The most recommended books about Moscow

Who picked these books? Meet our 92 experts.

92 authors created a book list connected to Moscow, and here are their favorite Moscow books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of Moscow book?


A Chapter of Accidents

By Goronwy Rees,

Book cover of A Chapter of Accidents

Andrew Lownie Author Of Stalin's Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

From the list on Guy Burgess (Cambridge Spy Ring).

Who am I?

Andrew Lownie is a former journalist for The London Times, the British representative for the Washington-based National Intelligence Centre, and he helped set up the Spy Museum in Washington. His books include biographies of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess (which won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Book Prize), Dickie & Edwina Mountbatten (a top ten Sunday Times bestseller) and a forthcoming book on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Andrew's book list on Guy Burgess (Cambridge Spy Ring)

Why did Andrew love this book?

The writer and academic, Goronwy Rees, was one of Burgess’s closest friends and this volume of memoir best conveys Burgess’s character and charm. The two men saw much of each other during the 1930s, and Rees was one of Burgess’s first recruits, but the relationship foundered when Rees decided during the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 to stop spying and threatened to betray his friend. After Burgess surfaced in Moscow, Rees penned a series of sensational articles about Burgess’s dissolute private life, probably as a damage limitation exercise, which backfired and led him to losing his academic post but he soon was to have his revenge.

By Goronwy Rees,

Why should I read it?

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

A Diary of the Russian Revolution

By James L. Houghteling,

Book cover of A Diary of the Russian Revolution

Will Englund Author Of March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution

From the list on by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution.

Who am I?

I’m a longtime Moscow correspondent, having worked there for The Baltimore Sun in the 1990s and for The Washington Post in the 2010s. It was an exciting time to be in Russia, and I couldn’t help noticing parallels between the Russian revolutions of 1917 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. I think American policymakers, in particular, profoundly misunderstood both events. In my newspaper career, I am a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the George Polk Award, an Oversea Press Club award, and other honors. In the fall of 2018, I taught for a semester at Princeton University.

Will's book list on by witnesses to Russia’s February Revolution

Why did Will love this book?

Houghteling was a young Commerce Department official who was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd. He arrived in January 1917, by sleigh across the border into Russian Finland, seemingly full of American self-confidence. Traveling back and forth from Petrograd to Moscow, he was surprised at how openly Russians were talking about impending revolution, and maybe a little surprised at himself for being so taken by the country and its people. Over just weeks, from the run-up to the revolution to the collapse of the regime, his writing became less arch and more penetrating, his jokes less inane, and his perspective more complex even as he retained his optimism about Russia. Houghteling’s account features prominently in Helen Rappaport’s wonderful book from 2016, Caught in the Revolution.

By James L. Houghteling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Diary of the Russian Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book has been considered by academicians and scholars of great significance and value to literature. This forms a part of the knowledge base for future generations. We have represented this book in the same form as it was first published. Hence any marks seen are left intentionally to preserve its true nature.

The Lincoln Highway

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of The Lincoln Highway

Gabrielle Yetter Author Of Whisper of the Lotus

From Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Traveler Empath Adventurer Animal lover

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Gabrielle love this book?

After I read Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, I became hooked on this author’s work, and The Lincoln Highway did not disappoint.

I loved the quirky, memorable characters and creative story with peculiar twists and turns, not to mention Towles’ beautiful writing. I felt as though I was right there beside them on that wild and wacky road trip across the USA.

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Lincoln Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


More than ONE MILLION copies sold

A TODAY Show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

A New York Times Notable Book, and Chosen by Oprah Daily, Time, NPR, The Washington Post, Bill Gates and Barack Obama as a Best Book of the Year

“Wise and wildly entertaining . . . permeated with light, wit, youth.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A classic that we will read for years to come.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Read with Jenna book club
“Fantastic. Set in 1954, Towles uses the story of two brothers to show that our personal…

Book cover of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Damien Owens Author Of Duffy and Son

From Damien's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Reader Lover of funny

Damien's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Damien love this book?

