A humble 2021 watchlist

Happy New Year! Awkward segue! New reads for 2021!

A few disclaimers: This list was compiled using 3rd party websites. It’s far from complete – it’s deliberately short, uses book data that was available in December 2020 or earlier and says nothing about this year’s later releases. Also, since I’m perpetually behind in my reading, the list includes unread titles from 2020 in addition to new ones from 2021.

Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life by Alex Christofi (Bloomsbury). In short, Christofi weaves carefully chosen excerpts of Dostoevsky’s work with historical context to form what will definitely be an illuminating and challenging biography. In addition to taking a kaleidoscopic view of the tortured soul behind Crime and Punishment and The Possessed, Dostoevsky in Love relates the stories of three women – Maria, Polina and Anna – who influenced his life in important ways. Read a synopsis on the publisher’s site here.

War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova, trans. Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe Books). I first learned about Maria Stepanova (and her kickass translator Sasha Dugdale) from an issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, which I wrote about in 2019. Stepanova’s epic “War of the Beasts and the Animals” was the anchor poem of the issue, and it. was. amazing. Compelling and probing towards the war in Ukraine, playful in its application of diction and rhyme. I’m so excited to see that more of her poetry has made it into English. Book info here.

The Tool and the Butterflies by Dmitry Lipskerov, trans. Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler and Reilly Costigan (Deep Vellum). Take Gogol’s The Nose, but have the unfortunate protagonist wake up with another, more sensitive part of male anatomy missing… 😏 Need I say more? I need not say more. Just go read the synopsis already.

We Shall be Masters: Russian Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin by Chris Miller (Harvard University Press). From the scholar behind Putinomics and The Struggle to Save the Soviet Union (both good economic histories, by the way) comes a monograph on Russia’s historical attempts to expand its influence in East Asia. Miller argues that Russia’s ambitions have frequently outstripped its capacity, and pivots to the East have been constrained by a variety of factors: European cultural roots, reluctant public support and fear of cost by the elite. Book info here.

Featured image by Ksenia Chernaya via Pexels.


  1. More:

    Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order by Kathryn E. Stoner (Oxford U Press)

    From Russia’s seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine to its military support for the Assad regime in Syria, the country has reasserted itself as a major global power. Stoner examines these developments and more in tackling the big questions about Russia’s turnaround and global future. Stoner marshals data on Russia’s political, economic, and social development and uncovers key insights from its domestic politics. Russian people are wealthier than the Chinese, debt is low, and fiscal policy is good despite sanctions and the volatile global economy. Vladimir Putin’s autocratic regime faces virtually no organized domestic opposition. Yet, mindful of maintaining control at home, Russia under Putin also uses its varied power capacities to extend its influence abroad. While we often underestimate Russia’s global influence, the consequences are evident in the disruption of politics in the US, Syria, and Venezuela, to name a few. Russia Resurrected is an eye-opening reassessment of the country, identifying the actual sources of its power in international politics and why it has been able to redefine the post-Cold War global order.

    The Slaughterman’s Daughter: A novel by Yaniv Iczkovits (Schocken)

    With her reputation as a vilde chaya (wild animal), Fanny Keismann isn’t like the other women in her shtetl in Russia’s Pale of Settlement–certainly not her obedient and anxiety-ridden sister, Mende, whose “philosopher” of a husband, Zvi-Meir, has run off to Minsk, abandoning her and their two children. As a young girl, Fanny felt an inexorable pull toward her father’s profession of ritual slaughterer and, under his reluctant guidance, became a master with a knife. And though she long ago gave up that unsuitable profession–she’s now the wife of a cheesemaker and a mother of five–Fanny still keeps the knife tied to her right leg. Which might come in handy when, heedless of the dangers facing a Jewish woman traveling alone in czarist Russia, she sets off to track down Zvi-Meir and bring him home–with the help of the mute and mysterious ferryman Zizek Breshov, an ex-soldier with his own sensational past.

    Yaniv Iczkovits spins a family drama into a far-reaching comedy of errors that will pit the czar’s army against the Russian secret police and threaten the very foundations of the Russian Empire. The Slaughterman’s Daughter is a rollicking and unforgettable work of fiction.

