The most recommended books about the tsar of Russia

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7 authors created a book list connected to the tsar of Russia, and here are their favorite tsar of Russia books.
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Book cover of Thirteen Years at the Russian Court: A Personal Record of the Last Years and Death of the Tsar Nicholas II, and His Family

Julia P. Gelardi Author Of From Splendor to Revolution

From my list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.

Julia's book list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II

Julia P. Gelardi Why did Julia love this book?

This is the personal account of the family of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra as told by their children’s French-language tutor. Gilliard, who spent the years 1905-1918 in the bosom of the imperial family, came to know the family well, and hence had nearly unprecedented access to them. Gilliard succeeds in fleshing out the personalities of the ill-fated family who were devoted to each other, to God, and to Russia. He also highlights in vivid detail the impact of the Tsarevich Alexis’s hemophilia on him, his family, and most especially his distraught mother. Thanks to Gilliard, we come to understand the impact Rasputin had on the Tsarina and her hemophiliac son, whose illness was a closely guarded secret.

The Swiss-born Gilliard notes in his book that he was so “appalled” by the countless “absurdities and falsehoods” written about Nicholas II and his family that he was compelled to “rehabilitate…

By Pierre Gilliard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thirteen Years at the Russian Court as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In September 1905 Pierre Gilliard entered Tsar Nicholas II’s household as the French tutor of Duchesses Olga Nicolaievna and Tatiana Nicolaievna.

He would go on to spend a further thirteen years in the close company of the Romanov family.

Within that time he would be a witness to one of the most remarkable and tragic events of modern history as a close-knit family was torn apart and executed in the midst of the Revolution.

But this book is more than simply an eyewitness account of the Revolution.

As one of the books early reviews notes, Gilliard ‘had unusual opportunities of…


Book cover of The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II

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?

Radvinsky is a celebrated Russian playwright and historian. Raised in the Soviet Union, when information about the last Romanovs was repressed, his unique take on the tsar’s life makes this both a fascinating history and thoughtful meditation on what Nicholas II represents to Russians.

By Edvard Radzinsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Edvard Radzinki, the leading Russian playwright, offers a portrait of Nicholas and Alexandra's marriage and an account of the final days of the Russian royal family's arrest, imprisonment and regicide. The opening of long-closed archives has allowed the author to make discoveries and reach new and revealing conclusions. His hitherto uptapped sources include three participants in the shooting, Radzinki reveals Lenin's role in the execution and has seen the actual telegram in which the order for the murder was given and there is the outstanding question: were the Tsarina and the daughters allowed to escape?


Book cover of The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914

Michael Ruse Author Of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

From my list on why such nice people as we are so nasty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised a Quaker in England in the years after the Second World War. Quakers don’t have creeds, but they have strong beliefs about such things as the immorality of war. In the 1950s there was also huge prejudice, particularly against homosexuality which was then illegal. Issues like these gnawed at me throughout my 55-year career as a philosophy professor. Now 82 and finally retired, I'm turning against the problems of war and prejudice, applying much that I've learnt in my career as a philosopher interested in evolutionary theory, most particularly Charles Darwin. For this reason, intentionally, Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict is aimed at the general reader.  

Michael's book list on why such nice people as we are so nasty

Michael Ruse Why did Michael love this book?

If we are not killer apes, if war is not inevitable, how does it happen? Obviously because people were not up to the challenges of maintaining peace. Margaret MacMillan’s riveting account of the events leading up to the Great War, the First World War, shows in all-too-clear detail how not to go about avoiding war. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm, was petty and boastful and altogether too proud and confident of his totally inadequate abilities. The Tsar of Russia, Nicholas, was cut from the same cloth. But whereas Wilhelm made up his mind quickly and then was unmovable, Nicholas could never make up his mind. Between them, helped by other inadequates in places of high status and power, millions of young men lay dead on the fields of Flanders, in Northern France.

By Margaret MacMillan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War That Ended Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER of the International Affairs Book of the Year at the Political Book Awards 2014Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2013
The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict which killed millions of its men, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe's dominance of the world. It was a war which could have been avoided up to the last moment-so why did it happen?
Beginning in the early nineteenth…


Book cover of A Mountain of Crumbs

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

A Mountain of Crumbs is a memoir by Elena Gorokhovoa, a Russian girl, who grew up under the Soviet Union. Even though a religious ideology imposed more restrictions on women in Iran, I found Gorokhova’s vivid descriptions of her life and struggles similar to mine. It reminded me that authoritarian regimes are all similar in nature: controlling and overbearing. They nurture a controlling culture too. People, unknowingly, become a mirror image of the regime, just like Gorokhova’s mother. 

