8 Books About Being Tragically, Maddeningly In Love With Russia

May 12 2015
Share 8 Books About Being Tragically, Maddeningly In Love With Russia

I am afflicted with the little known but terrible disease known as “Russia Love.” Long ago, Russia wrapped its icy, beautiful claws around my heart and refused to let go. I have never visited our former Cold War adversary, but am fascinated by Russia’s contributions to music, art, literature, and dance, by the desolate expanse of Siberia, the way its entire history feels like an absurd tragedy concocted in the mind of one of its great novelists. To be clear, this is not another list of Russian novels. Yes, I know we should all read Tolstoy, Bulgakov, and Pasternak before we die, but these are the stories of my fellow sufferers—Westerners who have, for better or worse, fallen under Russia’s bewitching, inexplicable spell.

Darkness at Noon
by Arthur Koestler

No Westerner has loved Russia more or borne greater witness to its betrayed ideals than Arthur Koestler. A Hungarian Communist who spent much of the 1930s rubbing shoulders with high-ranking Party members in Moscow, he grew disillusioned with communism after the Great Purges. The story of Nicholas Rubashov, a founding Party member who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried for treason against the government he had helped to create, it is a warning against the nature of the Soviet regime from a man who saw the revolution devour its children. Embodying the epic tragedy of the Soviet Union in one deeply personal and individual story, it is one of the great masterpieces of the past century.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Darkness at Noon
Arthur Koestler

“This seminal work of twentieth-century literature is the powerful and haunting portrait of a Bolshevik revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of Stalin’s show trials. Deeply intellectual, dramatically riveting, and written in prose as austere as a Soviet prison, Darkness at Noon is an uncompromising vision of the mechanisms and human impact of dictatorship.” —Caitlin Kleinschmidt

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Elif Batuman

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
Travels in Siberia
by Ian Frazier

The culmination of five years and various trips, Ian Frazier’s memoir about his travels through Siberia unveils the underappreciated beauty and bewildering complexity of the vast territory in Russia’s northern region. You’ll fall in love with Frazier’s enchanting memoir as he explores the tundra’s expanse and learns about the rich history and people of this indomitable land.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Travels in Siberia
Ian Frazier

The culmination of five years and various trips, Ian Frazier’s memoir about his travels through Siberia unveils the underappreciated beauty and bewildering complexity of the vast territory in Russia’s northern region. You’ll fall in love with Frazier’s enchanting memoir as he explores the tundra’s expanse and learns about the rich history and people of this indomitable land.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times
by Andrew D. Kaufman

Clocking in at 1,500 pages, Tolstoy's classic is praised by critics and feared by readers. A love story, a family saga, and a war novel, at its core it’s a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, political intrigue, and spiritual confusion. Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times and survive them.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times
Andrew D. Kaufman

Clocking in at 1,500 pages, Tolstoy's classic is praised by critics and feared by readers. A love story, a family saga, and a war novel, at its core it’s a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, political intrigue, and spiritual confusion. Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times and survive them.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
Molotov's Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History
Rachel Polonsky

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
1984
George Orwell

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
by Orlando Figes

A much needed break from dictators and despots, Natasha’s Dance is an exploration of Russia as one of the world’s most vibrant civilizations. Beginning with the building of St. Petersburg, Orlando Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia—its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. Interweaving the great work of Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall with folk embroidery, peasant songs, and religious icons, Figes reveals the spirit of “Russianness” as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory—and more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
Orlando Figes

A much needed break from dictators and despots, Natasha’s Dance is an exploration of Russia as one of the world’s most vibrant civilizations. Beginning with the building of St. Petersburg, Orlando Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia—its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. Interweaving the great work of Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall with folk embroidery, peasant songs, and religious icons, Figes reveals the spirit of “Russianness” as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory—and more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close
Limonov
by Emmanuel Carrère

The magnetic French journalist Emmanuel Carrère first became infatuated with the writings of Eduard Limonov after meeting him in the early 1980s. Eduard Limonov isn’t fictional—but in Carrère’s hands, his biography assumes a novelistic grandiosity. (Speaking of grandiosity, just check out the epic subtitle.) Limonov is a troubling counternarrative of the second half of the twentieth century, one that reveals a violence, an anarchy, and a brutality that the stories we tell ourselves about progress tend to conceal.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Limonov
Emmanuel Carrère

The magnetic French journalist Emmanuel Carrère first became infatuated with the writings of Eduard Limonov after meeting him in the early 1980s. Eduard Limonov isn’t fictional—but in Carrère’s hands, his biography assumes a novelistic grandiosity. (Speaking of grandiosity, just check out the epic subtitle.) Limonov is a troubling counternarrative of the second half of the twentieth century, one that reveals a violence, an anarchy, and a brutality that the stories we tell ourselves about progress tend to conceal.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021

Close

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.