AEIOpeners: Leon Aron's reading list

Leon Aron is a resident scholar and director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of three books and over 300 articles and essays. Since 1999, he has written Russian Outlook, a quarterly essay on economic, political, social and cultural aspects of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, published by the Institute. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2000); and Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006 (AEI Press, 2007); Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideals and Ideas in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).

"Reading Lolita in Tehran," Azar Nafisi, 2003

You probably have to go to such witnesses like Vasily Grossman or Nadezhda Mandelstam or Solzenitsyn to get such an artistically powerful presentation of the firsthand experience of totalitarianism.

"Boswell's Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson," Adam Sisman, 2001

It is not only a fascinating inside scoop as to what many consider the best biography ever written, which is James Boswell's biography of Samuel Johnson, but it also, to me, was a really striking example of how art almost literally heals the soul, because the writing of the Johnson biography turned Boswell from essentially a dissipated alcoholic and womanizer into a productive human being who died almost right after he finished the book.

"Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable," Thomas Bulfinch, 1855

Reading The Age of Fable, which encompasses classic Greek and Roman mythology and King Arthur and his knights, is like being persuaded again and again how little we have invented in the past several thousand years and how much our literature and ethics are rooted in what the Greeks and Romans created, in addition to the pure artistic enjoyment that those myths give us.

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