Here is the third incarnation of a booklist that I originally prepared for Sitka's Kettleson Memorial Library to help people understand more about problems in the Balkans.  In reality this should be called the Western Balkan Reading List because I do not deal much with Bulgaria, Romania or Greece.  If you have any suggestions to add to this list please send them to me at .  I've read most of these books so the comments are my own.  Three (Owen, Zimmerman and Holbrooke) I have not read but I put in because they are primary sources.  The Links I have added try to mix differing opinions.  In some cases I have linked two reviews that may disagree, one under the book title and the other under the author.  Sometimes the Author link is the author's home page, or a page from the Author's University with a bio.  I have not put in individual links to, although you can get reviews for most of these books there.  Read the reviews but patronize your local independent bookseller like Sitka's Old Harbor Books. (Updated October 25, 2009)



Comments:  Updated January 2, 2009

Andric, Ivo

The Bridge on the Drina

This 1949 book is the classic modern Serb novel, written by a Croat from Bosnia. It won him the Nobel Prize and gives more insight than most history books.

Andric, Ivo

Bosnian Chronicle

Originally published under the title of "Days of the Consuls." It gives insight into ethnic disputes throughout the years. One of my three favorite writers on this list.

Bell, Martin

In Harm's Way, Reflections of a War-zone Thug.

Bell was, perhaps, the BBC's best war correspondent. He left the Beeb to run as an independent for the British Parliament AND WON (and since lost). In this book he doesn't have to be "objective" and isn't.  The right of a retired journo.

Bujosevic, Dragan & Ivan Radovanoviv

October 5 -- A 24 - Hour Coup

This is drawn from "first person" accounts of the coup against Milosevic.  While not complete, it is valuable because it is the first record of the events of October 5.  It is published by the Belgrade Media Center with funding from IREX.  The second English language edition is a better translation than the first.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The Other Balkan Wars:  A 1913 Carnegie Endowment Inquiry. A republication of the "Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars."  It is a valuable source document with a new introduction by George F Kennan.

Carver, Robert

"The Accursed Mountains"

A travelogue published in 1999. We were in Albania at exactly the same time and saw the same events but we viewed them very differently. At times I wanted to throw the book out the window. But I can vouch for the things he saw. I just interpreted them differently.

Clancy, Tim

Bosnia & Herzegovina: The Bradt Travel Guide

I used this guide on my most recent trip to Sarajevo.  It helped me find a good hotel and great local food at a low price.  The map of Sarajevo left something to be desired

Collin, Matthew

This is Serbia Calling:  Rock 'N Roll Radio and Belgrade's Underground Resistance.

This is a very readable book about B-92, Serbia's top independent radio station.  It deals with B-92 from a cultural perspective rather than a political one.  This makes it different from most books on the Balkans.  It is the companion book for a BBC Radio 4 series.   This book has been released in the US under the title Guerrilla Radio.

Chomsky, Noam

The New Military Humanism, Lessons from Kosovo

A polemic against NATO's bombing of Serbia and intervention in Kosovo.. While I find the reasoning faulty and contest some of his facts, his theory just may be right. I'm constantly amused that Chomsky is used by dictators from Meciar to Milosevic to justify themselves.

Comrie, Nicholas, editor
How to Understand Serbs
Well written essays by Serbs and expats living in the country. Published by B-92.
Di Lellio, Anna
The Case for Kosova
A series of readings on the issue of Kosova independence

Drakulic, Slavenka

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.

Essays on the fall of communism before the wars of Yugoslav secession, well written and humorous, from a feminist perspective.

Drakulic, Slavenka

Balkan Express

The humor turns black, essays on the human side of the Balkan wars. A woman's personal struggle against nationalism. Get the second edition.

Drakulic, Slavenka

Café Europa

The best insight on living in post communist Europe I have read. Required reading for all my expat staff. My favorite writer on the list.

Drakulic, Slavenka


A novel set in a Bosnian concentration camp about the systematic rape of  Moslem women.  Shocking but important in giving the reader an understanding of what happened.

Drakulic, Slavenka

They Would Never Hurt a Fly

After she wrote "S" a German reader asked Ms. Drakulic if she was going to write a book from the perpetrators' point of view.  She said no and then did it.  She puts a lot of herself into the minds of the perps, but in doing so she helped me come to grips with the world I had been working in for over a decade.

Durham, Edith

High Albania

This classic 1914 pro-Albanian travelogue of Albania. The counterpoint to Rebecca West.  It is out again in paperback.

Eams, Andrew
Blue River, Black Sea
Travel Writing about a trip down the Danube from its source in Germany to its delta in Romania.

