The most recommended books about the Black Sea

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to the Black Sea, and here are their favorite Black Sea books.
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What type of Black Sea book?


Book cover of Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes, Through Darkness and Light

Zuza Zak Author Of Amber & Rye: A Baltic Food Journey: Estonia - Latvia - Lithuania

From my list on travelling through food.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some people travel through food–they seek out authentic foods when they are travelling, visit certain places just to eat their specialties, and travel from their own kitchens when they are at home. This book list is for them. The same has always been the case with me, and I have continued this habit of exploring culture through food in the writing of my own cookbooks. Amber & Rye was the book for which I physically travelled the most, and my partner did all the travel photography too, so it was a family experience.

Zuza's book list on travelling through food

Zuza Zak Why did Zuza love this book?

This is a book you’ll want to go to bed with again and again. It combines travel and food in the most evocative, interesting of ways.

In this book, Eden travels from pre-war Odesa to Istanbul and on to Trabzon, covering the little-known history of the fascinating Black Sea region along the way. You’ll want to cook all the recipes if only to add that extra dimension to your reading experience. 

By Caroline Eden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Art of Eating Prize 2020

Winner of the Guild of Food Writers' Best Food Book Award 2019

Winner of the Edward Stanford Travel Food and Drink Book Award 2019

Winner of the John Avery Award at the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards for 2018

Shortlisted for the James Beard International Cookbook Award

'The next best thing to actually travelling with Caroline Eden - a warm, erudite and greedy guide - is to read her. This is my kind of book.' - Diana Henry

'A wonderfully inspiring book about a magical part of the world' -…

Book cover of Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes Through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland

Sophie Ibbotson Author Of Uzbekistan

From my list on to discover the Silk Road.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first visited Central Asia in 2008, little did I know that it would become the focus of my life and work. I now advise the World Bank and national governments on economic development, with a particular focus on tourism, and I’m the Chairman of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. I am Uzbekistan’s Ambassador for Tourism, a co-founder of the Silk Road Literary Festival, and I’ve written and updated guidebooks to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Silk Road.

Sophie's book list on to discover the Silk Road

Sophie Ibbotson Why did Sophie love this book?

Food is without doubt one of the most insightful windows into any culture. The food we eat is a mirror of who we are and where we come from, a strong trigger for memory, and cooking together or sharing a meal creates an unusually strong bond between people who were previously strangers. In Red Sands, Caroline Eden combines reportage, photography, and recipes to build a rich picture of Central Asia, introducing people and places foreigners would never normally encounter. Her stories are diverse, evocative, and thought-provoking, but they have one thing in common: they make you hungry for adventure and to taste the many ingredients and dishes she describes.

By Caroline Eden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Andre Simon Food Book Award 2020

"Caroline Eden is an extraordinarily creative and gifted writer. Red Sands captures the sights, tastes and feel of Central Asia so well that when reading this book I was sometimes convinced I was there in person. A wonderful book from start to finish." Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads\

"Caroline Eden, whose book Black Sea was showered with awards, is on the road again, this time travelling through the heart of Asia. It's not your usual cookbook, it's more a travel book with recipes, the recipes acting as postcards which…

Book cover of The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third

George S. Yip Author Of China's Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation

From my list on business and military strategy and execution.

Why am I passionate about this?

My career in business strategy as a manager, consultant, and academic developed via my lifelong passion for military strategy and tactics, reading countless books on the Battle of Marathon through to the Third (!) World War. When I was introduced to business strategy in an MBA program, it was love at first lecture. I progressed to a doctorate in “Business Policy” at Harvard Business School as the second doctoral student of the then unknown Michael Porter. My main contribution has been the concept of global strategy for multinational companies. My focus is now on how Chinese companies are moving from imitation to innovation and reinventing management control.

George's book list on business and military strategy and execution

George S. Yip Why did George love this book?

Of the many books explaining the success of the Roman Empire, this is by far the best in that it shows how Rome continually adapted its strategy in building and sustaining its empire. Rome's strategy was not ceaseless fighting but comprehensive strategies that unified force, diplomacy, and an immense infrastructure. Initially relying on client states to buffer attacks, Rome moved to permanent frontier defense. Finally, as barbarians began to penetrate the empire, Rome fielded large armies in a strategy of defense-in-depth. This book's lesson for business strategy is that companies need to constantly adapt their strategies as their circumstances change. The book also has powerful implications for modern geopolitical strategy—be flexible in both means and ends.