I didnt think Le Carré was for me, somehow the world of properspies seemed so grim and grey but I was curious to see why this novel, in particular, has such a lofty reputation. I saw all right. My god, its good. Its almost nothing but sad middle-aged men talking quietly in drab offices and houses, and yet it is unremittingly gripping. It is the sort of book that makes you feel youve understood a world.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Legacy of Spies.

The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement-especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla-his Moscow Centre nemesis-and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

The Oscar-nominated feature film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is directed by…

The Spy Who Got Away

By David Wise,

Book cover of The Spy Who Got Away

Bryan Denson Author Of The Spy's Son: The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia

From the list on nonfiction about turncoat American spies.

Who am I?

I knew nothing about spies – except that James Bond preferred his martinis shaken, not stirred – until 2009, when federal agents hauled Jim and Nathan Nicholson into the federal courthouse I covered as an investigative reporter for The Oregonian newspaper. Since then, I’ve taken a deep dive into the real world of spies and spy catchers, producing The Spy’s Son and writing another cool spy case into Newsweek magazine. Now I’m hooked. But with apologies to 007, I prefer my martinis stirred. 

Bryan's book list on nonfiction about turncoat American spies

Why did Bryan love this book?

David Wise became the first Western journalist to interview former CIA officer Edward Lee Howard, who defected to Moscow on the KGB’s dime. Wise penned a slew of excellent nonfiction spy books before his death in 2018, but I believe his keen-eyed narrative skills and vivid portrait of Cold War espionage make The Spy Who Got Away his best in show.

Wise recounts Howard’s career in the CIA, which fired him in 1983 for alleged drug abuse, and the FBI’s subsequent investigation of his illegal ties to the KGB. But his story takes a cool, cinematic turn as he describes the way Howard slipped FBI surveillance – propping up a dummy in the front passenger seat of a speeding 1979 Oldsmobile – and jumping out of the car to escape to Moscow.

Book cover of The Moscow Bombings of September 1999: Examinations of Russian Terrorist Attacks at the Onset of Vladimir Putin's Rule

David Satter Author Of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

From the list on contemporary Russia.

Who am I?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the U.S.S.R. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He has been a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, and an associate of the Henry Jackson Society in London.

David's book list on contemporary Russia

Why did David love this book?

The Russian apartment bombings of 1999 consolidated the criminal system put in place by Russian president Boris Yeltsin and created the conditions for Vladimir Putin to take power. In this book, Dunlop describes in meticulous detail the story of the bombings and shows that they were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) which means that they rank as the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.

By John B. Dunlop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moscow Bombings of September 1999 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The five chapters of this volume focus on the complex and tumultuous events occurring in Russia during the five months from May through September 1999. They sparked the Russian invasion of Chechnya on 1 October and vaulted a previously unknown former KGB agent into the post of Russian prime minister and, ultimately, president. The five chapters are devoted to: * The intense political struggle taking place in Russia between May and August of 1999, culminating in an incursion by armed Islamic separatists into the Republic of Dagestan.* Two Moscow terrorist bombings of 9 and 13 September 1999, claiming the lives…

Death of a Russian Priest

By Stuart M. Kaminsky,

Book cover of Death of a Russian Priest

Iona Whishaw Author Of Framed in Fire

From the list on soothingly gentleman-like inspectors.

Who am I?

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

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…

Dog Boy

By Eva Hornung,

Book cover of Dog Boy

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Author Of Bloodsucking Bogans

From the list on featuring realistic dogs.

Who am I?

Since I brought home my first rescue thirty years ago, my life has been full of dogs and dog-related activities that I can hardly imagine the person I would've been without them. My own books often feature one or more dogs, not because I particularly decide to write about dogs, but more because I live with dogs, it’s what I know. When I’m browsing for a good read, if a book features a dog, that’s a draw for me, just because dogs are dogs; they are such good creatures, so infinitely lovable, that their presence enhances a book for me just as their presence in my life enhances my every day.

Tabitha's book list on featuring realistic dogs

Why did Tabitha love this book?

