The best St. Petersburg books 📚

Browse the best books on St. Petersburg as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of City-pick St Petersburg

City-pick St Petersburg

By Heather Reyes, James Rann, Marina Samsonova

Why this book?

This is a great anthology in the City Picks series, with lots of different literary and essayistic texts about St Petersburg, including recent and offbeat ones as well as the classics. You can get lost in the place even if, for the moment, you can’t travel there!

From the list:

The best books about modern St Petersburg

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Leningradsky Photo Underground

Leningradsky Photo Underground

By Valery Valran

Why this book?

It’s hard these days to get a sense of what Leningrad looked like back in the 1960s and 1970s, and these photographs are also a tribute to the alternative art of that era: grainy black-and-white-images of stray dogs on rubbish tips, drunks in backyards, dilapidated façades stretching along the eerie silver of canals. The photographers included (such as Boris Smelov, Lev Zviagin, Slava Mikhailov, Boris Kudryakov and Olga Korsunova) aren’t nearly as well-known as they should be, and are as interesting in their way as the ubiquitous Boris Mikhailov. For a comparable figure who isn’t included in Val’ran’s book because…

From the list:

The best books about modern St Petersburg

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

By W. Bruce Lincoln

Why this book?

This is an unusual book, in that it is effectively a biography of a city – known through the years first as St Petersburg, then Petrograd, then Leningrad, and now once more St Petersburg. As he tells the story of the city that Peter the Great built in a desolate swamp, Lincoln brings together many of the different strands of Russian history and the strong-willed people who tried, with varying degrees of success, to direct that history in directions of their choosing. For anyone intending to visit St Petersburg, reading this book beforehand is an absolute must – it will…

From the list:

The best books that changed my view of history

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Notes from the Blockade

Notes from the Blockade

By Lydia Ginzburg

Why this book?

You can’t understand modern St Petersburg without an awareness of its wartime history, and among many searing accounts of the Siege of Leningrad, this has the greatest philosophical depth. The translation by Alan Myers is excellent, and there are helpful notes by Emily van Buskirk.

From the list:

The best books about modern St Petersburg

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Winter Garden

Winter Garden

By Kristin Hannah

Why this book?

I love a good mystery and a good story within a story. This book has both. Estranged sisters, Meredith and Nina, have never been close with their mother, Anya, until they finally have a chance to understand what made her so icy. As a deathbed promise to her husband, Anya agrees to tell their daughters her story, but it is so difficult for her that she must tell it little by little and as a fairy tale. From frozen, war-torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska, the story changes this family forever. 

For anyone who has secrets, or has someone in their…

From the list:

The best dual timeline novels

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Akhmatova Journals: Volume 1, 1938-1941

The Akhmatova Journals: Volume 1, 1938-1941

By Lydia Chukovskaya, Milena Michalski, Sylva Rubashova

Why this book?

Akhmatova was one of the most important poets in the city’s history, and here she is brought to life by an exceptionally talented diarist: elusive, but at times extremely frank, hesitant, vulnerable, while at the same time demanding. It is a riveting portrait. Chukovskaya also draws a fraught picture of Leningrad during the Stalinist Great Terror, as evoked in Akhmatova’s famous cycle of memorial poems, Requiem. Look out also for Chukovskaya’s novel about the Terror, Sofia Petrovna.

From the list:

The best books about modern St Petersburg

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 19 books about St. Petersburg

New book lists about St. Petersburg

All book lists about St. Petersburg

Bookshelves related to St. Petersburg

Browse books by…