By Edward N. Luttwak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire encompassed the entire Mediterranean basin, extending much beyond it from Britain to Mesopotamia, from the Rhine to the Black Sea. Rome prospered for centuries while successfully resisting attack, fending off everything from overnight robbery raids to full-scale invasion attempts by entire nations on the move. How were troops able to defend the Empire's vast territories from constant attacks? And how did they do so at such moderate cost that their treasury could pay for an immensity of highways, aqueducts, amphitheaters, city baths, and magnificent temples? In The Grand Strategy of the…

Book cover of The Bright Black Sea: The Lost Star Stories Volume One

Audrey Driscoll Author Of She Who Comes Forth

From Audrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Plant referee Observer Cataloguer and classifier Imaginer

Audrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Audrey Driscoll Why did Audrey love this book?

This is a seafaring adventure story, except it happens in space, in the far-distant future. The Lost Star is a tramp spaceship with a long history and some dark secrets.

When Wil Litang becomes its acting captain, he has no idea where he and his crew will end up or what nail-biting adventures they will experience. As a reader, I was right there with them, fleeing space pirates through asteroid fields, visiting strange planets and stranger planetoids.

The best thing about the book is its matter-of-fact approach to space travel and the first-person narration by Captain Wil, liberally seasoned with "spaceer" slang. There were many places where I dreaded to read on but absolutely could not stop. Totally diverting and highly recommended.

By C Litka,

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of Anyush

Susan Lanigan Author Of White Feathers

From my list on World War One that don’t have the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer based in Ireland. When I was fifteen, I read about the Battle of Verdun, and the horror and ineptitude of it led me into an obsession with World War I. Visiting the Imperial War Museum, I learned about the white feather of cowardice, bestowed by girls upon men out of uniform. Such a transformation of a symbol of peace to an instrument of stigma and shame made me think of Irish society as well as British. When White Feathers was published, its refusal to follow a sentimental “Tommy in the trenches” line angered some revisionist critics. But in the end, it is a passionate and intense love story with resistance.

Susan's book list on World War One that don’t have the same old story

Susan Lanigan Why did Susan love this book?

Anyush’s eponymous heroine is a young Armenian girl whose life is turned upside-down by the genocide carried out by the Ottomans under the Young Turks during fighting in World War One. I was only vaguely aware of the genocide before picking up the novel and it combines a beautiful love story between Anyush and Turkish captain Jahan with a vivid account of the horrors people faced. Beautifully researched and written by Martine Madden, it’s a book that both enthralled and humbled me. 

By Martine Madden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ottoman Empire, 1915

On the Black Sea coast, Anyush Charcoudian dances at her friend's wedding, dreaming of a life beyond her small Armenian village. Defying tradition, she embarks on a secret and dangerous affair with a Turkish officer, Captain Jahan Orfalea. As the First World War rages, the Armenian people are branded enemies of the state, and atrocities grow day by day. Torn apart and catapulted into a struggle to survive in the face of persecution and hatred, the lovers strive desperately to be reunited.

Book cover of Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Why am I passionate about this?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

On the face of it, this seems like a straightforward book. Magris traces the geography of the Danube from Furtwangen or Donauschingen in southern Germany to the Black Sea, and in so doing surveys the history of the regions through which it passes. That would be a bold enough project in its own right, but the book itself is so much more than this and is one that I’ve returned to many times since I first stumbled across it fifteen years ago. The riverine structure of the book sweeps the reader from prehistory to the twentieth century and back again, individual eddies linger on intriguing episodes – the building of the cathedral tower at Ulm, the significance of the Iron Gates – and then we’re off again on another evocative description of the river or aside on the forgotten history of Mitteleuropa. A terrific read.

By Claudio Magris, Patrick Creagh (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A journey along this famous river described by the author, Claudio Magris, who unravels the amazing history of the many towns along its banks.

Book cover of That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500

Brian Catlos Author Of Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad

From my list on the multi-religious Mediterranean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having lived in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and visited many, many more countries, I am a traveler first and foremost. I travel because I like getting to know different types of people and seeing how they live and how they think about the world and about their place in it. As a historian, I can travel back in time to places even more exotic than one can visit today. My favorite place is the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages – an exciting environment where Christians, Muslims, and Jews from Africa, Europe, and Asia, came together sometimes in conflict, but as often as not in collaboration or friendship.

Brian's book list on the multi-religious Mediterranean

Brian Catlos Why did Brian love this book?

That Most Precious Merchandise offers a much needed and evocatively-written reassessment of the experience of slavery in the late medieval Mediterranean. Tracing the networks of the slave trade from the Black Sea to Genoa, Venice, and Cairo, it argues that the Italian maritime powers and the Mamluk sultanate shared a similar approach to slavery. By re-assessing Black Sea slavery from the vantage point of both Italy and Egypt, Barker discerns commonalities in systems and approaches to slavery across cultures—she calls this a common culture of slavery. She presents as the principal themes of the book a series of conceptions and practices of slavery that cut across confessional and cultural lines, upending a number of fundamental paradigms that have shaped, and limited, the scholarly terrain. 