Of all my picks, this one is the most startling read, I think. It follows the life of a very small boy, left for some reason abandoned, who takes refuge with a stray bitch and her litter, and consequently grows up as a dog.

This, too, is very much a tragedy; although he lives as a dog, and everything he knows is of being a dog, yet the boy is not a dog and cannot remain one, and his own complete failure to understand his circumstances when he is rescued results in one of the most heartbreaking endings to any book I have ever read.

It’s a strange and beautiful experience, reading this book, and although yes, it will break you, it gives a rare insight into how it can be for anyone brought up outside his proper culture.

By Eva Hornung,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A vivid, riveting novel about an abandoned boy who takes up with a pack of feral dogs

Two million children roam the streets in late twentieth-century Moscow. A four-year-old boy named Romochka, abandoned by his mother and uncle, is left to fend for himself. Curious, he follows a stray dog to its home in an abandoned church cellar on the city's outskirts. Romochka makes himself at home with Mamochka, the mother of the pack, and six other dogs as he slowly abandons his human attributes to survive two fiercely cold winters. Able to pass as either boy or dog, Romochka…

The One and Only

By Julia Ash,

Book cover of The One and Only

Peter Martuneac Author Of Her Name Was Abby

From the list on with strong, admirable women.

Who am I?

I have an amazing daughter in my life, and I want there to be more books for her to read that feature strong, admirable, and good women in leading roles. That’s one of the things I keep an eye out for in the books I read as well as the books I write.

Peter's book list on with strong, admirable women

Why did Peter love this book?

So often, the ‘strong woman’ character is in fact just a really rude, self-centered person, but not here. In Julia Ash’s The ELI Chronicles series, Ruby is a kind-hearted, brilliant scientist trying to do what’s right for her family and for the world. She’s also a great mother and is in a healthy, wholesome marriage with a supportive husband. That’s wonderfully refreshing amidst the plethora of toxic relationships we see in movies and books.

By Julia Ash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“And while the zombie action is exceptional, readers will likely find themselves rooting for the messy demise of Ox, whose lechery boils from the page.” – Kirkus Reviews

Ruby thinks being a new mother and government microbiologist during a pandemic are hard enough. But then the pathogen mutates into ZOM-B and Russia kidnaps her while on assignment in Taiwan.

Somehow, Ruby is at the center of a global crisis.

Will she find out why? More importantly, can she save her family and perhaps the world?

If only she could break out of the Moscow prison and find her way back…

War Without Garlands

By Robert Kershaw,

Book cover of War Without Garlands: Barbarossa 1941 - 1942

Richard Hargreaves Author Of Hitler's Final Fortress: Breslau 1945

From the list on page-turning narrative history.

Who am I?

Narrative history isn’t about dates, kings, and queens. It’s about deeds, actions, experiences, decisions of people great and small. It’s about putting the reader in the middle of a drama and watching events unfold around them as if they were there so they can understand, observe, and perhaps ask: what would I have done? The best history writing shouldn’t just inform, but inspire you, make you feel: laugh, cry, feel angry, flinch at horrific sights, cheer the heroes, boo the villains, because history is made by ordinary people, good and bad, who possess many similar traits to the reader.

Richard's book list on page-turning narrative history

Why did Richard love this book?

I’m an Eastern Front buffespecially the beginning of the war and its end. And this is the very best book on the first six or so months of the titanic clash between Hitler and Stalin. Robert Kershaw is one of the best (largely) WW2 historians because he gives the ordinary soldier a voice. There are other books that go into greater detail on specific actions, and it is more German than Russian focused, but for an overview from Leningrad to the Crimea, with the emphasis on the Moscow axis, it’s the best general read by some distance.

By Robert Kershaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War Without Garlands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Kershaw, Robert J.

Chess Queens

By Jennifer Shahade,

Book cover of Chess Queens: The True Story of a Chess Champion and the Greatest Female Players of All Time

Matthew Sadler Author Of The Silicon Road To Chess Improvement: Chess Engine Training Methods, Opening Strategies & Middlegame Techniques

From the list on (in)famous chess players.

