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Anne Applebaum's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Anne Applebaum recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Anne Applebaum's favorite book recommendations of all time.


Speak, Memory

From one of the twentieth century's great writers comes one of the finest autobiographies of our time. Speak, Memory is Vladimir Nabokov's moving account of a loving, civilized family, of adolescent awakenings, flight from Bolshevik terror, education in England, and émigré life in Paris and Berlin. The Nabokovs were eccentric, liberal aristocrats who lived a life immersed in politics and literature on splendid country estates until their world was swept away by the Russian Revolution when the author was eighteen years old. Speak, Memory vividly evokes a vanished past in the... more
Recommended by Anne Applebaum, Eva Hoffman, and 2 others.

Anne ApplebaumI still think it’s one of the most beautiful memoirs ever written. Although it’s not about the Russian revolution as such, it is permeated with a sense of loss and exile, as are all of Nabokov’s books. He evokes gorgeous countryside scenes of pre-revolutionary Russia, but at the same time has some distance from it – he recognises the awfulness of what he at one point calls his rather appalling... (Source)

Eva HoffmanI love it for several reasons. First, it made me feel that it is possible to give written form to nostalgia. The lyrical affirmation of that was quite important to me. Secondly, his preoccupation with language. I kept looking for books which talk about language, and at the end of the book Nabokov has a dedication to the Russian language, or an invocation of it and his incredibly poignant loss of... (Source)

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The Snows of Yesteryear

Gregor von Rezzori was born in Czernowitz, a one-time provincial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that was later to be absorbed successively into Romania, the USSR, and the Ukraine—a town that was everywhere and nowhere, with a population of astonishing diversity. Growing up after World War I and the collapse of the empire, Rezzori lived in a twilit world suspended between the formalities of the old nineteenth-century order which had shaped his aristocratic parents and the innovations, uncertainties, and raw terror of the new century. The haunted atmosphere of this dying world is... more
Recommended by Anne Applebaum, and 1 others.

Anne ApplebaumVon Rezzori’s most famous book is called Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, and it is also partly autobiographical. Like The Snows of Yesteryear, which is a straight autobiography, it evokes a time and a place that no longer exists. Von Rezzori is from Czernowitz, in Bukovina, where I’ve been – it’s described in my book Between East and West – in the far corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was a... (Source)

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Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948

Recommended by Anne Applebaum, and 1 others.

Anne ApplebaumSándor Márai is one of the great Hungarian novelists. He was in Hungary during the war, and left in 1948. This book is about a neutral intellectual’s encounter with communism, and it records what he saw as it happened. Whereas Miłosz writes from the present looking back, trying to explain the past, Márai writes as if in the moment itself. (Source)

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A World Apart

A searing, personal literary account of life in a Soviet prison camp

In 1940, Gustaw Herling was arrested after he joined an underground Polish army that fell into Russian hands. He was sent to a northern Russian labor camp, where he spent the two most terrible years of his life. In A World Apart, he tells of the people he was imprisoned with, the hardships they endured, and the indomitable spirit and will that allowed them to survive. Above all, he creates portraits of how people - deprived of basic human necessities and forced to worked at hard labor - can come...
Recommended by Anne Applebaum, and 1 others.

Anne ApplebaumGustaw Herling-Grudziński was a Pole who was captured by the Russians after their invasion of Poland in 1939. He wasn’t in the Gulag for long – only a couple of years, until 1941 – but what I like about his book is that, unlike many memoirs, it’s not just about his story or what happened to him. It’s more like a series of short stories, of the kind written by [Varlam] Shalamov or one of the Gulag... (Source)

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The Captive Mind

Written in Paris in the early 1950s, this book created instant controversy in its analysis of modern society that had allowed itself to be hypnotized by socio-political doctrines, and to accept totalitarian terror on the strength of a hypothetical future. less
Recommended by Timothy Snyder, Anne Applebaum, and 2 others.

Timothy SnyderYes. Milosz tried to explain – as the title suggests – how thinking people could accept communism from inside the communist system. How does one not resist or just endure, but actually place one’s mind in the system? He points to a number of ways in which the mind can adapt. You can accept one larger truth that guides your interpretation of all of the smaller untruths, accept a vision of the... (Source)

Anne ApplebaumThe Captive Mind isn’t a straight memoir. Although Milosz is writing about his own life and his past, he is also grappling with a larger subject: How his generation of liberal intellectuals came to collaborate with, and work alongside, the Communist party. And he is trying to understand his own behaviour: Why did I act that way? (Source)

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