The most recommended books about Ukraine

Who picked these books? Meet our 80 experts.

80 authors created a book list connected to Ukraine, and here are their favorite Ukraine books.
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Book cover of Chernobyl 01:23:40: The Incredible True Story of the World's Worst Nuclear Disaster

Nicholas Mee Author Of Gravity: From Falling Apples to Supermassive Black Holes

From my list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology.

Who am I?

I have always had a passion to engage with the deepest questions of existence, from the interpretation of quantum mechanics to string theory and cosmology. My desire to understand is driven purely by curiosity, and my aim in writing about these topics is to make the wonders of the universe as widely accessible as possible. But scientific knowledge and the advance of technology also has a potentially darker side. It is vital for the future of humanity that science is widely understood so that democratic informed decisions can be made to safeguard against its misuse, and this was the motivation for recommending my list of books.

Nicholas' book list on when contemplating the risks of nuclear technology

Nicholas Mee Why did Nicholas love this book?

The world’s worst nuclear accident took place at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.

This short well-researched book is about what really happened before, during, and after the explosion and melt-down of the Unit 4 nuclear reactor. The author Andrew Leatherbarrow successfully interweaves his account of the accident with descriptions of his own visit to the abandoned city of Pripyat close to the power plant.

I like the book’s engaging style; it is informative and very readable without resorting to sensationalism or wild speculation. As Leatherbarrow explains, much is known about the causes of the Chernobyl accident but even some of the important details remain a mystery. 

By Andrew Leatherbarrow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chernobyl 01 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At 01:23:40 on April 26th 1986, Alexander Akimov pressed the emergency shutdown button at Chernobyl’s fourth nuclear reactor. It was an act that forced the permanent evacuation of a city, killed thousands and crippled the Soviet Union. The event spawned decades of conflicting, exaggerated and inaccurate stories.

This book, the result of five years of research, presents an accessible but comprehensive account of what really happened. From the desperate fight to prevent a burning reactor core from irradiating eastern Europe, to the self-sacrifice of the heroic men who entered fields of radiation so strong that machines wouldn’t work, to the…


Book cover of Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine

Diane Chandler Author Of The Road To Donetsk

From my list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

Who am I?

My passion for Ukraine and its incredible people began when I managed a European Union aid programme there in the 1990s. Ukraine had just become an independent nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and we were supporting its path to democracy. I travelled throughout this stunning country umpteen times and met thousands of warm, welcoming people, who quickly found their way into my heart. The Road to Donetsk is my tribute to Ukraine. It won the 2016 People’s Book Prize for Fiction, an award I dedicated to the Ukrainian people. Today, my memories of all those I met weigh heavily on my mind. 

Diane's book list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people

Diane Chandler Why did Diane love this book?

I loved this highly readable history of Ukraine. Written in the early 1990s, when I too worked in Ukraine, Borderland begins with the newly independent nation’s struggle to build itself a national identity. Reid captures this time and its people so well – the peasant women in the covered market, the old men playing chess in Independent Square. Ukraine is literally translated as, ‘on the edge’ or ‘borderland’ and Reid explores the toll of its history – pograms, famine, purges, war, Holocaust, and Chernobyl… She travels through villages of whitewashed cottages, bringing their hardy inhabitants to life with her often quirky observations. She meets old folk who were alive during the famine of 1932/33, others who survived the gas chambers. At every turn, the magnificent Ukrainian spirit is in vibrant evidence. 

By Anna Reid,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Borderland tells the story of Ukraine. A thousand years ago it was the center of the first great Slav civilization, Kievan Rus. In 1240, the Mongols invaded from the east, and for the next seven centureies, Ukraine was split between warring neighbors: Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, and Tatars. Again and again, borderland turned into battlefield: during the Cossack risings of the seventeenth century, Russia's wars with Sweden in the eighteenth, the Civil War of 1918--1920, and under Nazi occupation. Ukraine finally won independence in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bigger than France and a populous as Britain,…


Book cover of If That's Leading, I'm In: Women Redefining Leadership

Natalia I. Kucirkova Author Of Inspirational Women in Academia: Supporting Careers and Improving Minority Representation

From Natalia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Professor Innovator Multilinguist Harp- and piano player

Natalia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Natalia I. Kucirkova Why did Natalia love this book?