Who am I?

I first saw a chessboard at the age of 7 and became a professional chess player at 16, achieving the grandmaster title after just 3 years. Many years later – and no longer a professional – that childhood love for a beautiful game still burns brightly. My particular passions are chess engines – which offer a glimpse into the chess of the future – and the lives and games of historical chess players. I’ve reviewed hundreds of books for New in Chess magazine and I particularly love books that challenge my understanding of chess and show me new facets to old knowledge. I hope you love these books too! 

Matthew's book list on (in)famous chess players

Why did Matthew love this book?

While much has been written about the best male players, the lives and games of the best female players have rarely been spotlighted (with the exception of the inimitable Judit Polgar).

A few recent books (I will mention also She Plays to Win by Lorin D’Costa) are starting to turn this around.

Shahade is a well-known media personality, a very strong chess player and poker player and writes lucidly both about her own journey within the male-dominated world of modern chess, and about the journeys of historical players such as Vera Menchik.

I love books that show me facets and areas of chess about which I knew little – and make me think about them – and this book achieves this perfectly.

By Jennifer Shahade,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For fans of The Queen's Gambit, this is the real life story of a female chess champion travelling the world to compete in a male-dominated sport with the most famous players of all time.

Jennifer Shahade, a two-time US women's chess champion, spent her teens and twenties travelling the world playing chess. Tournaments have taken her from Istanbul to Moscow, and introduced her to players from Zambia to China. In this ultra male-dominated sport, Jennifer found shocking sexism, as well as an incredible history of the top female players that has often been ignored. But she also found friendships, feminism…

In North Korea

By Anna Louise Strong,

Book cover of In North Korea: First Eyewitness Report

Stephen Gowans Author Of Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea's Struggle for Freedom

From the list on to understand the DPRK.

Who am I?

I became interested in North Korea in 2002 when the George W. Bush administration declared the country to be part of an Axis of Evil, along with Iraq and Iran. Bush had lied about Iraq, to justify a war against that country, and I wondered what evidence, if any, his administration had that North Korea was either evil or part of an axis. The answer was none. Bush was able to propagate one North Korean myth after another because the public knew very little about the country. I wished to give people some background so they could make sense of what they were reading and hearing about North Korea in the news and social media.

Stephen's book list on to understand the DPRK

Why did Stephen love this book?

Strong was a US journalist who reported on Communist movements for 40 years, beginning in the 1920s. In 1949 she travelled to Korea to report on the birth of the new North Korean state. I love this book because it offers an on-the-ground view of why the state was created and what its founders were trying to accomplish—invaluable for understanding the country today.

By Anna Louise Strong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by world traveler Anna Louise Strong (1885 1970), a reporter dedicated to social justice issues. A leftist radical, she covered I.W.W. trials and labor strikes in the Pacific Northwest before becoming a socialist . She was the Moscow correspondent for the American Friends Service Committee and International News Service, and traveled extensively throughout Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe. She was the first reporter to gain access to North Korea after WWII. In North Korea was published by Soviet Russia Today (1949), and she considers such topic as government and elections, industry, agriculture and impact of Soviet troops.


By Robert Harris,

Book cover of Archangel: A Novel

Michael Khodarkovsky Author Of Russia's 20th Century: A Journey in 100 Histories

From the list on Russia and USSR in the 20th Century.

Who am I?

History has always been my passion. Since I was 16, I tried to understand the world around me and the forces that shaped it. I thought that history as a discipline provided the best answers. In the 1970s, because of the official anti-Semitism, it was impossible to get into the history department programs at the Soviet universities. Nonetheless, I resolved to study history after my emigration to the US in 1979 and joined a graduate program at the University of Chicago. For four decades I have been writing about Russian history, although I also read, teach, and write on global history.

Michael's book list on Russia and USSR in the 20th Century

Why did Michael love this book?

