The best 17 Russia books

Discover the enigmatic and fascinating nation of Russia with this captivating book list. From its rich history and iconic leaders to its vast landscapes and unique culture, Russia has shaped the course of world events for centuries.
Uncover the secrets of the Russian tsars, delve into the depths of the Cold War, or explore the literary masterpieces of Russian authors. Whether you're a history buff, a traveler, or simply curious about this diverse country, this collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the heart of Russia.

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1
Russia Books: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
4.2 (797 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Communist Manifesto about?

The Communist Manifesto is the result of a meeting of international communists in London. It vividly portrays the first common position of political communism regarding the class struggle between the working class and the capitalist bourgeoisie.

Who should read The Communist Manifesto?

  • Anyone who works for someone else
  • Anyone who’s wondered why wealth seems to concentrate at the top
  • Anyone remotely interested in politics

2
Russia Books: The Man Without A Face by Masha Gessen

The Man Without A Face

Masha Gessen
The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
4.3 (307 ratings)
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00:00

What's The Man Without A Face about?

A biography of Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Man Without A Face shines a clear light on one of contemporary history’s more shadowy political figures. The book charts Putin’s almost accidental rise to Russia’s highest office, starting from his benign beginnings in the state secret police. His vindictive personality, overwhelming greed and disdain for democratic norms continue to transform Russia today.

Who should read The Man Without A Face?

  • Anyone interested in Russia’s place in global politics
  • Anyone curious about the life of a notorious world leader
  • Anyone fighting for accountability and transparency in politics

3
Russia Books: Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich

Secondhand Time

Svetlana Alexievich
The Last of the Soviets
4.2 (67 ratings)
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What's Secondhand Time about?

These blinks give some revolutionary insights into an epoch-making time in Russia’s history. The author presents an oral history of Russia’s transition from Stalinism to capitalism in which she lets people who were there tell their stories. In Secondhand Time (2016), her witnesses tell us what it means to be Russian, then and now. All of them lived through this transitional period, but some did not survive.

Who should read Secondhand Time?

  • Cultural historians
  • People who want to know more about Russia and the Cold War
  • Readers curious about the Russian reaction to capitalism

4
Russia Books: Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

Russian Roulette

Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
4.1 (51 ratings)
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00:00

What's Russian Roulette about?

Russian Roulette (2018) relates the results of an investigation by two journalists into the Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election. These include details on Trump’s business ties to Russia, the Russian connections of his campaign team, the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions, the disinformation campaigns on social media and what Russian intelligence might have gathered to compromise Trump. The blinks also tell how the American intelligence community and the Obama administration reacted to the Russian hacking.

Who should read Russian Roulette?

  • News junkies interested in the 2016 US presidential election
  • Concerned citizens who want to know more about Trump’s ties to Russia
  • Students of politics seeking an explanation for why Trump won

5
Russia Books: The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
An Experiment in Literary Investigation
4.6 (248 ratings)
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00:00

What's The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 about?

The Gulag Archipelago (1973) is a literary chronicle of the Soviet work camps known as gulags, which existed between the years 1918–56. Drawing from his own experience as a prisoner, as well as the reports, memoirs and letters of hundreds of others, author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn provides a chilling account of the constant dread and horror of life in the gulags, while also charting the psychology and organization behind the government-sanctioned prison system.

Who should read The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956?

  • Students of Soviet history
  • Advocates and critics of communism
  • Freedom fighters

6
Russia Books: The Future Is History by Masha Gessen

The Future Is History

Masha Gessen
How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia
4.2 (95 ratings)
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What's The Future Is History about?

The Future Is History (2017) tackles the complex issue of Russia’s love/hate relationship with democracy. By looking at the lives of a select few, Masha Gessen takes us from the collapse of the Communist Party to deep within the activism of the Putin era – all in an attempt to show us how and why Russia’s modern brand of totalitarianism came about.

Who should read The Future Is History?

  • Readers curious about Russian politics
  • Students of sociology and world politics
  • History buffs

7
Russia Books: Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy

Chernobyl

Serhii Plokhy
The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
4.6 (205 ratings)
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What's Chernobyl about?

Chernobyl (2018) documents the 1986 nuclear meltdown that shook the Soviet Union. It is an insightful and meticulously researched work of history, drawing from newly opened archives to shed fresh light on the disaster. Piecing together the entire episode, Plokhy takes us from the fateful minutes before the disaster to the cleanup operation and, finally, the disintegration of the USSR.

Who should read Chernobyl?

  • Fans of the HBO miniseries who want to dig deeper
  • Those born after the disaster, trying to make sense of its consequences
  • Nuclear power plant operators

8
Russia Books: Putin's People by Catherine Belton

Putin's People

Catherine Belton
How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West
4.3 (392 ratings)
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What's Putin's People about?

Putin’s People (2020) is a shocking account of the corruption and political schemes that swirl around Russia’s infamous president, Vladimir Putin, and his close inner circle. The KGB is well-known as the former Soviet Union’s secret police force – but that was far from its only role in the Soviet government and economy. This is the story of how the KGB lost its power, gained it back, and has been exploiting it ever since.

Who should read Putin's People?

  • Fans of political intrigue and international relations
  • Students of Russian history and culture
  • Anyone curious about the inner workings of Vladimir Putin’s regime

9
Russia Books: Navalny by Jan Matti Dollbaum, Morvan Lallouet and Ben Noble

Navalny

Jan Matti Dollbaum, Morvan Lallouet and Ben Noble
Putin's Nemesis, Russia's Future?
4.4 (284 ratings)
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00:00

What's Navalny about?

