Reading about Ukraine

The Howe has a number of books that relate to Ukraine, whether nonfiction on the country’s history and current events, or literature by Ukrainian authors or set in Ukraine. We are grieved that war has put the spotlight on Ukraine, but we are grateful there are so many books to help us get to know this fascinating country.

New additions to our collection include these contemporary novels:

DEATH AND THE PENGUIN, by Andrey Kurkov, in which an obituary writer and the penguin he’s adopted from the Kyiv zoo navigate a post-Soviet landscape vulnerable to mafia harassment.

THE ORPHANAGE, by Serhiy Zhadan, which follows a Ukrainian teacher through the war zones of the Donbas to reach his nephew.

Kalani Pickhart’s I WILL DIE IN A FOREIGN LAND, which mixes fiction, documentary, and folktale to put the reader at the center of the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, and also manages to be a love story.

A new anthology, WORDS FOR WAR, gives us poems by Ukrainian poets from the years following 2014. The editors write in their preface, “As we try to understand the scope of the tragedy … poets shift our attention to the domain of the Self that survives, and the cost of its survival.”

Our nonfiction titles by area experts include:

THE GATES OF EUROPE: A HISTORY OF UKRAINE by historian Serhii Plokhy;

BLOODLANDS: EUROPE BETWEEN HITLER AND STALIN by historian Timothy Snyder;

RED FAMINE: STALIN’S WAR ON UKRAINE by journalist and historian Anne Applebaum;

and MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL by journalist Adam Higginbotham.

I also recommend the work of essayist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich (including SECONDHAND TIME: THE LAST OF THE SOVIETS and VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL). Her books provide an immersive experience that lets you hear the voices of a broad spectrum of people in Ukraine and across the former Soviet Union.

Kirsten

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