By Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
I spent most of my academic life studying the Soviet Union, and we all knew what terrible things took place in the labor camps. But until Solzhenitsyn's memoir, we had no firsthand account of the atrocities. His story encompasses so many aspects of the insidious system, from the unheated Leningrad prison cells and horrific physical abuse to the midnight arrests by the police and the denial by an entire population about the fate of neighbors who'd disappeared. He takes apart an enormous system—one based on inhuman suffering and torture—and you begin to see the individuals who populate it.