The most recommended books on Vladimir Putin

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to Vladimir Putin, and here are their favorite Vladimir Putin books.
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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 my list on contemporary Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

David Satter 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…


Book cover of The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War

Carly Schabowski Author Of All the Courage We Have Found

From my list on WWII that shed light on Polish history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for writing historical fiction set mainly in Poland, or including Polish protagonists is born from my own familial history. My grandfather was forced into the Wehrmacht as a young man, who managed to escape to the UK and join the Polish Army in exile, eventually going back to fight against the Germans. His story set me on a course to become a historical fiction author; reimagining the past and bringing little-known stories to a wider audience. I find that the best way to gain a basic understanding of Polish life during WWII is to read widely – try historical accounts, memoirs, second-hand accounts, and of course, historical fiction. 

Carly's book list on WWII that shed light on Polish history

Carly Schabowski Why did Carly love this book?

This book is, I think, the cornerstone of understanding Polish history during WWII. Indeed, it is my ‘go-to' book before I even think about writing anything! It gives such a comprehensive view of all Poles – those forced into the Wehrmacht, those sent to camps, those sent out of their own country, and much, much more. When you have read this fact-based book, it gives you a greater understanding when you come to read historical fiction.

By Halik Kochanski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Second World War gripped Poland as it did no other country in Europe. Invaded by both Germany and the Soviet Union, it remained under occupation by foreign armies from the first day of the war to the last. The conflict was brutal, as Polish armies battled the enemy on four different fronts. It was on Polish soil that the architects of the Final Solution assembled their most elaborate network of extermination camps, culminating in the deliberate destruction of millions of lives, including three million Polish Jews. In The Eagle Unbowed, Halik Kochanski tells, for the first time, the story…


Book cover of A Short History of Russia: How the World's Largest Country Invented Itself, from the Pagans to Putin

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

From the Kiev of ancient Rus’ to today, Mark Galeotti has stuffed the history of Russia into one jaw-dropping book of just over 200 pages. I loved the book because it was concise, informative, and cleared up misconceptions we may have about Russia.

Mr. Galeotti’s book provides a thoughtful perspective in an overview that brings context to today’s Russia. He claims he’s debunking myths. Were the Mongol invasions truly devastating? He offers stories we may not have heard. How did Catherine the Great really come to power? He challenges us to examine why the Russian people tolerate a man like Putin, but will we ever know for certain?

By Mark Galeotti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Fascinating... One of the most astute political commentators on Putin and modern Russia' Financial Times

'An amazing achievement' Peter Frankopan

Can anyone truly understand Russia?

Russia is a country with no natural borders, no single ethos, no true central identity. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it is everyone's 'other'. And yet it is one of the most powerful nations on earth, a master game-player on the global stage with a rich history of war and peace, poets and revolutionaries.

In this essential whistle-stop tour of the world's most complex nation, Mark Galeotti takes us behind the myths to…


Book cover of Moscow X

Larry Enmon Author Of Class III Threat

From my list on spies from a retired secret service agent.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I always wanted to be a Secret Service agent. As an adult, I became one. The job introduced me to the classified and shadowy world of national security. I traveled the globe, working in places I'd only read about in novels and meeting people who seemed like well-written characters from a book. When I was assigned as a liaison agent to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I attended numerous FBI and CIA schools—even the facility known as The Farm. But through it all, I read! When I retired and had time to think about what I did, I figured I'd try writing.

Larry's book list on spies from a retired secret service agent

Larry Enmon Why did Larry love this book?

This book struck a familiar note with me—follow the money.

Working financial crimes during my federal agent days always came down to figuring out where the money came from, how many hands it passed through, and where it ended up. McCloskey does an excellent job showing this through his CIA officer's deception to uncover Putin's moneymen.

Working in a non-official cover (NOC) capacity in a hostile country has its hazards, as the author vividly describes.

By David McCloskey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

CIA operatives Sia and Max enter Russia to recruit Vladimir Putin's moneyman. Sia works for a London firm that conceals the wealth of the super-rich. Max's family business in Mexico-a CIA front since the 1960s-is a farm that breeds high-end racehorses. They pose as a couple, and their targets are Vadim, Putin's private banker, and his wife, Anna, who is both a banker and an intelligence officer. As they descend further into a Russian world dripping with luxury and rife with gangland violence, Sia and Max's hope may be Anna, who is playing a game of her own. Careening between…


Book cover of The War Came To Us: Life and Death in Ukraine

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch Author Of Stolen Girl

From Marsha's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Proudly #bannedbyrussia Fan of human stories

Marsha's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch Why did Marsha love this book?