A brilliant novel set in 1990s Russia. The plot involves Stalin and one of his deep secrets. The author seamlessly moves the story from the 1930s to 1990s and back. One rarely sees a historical novel so accurate in capturing the historical events and so utterly captivating. It is on par with some of the best thrillers.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'With Archangel, Robert Harris confirms his position as Britain's pre-eminent literary thriller writer' The Times

'He has a talent for heart-poundingly tense story-telling, and an ability to conjure up atmospheres almost palpable with menace' Sunday Times
Deadly secrets lurk beneath the Russian ice.

Historian Fluke Kelso is in Moscow, attending a conference on recently unclassified Soviet papers, when an old veteran of the Soviet secret police visits his hotel room in the dead of night. He tells Kelso about a secret notebook belonging to Josef Stalin, stolen on the night of his death.

Though Kelso expects little, he…

The Black Russian

By Vladimir Alexandrov,

Book cover of The Black Russian

Gareth M. Winrow Author Of Whispers Across Continents: In Search of the Robinsons

From the list on social and family history.

Who am I?

I became interested in social and family history when my Turkish friend, Ahmet Ceylan, told me amazing stories about his family. An academic by training, I used my expertise in the history of Turkey to explore the archives and uncover extraordinary details about the lives of the Robinsons. My field research took me to the wolds of Lincolnshire, the side streets of Istanbul, and the foothills of the Himalayas. I am keen to learn more about my own family, and for my next book, I am exploring the lives of people who owned/occupied the land/property where I live in Oxford, UK.

Gareth's book list on social and family history

Why did Gareth love this book?

This book brings to life the story of the little-known Frederick Bruce Thomas, born in 1872 to ex-slaves who had become successful farmers in Mississippi. I was amazed at how the entrepreneurial Frederick found employment in various cities across Europe before becoming a successful nightclub owner in Moscow and then in Istanbul after the Bolshevik Revolution. Well-researched and documented, the book critiques American racism and, in my opinion, offers a new and refreshing insight into the politics and society of Russia and Turkey.

By Vladimir Alexandrov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary story of Frederick Bruce Thomas, the son of former slaves who fled America to build a life in Tsarist Russia.

'A fascinating tale' Anne Applebaum
'Thoroughly enjoyable' Spectator
'Extraordinary and gripping' Adam Hochschild

After the brutal death of his father when he was a teenager, Frederick Thomas fled the stifling racism of the American South and headed for New York City, where he worked as a valet and trained as a singer. Through charisma and cunning, Thomas emigrated to Europe, where his acquired skills as a multilingual maitre d'hotel allowed him to travel from London to Monte Carlo…

The Master and Margarita

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Book cover of The Master and Margarita

Catherine Czerkawska Author Of Bird of Passage

From Catherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Researcher Social historian Feminist Reader

Catherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Catherine love this book?

I went back to this classic recently after a gap of many years and loved it even more. This is a serious philosophical novel that is also a grimly funny satire on Stalinist Russia. It was published long after the author's death.

The devil, posing as a stage magician, comes to Moscow, accompanied by various demonic minions, and proves to be more dangerous than any politician. People don’t believe in him, which leaves him free to create havoc, especially among the literary elite.

The mayhem includes such gems as bureaucrats being transformed into empty suits and the staff of the Branch Office of the Theatrical Commission involuntarily finding themselves singing The Song of the Volga Boatmen.

This is a novel that a certain contemporary Russian leader is allegedly afraid of. I can understand why. 

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Master and Margarita as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Bulgakov is one of the greatest Russian writers, perhaps the greatest' Independent

Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign, The Master and Margarita became an overnight literary phenomenon when it was finally published it, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere. Bulgakov's carnivalesque satire of Soviet life describes how the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow one Spring afternoon. Brimming with magic and incident, it is full of imaginary, historical, terrifying and wonderful characters, from witches, poets and Biblical tyrants to the beautiful, courageous Margarita, who will…

Book cover of Searching for Bobby Fischer: A Father's Story of Love and Ambition

Brin-Jonathan Butler Author Of The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

From the list on the world of chess.