I eagerly anticipated the advanced copy of this book and was deeply moved by its wisdom. Julia's insights, drawn from conversations with thousands of women over years, including the Women Emerging podcast, offer a treasure trove of knowledge.

The book challenges the modern trend of paid coaching and self-promotion on social media as indicators of successful leaders. Instead, it delves into a profound reflection on the true essence of leadership. The book's ingenious map is a unique way of illustrating the journey inward of inspirational women.

With the infinity symbol at its core, 'Essence' forms the central circle, flanked by 'Elements' and 'Expression', with 'Energy' flowing through it. The map locates readers’ distinct leadership style and acknowledging the innate leadership women demonstrate within their families and communities.

By Julia Middleton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If That's Leading, I'm In as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"We all know what leadership is. What we don't know is why so many women are turned off by the whole idea of doing it.

Because leadership has generally been defined by men (and is mainly done by men), we also know that most of the women who do lead think that, in order to succeed, they have to do it like men.

But what if they don't?

What if the problem isn't with women - it's with leadership? And, in a world that needs all the good leaders it can get right now, what will it take for more…


Book cover of Ukraine's Unnamed War: Before the Russian Invasion of 2022

Geoffrey Roberts Author Of Stalin's Library: A Dictator and his Books

From my list on the history of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning historian, biographer, and political commentator. As a specialist in Soviet history, my books have been translated into many languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, Finnish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Geoffrey's book list on the history of the Russo-Ukrainian war

Geoffrey Roberts Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Political scientists Arel and Driscoll deal with the period between the Maidan revolt of 2014 and the 2022 invasion.

They point out that the Maidan events provoked a three-way split in Ukraine between pro-Western Ukrainians, pro-Russia Ukrainians, and those in the middle who wanted neither to join the Russian Federation nor to distance themselves from it. Most of these neutrals remained loyal to the Ukrainian nationalist government in Kyiv and continued to do so after the Russian invasion in February 2022.

By Dominique Arel, Jesse Driscoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ukraine's Unnamed War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has its roots in the events of 2013-2014. Russia cynically termed the seditionist conflict in Crimea and Eastern Donbas a 'civil war' in order to claim non-involvement. This flies in the face of evidence, but the authors argue that the social science literature on civil wars can be used help understand why no political solution was found between 2015 and 2022. The book explains how Russia, after seizing Crimea, was reacting to events it could not control and sent troops only to areas of Ukraine where it knew it would face little resistance…


Book cover of Everything Is Illuminated

Suzanna Eibuszyc Author Of Memory is Our Home

From Suzanna's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Suzanna Eibuszyc Why did Suzanna love this book?

What happened to our parents and grandparents had an impact on so many of us. Evident among the second generation of writers, among them Jonathan Safran Foer, the novel, Everything is Illuminated.

By means of dark humor, the author illuminates on the horrors of WWII, which are going to haunt the reader forever. The ghosts of the past are given a voice. The good, bad, and ugly are all accounted for. The guiding principle here is that the past is our guide to the future. Without memory there is no history, each generation inherits history from the generation before, it tells, how as a society we behave and how we change.

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Everything Is Illuminated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

This is the story of a young man who visits the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. In turns hilarious and harrowing, lit with a manic energy, it is narrated in part by a Ukranian translator, who has a murderous approach to the English language, and in part by the young man, who reanimates the lives of his grandfather and ancestors. Eventually the past meets the present, as fiction collides with reality in an unforgettable climax. With breathtaking inventiveness and narrative control, Jonathan Safran Foer has written a book about searching - for people…


Book cover of Command: The Politics of Military Operations from Korea to Ukraine

Andrew Payne Author Of War on the Ballot: How the Election Cycle Shapes Presidential Decision-Making in War

From my list on the politics of war.