I am of Ukrainian heritage, and this current war has brought back a grieving that I didn’t know I had.

You see, I don’t even have relatives to mourn or worry about in Ukraine anymore because all my family was killed by the last genocidal dictator. Instead, I worry about every Ukrainian. Sometimes, just walking down the street, I begin to weep. I cannot get my head around the fact that this is all happening again.

This war has generated a ton of crap published by so-called pundits. This book is not that.  

Christopher Miller is an American who arrived in eastern Ukraine as a Peace Corps worker in the mid-2000s and stayed there as a journalist afterward. He gives Western readers a survey of contemporary Ukrainian life under the shadow of the genocidal dictator next door. 

This eyewitness history of contemporary Ukraine is a must-read for any Westerner trying…

By Christopher Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Vivid... Shocking... [Miller] brings a seasoned, personal perspective to his account of both the 16-month conflict and its wider roots.' Daily Telegraph 'A beautiful blend of memoir, reportage and history...superb.' Irish Times A breathtaking exploration of Ukraine's past, present, and future, and a heartbreaking account of the war against Russia, written by the leading journalist of the conflict. When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine just before dawn on 24 February 2022, it marked his latest and most overt attempt to brutally conquer the country, and reshaped the world order. Christopher Miller, the Ukraine correspondent…


Book cover of Invasion: Russia's Bloody War and Ukraine's Fight for Survival

Shane O'Rourke Author Of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, Princess Isabel and the Ending of Servile Labour in Russia and Brazil

From my list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am teacher of Russian History in the University of York and have been in both countries many times. Russia’s war against Ukraine is something that has touched me personally and professionally in the most profound way: witnessing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been heartbreaking. Understanding why that war happened and what its consequences will be is of vital importance for anyone interested in the modern world, in justice, and the future of Europe. These books offer clear, passionate, and compelling accounts of the war, explaining the historical background, the immediate causes, the principle actors, and the Russian way of waging of the war.

Shane's book list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine

Shane O'Rourke Why did Shane love this book?

Luke Harding is a journalist who has spent many years as The Guardian correspondent in Ukraine including the present war.

The book is a mixture of historical analysis and on-the-spot reporting which makes it read like a thriller. It is vivid and at times harrowing, particularly the reports from Bucha after the massacres there. Harding pulls no punches, arguing the brutality of the war comes from Putin himself: ‘His apparent goal: the annihilation of a country, a culture and its citizens.’

Complicit in this genocidal operation are the Russian media elite who frequently openly call for the extermination of the Ukrainian nation. An excellent account from an impeccable source. 

By Luke Harding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A FINALIST FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING

The first book of reportage from the front line of the Ukraine war. This is a powerful, moving first draft of history written by the award-winning Guardian journalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Collusion and Shadow State.

'An excellent, moving account of an ongoing tragedy.' ANNE APPLEBAUM

'Compelling, important and heartbreaking.' SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE

'Essential reading.' ELIOT HIGGINS, founder of Bellingcat

'Brilliant.' ANDREY KURKOV

For months, the omens had pointed in one scarcely believable direction: Russia was about to invade Ukraine. And yet, the world was stunned by…


Book cover of Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult

Mark Galeotti Author Of We Need to Talk about Putin: Why the West Gets Him Wrong, and How to Get Him Right

From my list on understand today’s Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

It’s all about the stories. Although I have been a professor, a think-tanker, and a secondee to the Foreign Office, by training I am a historian, so I love compelling, vivid, extraordinary stories, and for me, the best ones come from Russia. Having been traveling there since Soviet times, done my Ph.D. on it, drunk there with spooks and gangsters, talked late in the night in the kitchens of artists and journalists, I am as hooked as I ever was, and privileged to be able to write, teach, lecture and think about this splendidly bizarre place.

Mark's book list on understand today’s Russia

Mark Galeotti Why did Mark love this book?

Most studies of modern Russia, under the shadow of Vladimir Putin, start from the top down. This elegantly quirky study, by a journalist working in Russia, looks bottom up: why has Russia so often been ruled by autocrats, and why did the Russian people – at first, at least – accept this rather grey ex-KGB officer as their new tsar so enthusiastically? It’s a biography of modern Russia more than anything else, framed around a range of characters Arutunyan encountered in her travels around this fascinating country.

