CLASSIC trans-siberian READING LIST

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Through Siberia by Accident by Dervla Murphy

Excellent account of Siberia and in particular the remote and rarely traveled Baikal Amur Line (BAM). Well researched and full of character this book brings Siberia alive through the descriptions of the characters she meets along the way.
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The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Not a happy read but one of Russia’s great writers draws on his experience of 4 years in a prison camp near Omsk and the daily struggle for survival. Read this and you won’t be complaining about the food in the dining car anymore!
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In Siberia by Colin Thubron

One of the books about Siberia as Thubron delves far deeper than the average travel writer trying to understand the essence of the people that live there and the land they live in. Quite a dark read but perhaps essential to understand the region.
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Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier

Frazier reveals Siberia's role in history, its science, economics, and politics. Traveling by car rather than train from st Petersburg to Vladivostok in five weeks in one of the most humorous, informative and hugely entertaining of Trans-Siberian books.
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Asia Overland by Bijan Omrani

This title offers a travel companion and historical travelogue. It is resourced from travel luminaries: from George Kennan to Anton Chekhov, Fa Xian and Xuanzang to Marco Polo and Matteo Ricci.
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The City of Heavenly Tranquility by Jasper Becker

One of the best books devoted to Beijing and an entertaining historical account of the city that will give some real insight into what makes Beijing tick. The range is almost up to the modern day which gives the reader a good idea of what Beijing has been through.
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The Lost Country: Mongolia Revealed by Jasper Becker

Another Becker offering covering the history of Mongolia through his travels there in the early 90’s. It is full of anecdotes and historical stories of the strange and bizarre and offers a good grounding in Mongolia up until the early years after the fall of the Soviet Union.
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The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

One of the classic travel books about the Trans-Siberian. If you like this Riding the Iron Rooster and the more recent Ghost Train to the Eastern Star are superb, the latter revisiting the travel of The Great Railway Bazaar some 30 years later.
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THE BIG RED TRAIN RIDE - ERIC NEWBY

Eric Newby set out in 1997 to cross from Western Europe to the Pacific coast on the Trans Siberian Railway, the only continuous land route there is for these 5900 miles and seven time zones. A humorous look at life in Soviet Russia that doesn’t disappoint.
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GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR - PAUL THEROUX

Revisiting his journey three decades before, Paul Theroux shows us just how much this region of the world has changed in that time. From the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of China to the booming India and flourishing Vietnam everywhere he looks great change has occurred. Theroux captures this with his amazing eye for detail and his childlike curiosity.

🇷🇺  RUSSIA SPECIFIC TRAVEL READING LIST

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LETTERS FROM RUSSIA - ASTOLPHE DE CUSTINE

This wonderfully crafted and deeply insightful account of the Marquis de Custine's trip to Russia in 1839 is a fantastic piece of travel writing. Custine’s vivid descriptions of Russian life come from his willingness to mix with all walks of life from the tzar himself down to those living in the countryside. This new edition is a mirror onto the forces of history that are still relevant today.
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WHERE NIGHTS ARE LONGEST - COLIN THUBRON

Charting Thubron’s 10,000 mile journey through Western Russia, Where Nights are the Longest gives us an account of a journey, though fully state organised, that still sees him often meeting with dissidents as well as mixing among locals. His grasp of Russian gives him a deeper look under the skin of Soviet Russia than was perhaps first planned by the state authorities.
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RUSSIA: A JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF A LAND AND ITS PEOPLE - JONATHAN DIMBLEBY

Jonathan Dimbleby’s story of his 10,000 mile adventure across this country that was still little understood in the West. From west to east Dimbleby encounters the wide range of individuals that make up Russia. This book gives insight into both this incredible country that is undergoing such radical changes as well as the effect of this epic journey through Russia on the author.
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ONE STEPPE BEYOND - THOM WHEELER

A wonderfully quirky ride across the former Soviet Union for Thom and his friend Jo in a beat up old VW camper It doesn’t disappoint with everyone from corrupt officials to over friendly gangsters coming at the pair on their journey from Estonia to Vladivostok. Way off the beaten track they experience the end of one regime and the beginning of another in 90’s Russia.
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NATASHA’S DANCE - A CULTURAL HISTORY OF RUSSIA - ORLANDo FIGES

Figes book deals with how Russian writers, musicians and artists dealt with the idea of what Russia itself is. Mixing the great works of Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall with the stories and songs and traditions of the Russian peasantry he uncovers a sense of “Russianness” that is is complex and exhilarating while being contradictory and enduring.
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A HISTORY OF MODERN RUSSIA - ROBERT SERVICE

