Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie
Robert Massie is a somewhat significant author for me in that his Dreadnought was one of the first major history books I read (I was probably twelve or thirteen at the time); but this is the first time since that I've picked up something else he wrote. This won the Pulitzer in 1981 and was reissued this year to coincide with its "sequel", Catherine the Great, which I plan to read at a later date. It's a mammoth (850+ pages), but exceptionally well-written, and I cover it in a couple of days. Russian history isn't an area I'm especially familiar with (at least, farther back than the 20 century), and this was a big step forward. It has aged quite well, apart from some references to the Soviet Union. Like the best biographies of major figures, it's less about an individual than a history of Russia and the European state system (it's full of very engaging sketches of other figures in the period; indeed, he spends a whole chapter introducing the world of the Ottoman sultan, for instance).