By Elena Gorokhova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a Soviet girl who discovers the truths adults are hiding from her and the lies her homeland lives by.

Elena’s country is no longer the majestic Russia of literature or the tsars, but a nation struggling to retain its power and its pride. Born with a desire to explore the world beyond her borders, Elena finds her passion in the complexity of the English language—but in the Soviet Union of the 1960s such a passion verges on the subversive. Elena is controlled by the state the same way she…


Book cover of The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna

Julia P. Gelardi Author Of From Splendor to Revolution

From my list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.

Julia's book list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II

Julia P. Gelardi Why did Julia love this book?

A skillfully written account and engaging portrait of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), younger sister of Tsar Nicholas II. Olga Alexandrovna’s life was no less dramatic than that of her brother, Nicholas II. Daughter, granddaughter, and sister to Russian emperors, Olga – a woman devoid of vanity and imbued with a strong faith – lived a life that could never be replicated. Immersed in the splendors of the Russian court, Olga also suffered through the Russian Revolution, and ultimately left Russia for a life of exile in Denmark and Canada. The Last Grand Duchess is Olga’s memoirs as told to Ian Vorres whose deft presentation of her story is to be applauded. Published in 1965, The Last Grand Duchess not only delves into Olga’s life but that of her family and other historical figures and brings a unique insight into the last Romanovs and Tsar Nicholas II in particular.

In…

By Ian Vorres,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When she died in exile in 1960, Olga Alexandrovna was the last Grand Duchess of Russia, the favorite sister of Czar Nicholas II who was executed with his wife and five children during the Revolution. Born in splendor difficult to imagine today, she endured a lifetime of relentless tragedy with courage and exceptional powers of adjustment.

The Last Grand Duchess is a valuable account of the final decades of the house of Romanov as seen through the eyes of its last surviving member. Through Olga, we meet Queen Victoria, George V of England, Rasputin, Mrs. Anderson - on whose story…


Book cover of The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories

Lee Polevoi Author Of The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

From my list on the Cold War told in the first person.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the first time many years ago, while traveling aboard a Canadian National Railway train from Montreal to British Columbia. Something about the contrast between the majestic Canadian Rockies and the dark alleys of John Le Carré’s Berlin brought the Cold War fully to life and set me on the path to writing a novel of my own set during that time. (Living through some of those tense years of superpower stand-offs didn’t hurt.) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is told in third-person, but many Cold War novels written in the first person do a masterful job of evoking that troubled era. 

Lee's book list on the Cold War told in the first person

Lee Polevoi Why did Lee love this book?

This group of interconnected stories—set mostly in Russia and Chechnya—take place before, during, and after the Cold War. In the opening story, “The Leopard,” Anthony Marra perfectly captures the suffocating terror of life under Stalin. 

The narrator is a disillusioned Soviet censor whose job is editing images of disgraced victims of Stalinist show trials out of official photographs and despoiling many other works of art for propaganda purposes.

Lines between work and life start to blur. The censor finds it increasingly hard to discern fact from fiction.

Things turn deadly when he himself becomes a victim and the truth (as he knows it) becomes irrelevant in the struggle against counter-revolutionaries.

From these troubled origins the Cold War began. The ability to discern truth from falsehood seems in our present times more pressing than ever.

By Anthony Marra,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*** A Granta Best of Young American Novelists 2017 ***

The Tsar of Love and Techno begins in 1930s Leningrad, where a failed portrait artist employed by Soviet censors must erase political dissenters from official images and artworks. One day, he receives an antique painting of a dacha inside a box of images due to be altered. The mystery behind this painting threads together the stories that follow, which take us through a century and introduce a cast of characters including a Siberian beauty queen, a young soldier in the battlefields of Chechnya, the Head of the Grozny Tourist Bureau,…


Book cover of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Colin Duncan Taylor Author Of Menu from the Midi

From Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Explorer History buff Francophile Trail runner

Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Colin Duncan Taylor Why did Colin love this book?

This book provides a chilling account of how Stalin came to power and stayed there.