By Anna Arutunyan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Putin Mystique Inside Russia's Power Cult as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH RUSSIA’S 21ST CENTURY TSAR Vladimir V. Putin has confounded world leaders and defied their assumptions as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again. The Putin Mystique takes the reader on a journey through the Russia of Vladimir Putin, named by Forbes magazine in 2013 as the most powerful man in the world. It is a neo-feudal world where iPads, WTO membership, and Brioni business suits conceal a power structure straight out of the Middle Ages, where the Sovereign is perceived as both divine and demonic, where a man’s riches are…


Book cover of Behind Putin's Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia

Lisa Dickey Author Of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia

From my list on the Russian people.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lisa Dickey is an author and book collaborator who’s helped write 20+ nonfiction books, including 10 New York Times Best Sellers. She’s also a Russophile from way back:  her first post-college job was working as a nanny at the U.S. embassy in Moscow during the last days of the Soviet Union. Lisa began her writing career in St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, writing for the Moscow Times and USA Today, and she’s the author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia.

Lisa's book list on the Russian people

Lisa Dickey Why did Lisa love this book?

Stephan Orth has a lot of nerve. The author of Couchsurfing in Iran, he decides to take his talents to Russia, stopping in places no tourist would dare to go and getting to know actual Russian people. And then he writes a funny, insightful, mind-bendingly entertaining book about them. Who does this guy think he is? Do yourself a favor: Read his book and find out. Stephan is a fabulous tour guide of the real Russia and its people.

By Stephan Orth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind Putin's Curtain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Journalist Orth delivers a jaunty description of his travels...[that] armchair travelers will enjoy."
-Publishers Weekly

"Funny, insightful, and mind-bendingly entertaining. Stephan Orth is a fearless and fabulous tour guide to the real Russia and its people."
-Lisa Dickey, author of Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys across a Changing Russia


Book cover of Fascism: A Warning

Barry J. Robinson Author Of A Seagull Named Papa

From Barry's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Shanachie Drummer Rebel Bread maker Walker

Barry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Barry J. Robinson Why did Barry love this book?

One of my great fears is the assault on democracy, the truth, and common decency happening in so many parts of the world.

Fascism is on the rise even in nations who pride themselves on their democratic principles like Canada and the United States. I loved Albright's easy-reading summary and analysis of the rise of fascism in countries all over the world and its most dangerous manifestation in the nation she has served as a highly respected public servant.

By Madeleine Albright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today's world, written by one of America's most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state

A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, "is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have."

The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty…


Book cover of The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West

Douglas Kellner Author Of American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald Trump

From my list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work since the 1970s has focused on the major political struggles of the day as they impact U.S. democracy and provide challenges for understanding and action. As a professional philosopher, I focused on ways that history, philosophy, and theory provide key tools for the interpretation and critique of salient issues. I've written books on U.S. politics and the media, the Gulf War and Iraq War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and am particularly interested in the interaction between Russia, the U.S., and Europe; hence, the rise of Putin in Russia, the New Cold War, and the 2020s conflict in Ukraine and the response of Western democracies.

Douglas' book list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy

Douglas Kellner Why did Douglas love this book?

Lucas’s book provides a geopolitical context for understanding Putin’s Russia and its relations with the West as a “New Cold War.” Lucas documents how Putin and his KGB cronies seized state power and the dominant institutions of Russian society in the early 2000s to form an autocratic state; how they merged with oligarchs controlling state economic institutions and formed a kleptocracy that used financial institutions and their resources to constitute autocratic state power. Lucas puts Putin, his KGB and military cronies, and the oligarchs in a geopolitical framework and demonstrates how their aggressive military and economic policies constitute a clear threat to the West, which Western leaders have not responded to, seeking instead to do business with Putin and Russia, misperceiving his geopolitical intentions. The conclusion indicates how the Western democratic countries need to band together to counter Putin’s threats and aggression, and need to develop a more aggressive counter-policy,…

By Edward Lucas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With a preface by Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History. Revised and updated following Russia's attack on Georgia. In the 1990s, Russia was the sick man of Europe, but the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in 1999 coincided with a huge hike in world oil and gas prices, and after Yeltsin's downfall Putin set about re-establishing Russian autocracy. Now with its massive gas and oil reserves Russia has not only paid off its debts but amassed huge cash reserves which it is investing in easily accessible European businesses. Putin's Russia is hostile to open debate.…