“Officially, there is no such place as Siberia,” writes New Yorker correspondent Ian Frazier. Yet the fact that the place doesn’t exist is the merest of inconveniences, for there’s a lot of out there out there in Russia’s version of the Wild West. Frazier has spent good parts of the last two decades traveling to Russia’s far eastern extremes, hearing the stories of river rats, oil wildcatters, trappers, truckers, apparatchiks and other residents of the vast land. “On my first trip I spoke no Russian,” says Frazier. In time, he learned enough to keep himself out of trouble, though trouble finds him anyway in his pages, mostly in the form of misadventures on an ever-dicey road in a battered Renault step van and in hellacious weather. Other forms of transport—small boats in the Bering Strait, helicopter rides over the icy taiga and across Arctic islands, a claustrophobia-inducing auto train—provide thrills of their own. Frazier gamely recounts his wanderings across thousands of miles, painting a large-scale portrait of “the sleeping land.” “I hope my book will give readers a sense of the place that is sweeping in scope,” he says. “I want this to be a nonfiction version of a ‘big’ Russian novel.” (First appeared in our BEA/ALA Big Book Guide.)
For a list of all the best nonfiction books of 2010, click here.
Travels in Siberia
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / October / 9780374278724 / $28.00
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010