2. 'A Mountain of Crumbs,' by Elena Gorokhova
Elena Gorokhova's memoir of her childhood growing up in the cold war-era Soviet Union may be her own story but the book's true star is her mother. A doctor who loses two husbands – to alcoholism, illness, and the ravages of World War II – Gorokhova's mother is also an idealist who truly believes in the workers' state and isn't afraid to write to Stalin with suggestions on how to better it. She's tough, she's funny, and she has everything to do with who her daughter becomes.