Writers Read


Award-winning journalist Andrew Nagorski is a senior editor at Newsweek International. Previously the Newsweekbureau chief in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw and Berlin, he is the author of several books and has written for many publications.

His latest book is the widely acclaimedThe Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II.

Last week, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:

I have to confess that I’m still reading a lot about Russia. At a time when Putin’s Russia is once again claiming a special status and scorning the West and its concept of democracy, Nina Khrushcheva has written an extended meditation on one of that country’s great writers: Vladimir Nabokov. InImagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics, the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev argues that today’s Russians could learn from Nabokov, whose writings show how to live “in a world with open borders, among different people, different countries, and different countries.” In other words, Nabokov was a truly modern man, someone who offers a much-needed antidote to the increasingly narrow outlook of

Russia’s current rulers.

The other book I recently read wasLenin’s Brain and Other Tales From the Secret Soviet Archives by Paul Gregory, based on the Hoover Institution’s extensive collection of documents from Soviet state and party archives. MyNewsweek review is available online. What I particularly liked about Gregory’s compact book is that it provides a rich array of chilling stories about the inner workings of a monstrous system.

As much as I’m always attracted to the latest books about Russia, I’m also constantly looking in other directions. I’ve just started Winter in Madrid, a post-Spanish Civil War novel by British writer C.J. Sansom. Set in 1940 as Britain is trying to hold out against Hitler’s Germany, a young British veteran of Dunkirk is sent to Spain on a secret mission. With spies, love, and a great historical backdrop, it certainly looks promising so far. And it offers a welcome trip over different terrain.