Who am I?

We stumble onto games very early on in life and yet one game alone stood apart for me and hundreds of millions of other people over the centuries: chess. Across 1500 years of the games existence, chess has attracted players numbering in the billions regardless of language, culture, or creed, they were all unified in a passion for the irresistible allure of this remarkable game. In 2016, I was hired by Simon and Schuster to cover the world chess championship featuring arguably the greatest player ever to wield chess pieces, Magnus Carlsen. Fully immersing myself into the game during the researching and writing of the book, I collided with powerful themes.

Brin-Jonathan's book list on the world of chess

Why did Brin-Jonathan love this book?

Waitzkin was a freelance journalist when he discovered his young son was a brilliant prodigy at the chessboard. This book offered the most useful and colorful portrait of the bizarre ecosystem of chess that I’ve ever come across in print. The story also documents a dangerous father-son relationship as Josh navigates his way to realizing the potential that has unexpectedly corrosive effects for both of them.   

By Fred Waitzkin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The father of a real american chess prodigy reflects on chess, competition, childhood, and his son's meteoric rise to the highest levels of global competition.

"[A] little gem of a book." -The New York Times

Fred Waitzkin was smitten with chess during the historic Fischer-Spassky championship in 1972. When Fisher disappeared from public view, Waitzkin's interest waned-until his own son Josh emerged as a chess prodigy.

Searching for Bobby Fischer is the story of Fred Waitzkin and his son, from the moment six-year-old Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he competes for the national championship. Drawn into the…

Napoleon on Napoleon

By Somerset de Chair (editor),

Book cover of Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From the list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Who am I?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Why did Gareth love this book?

Where better to start trying to understand Napoleon than with his own words? If only it was that simple! In total, four of his companions took down Napoleon’s words but he died without editing them. Exiled on St Helena, Bonaparte was determined to counter what he saw as the gross distortions circulating in the English-speaking world. I delight in his confident vision, even after his ultimate defeat. This book gives us insights into his view on the nature of history, his assessment of generals through the ages, including a substantial section on himself, the key events in his career, and a set of final observations in which he attempts to rewrite history to his tastes. Not then a balanced piece of work but no less fascinating for all that. It taught me the importance of putting myself in a character’s shoes before I start writing.

By Somerset de Chair (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During his exile on St. Helena, Napoleon dictated memoirs, notes, letters and battle commentaries to the generals who shared his captivity. He then edited the material himself. The result is an account of Napoleon's life in his own words, from his childhood in Corsica to his defeat at Waterloo in 1815. Private concerns, such as feuds with his brothers and divorce from Josephine, are mixed with such matters of state as the rebellion of Toussaint-Louverture and the retreat from Moscow. In this edition, de Chair has incorporated much new material from three further volumes of notes and miscellanies dictated by…

The Siberian Dilemma

By Martin Cruz Smith,

Book cover of The Siberian Dilemma

Martin Campbell Author Of Sailor's Heart

From the list on true courage in facing danger when afraid.

Who am I?

I am a Scottish writer who has published two books, one about poker and plumbing (Bad Beat Hotel) and the other about the treatment of men who sailed in the WW2 Arctic convoys and were unable to continue fighting (Sailor’s Heart). I’m interested in how people work and how they can be “repaired” when they wear out, malfunction, or break. My professional background is in clinical psychology and the study of human behaviour. I chose “cowards who become heroes” as my book theme because I’m constantly amazed by people’s resilience when faced with the most terrible circumstances.

Martin's book list on true courage in facing danger when afraid

Why did Martin love this book?

Arkady Renko, a Moscow detective is a true hero, someone regarded as weak and hopeless to all around him, but ultimately redeemed by his principles and by his actions. Martin Cruz Smith is my favourite “cold places” writer, so when I heard that Renko was going to Siberia, I was hooked. (Before he goes, he shoots a bear in Moscow with a tranquilliser dart, but no more plot spoilers…)

He goes to the far, frozen east to record a police confession and to find his lost girlfriend, encountering bullets, corruption, frostbite, and more bears. His boss back in Moscow expects him to fail, as does nearly everyone he meets. But they all underestimate Arkady Renko, a hero underdog.