By Hannah Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked That Most Precious Merchandise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of the Black Sea as a source of Mediterranean slaves stretches from ancient Greek colonies to human trafficking networks in the present day. At its height during the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, the Black Sea slave trade was not the sole source of Mediterranean slaves; Genoese, Venetian, and Egyptian merchants bought captives taken in conflicts throughout the region, from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, and the Aegean Sea. Yet the trade in Black Sea slaves provided merchants with profit and prestige; states with military recruits, tax revenue, and diplomatic influence; and households with the service of…

Book cover of Blue River, Black Sea

Ben Coates Author Of The Rhine

From my list on rivers and the people who leave alongside them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Anglo-Dutch writer living in the Netherlands, and the author of two books. Growing up in England I never thought much about rivers, but in the Netherlands they’re hard to avoid, and I’ve become fascinated by them. These days, when we all work remotely and (when rules allow) usually travel by car, train, or plane rather than boat, it’s easy to think of rivers as just scenic backdrops, rather than anything more important. But the truth is many of our cities wouldn’t exist without the waters which flow through them, and waterways like the Rhine, Thames, and Seine have had a huge influence on the history and culture of the people living alongside them. If you want to understand why somewhere like Rotterdam, London or Paris is the way it is, you could spend the day in a library or museum – but you’d be better off going for a boat ride or swim, poking around under some bridges and talking to the fishermen, boatmen, and kayakers down at the waterline.

Ben's book list on rivers and the people who leave alongside them

Ben Coates Why did Ben love this book?

The Danube vies with the Rhine for the title of Europe's Amazon: a behemoth that spans a huge swathe of the continent, flowing from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania. In this book, Andrew Eames travels along the river by bicycle, horse, boat, and on foot, meeting everyone from royals to boatmen and gypsies, and providing a sparkling history of south-eastern Europe on the way. Before Covid, I was planning to travel along the Danube myself and hopefully write something about it. If that ever happens, this will be in my backpack.

By Andrew Eames,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blue River, Black Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Danube is Europe's Amazon. It flows through more countries than any other river on Earth - from the Black Forest in Germany to Europe's farthest fringes, where it joins the Black Sea in Romania. Andrew Eames' journey along its length brings us face to face with the Continent's bloodiest history and its most pressing issues of race and identity.

As he travels - by bicycle, horse, boat and on foot - Eames finds himself seeking a bed for the night with minor royalty, hitching a ride on a Serbian barge captained by a man called Attila and getting up…

Book cover of Anabasis (The Persian Expedition)

Prit Buttar Author Of The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944

From my list on changed my view of history.

Why am I passionate about this?

"History can become a dull and uninteresting subject, but the stories of the past are far more interesting and inspiring than the very best fiction. These stories tell us about how our world came to be, and the paths that our predecessors travelled; and they show us that, despite the decades and centuries that separate us, they were driven and inspired by the same factors that drive and inspire us today." Prit Buttar was a doctor, first in the British Army and then a GP, until retiring in 2019. Less than a year later, he volunteered to go back to work during the current pandemic.

Prit's book list on changed my view of history

Prit Buttar Why did Prit love this book?

There’s no substitute for reading about events by someone who was there. This book is about a largely forgotten incident, when 10,000 Greek mercenaries became involved in an attempt by Cyrus the Great to seize control of the Persian Empire from his brother. When Cyrus’ bid failed, the Greeks found themselves far from home and surrounded by foes; they then marched through Mesopotamia and modern-day Turkey to the Black Sea coast, where they were able to find ships that took them home to Greece.

It’s a tale of adventure and struggle, and sheer determination not to give in. It’s also a great example of how the author of such a work can find themselves faced with the difficult task of describing their own role in events. In the second half of the work, Xenophon gives increasing prominence to his personal leadership and suggestions. Regardless of any elements of self-promotion, it’s…

By Xenophon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anabasis (The Persian Expedition) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Widely considered the most famous work of the professional soldier and writer Xenophon, “Anabasis” is a true tale of dangerous adventure in ancient Greece. Though advised not to join the army of 10,000 by his friend Socrates, Xenophon does set out with Cyrus the Great in that man’s attempt to gain the empire of Persia from his brother. When this leader is killed in battle, however, the army loses cause and direction, and the result is a ‘marching republic’ in which the remainder of the army must fight their way home. Through endless miles of hostile territory where their foes…

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…