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.