Who am I?

I take great pride in having somehow turned a passion for visiting presidential libraries into an academic career. I’ve now conducted extensive research at eight of them, and have future projects lined up to get me to the rest. This experience means I can and frequently do ruin family gatherings by challenging distant relations to quizzes about obscure details involving presidential pets. But it has also left me well-placed to write a number of articles and books exploring how domestic politics shapes the development and execution of U.S. foreign policy. I’ve done this while affiliated with the University of Oxford and, more recently, at City, University of London. 

Andrew's book list on the politics of war

Andrew Payne Why did Andrew love this book?

Every book this author produces feels like a magnum opus. In this latest tour de force, Freedman surveys decades of history across several continents to shed light on the deeply intertwined relationship between the development of military strategy and the politics of command.

Thanks to this vast scope, the case studies in this book provide portraits of a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters, demonstrating how civilian leaders and military officials battled over authority, autonomy, and resources in a wide range of contexts.

By Lawrence Freedman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Using examples from a wide variety of conflicts, Lawrence Freedman shows that successful military command depends on the ability not only to use armed forces effectively but also to understand the political context in which they are operating.

Command in war is about forging effective strategies and implementing them, making sure that orders are appropriate, well-communicated, and then obeyed. But it is also an intensely political process. This is largely because how wars are fought depends to a large extent on how their aims are set. It is also because commanders in one realm must possess the ability to work…


Book cover of Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future

Jane Rogoyska Author Of Surviving Katyn: Stalin's Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth

From my list on the recent history of Russia and Ukraine.

Who am I?

I’ve spent the past few years writing about the 1940 Katyń Massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war by Stalin’s NKVD and the decades-long cover-up of their crime. My research has taken me far and wide across the recent history of eastern Europe but until the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 I was convinced the events I was studying belonged firmly in the past. Now, more than ever, we need to make an effort to understand the ways in which history informs the present. I most admire writers who combine a forensic attention to detail with a deep compassion for the individuals at the heart of every story.

Jane's book list on the recent history of Russia and Ukraine

Jane Rogoyska Why did Jane love this book?

One of the most beautiful and devastating books I’ve ever read, Chernobyl Prayer relates the story of the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine from the point of view of those most closely involved. Nobel laureate Alexievich’s unique method of using verbatim witness accounts, which she edits into something closely resembling poetry, elevates this to the level of great literature. The Soviet government’s attempts to cover up the scale of the disaster are widely considered to have contributed to the final collapse of the Soviet Union.

By Svetlana Alexievich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

'Absolutely essential and heartbreaking reading. There's a reason Ms. Alexievich won a Nobel Prize' - Craig Mazin, creator of the HBO / Sky TV series Chernobyl

- A new translation of Voices from Chernobyl based on the revised text -

In April 1986 a series of explosions shook the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Flames lit up the sky and radiation escaped to contaminate the land and poison the people for years to come. While officials tried to hush up the accident, Svetlana Alexievich spent years collecting testimonies from survivors - clean-up workers, residents, firefighters,…


Book cover of On Civilization's Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World

Patrice M. Dabrowski Author Of Poland: The First Thousand Years

From my list on the complexity of Poland and Polish history.

Who am I?

I am a Harvard-trained historian of Central and Eastern Europe who focuses primarily on Poland. Although I am of Polish descent, my interest in Polish history blossomed during my first visits to the country in the 1980s. My initial curiosity quickly turned into a passion for Poland’s rich and varied past. Poles, who put great stock in their history, seem to have liked my books: in 2014 I was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. The books on Poland listed below, all by outstanding female historians, only scratch the surface of what is truly a rich field. Enjoy!

Patrice's book list on the complexity of Poland and Polish history

Patrice M. Dabrowski Why did Patrice love this book?