An overview of twentieth Century Russia that takes the history of the Soviet Union and post Soviet history of Yeltsin and Putin’s time as one single period analysing the strange mix of social and political ingredients mixed with the economic ones that made up the Soviet model. From Russian certainty under Communist rule to the less certain world facing Russia today.
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SILVERLAND: A WINTER JOURNEY BEYOND THE URALS - DERVLA MURPHY

Charting Dervla Murphy's expedition through the snowscapes of Far Eastern Russia. Travelling by slow train through areas barely exposed to tourism bordering Japan, Mongolia and the Arctic circle. A whole host of wonderful characters await her in this peculiar world of reindeer and ancient shamanism. This book is warm and gives a rare insight into a world untouched by tourism.

🇲🇳  Mongolia SPECIFIC TRAVEL READING LIST

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GHENGHIS KHAN & THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD - JACK WEATHERFORD

Genghis Khan’s army conquered more land in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. Despite a reputation for brutality in warfare they brought law and order with them which led to more trade, better communications and enduring civilisations. This book charts the rise of Genghis and his impact on the world we live in today.
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THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO THE VENETIAN - ELIBRON CLASSICS

The 13th Century traveller Marco Polo was both a famed traveller of his time and his stories and exploits are still well known even today. His accounts of his travels from Venice to China and back make for an amazing story that brings to life the era he lived in like few if any other texts. This book allows you to immerse yourself into that long lost world.
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THE SECRET HISTORY OF MONGOL QUEENS - JACK WEATHERFORD

This is a story of the women who ruled alongside the famous Khans of the Mongol Empire and their role in developing the pax Mongolia that led to the prospering of trade and education after the initial conquests. This is also a story of the power struggles between the daughters of Genghis that eventually led them to be written out of the history yet the legends and stories live on.
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WALKING HOME FROM MONGOLIA - ROB LILWALL

A truly epic journey that starts in the Gobi desert before moving on 3,000 miles in 6 months through China. More focused on China this is nevertheless a good read and insight into the lands that border Mongolia. It is also a classic adventures story of hardship and exploration of areas that foreigners have rarely travelled in.
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MONGOLIA - TRAVELS IN THE UNTAMED LAND - JASPER BECKER

Jasper Becker travelled throughout Central Asia this time including Mongolia bringing insight into the history and turbulence that Mongolia has been through in the last Century in particular. This is one of the best travel books on Mongolia and essential and ideal reading on the train to Ulaanbaatar! A little dated as Mongolia has changed much in the last decade.
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EAGLE DREAMS - STEPHEN J. BODIO

This follows the authors life long interest in the nomadic eagle hunters of the west of Mongolia. This method of hunting has changed little over the centuries and he spends months with the hunters learning the rituals and delicate relationship they have with their birds. However, this book also give valuable insight in to the nomadic life that is loved across much of Mongolia.
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THE LOST HEART OF ASIA - COLIN THUBRON

This is a superb book and often cited as one of the best travel literature has on Central Asia. Although not focused on Mongolia in particular it does cover the history that the Mongol invasions set in train and so is valuable reading that is also likely to wet the appetite for some of the other Central Asian countries.
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KHUBILAI KHAN - MORRIS ROSSABI

Living from 1215 to 1294 Khubilai Khan is one of history's most renowned figures. Here for the first time is an English-language biography of the man. Morris Rossabi draws on sources from a variety of East Asian, Middle Eastern, and European languages as he focuses on the life and times of the great Mongol monarch.

🇨🇳  china SPECIFIC TRAVEL READING LIST

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WILD SWANS - JUNG CHANG

20th Century history told through the the story of three generations of the same family. There are few books on China which bring the history to life and feel so personal with such ease and readability. Although it is very much focused on the story of one family the impression is that millions of families in China had the same experience.
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RED CHINA BLUES - JAN WONG

An excellent book that covers the authors experiences in China in the 1970s when she moved there from Canada as a supporter of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The book charts a period that few have written about from a foreign perspective and charts her initial enthusiasm for Mao until her eventual disillusionment with his policies. Well written and full of anecdote.
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RIVER TOWN - PETER HESSLER

Set in the remote town of Fuling in the Yangtze River Valley this best selling book charts the experiences of the author as a Peace Corps volunteer at a time when China was embarking on the immense changes of reform and opening up. Hessler’s experiences make for a superb read and when you realise that the changes that were going on in Fuling were replicated across the country a real understanding of this period is possible.
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MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY - JUNG CHANG

