C. Max Magee of The Millions has an annual tradition of asking people to talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year:

The reading choices available to us are almost too broad to fathom. And so we pick here and there from the shelves, reading a book from centuries ago and then one that came out ten years ago. The “10 Best Books of 2007” seems so small next to that.
But with so many millions of books to choose from, where can we go to find what to read?
If somebody hasn’t already coined this phrase, I’ll go ahead and take credit for it: A lucky reader is one surrounded by many other readers. And what better way to end a long year than to sit (virtually) with a few dozen trusted fellow readers to hear about the very best book (or books) they read all year, regardless of publication date.

It’s a great idea and the posts are always interesting (the complete list is here); this year he’s done me the honor of making my (excessively long, I’m afraid) post the first in the series—I’ve discussed the language books at LH, but not (I believe) the Russian history ones.


  1. Great, now I know what to buy to myself for Xmas! 😉

  2. Maxim Afanasiev says

    Concerning the Russian Civil War history reading choices: a collection of
    documentary essays of Mark Aldanov on various events of the Revolution
    and Civil War would be an excellent compliment to Civil War historic
    books written by scholars; while they rarely tell anything a scholar
    would not know, they provide a sad and honest view of a contemporary
    that had managed, or tried to, to see through his own passionate hatred of
    the Bolshevik regime to arrive at an understanding of the events that
    brought exile, misfortune and death to people like himself. Sometimes he
    writes about people he saw and knew personally (as in “The Uritsky
    murder”, where he tells about being personally acquainted with the
    assassin and his family), sometimes he adds his own recollections to what he
    describes using different sources, as in “The explosion in Leontievski
    lane”, or “Recollections of a secretary of a delegation” or “The first
    anniversary of October revolution”. These essays could be seen as
    telling more about Aldanov’s world view than about the events in
    question, but this would hardly be unwelcome for a modern reader
    interested in what the Revolution and the Civil war meant for some of
    the people that were living through it.
    The essays are very hard to come by, unfortunately, and any translation,
    if one ever existed, is probably out of print. There have been, to my
    (limited) knowledge, several Russian editions, only one of them a
    complete collection, in the early 90s. So this recommendation is,
    unfortunately, mostly for those who can read Russian and can get a

  3. The Uritsky essay is in An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature: Two Centuries of Dual Identity in Prose And Poetry, which is pricey though in many university libraries.
    The longer Lenin is in Google Books.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations, Maxim, and thanks to MMcM for looking up places to find them.

  5. I remembered I had a book of essays by Aldanov, Portrety, but unfortunately it’s only biographical essays (on Speransky, Stalin, Hitler, Pilsudsky, etc.).
    Damn, that Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature is expensive!

  6. The best book in several years was a surprise I almost missed reading: Providence of a Sparrow. I’ve given it to several other people who loved it as well.

  7. My first impression on reading the title was that someone had spent a year in Reading, the place in the UK that is apparently pronounced ‘Redding’.

  8. Enjoyed your post in The Millions. (I think a lucky reader is the one who has figured out how to get by on three hours of sleep – the only possible way I’ll ever get through my own ever-increasing reading list!)

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