• Midnight in Siberia

  • A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia
  • By: David Greene
  • Narrated by: David Greene
  • Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (153 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

After two and a half years as NPR’s Moscow bureau chief, David Greene travels across the country - a 6,000 mile journey by rail, from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok - to speak with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. Reaching beyond the headline-grabbing protests in Moscow, Green speaks with a group of singing babushkas from Buranovo, a teenager hawking “space rocks” from last spring’s meteor shower in Chelyabinsk, and activists battling for environmental regulation in the pollution-choked town of Baikalsk. Through the stories of fellow travelers, Greene explores the challenges and opportunities facing the new Russia: a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity yet still continues to endure oppression, corruption, and stark inequality.

Set against the wintery landscape of Siberia, Greene’s lively travel narrative offers a glimpse into the soul of 20th century Russia: how its people remember their history and look forward to the future.

©2014 David Greene. Recorded by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company. (P)2014 HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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What listeners say about Midnight in Siberia

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Long String of NPR Short Reports

The cadence, inflection and timing of the narration by the author is exactly the same style as short reports often heard on NPR. This style is fine in small news reports but for almost 8 hours it becomes tedious. Further, it made each clipped story of injustice, criminal behavior, and maltreatment sound completely the same.

I found the book to be a simple retelling of loosely connected events in a news reporter style with little or no insight or personal feeling and texture drawn into the telling. These are discouraging and sad stories. After three hours, listening became totally unbearable and even boring. What's more, several of the events addressed in this book are things I know about, and I have watched moving documentaries covering the stories in rich detail. Green's retelling of these same events was dry and soul-less. To me this is a relentlessly unhappy book that I can't finish or recommend.

26 people found this helpful

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  • mz
  • 11-04-20

An Open Minded Look at Russia

This is not simply "a string of shorter NPR reports," as in another review that is somehow highly upvoted. I disagree and think that is a very unfair and incomplete judgment of the book. I highly suggest you try out the book, and not give up the book because of that top 1-star review, given all the other great 5-star 4-star reviews of this book. The author does work for NPR, but this book offers much more behind-the-scenes look than a typical NPR piece would. It goes into the author's personal analysis of what he thinks of Russia, which you cannot do in journalism where you have to keep your personal opinion out of the piece.

Greene not only talks about the interviews, but the two Russians he worked the closest with, including their personal lives and views on their own country, how they travel to places, and the people they encounter on the train journeys. He talks about everyday observations during his few years of living in Russia with his wife, his impression of the people, and differences in views between Moscow and other parts of the country.

The best part of this book is that the author keeps as open a mind as he can, which is a lot for an American (I do not say this sarcastically. Reading other books about other Americans traveling abroad, I am appalled at how close-minded people are, and how like David used to do, they think the American way is the best way, and everybody else should follow. David, however, realized quickly after a discussion, that he made a mistake and was being presumptuous). He realized it not just based on the ethics of journalism but on a personal level. The crowning jewel is at the very end, where he points out the arrogant mistake he had made in the past, and how he now, twenty years later, sees Russia in a whole new way. There is a lot of value in that. A lot more Americans need to see other cultures in this more open-minded way.

I gave only 4 stars for Performance because sometimes he speaks a bit too quickly and it gets stressful listening. It's as if there are no punctuation marks, like what is he in a rush for, trying to get the highest number of words per minute? I'm in no rush to finish. He does work for the NPR, so his narration of his own book is probably better than anyone else can narrate it and convey his feelings correctly.

To get a deeper look at Russian history and government, which shaped modern day Russia, I recommend Martin Sixsmith's BBC series on Russia. I would even recommend that series over this book, as it was a much more in-depth and objective look. The British don't seem as full of themselves as Americans are. It is not a coincidence that BBC is one of the most unbiased media outlets.

For more journeys on the trans-Siberian railway, Paul Theoroux's The Great Railway Bazaar gives a longer and more casual version of the train journey, though a lot less open minded. For more travels in Siberia, Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia is good, but also less open minded and much less insight in the culture. It's a travelogue and brings us to interesting places in Siberia.

3 people found this helpful

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amazing look into life

I neve, never, Never write reviews. this book was so eye opening. I always wondered why Russia didn't seem to want to be democratic. this truly puts things into perspective. loved this book!!

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

This book not only completely changed my understanding of what post-Soviet Russia is, but also caused me to reflect on the transformations in my own country in the same time period. I became emotionally invested in Greene’s journey so quickly, and it greatly humanized(if that’s even the right word) a people and country that are so often described as a monolithic group in our media/entertainment. I’ll be looking forward to anything else by David Greene.

1 person found this helpful

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The intensity of encountering modern Russia

If you could sum up Midnight in Siberia in three words, what would they be?

Insightful, moving, relevant

Who was your favorite character and why?

You meet so many marvelous Russian individuals, but the favorite character who emerges is modern Russia, herself.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

In 2007 I spent 3 months in Russia as an American with little prior understanding of the country, and this book vividly brought back many feelings from that time. I was so grateful to recognize what I had seen and felt while there in a fellow traveler's experience. I recognized the culture-shock, and realization that there is this vast nation on the other side of the world about which most of us know very little, and that these people have a history and point of view that is unique and completely fascinating. It was very moving.

Any additional comments?

David Greene captures so many elements of the culture, from confusing idiosyncrasies of day-to-day Russian life, to a deeper, insidious mindset that holds fast to a nation of people beaten down by decades (or centuries, really) of political repression. By travelling via third class railway tickets across the country, Greene offers a unique perspective that cannot be found by studying Russian history or following the news. You learn about the state of humanity in this nation. While watching the development of post-soviet Russia from afar, it can be completely perplexing for a westerner to grasp such things as Putin's high approval rating, or a wave of seemingly anti-democratic, anti-western sentiment from the country. This book helps make sense of a nation of people who have been closed to America for so much of the 20th century, and it's incredibly relevant for any American who wants to better understand who those people are.

6 people found this helpful

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  • JC
  • 12-21-14

A Good Ride:

Mr. Greene believes in his work--demonstrating a sincere love and respect for the Russian people in this travel log meets cultural expose.

This tale of a foreigner in a strange land, a fish out of water, is balanced with sincere insights into the Russian Character from the objective pencil of a reporter.

This book was a pleasant listen, and I learned a lot about what average Russians struggle, hope, and fear each day. I admire more than ever this complex culture and its epic struggles both past and present.

You will enjoy this book! It is calm, delightful, and packed with unexpected insights.

2 people found this helpful

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Insight to a place I can barely imagine

David Greene is a wonderfully engaging writer and his narration is even better. I am amazed at his willingness to immerse himself in Russia for the sake of this story. I appreciate learning about those people.

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Want to know about Russian people? This is it

I bought the hard back book first and then listened to the audible one. I couldn’t stop listening to it...it is that good. David Greene’s descriptive writing is so detailed that it really takes you to the heart of the Russian society and the landscape. I listen to a great many audible books, but this is truly one of the best. I’m sure that you, too, will enjoy this as much as I did.

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Loved it!

I love audiobooks narrated by the author. You get the message as it was intended. I found this book exciting, and gave me food for thought weeks afterward. A success, in my book.

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Fascinating tale

Very, very good book with embedded anecdotes and history vignettes. Good way to get a deeper understanding of the everyday person in Russia.
Only a few authors are also good narrators - Mr Greene is an exception and his narration makes the book even better.