Navalny (2021) is an in-depth look at the life and politics of Russian politician Alexei Navalny. This biography details how Navalny rose to prominence and what plans he has for Russia’s future.

Who should read Navalny?

  • Outsiders seeking to understand life in Russia 
  • Political thinkers keen to grasp the concept of power in a post-USSR world
  • All those invested in the future of world governance

10
Russia Books: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard

Anton Chekhov
4.0 (5 ratings)
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00:00

What's The Cherry Orchard about?

The Cherry Orchard (1904) is a poignant reflection on the fading influence of Russia’s nobility at the dawn of a new age of industry and materialism. The play centers on an aristocratic family returning to its ancestral estate, shortly before the property’s sale. Despite proposals to rescue the estate, the family’s impractical and nostalgic romanticism leads to disaster; the family home is sold to a plebeian millionaire intent on cutting down its titular cherry orchard. 

Who should read The Cherry Orchard?

  • Fans of classic Russian literature and drama
  • History buffs
  • Theater lovers unfamiliar with – but curious about – Chekov’s work

11
Russia Books: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

The Family Romanov

Candace Fleming
Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

What's The Family Romanov about?

The Family Romanov is a gripping non-fiction book that tells the tragic story of the last ruling family of Russia. Through meticulous research and compelling storytelling, Candace Fleming delves into the lives of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children, and explores the political and social forces that led to their downfall. It offers a fascinating insight into the final days of the Romanov dynasty and the events that shaped Russian history.

Who should read The Family Romanov?

  • History enthusiasts interested in the Romanov dynasty and Russian history
  • Readers who enjoy biographies and narratives about royal families
  • Those curious about the downfall of the last Russian Tsar and his family

12
Russia Books: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig

The Endless Steppe

Esther Hautzig
Growing Up in Siberia

What's The Endless Steppe about?

The Endless Steppe is a memoir that tells the story of a young girl and her family who are deported to Siberia during World War II. Set against the harsh backdrop of the Siberian wilderness, the book chronicles their struggle for survival and their eventual adaptation to a new way of life. It is a powerful and inspiring tale of resilience and the unbreakable bond of family.

Who should read The Endless Steppe?

  • Readers who enjoy historical memoirs
  • Individuals with an interest in learning about World War II from a personal perspective
  • Anyone seeking a story of resilience and strength in the face of adversity

13

What's The Death of Ivan Ilyich about?

The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that explores the themes of mortality and the meaning of life. It tells the story of a high-ranking judge who becomes ill and grapples with the reality of his impending death. Through Ivan Ilyich's journey, Tolstoy delves into the existential questions that arise when faced with our own mortality.

Who should read The Death of Ivan Ilyich?

  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking philosophical novels
  • Those interested in exploring the nature of life and the concept of mortality
  • Individuals seeking a deeper understanding of human suffering and the pursuit of meaning

14
Russia Books: Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons

Ivan Turgenev

What's Fathers and Sons about?

"Fathers and Sons" is a novel by Ivan Turgenev that explores the generational divide between fathers and their sons in 19th century Russia. Through the complex relationships and contrasting beliefs of the characters, the book delves into themes of nihilism, tradition, and the changing social and political landscape of the time. It offers a thought-provoking examination of the tensions and misunderstandings that can arise between different generations.

Who should read Fathers and Sons?

  • Readers looking for a timeless classic with deep and complex characters
  • Those interested in exploring the themes of love, generational conflict, and intellectualism
  • People who appreciate thought-provoking literary works that offer cultural and historical insights

15
Russia Books: Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes from the Underground

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

What's Notes from the Underground about?

"Notes from the Underground" is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that delves into the inner thoughts and feelings of an unnamed narrator living in 19th-century St. Petersburg. Through a series of fragmented and philosophical musings, the book explores themes of alienation, free will, and the nature of existence, offering a profound and thought-provoking examination of the human condition.

Who should read Notes from the Underground?

  • Readers who enjoy introspective and philosophical literature
  • Individuals who are intrigued by human behavior and psychology
  • Those who appreciate thought-provoking and deep exploration of the human condition

16
Russia Books: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Idiot

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

What's The Idiot about?

The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that explores the complexities of human nature and society. The story follows Prince Myshkin, a kind and naive man who is considered an "idiot" by those around him. As he navigates the world of 19th century Russia, Myshkin encounters various characters and situations that challenge his beliefs and values, ultimately leading to a tragic and thought-provoking exploration of innocence and the human condition.

Who should read The Idiot?

  • Readers who enjoy complex character studies and intricate psychological explorations
  • Individuals interested in exploring themes of morality, innocence, and the nature of human goodness
  • Those who appreciate philosophical ideas and discussions within a compelling narrative

17
Russia Books: City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves

David Benioff

What's City of Thieves about?

City of Thieves by David Benioff is a gripping novel set during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. It follows the unlikely friendship between two young men, Lev and Kolya, as they embark on a dangerous quest to find a dozen eggs for a Soviet officer. Filled with humor, suspense, and poignant moments, this book explores the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable hardship.

Who should read City of Thieves?

  • Readers who enjoy historical fiction, particularly stories set during World War II
  • Those with an interest in Russian history and culture
  • People who appreciate vivid and engaging storytelling with a mix of humor and intensity

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