The horror experienced by the wider population during this period stays mainly in the background. Instead, the focus is on the inner workings of Stalin’s regime, how its leaders and their families lived, how they plotted against each other, and how Stalin liquidated enemies, friends, ministers, enemies or their families to ensure he kept his grip on the Soviet Union.

This book made a particularly powerful impression on me, given the activities of the current Russian leadership, and left me wondering to what extent the workings of the modern Russian state draw on practices from an earlier time.

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the British Book Awards History Book of the Year

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize

This thrilling biography of Stalin and his entourage during the terrifying decades of his supreme power transforms our understanding of Stalin as Soviet dictator, Marxist leader and Russian tsar.

Based on groundbreaking research, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals in captivating detail the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with extraordinary narrative verve, this magnificent feat of scholarly research has become a classic of modern history writing. Showing how Stalin's triumphs and crimes were the…


Book cover of The Witch and the Tsar

C. P. Lesley Author Of Song of the Siren

From C. P.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Historical novelist Podcaster Wannabe ballerina Cat lover

C. P.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

C. P. Lesley Why did C. P. love this book?

Any novel set in Russia during the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533–1584) is an instant draw for me since that is the setting for most of my own fiction. Throw in Baba Yaga, the wicked witch of Russian folklore, and give her a makeover, and I am hooked.

Here the wicked old crone has become Yaga, daughter of the earth goddess Mokosh. Summoned to court by Ivan the Terrible’s beloved first wife, Anastasia—convinced someone is trying to poison her—Yaga soon identifies the main suspect as her long-time frenemy, Koshei the Deathless. The battle between the former lovers is on, and the result is both engrossing and tremendous fun.

If you like fantastical takes on history or reexaminations of literary villainesses, this book is for you.

By Olesya Salnikova Gilmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A delicate weaving of myth and history, The Witch and the Tsar breathes new life into stories you think you know' Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

Yaga lives deep in the Russian forest, tending to any that call upon her for her healing potions and vast wisdom.

She has been alone for centuries, with only her beloved animals for company. But, when Tsaritsa Anastasia, wife of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich, shows up at Yaga's cottage on the brink of death, Yaga is compelled to travel with her to Moscow to keep her safe.

However, the…


Book cover of The Romanovs: 1613-1918

Mickey Mayhew Author Of Rasputin and his Russian Queen: The True Story of Grigory and Alexandra

From my list on Rasputin and his Russian queen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t explain the fascination with Rasputin, but one hears the name so frequently via the Boney M pop song, so I took that as the inspiration - and the title - of my book. I saw a book about him in Waterstones one day and had to pick it up, even though it was so big it might’ve doubled as a doorstop. But from then I was hooked; I read everything I could, watched more, and researched until I actually went to Russia. And then I research some more!

Mickey's book list on Rasputin and his Russian queen

Mickey Mayhew Why did Mickey love this book?

A very helpful man and a very helpful book when it comes to a comprehensive overview of the Romanov regime and epoch as a whole.

Although it is rather an immense tome and thus perhaps not as accessible for a novice as some of the others I have recommended.

Again, unfortunately, Alexandra is not portrayed particularly sympathetically. 

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets. Written with…


Book cover of The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias

Julia P. Gelardi Author Of From Splendor to Revolution

From my list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.

Julia's book list on the Romanovs and the Reign of Tsar Nicholas II

Julia P. Gelardi Why did Julia love this book?

A comprehensive and lengthy study of the three-hundred-year rule of the Romanov dynasty, with particular attention paid to the reign of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. Lincoln, who was a professor of Russian history at Northern Illinois University, succeeds in bringing to life the sweeping saga of the Romanovs from their beginning in the seventeenth century with the accession to the throne of Michael I to the end with the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917 and onwards to the executions of the imperial family in 1918.

The Romanovs can be treated as both a general reference book for Romanov and imperial Russian history or as a starting point from which to delve further into specific subjects such as a particular reigning Russian monarch or historical event. Lincoln has produced a cogent, solidly researched work that succeeds in making the sometimes impenetrable and complex histories of Russia’s tsars much more…

By W. Bruce Lincoln,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Traces the history of the Romanov dynasty of Russia from the 1613 accession to the throne of Michael Feodorovich Romanov to the deaths of the last Romanovs during the Russian Revolution