From mud and muck to modernity? This elegant examination of the margins of interwar Poland sheds much light on the ins and outs of belonging as well as broader Polish ambitions of being considered part of the civilized world. While Kathryn Ciancia focuses on the push to modernize the ethnically complex eastern borderland that was the province of Volhynia, inhabited by Jews and Ukrainians as well as Poles, she also importantly situates Poland within a global framework.

By Kathryn Ciancia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Civilization's Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a resurgent Poland emerged at the end of World War I, an eclectic group of Polish border guards, state officials, military settlers, teachers, academics, urban planners, and health workers descended upon Volhynia, an eastern borderland province that was home to Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews. Its aim was not simply to shore up state power in a place where Poles constituted an ethnic minority, but also to launch an ambitious civilizing mission that would transform a
poor Russian imperial backwater into a region that was at once civilized, modern, and Polish. Over the next two decades, these men and women…


Book cover of The Jacobites and Russia, 1715-1750

Murray Pittock Author Of Culloden: Great Battles

From my list on how Jacobitism had a different vision for Britain.

Who am I?

Growing up in the former Jacobite heartland of Aberdeen, I've had an interest in the Jacobites for almost as long as I can remember. When I was about six, my father was explaining to me on a bus in King Street in the city that Charles Edward could never have won, when another passenger walked the length of the top deck to contradict him. Lost, excluded, and alternative histories fascinated me and still do. History’s winners still too often present partial and excluding stories. Even in Scotland, Jacobitism is still misunderstood, but understanding is much better than it was thirty years ago, and I'm pleased to have done my bit to change that.

Murray's book list on how Jacobitism had a different vision for Britain

Murray Pittock Why did Murray love this book?

The Jacobites and their cause were a global political phenomenon, celebrated from Madagascar to Latin America.

Rebecca Wills’ study is one of the few that examines the Jacobites in one country – Russia – which was a major destination of Jacobite exiles. Some of their service to the Tsar has a contemporary resonance-General James Francis Edward Keith (1696-1758) was both governor of Ukraine and Viceroy of Finland in the 1740s.

By Rebecca Wills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Jacobites and Russia, 1715-1750 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study explores the role played by the Jacobite diaspora in Russia in the saga of Jacobite intrigue and British foreign policy between 1715 and 1750. Drawing on both Russian and British sources, the narrative follows the changing fortunes of Jacobitism in Russia as a key influence on European diplomacy. Uncovering a tale of adventure, enterprise and espionage, it demonstrates that the threat posed by Jacobite intrigue was not confined to the possibility of military action, but was closely linked to the influence of Jacobite agents on every area of Anglo-Russian political and territorial rivalry. In doing so it relates…


Book cover of The Winding Path

Diane Chandler Author Of The Road To Donetsk

From my list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

Who am I?

My passion for Ukraine and its incredible people began when I managed a European Union aid programme there in the 1990s. Ukraine had just become an independent nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and we were supporting its path to democracy. I travelled throughout this stunning country umpteen times and met thousands of warm, welcoming people, who quickly found their way into my heart. The Road to Donetsk is my tribute to Ukraine. It won the 2016 People’s Book Prize for Fiction, an award I dedicated to the Ukrainian people. Today, my memories of all those I met weigh heavily on my mind. 

Diane's book list on capturing the spirit of the Ukrainian people

Diane Chandler Why did Diane love this book?

For me, this engaging memoir of a Ukrainian who fought in WWII reads like a personal diary, such is the informality of Wenger’s skillful storytelling. In 1943, at the tender age of 20, he was forced from his village into the German Baudienst (building service). Conditions were miserable and when the Ukrainian Division was recruiting soldiers, he joined up, German uniform and all. Hunger, bitter cold, and flea-ridden beds were mild endurances compared to other horrors he experienced; early on, he was forced to witness a mass execution of Jews, later to join a firing squad against his friends. Wenger finally ended up in a British POW camp in Scotland, then married and settled in the UK. This incredible man turned 99 in February 2022, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine. 

By Jaroslaw Wenger,

Why should I read it?

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