Another offering from Jung Chang, this is an in-depth study into the life of Chairman Mao. Well researched and based on interviews with those who knew and dealt with him. The book doesn’t flinch from exposing the brutality of Mao but is also charts his rise to power and the methods he employed to maintain it once he took over China in 1949. A shocking but essential read.
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GOOD WOMEN OF CHINA: HIDDEN VOICES - XINRAN

This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, the women's voices confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets for the first time. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.
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CHINA WAKES: NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Considered by many as the definitive book on China's often rocky transformation into an economic and political superpower. Written by two Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters China wakes is an insightful and thought-provoking analysis of daily life in China at this time and is an exemplary work of reportage.
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THE SEARCH FOR MODERN CHINA - JONATHAN D. SPENCE

Everyone knows that China has a long history and we all have a picture in our minds when we think of China but in reality, the details of the history are relatively unknown. This book brings to life nearly 3,500 years of history by focusing on the principle characters of 8 of the dynasties. The book brings to life this great sweep of history.
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DYNASTIES OF CHINA - BAMBER GASCOIGNE

One of the classic travel books about the Trans-Siberian. If you like this Riding the Iron Rooster and the more recent Ghost Train to the Eastern Star are superb, the latter revisiting the travel of The Great Railway Bazaar some 30 years later.
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CHINA ROAD - ROB GIFFORD

Running 3,000 miles from the eat-coast boomtown of Shanghai to the border of Kazakhstan in the north-west, Route 312 - China's 'Route 66' - is a road that Rob Gifford has always wanted to travel. Gifford's journey and his desire to get to the heart of this country make China Road an outstanding and funny travel narrative - part pilgrimage, part reportage - which illuminates the country.
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WOLF TOTEM - JIANG RONG

This is a compelling story set during the cultural revolution about a Beijing intellectual who volunteers to live in a remote and idyllic area of Inner Mongolia. His simple life here is shattered as people swarm into the region upsetting the natural balance and pushing the wolves that typified the resilience of life on the frontier and provide useful lessons on China’s development impact.
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1421: THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED THE WORLD - GAVIN MENZIES

The little known or recognised story of the journey of the world’s largest fleet that set sail from China in 1421. They sailed for 2 years circumnavigating the globe a century before Magellan, reaching America seventy years before Columbus, and Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook.
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RED DUST - MA JIAN

A travel book set over the authors three years of journeying through remote parts of China in the 1980s which was partly an escape from the surveillance and disapproval of his life by the authorities in Beijing. Ma Jian sets off to discover himself yet uncovers the endless contradictions China throws up from stunning landscapes and kindness to brutality and overdevelopment.

CONTINUE TO EXPLORE THIS SECTION FROM THE OPTIONS BELOW

Planning Route Options

Map of the Trans-Siberian railway showing the major stops and popular places to visit as well as the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian routes.

Planning Where To Stop

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's selection of the best places to visit in Russia, Mongolia and China for your trip of a lifetime.

Planning When To Go

The best months of the year to take a Trans-Siberian rail tour - and when not to! Do you prefer the idea of a summer trip, a winter trip or fall colours of autumn?

Planning The Trains

A guide to the main trains used in our The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's tours, differences between first and second train classes and life on board.

Planning Experiences

The staff of The Trans-Siberian Travel Company came up with this list of the best experiences on offer though Russia, Mongolia and China.

Planning Accommodation

From modern to soviet hotels, Mongolian Gers, Siberian Home Stays to traditional style Chinese courtyards, the right hotel selection can make your trip!

Planning Money To Take

What currency to take on a Trans-Siberian tour - Russian Roubles? Mongolian Tugrik? Chinese Yuan RMB? US Dollars? Euros? Find the answers here.

Planning Visa Requirements

Most nationalities will need a visa for their Trans-Siberian trip - find out more information about Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas here.

Planning Vaccinations

Vaccination and inoculations needed or recommended for a Trans-Siberian trip visiting Russia, Mongolia and China. Updated for Covid-19.

Planning FAQs

Our guide to the most frequently asked questions when planning your rail tour and holiday along the Trans-Siberian routes.

Planning Top Tips

Top Tips for a Trans-Siberian railway adventure based on experiences both good and bad from the trips we have done with specific lists for Mongolia and China.

Planning Reading List

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's suggestions for a good read as you travel along the greatest railway in the world including reading lists for China, Russia and Mongolia.

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