R.W. Davies, who can probably lay claim to the title of being the single person most knowledgeable about the economic history of the USSR, was asked to write this popular introduction to the topic in the Cambridge series "New Studies in Economic and Social History", intended for a wider public than usual for such monographs. The result is an excellent and readable, while information-dense, overview of about 84 pages of real content.
Davies begins with the Czarist industrialization, putting it in the context of the attempts (earlier by Peter the Great and others) to modernize Russia to maintain its military power on the continental scene. He shows how the state undertook protectionism and investment in railways, as well as inviting much foreign investment, to develop Russia's industry in the period before WWI. He then continues with War Communism and its attempts to win the Civil War and stave off famine, then the NEP and its compromise politics. The main part of the booklet, as one might expect, is taken up however by Stalin's industrialization policies, their methods, and their effects. Afterward there is a short discussion of Khrushchov's reforms, his attempts to develop agriculture more (always the weakest link in the Soviet chain) and the subsequent beginning of the collapse in the 1970s under Brezhnev.
Davies is not just a very competent historian, but also a very even-handed one. He takes the time to explain the controversial issues in Soviet economic history (and there are many), the positions of various players in it, and his own. He himself is neither afraid to criticize the USSR nor afraid to give it the credit that is due. One thing that is unfortunate is that this book was published in 1998, and therefore did not include the major new modelling study of the Soviet industrialization by Robert C. Allen, "Farm to Factory" (Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution (Princeton Economic History of the Western World)), which was published in 2003. Allen's book constitutes a major defense of the Preobrazhensky-Stalin heavy industrialization strategy as against the NEP (and Paul Gregory's capitalist road), and is recommended as a complement to this book.