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Looking for a good book to read while you’re traveling in Russia? Check out my list of books about Russia and by Russian authors.


Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

Written after the author’s return from five years in Siberia, the novel explores themes of morality and redemption. Impoverished student Raskolnikov plans the perfect crime — not only for his belief that he won’t be caught but because he views the act as beneficial to humanity. Considered one of the great works of world literature, it has been adapted into film and television series in numerous countries.

Project Gutenberg



A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles
CATEGORIES: Person/Place/Event | Sense of Culture

This is one of those rare examples of a book that lives up to its hype (as evidenced by the 10k+ reviews it currently has on Amazon). After being put under house arrest in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov remains confined for decades to the luxurious Metropol hotel, from which he must witness his beloved country’s devolution while maintaining his civility and aristocratic dignity.



Kalevala

Elias Lönnrot
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

Regarded as the national epic of Finland and the Russian Republic of Karelia, the 19th-century work of epic poetry incorporates folklore and mythology from the region. The work is so significant in Finland that many companies, landmarks, and locations take their names from people or places in the Kalevala. Each year on February 28, the country celebrates both Finnish Culture Day and Kalevala Day, commemorating Lönnrot’s first version of the work.

Project Gutenberg



The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

There are strange goings-on in 1930s Moscow with the arrival of a mysterious cast of characters, including the sassy, fast-talking black cat Behemoth. Bulgakov’s critique of the Stalinist regime mixes satire, the mystical, magical, and historical and was only published after his death in a censored version.

I read this book for a Russian literature class and it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. Clearly, I am not alone, because almost every Russian person I have ever met smiles when I mention how much I loved this book.

(Recommended by Shannon McClatchey, photographer, world-wandering art fiend)



Zuleikha

Guzel Yakhina
CATEGORIES: Person/Place/Event

From A Year of Reading the World: “Set during the period of Soviet dekulakization and collectivization introduced when Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s, Zuleikha tells the story of the nation through the life of the title character. After witnessing the murder of her harsh husband by government forces charged with disenfranchising wealthy peasants (kulaks), Zuleikha is exiled along with thousands of others to a remote region of Siberia. There, the handful of them who survive the cruel journey must build a society from scratch, questioning and overturning many of the assumptions on which their former lives rested in the process… A triumph of a book.”

(Recommended by Ann Morgan, author and TED speaker)



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