Garton-Ash, Timothy

The Magic Lantern, The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague

Essays on the fall of communism in Central Europe, written while there was so much optimism. Sometimes I re-read them and ponder what went wrong. Very well written, the man understands language. While not about the Balkans, it helped me understand.

Garton-Ash, Timothy

The File

Garton-Ash was a student and then scholar in East Germany. When the Stazi files were opened he got his and confronted each of the people who had informed on him. Fascinating view of how people survive a dictatorship. One of my favorite writers on this list.

Garton-Ash, Timothy

A History of the Present.

A set of essays on the fall of communism. Offers insight on why Europe seems incapable of dealing with the Balkans and must rely on the US.

Glenny, Misha

The Balkans, 1904-1999, Nationalism, War and the Great Powers

Misha is the BBC expert on the Balkans. This is a good historical account of "why nationalism?"

Glenny, Misha

The Fall of Yugoslavia

Good but Silber and Little are better. Written in 1992, before it stopped falling.

Gloyer, Gillian

Albania, The Bradt Travel Guide

Ms. Gloyer lived in Albania the same time we did.  She writes a good guide although she doesn't have my favorite Tirana haunts. This book is worth buying just because Ms. Gloyer has a justification for all those bunkers, and explains the defensive strategy behind them.  

Gerolymatos, Andre
The Balkan Wars
Written from a Greek-Canadian point of viwe. The text has a lot of interest but the captions on the second set of pistures are misleading and innacurate. It almost put me off reading the book, which would have been a mistake.
Goff, Peter, Editor
The Kosovo News & Propaganda War This is a book of essays about press coverage of the Kosovo War in different countries published by the International Press Institute in Vienna. Some of the essays interesting, others no so.  The Editorial Cartoons from around the world are instructive. 

Goodwin, Jason

Lords of the Horizons, a History of the Ottoman Empire

A very readable book.  Since the empire had so much influence on the Balkans, this book gives a good understanding of the empire, from a different perspective.

Halberstam, David
War in a Time of Peace, Bush, Clinton and the Generals Halberstam says this book is more about American Policy than about the Balkans,  This is good because his writing about the Balkans is full of inaccuracies.  It did give me a good idea of what American policy makers were thinking and what information they were working from.  For this reason it was worth reading, but I was disappointed. 

Hall, Brian

The Impossible Country

A good travelogue of Yugoslavia in 1991on the eve of the fall. This is good travel writing.

Havel, Vaclav

Living in Truth

Essays on how communism effected morals in Communist Europe. Not about the Balkans but the philosopher king helps us understand.

Hedges, Chris

War is a force that Gives Us Meaning

A veteran war correspondent tries to understand why war is addictive both to soldiers and correspondents.  He discusses the influence of war on the souls of nations and combatants as well as those caught in the crossfire.  This book added so much to my understanding of events I have been involved with that I gave it to both my sons for Christmas.

Holbrooke, Richard

To end a war

I have not read this but it is often cited as a primary source.

Hupchick, Dennis  and Cox, Harold
A Concise Historical Atlas of Eastern Europe. This inexpensive atlas charts, in 50 maps, who came when, who ruled whom and the migrating boundaries of empires that are used as justification to the claim "this land is ours."  An excellent companion to many of the histories on this list.
Hupchick, Dennis  and Cox, Harold
The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of The Balkans This Atlas also has 50 maps gives more detail on the Balkans. Iif you are interested in only the Balkans this Atlas is a little more satisfying.

Ignatieff, Michael

The Warrior's Honor, Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience

Toward developing a "Code of Ethics" for Ethnic war. He used the Red Cross as an example. Philosophical justification for intervention.

Judah, Tim

Kosovo, War and Revenge

The best and most current review of the situation.

Judah, Tim

The Serbs, History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

Good history of Serbia, a lot of insight.

Kadare, Ismail
Broken April Kadare is the greatest Albanian Novelist. There is annual speculation over whether he will win a Nobel Prize. His best known novel, it is about blood feuds in Northern Albania.
Kadare, Ismail
Chronicle in Stone   This book is written about the Second World War from the perspective of a small boy.
Kadare, Ismail
Three Elegies for Kosovo A wonderful short novel about bards music and history.

Kaplan, Robert

Balkan Ghosts

The book that influenced Clinton Policy. Flawed but compelling, he predicted the break-up and wars in 1989.

Kalpan, Robert Eastward to Tartary
Travel writing with Kaplan starting in the Balkans and ending in Central Asia and the Caucauses.

Kumar, Krishna

Promoting Independent Media, Strategies for Democracy Assistance

While the scope of this book goes beyond the Balkans it has chapters on Bosnia and Serbia.  The Serbia chapter draws heavily on our experience.  I have been doing media development work for more than a dozen years and I learned a great deal from this book.