By Martin Cruz Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the award-winning, bestselling author of Gorky Park and Tatiana comes a breathtaking new novel about investigator Arkady Renko—“one of the most compelling figures in modern fiction” (USA TODAY)—who travels deep into Siberia to find missing journalist Tatiana Petrovna.

Journalist Tatiana Petrovna is on the move. Arkady Renko, iconic Moscow investigator and Tatiana’s part-time lover, hasn’t seen her since she left on assignment over a month ago. When she doesn’t arrive on her scheduled train, he’s positive something is wrong. No one else thinks Renko should be worried—Tatiana is known to disappear during deep assignments—but he knows her enemies all…

The Future of Nostalgia

By Svetlana Boym,

Book cover of The Future of Nostalgia

Judith Glatzer Wechsler Author Of The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer

From the list on anthology that bring sources to light.

Who am I?

I am an art historian and was professor of art history at MIT, Tufts, Harvard, and elsewhere. As an undergraduate I studied Jewish history and philosophy and subsequently was assistant editor at Schocken Books focusing on art history and history of ideas. My graduate work was in art history, first in medieval manuscripts and then 19th century French art. I’ve written four books, edited four others, and made 30 documentaries, mostly on art. The French government knighted me “Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres.”

Judith's book list on anthology that bring sources to light

Why did Judith love this book?

I met Svetlana in the last two years of her life and was deeply impressed by her brilliance in literature and the history of ideas and cultures. She died, tragically, in her mid 50s cutting short her extraordinary career, from childhood and youth in Soviet Russia to her stellar career as a Harvard professor of comparative literature. Of her seven books, this highly original study of nostalgia has been particularly important.

A ground breaking study about longing in its positive and negative forms, focusing on post-communist cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin, and writers Nabokov, Brodsky, and Kabakov. Erudite, brilliant, and witty, this is a great cross-genre study of our modern condition.

By Svetlana Boym,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Combining personal memoir, philosophical essay, and historical analysis, Svetlana Boym explores the spaces of collective nostalgia that connect national biography and personal self-fashioning in the twenty-first century. She guides us through the ruins and construction sites of post-communist cities-St. Petersburg, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague-and the imagined homelands of exiles-Benjamin, Nabokov, Mandelstahm, and Brodsky. From Jurassic Park to the Totalitarian Sculpture Garden, Boym unravels the threads of this global epidemic of longing and its antidotes.

Riot Days

By Maria Alyokhina,

Book cover of Riot Days

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?

The book describes the performance, arrest, and prison term, of Maria Alyokhina, in deft, immediate, and succinct ‘beat’ style lingo, illustrated with her drawings. The text is refreshing on the open page, well spaced out. As one of the key members of Pussy Riot, her bravery shines out for her courageous activism which continues to this day. On 21 February 2012 the band performed their anti-Putin, anti-patriarchy Punk Prayer, called "Holy Shit", on the altar at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Critical of the relationship between the orthodox Church and Putin, with lines including “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, chase Putin out”, or “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Be a feminist! Be a feminist!” the band managed to escape after the performance, but the video went viral, leading to their arrest and imprisonment. Testament to her punk character and iron resolve, the book describes the terrible prison conditions, and…

By Maria Alyokhina,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From activist, Pussy Riot member and freedom fighter Maria Alyokhina, a raw, hallucinatory, passionate account of her arrest, trial and imprisonment in a penal colony in the Urals for standing up for what she believed in.

'One of the most brilliant and inspiring things I've read in years. Couldn't put it down. This book is freedom' Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

'Reading: RIOT DAYS, by PussyRiot member MariaAlyokhina. A women's prison memoir like no other! One tough cookie!' @MargaretAtwood

'In oppressive political systems, some of the most effective weapons are sarcasm and dark humour. It is exactly these…