economics, Paul Gregory develops systematic explanations for the way terror was…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, and the Holocaust?

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