Here are some books I have been looking at, and in some cases
actually reading, which are in one way or another relevant.
I have added some guidebooks and phrasebooks
which might also be helpful.
(The links will take you through to
Amazon.co.uk where you can buy these books online (usually
at a discount).
The Dragon in the Land of Snows by Tsering Shakya. The modern history of Tibet since 1945. Well-researched and balanced.
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence. China from the 17th Century to the present day.
The Private Life of Chairman Mao - The Memoirs of Mao's Personal Physician by Li Zhisui. I think you really have to read this to get a feel for Mao as a person. He comes across as - well, incredibly indolent, a genius manipulator, careless with the lives of millions and ruthless with his political rivals, and yet at times peculiarly concerned to see justice done in relatively trivial matters - so long as they did not concern politics. He also seems to have had a twinkle-in-his-eye sense of humour - hard to square with his brutalist political visions.
East of the Sun by Benson Bobrick. The history of Russian imperial expansion into Siberia and the Far East.
Transylvania and Beyond by Dervla Murphy. One of this author's many cycle-touring books, this one covering Romania. Another of my favourites is South from the Limpopo - Travels Through South Africa, though that one is some way off my route.
Dust by Ma Jian. A wonderfully-told account of
travel, frustration and rage in 1980s China. A travel book
about China written by a native Chinese person - shows up
the shortcomings of so much travel writing written by outsiders
Not very relevant this website, but one of my all-time favourite
Heller's God Knows, which I reckon is
on a par with, if not better than, his more famous Catch-22.
and the Russians by Geoffrey Hosking
Some guidebooks that might be helpful.
Guide to China
guide phrasebook for Mandarin Chinese
Planet phrasebook for Mandarin Chinese
Planet Guide to Mongolia
Language Phrasebook by Lonely Planet
Planet Eastern European Languages Phrasebook
(covers Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian,
Czech, Hungarian, Macedonian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak
Planet Central European Languages Phrasebook
(covers German, Czech, Hungarian,
Polish, Slovak and Slovene)
Planet Ukrainian Language Phrasebook
Planet guidebook to Russia and Belorus