7 Must-Read Russian Classics

Some films inspire you to pick up books. Great adaptations leave you inspired or curious about the source material. Notes From The New World, filmmaker Vitaly Sumin’s retelling of the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel, is an easy way to get drawn into the literary world of the classic writer. And if that didn’t whet your appetite to explore Russian classics, the documentary behind the film, Dostoyevsky Reimagined: The Making Of Notes From The New World is sure to seal the deal. With enough twists and turns to keep the Russian master himself intrigued, Dostoyevsky Reimagined will leave you determined to delve into the world of Russian literature.

Now comes the problem: where to begin? Dostoyevsky himself has such an extensive library that choosing just one can seem daunting. Adding in all of the Russian classics can tempt you to quit before you even begin. Well here’s a way to get cracking: a reading list of some of the essential Russian classics (plus a few personal favorites). It’s a great way to dive into one of the most rewarding genres in literature.

1. Notes From Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Less daunting in size and scope than some other Russian classics, this dark and fascinating tale is widely considered to be the first existentialist novel. It will give you an added appreciating for Notes From The New World and Dostoyevsky Reimagined.

2. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

Think all the Russian classics are dark and dreary affairs? This bitingly sharp satire about the Devil appearing in the Soviet Union will make you think otherwise. Funny, smart, and wildly ambitions, you’ll laugh out loud at the cast of colorful characters and their ridiculous exploits.

3. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

I know — it’s a big, long book, and can seem a serious commitment. But it’s worth it. Considered one of the greatest novels ever written (and by some to be the first ‘real’ novel ever published), Anna Karenina is a sprawling and wonderful story with intrigue, love, disaster, and some of the most unforgettable characters to ever hit the page.

4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Yes, he gets two on the list (are you really surprised?). And with good reason: this is one of the most fascinating and compelling studies of the nature of good and evil ever penned. It puts modern crime stories to utter shame.

5. Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol

One of the many Russian classics that defies genre, Dead Souls is a novel written in prose. The study of the Russian middle class is by turns funny, heartbreaking, and a devastating social commentary.

6. The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekov

This play encompasses the best of Russian literature: tragic situations populated by clever and comedic characters.

7. The Collected Stories, by Alexander Pushkin

Although his novels are beloved classics, these short prose tales inspired the likes of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy — and they’re some of Pushkin’s most accessible works to date.

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Lauren Saccone

Lauren is a freelance writer, social media consultant, and paralegal. A Jill of all trades, she enjoys pop culture, film, comics, literature, archery, and copious amounts of caffeine.

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