    The Volga: A History of Russia’s Greatest River by Janet M. Hartley (Yale U Press)

    Janet Hartley explores the history of Russia through the Volga from the seventh century to the present day. She looks at it as an artery for trade and as a testing ground for the Russian Empire’s control of the borderlands, at how it featured in Russian literature and art, and how it was crucial for the outcome of the Second World War at Stalingrad. This vibrant account unearths what life on the river was really like, telling the story of its diverse people and its vital place in Russian history.


  2. Джей Ти, привет. С Новым годом тебя!

    А теперь с места в карьер! Зачем в принципе читать книги про Россию или СССР, написанные иностранцами? Ты же владеешь русским, ты бы могла всё про нашу страну читать на языке оригинала, и это были бы тексты, написанные людьми, жившими/живущими здесь. Мне казалось, ты свободна от этой англо-саксонской зацикленности на себе и на своей точке зрения.

    Ну вот серьезно, захотел бы я узнать что-то про Америку (про историю создания США, про битву при Батон-Руже или про Малькома Х или еще про что иное), стал бы я читать российских или там китайских авторов? Ведь нет же.

    Вспомнил такого автора, как Юваль Харари, который в своей книге якобы про историю всего человечества умудрился дать ссылки только на англоязычные источники. Вот такая она, мировая история с американским акцентом.

    Извини, просто накипело (хорошее кстати слово на русском языке).


    • И с Новым годом тебя, Человек из Купчино!

      Вот внутренняя страница, только для тебя.

      Watchlist – не TBR. В этом году в Russia Reviewed выйдут рецензии не менее 19 произведений, написанных на русском.

      В этих watchlist-списках делюсь с читателями книгами на английском, потому что английский – лингва франка всех в блоге. Но если твой комментарий – намек на то, что я должна быть более сбалансированной в наборе книг в дальнейшем, поняла.


  3. I would by the way recommend “Russia against Napoleon” by Dominic Lieven.

    It was a rivetting read for me, and a very useful dispelling of Clausewitzes impressions on the Russian retreat during the Napoleonic Campaign, as well as a usefull countrepoint to Tolstoys War and Peace (which arguably sells the Russian achievements short).

    Happy (orthodox) New Year/C Novom Godom.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Like, seriously, Czar Alexandr is probably in the running for the most impressive managers of all time, given his off the charts skillfull managing of the the “personalities” of his subordinates.

        Arakcheev was probably borderline functional psychopath, Bluecher was concerned about giving birth to a pink Elefant, a bunch of his subordinates hated each other more then they hated Napoleon but, he did manage to unite them into a fairly cohsive force. Which is really impressive.

        Napoleons marshalls werent exactly easily to manage for Napoleon either, but Aleksandr totally aced it with his motley band of partially inbred misfits.

        It was also very interesting for me that the divding lines were not at all “Germans vs Russians”. Wittgenstein and the prince of Würtemberg (who was like, fucking young, but smart enough to listend attentively to his far more experienced Russian subordinates. He also lead from the front, particlarly because his more experienced subordinates were initially doing the commanding anyway like) both made serious efforts of learning the Russian language, and had personal ideals concerning bravery, showing respect and generosity to subordinates (Count Langeron perhaps even more so) that were strongly in line with Russian ideals.

        My guess, from being a grunt in the German army and having a good bit of family connections to the Russian one, is that teaching Russian swear words to some German prince who is in charge of leading you into battle was probably a very funny “honor” for some wizened hard assed Russian Starshinas. If the German princeling was smart, and von Würtemberg was, he probably went along fully with it.

        I am also awed by the cohesion displayed by Russian infantry during their long retreat. I did not previously know how day to day life in the Imperial Russian army was, but the common trooper considered his unit to be his family, and was willing to fight for it like a crazy madman if the situation required this.

        I especially liked “during his years in Russia, Count Langeron developed a voluble Russian, which was however not that intelligible to the most Russians. However, his troops, which he spared to effort to praise and for whom he cared for strongly, greatly appreciated the effort nontheless.”

        I kind of bet that understanding improved with alchohol consumption there. Also, I now know which Napoleonic era Russian commander I am most alike to (although that is selling myself too high probably), I didnt expect it to be an “archreactionary frenchmen in Russian service”.


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