A Literary Introduction to the Baltics is the next-best thing to joining a guided tour with Jerulita. Familiarize yourself with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia’s deep histories before diving in with our knowledgeable guides.
Books to Read Before you Visit the Baltics
The Czar’s Madman. Considered Jan Kroos masterpiece, this fascinating novel tells the story of a Livonian nobleman who criticizes his king and placed under house arrest. It’s a skillful tale of post-Napoleonic Russia.
Purge. Family secrets seem to be at the center of this story of an old woman and a strange girl who arrives in the dead of night in her garden. Finnish-Estonian Sofi Oksanen’s writing deftly weaves a tale of intrigue, suspicion and revelation.
The Christening. Denise Neuhaus follows three Estonian women in paranoid-stricken Tallinn and Stockholm in the last days of the Soviet Union.
The Death of the Perfect Sentence. Rein Raud’s political thriller and love story examines Estonia in the dying days of the Soviet Union. A group of pro-independence dissidents struggle to smuggle KGB files out of the country and get caught up with monumental changes in their country.
Natasha, and Other Stories. Canadian writer David Bezmozgis tackles his Latvian heritage with this story of emigrants. He follows the Berman family, Russian-speaking Jews who fled Latvia for the cold city of Toronto. It’s a coming-of-age story that transposes time and the Atlantic Ocean.
Flesh-Colored Dominoes. Zigmunds Skujins delves into the question of Latvian identity against the foreground of 18th-century Baltic Germans to contemporary Latvia.
Green Crow. This Latvian tale recounts the story of a woman who’s been committed into an asylum. She remembers her abusive father, the seaside city of Jurmala, and an enormous talking green crow. At first a savior, the crow begins to embarass the narrator, as she struggles to accept the crow and the part of herself that it represents.
Doom 94. A coming-of-age story not only for a generation but also the country of Latvia. Set in Jelgava, this bestseller is a touching story from Janis Jonevs about a 14-year-old who is exploring himself through the metal subculture.
Tūla. Jurgis Kunčinas’ novel, set in the 1980s, is a tour through Uzupis, Vilnius’ artsy bohemian quarter. We see through the eyes of a tragic narrator, encountering various people, complex history, wafts of nostalgia and claustrophobia. Read it for the striking depictions of beautiful Vilnius Old Town, a crumbling character in herself.
Those Whom I Would Like to Meet Again. Lithuanian-born Giedra Radvilavičiūtė weaves ten short stories tied to Lithuanian history. Cross oceans and explore Vilnius Old Town and Chicago’s Brighton Park.
Vilnius Poker. Ricardas Gavelis’ well-known novel about Soviet Lithuania and a librarian known as Vytautas Vargalys. We follow his growing obsession with a mysterious group known only as “Them.”
In Lithuanian Wood. Delve into the tumultuous climate of post-communist Lithuania to uncover how people felt, acted and thought in this time of transition. This ambitious and experimental collection of stories investigates what it means to understand Lithuania.