The most recommended Russian Revolution books

Who picked these books? Meet our 25 experts.

25 authors created a book list connected to the Russian Revolution, and here are their favorite Russian Revolution books.
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Book cover of The Kitchen Boy

Jennifer Laam Author Of The Romanov Heiress

From my list on the last Romanovs.

Why am I passionate about this?

A proud native of Stockton, CA, Jennifer Laam resides in California with a temperamental tabby cat named Jonesy. Her other works of historical fiction are The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, The Tsarina’s Legacy, and The Lost Season of Love and Snow. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), cooing at Baby Yoda, or obsessing over House Targaryen. 

Jennifer's book list on the last Romanovs

Jennifer Laam Why did Jennifer love this book?

A harrowing and beautifully told novel of the last days of the Romanovs in imprisonment. The point of view character is a surviving servant, Leonka, a child released from the “House of Special Purpose” shortly before the execution of the royal family. 

By Robert Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient), directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters)

Drawing from decades of work, travel, and research in Russia, Robert Alexander re-creates the tragic, perennially fascinating story of the final days of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov as seen through the eyes of their young kitchen boy, Leonka. Now an ancient Russian immigrant, Leonka claims to be the last living witness to the Romanovs' brutal murders and sets down the dark secrets of his past with the imperial family. Does he hold the key to the many questions surrounding the…


Book cover of A Countess Below Stairs

Anna Campbell Author Of One Wicked Wish

From my list on classic historical romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved historical romance, ever since my mother gave me my first Georgette Heyer when I was eight, and my grandmother gave me my first Barbara Cartland shortly after. The fascination has never waned, which is a good thing because I grew up to become a historical romance author myself. Since publishing my first romance in 2006, I’ve written nearly 50 books, mainly set during the Regency period (first quarter of the 19th century). I’ve always adored how a good historical romance whisks me away to a larger-than-life world replete with dashing rakes, smart-mouthed ladies, and glittering high society, not to mention witty banter, glamour, and heart-stopping romance.

Anna's book list on classic historical romance

Anna Campbell Why did Anna love this book?

This is my favorite comfort read, the perfect book for days when life has too many sharp corners. I must have read this one at least twenty times. It has all the virtues of a classic fairytale: a pure-hearted, brave heroine; an honorable, steadfast hero; and a happy ending earned through suffering and effort and against all the odds. It tells the story of Countess Anna Grazinsky, a young refugee from the Russian Revolution, who finds work as a maid at a stately home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with the gallant war hero who owns the house. But the Earl of Westholme is promised to another woman. Heartwarming, triumphantly romantic, wise, and funny, A Countess Below Stairs is one of those rare books that makes the world seem a better place.  

By Eva Ibbotson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Countess Below Stairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Eva Ibbotson's charming and warm-hearted tale, A Secret Countess was originally published as A Countess Below Stairs.

Anna, a young countess, has lived in the glittering city of St Petersburg all her life in an ice-blue palace overlooking the River Neva. But when revolution tears Russia apart, her now-penniless family is forced to flee to England. Armed with an out-of-date book on housekeeping, Anna determines to become a housemaid and she finds work at the Earl of Westerholme's crumbling but magnificent mansion. The staff and the family are sure there is something not quite right about their new maid -…


Book cover of Conquered City

Zeese Papanikolas Author Of An American Cakewalk: Ten Syncopators of the Modern World

From Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Grew up in Salt Lake City Left Salt Lake City Reader Writer

Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Zeese Papanikolas Why did Zeese love this book?

Why do utopias fail? Why does the world of human dignity and equality they aspire to so often ossify into a mechanism of repression that strangles the very people revolutionaries attempted to liberate? 

Victor Serge is, for me, one of the essential writers of the 20th and now 21st centuries. A rebel since adolescence, he watched the revolution he had become part of in Russia begin to devour itself through internal terror, while at the same time fighting against the White terror of its opponents.

