I recently finished up reading _Russia and the Soviet Union_ by John M. Thompson.
I read this just for fun, because I love history. I also wanted to learn enough about Russian history so that I could read Dostoyevsky and have it make sense from a cultural standpoint. I do know it's possible to pick up an awful lot just from inferences and references, but there's something foreign enough about Russia to make it worth delving into.
The Thompson volume is very concise and readable. I recommend it, although the author has a very low view of the Orthodox Church. Oh well. It's full of sinners, what can I say? Perhaps I will read Brothers Kharamazov poolside this summer.
Currently I'm plowing through a little book by Fr. John Meyendorff called _Orthodoxy and Catholicity_, which is really a series of lectures, articles, essays...that sort of thing, compiled together into a rather oldish volume that explores some of the issues around the ending of the East/West schism. Complicated. Some of the chapters are so very very dry, and other are real page turners. Funny how that works out.
I'm also tackling an English language translation of the Greek classic _The Persian Expedition_ by Xenophon. Apparently this is the text (in the original Greek) that schoolboys of yesteryear slaved over. Personally, I'm glad I have the Penguin Classics version.
I really ought to be reading the Maccabbees books in my new shiny Orthodox Study Bible, since I'll be covering that period of history with my kids soon. Xenophon is a bit of a bridge, though, since we just covered the Persians, Cyrus the Great, and all that sort of stuff. If I can read Xenophon quickly, I will. But if I get bogged down, I'll takle all those Maccabees books first.
And if anyone can find me the sequels to _The Scarlet Pimpernel_, I'd be grateful. It's set in the French Revolution. High drama. Written in the 1800's, so it's interesting without all the smut of modern books.