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10 books about Russia that you simply must read

10 books about Russia that you simply must read

Our top 10 recommended reads that will make you want to learn more about a fascinating country that is close to our hearts

Russia has given us some of the most extraordinary writers of all time from Dostoevsky to Tolstoy. With so many books to choose from where do you start? From sci-fi thrillers to contemporary histories and timeless classics, we have compiled our list of top 10 recommended reads that will inspire you to learn more about a country that is close to our heart.

1) Moscow: A Traveller’s Reader – Laurence Kelly

Moscow: A Traveller's Reader by Laurence Kelly
Moscow: A Traveller's Reader by Laurence Kelly

A fascinating anthology depicting the rise of Moscow from early settlement to bustling city told through the voices of residents and visitors. Lawrence Kelly brings together an unrivalled range of sources that bring together some of Moscow’s most awe-inspiring and turbulent times from the bloody reprisals of Peter the Great to the abandoning of Moscow to Napoleon in 1812. This is an essential read for anyone looking to really understand what Moscow is all about, past, present and future.

2) A gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

A Gentleman In Moscow - Amor Towles
A Gentleman In Moscow – Amor Towles

A best-selling novel with over 1.5 million readers worldwide, A gentlemen in Moscow is a fascinating novel that observes the life of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat sentenced to life-long house arrest in a luxury hotel for his Bolshevik connections. As Rostov’s life gets smaller and smaller a much larger world of emotional discovery begins to unravel.

3) Trans-Siberian Adventures: Life on and off the rails from the U.K. to Asia – Matthew Woodward

Trans-Siberian Adventures: From the UK to Asia
Trans-Siberian Adventures: From the UK to Asia

Embarking one of the world’s most spectacular train journeys’, the Trans-Siberian Railway, Matthew Woodward sets off to rekindle his childhood passion for train travel. Trans-Siberian Adventures offers a personal insight into the highs, lows and expectations of long-distance train travel and is a must-read for anybody looking to embark on this mammoth journey from Moscow to Beijing and beyond.

4) The Romanovs: 1613-1918 – Simon Sebag Montefiore

A gripping chronicle of Imperial ambition, The Romanovs follows the triumph and tragedy of the Russian royal family from Tsar Mikhail Romanov to the untimely demise of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. Montefiore untangles a web of conspiracies, rivalries and secrets to reveal a world of decadence and extravagance, tinged with ominous forbearing.

5) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Loe Tolstoy's War and Peace
Tolstoy's War and Peace

Liannadavis / CC BY-SA (

A timeless classic that cannot fail to inspire, Tolstoy’s War and Peace follows the lives of five aristocratic Russian families and how what they have come to know has changed at the hands of the invading French armies of Napoleon. Often credited as Tolstoy’s finest literary achievement, War and Peace is considered a combination of many written forms from novel to philosophical essay and provides a fascinating insight into Russian culture.

6) Who is Happy in Russia – Nikolai Nekrasov

A fascinating 4-part poem following the lives of 7 peasants who travel the Russian lands with the sole quest to find just one happy person only to find a nation of suffering and social injustice. Nekrasov brings the cold reality of 19th century Russia to light in this sombre, thought-provoking epic.

7) Demons – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Often described as Dostoevsky’s ‘greatest onslaught on Nihilism’, Demons is an allegory of the catastrophic consequences of Russia’s descent into social, political and moral nihilism in the 1860s. Dostoevsky takes us to a fictional town possessed by demonic forces hellbent on chaos through revolution, orchestrated by master conspirator Pyotr Verkhovensky. This disturbing tale of Satanic proportions is a challenging yet rewarding read of political satire and psychotic drama.

8) Disappearing Earth – Julia Phillips

An intense and thought-provoking crime novel set on the mysterious Kamchatka peninsula. Disappearing Earth investigates the disappearance of two sisters abducted while walking along a secluded shoreline. As the story unravels, we learn more about the secrets of the tight-knit community to which the sister's belonged where social and ethnic tensions are rife, and where outsiders are often the first to raise suspicion.

9) Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

A supernatural tale that tells the story of two rival factions and their efforts to gain supremacy in a world of light and dark. Best-selling Russian author, Sergei Lukyanenko’s first sci-fi fantasy novel offers a welcome escape into a world where vampires, shapeshifters and other creatures roam the streets.

10) The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

Considered by critics to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a dark Soviet satire written in Stalin’s regime. Chaos soon unfolds as a visit by the devil and his bizarre retinue (including a talking black cat with a fondness for vodka and chess) descends upon to Moscow, bringing chaos to a Soviet Union which no longer believes in God or Satan.


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