This novel gives an insider view of St. Petersburg, once the Czarist capital of Russia under the Bolsheviks in 1919-1920. What is remarkable in all of Serge’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction, is that in spite of being nearly killed by the revolution he worked for, he never turned away from his ideals and belief that a new form of society was possible.

By Victor Serge, Richard Greeman (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

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


Book cover of Doctor Zhivago

Reiner Prochaska Author Of Captives

From my list on characters who preserve their humanity in war.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in postwar Germany, I have always been fascinated by how people survive wars emotionally and retain their humanity. In my extensive research for Captives, I came across an account of a German soldier in North Africa, whose tank had been hit and was engulfed in flames. A human torch, he jumped from the tank, expecting to be killed by British soldiers who were nearby. Instead, they rolled his body in the sand to extinguish the flames and called a medic, saving his life. This act of humanity moved me and inspired me to make the preservation of one’s humanity in war the central theme in my novel.

Reiner's book list on characters who preserve their humanity in war

Reiner Prochaska Why did Reiner love this book?

Yuri Zhivago, a physician and a poet—strives to adhere to his ideals of integrity throughout his tragic life—though not always successfully. His medical skills allow him to heal others, and his poetry lets him explore truth in the volatile world of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War. 

Although he is in love with Lara, a married woman with whom he has a passionate affair, his sense of duty and honor allow him to remain devoted to his wife, Tonya.

His belief that humans should be true to themselves and maintain independent thoughts ultimately makes him a target for the Bolsheviks. 

As a writer who believes in the importance of truth—and as a flawed human being who makes mistakes and regrets them—I relate to Yuri.

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Doctor Zhivago as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago's love for the tender and beautiful Lara, the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times. Pevear and Volokhonsky masterfully restore the spirit of Pasternak's original—his style, rhythms,…


Book cover of The Beginning of Spring

Mark Beauregard Author Of The Whale: A Love Story

From my list on witty historical novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved satire. In college, I wrote and performed comedy sketches as part of a two-man team, and most of my work features at least some comic elements. For example, my novel The Whale: A Love Story is a serious historical novel about the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne that also offers moments of comedy to honor Melville's comic spirit (Moby-Dick, while ultimately tragic, is a very funny book). The most serious subjects usually contain elements of the absurd, and the books I love find humor in even the gravest situations. 

Mark's book list on witty historical novels

Mark Beauregard Why did Mark love this book?

Set in Moscow on the eve of the Russian Revolution, this novel’s plot does not scream “funny,” but it’s one of the most deeply funny books I’ve ever read.

An English printer living in Russia wakes up one day to find that his wife has left him and taken their children away, and revolutionaries have broken into his shop to print manifestoes.

From this unlikely setup, Fitzgerald spins a hilarious tale of loss, love, and redemption.

By Penelope Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Offshore’, ‘The Blue Flower’ and ‘Innocence’ comes this Booker Prize-shortlisted tale of a troubled Moscow printworks .


Frank Reid had been born and brought up in Moscow. His father had emigrated there in the 1870s and started a print-works which, by 1913, had shrunk from what it was when Frank inherited it. In that same year, to add to his troubles, Frank’s wife Nellie caught the train back home to England, without explanation.


How is a reasonable man like Frank to cope? How should he keep his house running? Should he consult the Anglican…


Book cover of Untimely Thoughts: Essays on Revolution, Culture, and the Bolsheviks, 1917-1918

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Will Englund Why did Will love this book?

Gorky, the author of The Lower Depths, was appalled by czarism and by Russia’s conduct in the First World War, yet this series of essays communicates a profound disillusionment with revolution. Russia, he wrote, was “splitting all along its seams and falling apart like an old barge in a flood.” He lamented “our stupidity, our cruelty, and all that chaos of dark, anarchistic feelings, that chaos which has been cultivated in our souls by the monarchy’s shameless oppression, by its cynical cruelty.” The old regime, he wrote, had successfully suppressed the human spirit in its subjects, and now that it was gone Russia would have to live with the consequences.

