Ayn Rand: Writing a Gospel of Success. To be published by Yaly UP, Jewish Lives, on August 6, 2024.

This biography traces the life of the prominent and divisive writer, Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Rand’s novels and nonfiction have sold 36 million copies and influenced three generations of Americans—a considerable achievement for a Russian Jewish immigrant who overcame obstacles to succeed in the majority culture on her terms.

Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century, March 2019

If Vasily Grossman’s 1961 masterpiece, Life and Fate, had been published during his lifetime, it would have reached the world together with Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago and before Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag. But Life and Fate was seized by the KGB. When it emerged posthumously, decades later, it was recognized as the War and Peace of the twentieth century. Always at the epicenter of events, Grossman (1905–1964) was among the first to describe the Holocaust and the Ukrainian famine. His 1944 article “The Hell of Treblinka” became evidence at Nuremberg. Grossman’s powerful anti-totalitarian works liken the Nazis’ crimes against humanity with those of Stalin. His compassionate prose has the everlasting quality of great art. Because Grossman’s major works appeared after much delay we are only now able to examine them properly. This biography illuminates Grossman’s life and legacy.

Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century

New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019

Translated into Spanish and Ukrainian



Tolstoy’s False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov, 2014


New York–London: Pegasus Books, November 2014


ABOUT Tolstoy’s False Disciple

On the snowy morning of February 8, 1897, the Petersburg secret police were following Tolstoy’s every move. At sixty-nine, Russia’s most celebrated writer was being treated like a major criminal. Prominent Russians were always watched, but Tolstoy earned particular scrutiny. Over a decade earlier, when his advocacy on behalf of oppressed minorities angered the Orthodox Church and the Tsar, he was placed under permanent police surveillance.

Although Tolstoy was wearing his peasant garb, people on the streets had no trouble recognizing him from his portraits. He was often seen in the company of his chief disciple, Vladimir Chertkov. A man of striking appearance, twenty-five years younger, Chertkov commanded attention. His photographs with Tolstoy show him towering over the writer.

Close to the Tsars and to the chief of the secret police, Chertkov represented the very things Tolstoy had renounced ––class privilege, unlimited power, and wealth. Yet, Chertkov fascinated and attracted Tolstoy. He became the writer’s closest confidant, even reading his daily diary, and by the end of Tolstoy’s life, had established complete control over the writer and his legacy.

Tolstoy’s full exchange with Chertkov comprises more than 2,000 letters, making him the writer’s largest correspondent. The Russian archives have suppressed much of this communication as well as Chertkov’s papers for more than a century. The product of ground-breaking archival research, Tolstoy’s False Disciple promises to be a revelatory portrait of the two men and their three-decade-long clandestine relationship.


The women behind the greatest works of Russian literature:

Anna Dostoevsky, Sophia Tolstoy, Véra Nabokov, Elena Bulgakov, Nadezhda Mandelstam, and Natalya Solzhenitsyn were their husbands’ muses, intellectual companions, and indispensable advisers. These marriages were marked by intense collaboration: the women contributed ideas and committed to paper great works as stenographers, typists, editors, researchers, translators, and publishers. To use Vladimir Nabokov’s words, they formed a “single shadow” with the writers.


The Wives, By Alexandra Popoff
New York–London: Pegasus Books
Translated into Portuguese (Brazil), Polish, and Serbian

Reviewed in Polish on YouTube:



Sophia Tolstoy: A biography by Alexandra Popoff

New York-Toronto: Free Press, 2010
Translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, and Turkish



This biography of Sophia Tolstoy tells the previously unknown story of a talented woman who was central to Leo Tolstoy’s life and creativity. Tolstoy’s wife of 48 years, Sophia was also his publisher, photographer, and biographer–– that on top of raising their 13 children. However, for a century after Tolstoy’s death she has been negatively portrayed.