The Greatest Russian, South African "Nonfiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

    "Long Walk to Freedom" is a powerful autobiography that chronicles the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela. From his humble beginnings in a rural village to becoming the first black president of South Africa, Mandela's journey is one of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to justice and equality. Through his personal experiences, he provides a vivid account of the struggle against apartheid, his 27 years of imprisonment, and the eventual triumph of democracy. This book serves as an inspiring testament to Mandela's unwavering spirit and his lifelong fight for freedom and human rights.

    The 1260th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

    This autobiography tells the story of a young boy growing up in apartheid-era South Africa. Despite enduring extreme poverty, brutal police raids, and constant racial discrimination, the protagonist manages to escape his harsh reality through education and tennis. His determination and resilience eventually lead him to receive a scholarship to an American university, providing him a chance to escape the oppressive system of apartheid.

    The 3275th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Unwomanly Face Of War by Svetlana Alexievich

    "The Unwomanly Face Of War" is a powerful and poignant collection of interviews with Soviet women who fought in World War II. Through their testimonies, the author sheds light on the often overlooked and untold stories of these brave women who served as snipers, pilots, nurses, and soldiers on the front lines. The book explores their experiences, sacrifices, and the lasting impact of war on their lives, providing a unique and intimate perspective on the realities of war from a female point of view.

    The 4456th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Grey Is The Colour Of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya

    This book is a powerful memoir of resilience and endurance, chronicling the author's experiences as a political prisoner in a Soviet labor camp during the 1980s. The narrative captures the harsh realities of life behind bars, from the brutality of the guards to the solidarity among the female prisoners. Despite the oppressive environment, the author finds strength in writing poetry, a testament to the human spirit's capacity for hope and creativity in the face of despair. Her lyrical prose weaves together personal reflections, vivid descriptions, and poignant insights, offering a moving account of her struggle for freedom and the triumph of the will over totalitarianism.

    The 4995th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

    "Born A Crime" is a captivating memoir that chronicles the life of Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and television host. Set during the apartheid era, the book explores Noah's experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in a society where interracial relationships were illegal. With humor and insight, Noah recounts his struggles with identity, poverty, and racism, while also highlighting the resilience and strength of his mother who played a pivotal role in his life. This thought-provoking memoir offers a compelling and personal perspective on race, family, and the power of laughter in the face of adversity.

    The 5730th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. The Seed Is Mine by Charles Van Onselen

    "The Seed Is Mine" is a historical non-fiction book that explores the life of a black South African named Klaas, who lived through the tumultuous years of apartheid. Through extensive research and interviews, the author delves into Klaas' personal experiences, struggles, and aspirations, shedding light on the complex dynamics of race, class, and power during this period. The book offers a poignant and intimate portrayal of one man's fight for dignity and justice amidst a system designed to suppress and oppress.

    The 5941st Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. Country Of My Skull by Antjie Krog

    "Country Of My Skull" is a powerful and deeply personal account of the author's experiences as a journalist covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa. Through her vivid and introspective narrative, the author explores the complexities of forgiveness, justice, and the collective healing process of a nation grappling with its painful past. This thought-provoking book offers a unique perspective on the complexities of reconciliation and the enduring impact of trauma on individuals and societies.

    The 6234th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Boyhood: Scenes from provincial life by J M Coetzee

    "Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life" is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the author's childhood in South Africa during the apartheid era. The narrative delves into the complexities of family dynamics, racial tension, and the struggle of a young boy trying to understand his place in a divided society. The protagonist grapples with his identity, torn between his Afrikaner heritage and his English schooling, while also navigating the trials of adolescence. The book offers a poignant and often painful reflection on the formative years of a boy growing up in a fraught and turbulent time.

    The 6596th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. My Half Century by Anna Akhmatova

    "My Half Century" is a reflective anthology that encapsulates the personal and professional life of a prominent Russian poetess through her own writings and letters, as well as critical essays about her work. The collection spans the tumultuous periods of Russian history from the early 20th century through the Stalinist era, providing a window into the poet's profound resilience and adaptation in the face of personal and political upheaval. Her poetry, marked by its emotional depth and lyrical beauty, explores themes of love, grief, and the endurance of the human spirit, while also subtly critiquing the oppressive political climate of her time. This compilation not only celebrates her literary genius but also her role as a witness to a critical period in Russian history.

    The 7142nd Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Truth About Chernobyl by Grigory Medvedev

    "The Truth About Chernobyl" is a detailed account of the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, written by Grigory Medvedev, a chief engineer at the plant during the 1970s. Drawing from his own experiences and extensive research, Medvedev exposes the series of events leading up to the explosion, the aftermath, and the cover-up by Soviet officials. The book provides an insider’s perspective on the failures in design, management, and operation of the reactor, and criticizes the lack of safety culture in the Soviet nuclear industry. Medvedev’s narrative not only highlights the technical aspects of the disaster but also delves into the human stories of those who lived through the tragedy, offering a poignant look at one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

    The 8225th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. The Diary Of A Gulag Prison Guard 1935 6 by Ivan Chistyakov

    "The Diary Of A Gulag Prison Guard 1935-6" is a chilling and harrowing memoir that provides a firsthand account of the atrocities and cruelty witnessed by Ivan Chistyakov during his time as a guard in a Soviet Gulag prison. Through his detailed entries, Chistyakov reveals the dehumanizing conditions, brutal punishments, and constant fear that both prisoners and guards endured within the oppressive Soviet regime. This haunting narrative serves as a stark reminder of the dark realities of the Gulag system and the lasting impact it had on the lives of countless individuals.

    The 8401st Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. In Confidence by Anatoly Dobrynin

    "In Confidence" is a memoir by a former Soviet ambassador that provides an insider's view of Cold War diplomacy from the perspective of the Soviet Union. The book offers detailed accounts of the ambassador's interactions with several U.S. administrations, revealing the complexities of U.S.-Soviet relations and the personal and political challenges of navigating this high-stakes diplomatic landscape. Through his unique vantage point, the author sheds light on major historical events and decisions, offering insights into the strategic thinking and interpersonal dynamics that shaped the Cold War era.

    The 8486th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Other Russias by Victoria Lomasko

    "Other Russias" is a powerful and thought-provoking graphic novel that offers an intimate and unfiltered glimpse into the lives of marginalized individuals and communities in contemporary Russia. Through her stunning illustrations and poignant interviews, Victoria Lomasko sheds light on the struggles, hopes, and resilience of diverse groups such as LGBTQ+ activists, migrant workers, political dissidents, and the forgotten voices of rural communities. This eye-opening book challenges stereotypes and provides a humanizing portrayal of those who are often overlooked or silenced in Russian society.

    The 8513th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

    This book provides a deeply researched examination of the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, focusing on the lives of four individuals born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. The book explores how, after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of moving towards a democratic society, Russia has seen a rise in a new form of totalitarianism under its current leadership. It delves into the psychological shift in the Russian populace, the government's use of homophobia as a method of control, and how the internet and social media have been weaponized for political purposes.

    The 9631st Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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