In the last year I’ve read quite a few books that for various reasons I never got round to writing about on here. So here are a few that I thought were worth a mention:
Red Moon Rising by Matthew Brezezinski
This is the story of the USA/USSR rivalry that fuelled the space race. Given real depth from background interviews with Krushchev’s son (himself a rocket engineer) this is a fascinating insight into the development of rocket technology from bomb-carrying machines to Sputnik. Written by a journalist it’s a fast-paced easy read and one of my favourite books of the year. I really meant to write about it properly but I read it while on holiday and by the time I got back it didn’t feel fresh enough in my mind to do it justice.
The House by the Dvina by Eugenie Fraser
I read this autobiography recently with my Book Club. Eugenie Fraser was born to a Scottish mother and Russian father in Archangelsk at the start of the twentieth century. We all agreed that it was a slow start as the author began by telling us tales of various ancestors, but once she got into her own story it was an absorbing read. Her depictions of Orthodox Christian festivals, life at school and details about sitting round the Samovar for tea were wonderfully written and definitely did the job of transporting us back to a hundred years ago and a forgotten way of life.
Sergei Prokofiev by Daniel Jaffe
Another excellent book by a journalist, I used lots of the material in it for my Prokofiev walk around central Moscow. Prokofiev’s life covers more or less the first half of the twentieth century from his birth in Tsarist Ukraine, to his death in Moscow on exactly the same night as Stalin in 1953. Even if you aren’t familiar with Prokofiev’s work, it’s a great insight into how Soviet policy influenced the development of the creative arts.
Snowdrops by A.D Miller
Nominated for the Man Booker prize, Snowdrops is a novel about an English lawyer living in Moscow who gets caught up in all kinds of trouble. A fun read with lots of energy, but the only thing I really recognised were the street names. Either I just don’t mix in the right grubby circles, or Moscow has changed a lot in 10 years…or the writer was lazily sticking to tired stereotypes. It did though provoke the longest discussion at our book club of anything we’ve read this year.
And a couple I’m looking forward to reading in 2017:
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. This is the first novel by Julian Barnes since he won the Booker Prize in 2011. The story draws on a number of biographies and accounts of Shostakovich to imagine the composer’s own view of three episodes in his life.
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale is the account of Lenin’s journey across Europe at the height of the first world war from exile in Zurich to jubilant homecoming in Petrograd. The book has been included on the Books of the Year lists by the Times, Economist and Finanial Times.
What have been your favourite reads of 2016, and what’s on your list for the New Year?