Lawrence, Sterling
Montenegro: A Novel This is a good airplane book.   A Romantic Novel set in an exotic place, Montenegro in 1908. Nice description of the land.  I enjoyed it, but some of my Montenegrin friends may think it is too "Serbian" in its outlook.

Malcolm, Noel

Kosovo, A Short History

Not at all short, and very controversial. I thought it was good. Many Serbian friends don't. 

  Malcolm, Noel

Bosnia, A Short History

Not as long as Kosovo, A good reference.

Mazower, Mark

The Balkans, A short History

This is excellent and really is short (156 pages).  If you can only read one book on the Balkans this would be a good choice. 

Mazower, Mark

Salonica, City of Ghosts

If you want to understand the roots of the idea of "ethnic cleansing" and the invention of nationalism in the Balkans, this is an excellent book, as well as being an engaging history.

Merrill, Christopher

Only the Nails Remain, Scenes from the Balkan Wars.

Chris is a poet and takes a poet's view of the Balkan wars.  Set mostly in Bosnia it tells his very personal reactions of ten trips to the region. 

Mitchell, Laurence

Serbia, The Bradt Travel Guide

This book has some of the places I like to eat, so it must be ok.  I like the side bars, especially the short history of Radio B-92 on page 73.

Owen, David

Balkan Odyssey

I have not read this but it is often cited as a primary source.

Pelton, Robert Young

The World's Most Dangerous Places, 4th Edition.

A funky, macho guide to survival in dangerous places. The chapters on Kosovo and Bosnia are opinionated but I largely share the opinions. Overstated for impact.

Pettifer, James

Albania and Kosovo, Blue Guide

One of the few guides for travel in Albania and Kosovo.  The first edition of this guide had a lot of inaccuracies.  Pettifer has corrected many of these.  The newest edition includes Kosovo, and I have found the guide most useful.

Pettifer, James

The New Macedonian Question

Pettifer has traveled and worked in the region and knows his material.

Rellie, Annalisa

Montenegro, The Bradt Travel Guide.

One of the few full travel guides for Montenegro in English that is easily available.  I traveled in and out of Montenegro for 7 years and lived there for 18 months and she took me to places I didn't know about.

Schwander-Sievers, Stephanie and Bernd J. Fischer, Editors.
Albanian Identities, Myth and History This thoughtful book of essays is about how history was interpreted and manipulated to justify an Albanian state.  While it is about Albania, it applies to all the nations of the Balkans.  It helped focus my thought on the study and effects of history. 

Silber, Laura and Little, Alan

The Death of Yugoslavia

Silber is from the Financial Times, Little from the BBC. This is the best account of the fall. Get the post Dayton version, BBC Books.

Smiley, David
Irregular Regular A part of the Albania's "Lost History" written by a British agent who parachuted into Albania during World War II. After years of Communist Propaganda about the Partisan Movement this book got a lot of attention in Albania when it came out in 1994. 

Sullivan, Stacy

Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons in America, How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the US into the Kosovo War.

 I first met Stacy in Albania in 1993 when she was a graduate student working with the student newspaper at Tirana Newspaper and I was an aid worker teaching journalism..  She stayed in the Balkans as a fine reporter.  This book demonstrates that.  Stacy's descriptions ring absolutely true.  She captures the story..

Todorova, Maria

Imagining the Balkans

Asks the question "What are the Balkans?" A philosophical work rather than an historical one.

Vickers, Miranda

Between Serb and Albanian, A History of Kosovo

The best of the pre-bombing books on Kosovo. 1998. I know Miranda personally and respect her work.

Vickers, Miranda

The Albanians, a Modern History

Pre- pyramid scheme collapse

Vickers, Miranda and Pettifer, James

Albania, from Anarchy to a Balkan Identity

Released right after the pyramid schemes collapsed. A good account of how the pyramid schemes developed.

West, Rebecca

Black Lamb and Gray Falcon, The record of a journey through Yugoslavia in 1937

A classic of travel literature. Pro-Serb, it influenced British policy for two generations. The counterpoint to Durham.

Wilkes, John
The Illyrians With so much academic energy expended by Serbs to  prove that Albanian are not descendents of Illyrians and by Albanians to prove they are, this view from a professor of Greek and Roman Archaeology provides a different perspective. 
Winchrster, Simon
The Fracture Zone, My Return to the Balkans Winchester's travel was at the same time as my work in the Balkans. We saw many of the same things. His excellent writing challenged my conclusions, which is a nice way of saying that I disagreed with much of what he wrote.  But we each have our own journeys and process the same things differently. I enjoyed testing my processing against his.

Zimmerman, Warren

Origins of a Catastrophe

The US ambassador to Yugoslavia in the early '90's tells his story of the collapse of the country. I have not read this but it is often cited as a primary source. Written before Kosovo.