The most recommended books about the dissolution of the Soviet Union

Who picked these books? Meet our 7 experts.

7 authors created a book list connected to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and here are their favorite dissolution of the Soviet Union books.
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Lenin's Tomb

By David Remnick,

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 the 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

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…

The Good Luck Girls

By Charlotte Nicole Davis,

Book cover of The Good Luck Girls

Lauren Shippen Author Of The Infinite Noise

From the list on heart-pounding will they or won’t they stories.

Who am I?

As a Young Adult writer, I’m, of course, a huge YA reader as well. And one of my favorite things in YA - and in all of fiction - is falling in love with a fantastic ship. A lifelong fangirl, fanfic reader, and fanfic writer, I’ll never get sick of reading about two people falling in love. We can learn so much about a character, and ourselves, by how they approach romantic relationships and romantic tension is my favorite kind of plot tension! I hope you enjoy clutching your face and pacing the room as you wait for these characters to get together - I know I did!

Lauren's book list on heart-pounding will they or won’t they stories

Why did Lauren love this book?

While this story of rebellion and Black sisterhood is not first and foremost a romance, a central relationship in the book had me on the edge of my seat. I wondered if these two characters - who I’m not going to spoil for you - would ever realize how perfect they were for each other and ending up shouting out loud when all the tension finally snapped. Come for the slow burn romance and stay for the incredible commentary about power and politics.

By Charlotte Nicole Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls - they know their luck is anything but.

Sold to a "welcome house" as children and branded with cursed markings.

Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta's most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a…

The Russian's Pride

By Cap Daniels,

Book cover of The Russian's Pride

Nicholas Harvey Author Of Deadly Sommer

From the list on kick-ass females of sea and sky.

Who am I?

My wife is a beautiful, intelligent, and determined woman. She took up rock climbing in her forties. She rides a motorcycle on and off-road. She scuba dives with sharks, she’s jumped out of an airplane, and she strapped crampons on her feet when I said we’re climbing a snow-covered mountain. One of my best friends in the world is from Finland. Typical of Finns, and Scandinavians in general, he has a dry wit and keen observations and thoughts which he delivers matter-of-factly in few words. Combining these two with a sprinkling of my own imagination produced Nora Sommer.

Nicholas' book list on kick-ass females of sea and sky

Why did Nicholas love this book?

Cap Daniels's marvellous character Anya Burinkova takes us all around the Caribbean by both sea and air throughout the series. And like Nora Sommer, she’s full of deep thoughts and observations, but never wastes words.

The former Russian SVR Captain has defected to the US, but to earn the freedom she seeks, the federal government coerces her into using her deadly skill sets against the Russian mob.

Partnered with Special Agent Gwynn Davis, the two build a relationship that is perfectly cultivated throughout the series, and if you’re looking for guns, knives, and explosions, this series does not come up short.

By Cap Daniels,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When former Russian SVR Captain Anastasia “Anya” Burinkova defected to the United States, the life she imagined was far from the one she discovered. As the freedom she’s longed for turns to little more than imprisonment, her deadly skill set, forged and honed behind the Iron Curtain, is the only key that can possibly unshackle her.

A late-night vigilante mission under the veil of darkness turns from vendetta to entrapment in an instant. What should’ve been a mission to right decades-old injustices becomes a deadly encounter with federal agents determined to turn the assassin into an indentured servant.

With terrifying…

Secondhand Time

By Bela Shayevich, Svetlana Alexievich,

Book cover of Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

Henry Virgin Author Of Exit Rostov

From the list on psychological enquiry in alternative formats.

Who am I?

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

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 Bela Shayevich, Svetlana Alexievich,

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


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…

Death and the Penguin

By Andrey Kurkov,

Book cover of Death and the Penguin

Susan Viets Author Of Picnic at the Iron Curtain: A Memoir: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Ukraine's Orange Revolution

From the list on Ukraine from a journalist who was based there.

Who am I?

I moved to Kyiv to report for The Independent in 1990 and fell in love with Ukraine. The beauty of Kyiv and its golden-domed cathedrals amazed me as did the vibrant culture of civic engagement that emerged. It’s not often that you witness a declaration of independence and see a new country appear on the world map. I admire the bravery of Ukrainians who have fought for both and value the warm friendships that I made. I was Ukraine’s first accredited foreign correspondent. Before that I reported for The Guardian (Budapest) and later, for the BBC (London and Kyiv). I live in Toronto and still closely follow developments in Ukraine.  

Susan's book list on Ukraine from a journalist who was based there

Why did Susan love this book?

I chose Death and the Penguin for its unique, intriguing plot and also because it captures so beautifully the sinister, bizarre, shadowy undercurrent of life in Ukraine in the 1990s. At times back then, I remember wondering whether the deaths of some people that I knew were really accidents, as reported, or murders. It is precisely this state of not knowing that Kurkov handles so beautifully. Viktor, the main character in the novel, begins his newspaper job innocently enough, writing obituaries of prominent Ukrainians, still alive. One by one they begin to die. I’ll leave you to read the book to find out what happens next.

By Andrey Kurkov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A tragicomic masterpiece' Daily Telegraph

All that stands between one man and murder by the mafia is a penguin.

Viktor is an aspiring writer in Ukraine with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap…

Book cover of The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR

Sarah B. Snyder Author Of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network

From the list on the end of the Cold War.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by Russian history and American-Soviet relations since high school. Now at American University’s School of International Service, I teach courses on the history of U.S. foreign relations, the Cold War, as well as human rights and U.S. foreign policy. I have written two books on the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, including Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network and From Selma to Moscow: How U.S. Human Rights Activists Transformed U.S. Foreign Policy. When I’m not working, I love a good Cold War TV series (Deutschland 83 or The Americans).

Sarah's book list on the end of the Cold War

Why did Sarah love this book?

In The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy, Chris Miller compares the political and economic reforms undertaken in the Soviet Union and China in the 1980s. His account portrays Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as weak and unable to make difficult choices, and Miller reveals the dire consequences of Gorbachev's policies for the cohesion of his country. Miller argues effectively that Gorbachev did not have the option to follow the “authoritarian path” of China’s Deng Xiaoping.

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For half a century the Soviet economy was 'inefficient' but stable. In the late 1980s, to the surprise of nearly everyone, it suddenly collapsed. Why did this happen? And what role did Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's economic reforms play in the country's dissolution? In this groundbreaking study, Chris Miller shows that Gorbachev and his allies tried to learn from the great success story of transitions from socialism to capitalism, Deng Xiaoping's China. Why, then, were efforts to revitalize Soviet socialism so much less successful than in China?

Making use of never-before-studied documents from the Soviet politburo and other archives, Miller…