By Maxim Gorky, Herman Ermolaev (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most renowned Soviet writers of the twentieth century, Maxim Gorky was an early supporter of the Bolsheviks who became disillusioned with the turn of events after the 1917 revolution. This brilliant and controversial book is a collection of the critical articles Gorky wrote that describe the Russian national character, condemn the Bolshevik methods of government, and provide a vision of the future.


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 Fall of Tsarism: Untold Stories of the February 1917 Revolution

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Will Englund Why did Will love this book?

Amazingly, in the spring of 1917 an Interview Commission was formed in Russia to obtain oral histories of the revolution that led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II. Thirteen key players were interviewed about their role in the sweeping and often violent events that had occurred just two months earlier. You can sense the ambivalence that they were struggling with. Of special note is Alexander Kerensky, who would become the leader of the Provisional Government, describing how he called Nicholas’ brother Michael in the middle of the night, waking him up, and persuading him to renounce the throne.

By Semion Lyandres,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Fall of Tsarism contains a series of gripping, plain-spoken testimonies from some of the leading participants of the Russian Revolution of February 1917, including the future revolutionary premier Alexander Kerenskii.

Recorded in the spring of 1917, months before the Bolsheviks seized power, these interviews represent the earliest first-hand testimonies on the overthrow of the Tsarist regime known to historians. Hidden away and presumed lost for the better part of a century, they are now revealed to the world for the first time.


Book cover of Forty Years of Diplomacy; Volume 2

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Will Englund Why did Will love this book?

Rosen, who turned 70 just weeks before the revolution, was a veteran diplomat who for many years had been Russian ambassador to the United States. Deeply conservative and deeply insightful, he had been thrust aside by Nicholas’ court. He thought that Russia’s declaration of war in 1914 was lunacy and that its conduct and diplomacy during the war was staggeringly self-defeating. The memoir covers decades, but the section on February 1917 is by far the most trenchant. His self-effacing account of dealing with a group of revolutionary soldiers who came to his club one dark night gives a vivid look at the passions and confusion that were sweeping revolutionary Russia. Rosen fled after the Bolshevik takeover in November, 1917, and spent the rest of his life in New York.

By Roman Romanovich Rosen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forty Years of Diplomacy; Volume 2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Book cover of Red Winter

Sherry V. Ostroff Author Of Caledonia

From my list on historical novels to get lost in.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first love in reading and writing is historical fiction. But I’m pretty particular about how the stories are created. To me, historical novels should be as accurate as possible; the facts, rather than the fiction, should guide the story. With my writing, I follow the wise words of the author, Anya Seton: It has…been my anxious endeavor to use nothing but historical fact when these facts are known…. Since I have based my story on history, I have tried never to distort time, or place, or character to suit my convenience. I’m particularly pleased when readers tell me that my research is exemplary and they have learned something new. 

Sherry's book list on historical novels to get lost in

Sherry V. Ostroff Why did Sherry love this book?

I love books that include unusual locations and little-known events. Red Winter takes place in the 1920s in Siberia when the pogroms came and disrupted the peaceful existence of a small town in the frozen north. Like my book, which is about the creation of a Scottish colony in Central America, Red Winter offers the reader an opportunity to learn about a largely unknown history.  

By Kyra Kaptzan Robinov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When murderous Bolsheviks infiltrate the Siberian city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur in 1920, Luba’s comfortable, upper class life is upended overnight. As her husband is imprisoned and their house overrun with unruly partisan soldiers, Luba finds herself on the run with four small children, her mother-in-law, and epileptic sister-in-law. Pigsties, abandoned warehouses, opium dens are just a few of the places the group seeks refuge as they try to elude capture and stay alive.

The little-known history of this exotic time and place is seen through the eyes of a reluctant heroine grappling with adversity and loss during the dangerous political chaos…