Recently, President Putin published an article on the necessity of creating a must-read list of a hundred Russian books that would define the nation’s cultural legacy.
I thought about what books to put in that list and decided to present to you my top 20 of Russian books (20 is more manageable, for I can’t have a hundred of favourite books).
- Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky – for exploring the destructive effects of the unprotected humanism and uncontrolled emotions; have a hanky in the pocket.
- War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy – for creating the most ambitious literary snapshot of the human society; have patience, it’s big.
- The Portrait by Nikolai Gogol – for showing the purpose of the art and the pitfalls of wealth and fame.
- A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov – for its beautiful language and portrayal of the great man with no stamina.
- Eugene Onegin by Aleksandr Pushkin – for its powerful poetic depiction of love, but also of selfishness, boredom and arrogance.
- Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – for showing static morality and sinfulness of the mankind.
- Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky – for its most amazing battle of ideas; one of the most complex and messiest (in terms of the structure) Russian novels.
- Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov – for compellingly showing the tragedy of inaction and apathy.
- Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoevsky – for creating the purest female character; my favourite and the first, unfinished Dostoevsky’s novel.
- Peter the First by Aleksey Tolstoy –for showing how a small child became the greatest Russian monarch.
- Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol –for unearthing the roots of corruption of the Russian state.
- Tikhii Don by Mikhail Sholokhov – for its epic portrayal of the post-1917 and the Civil War Russia.
- The Golovlyov Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin – for its witty psychoanalysis of greed.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky -for exploring what is more important people or ideas.
- The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskov – for its beautiful language, story and the character.
- What is To Be Done by Nikolai Chernyshevsky – for its revolutionary idealism; arguably the worst famous Russian novel.
- The Captain’s Daughter by Aleksandr Pushkin – for exploring the importance of the core moral values.
- White Garments by Vladimir Dudintsev – for its portrayal of the Soviet science and the role model of a scientist.
- The History of a Town by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin – for its literary grotesque perfectly matching the absurdity of Russian life.
- Shame and Purity by Tatiana Moskvina– for exposing the relict core moral values and the abundant weaknesses of the modern Russian society; my favourite XXI century Russian novel; to my knowledge this one is only available in Russian so far.
You may say it’s 19th century-biased. So what? I had to make a choice. P.S. I received a question regarding the Soviet era and modern Russian books. I’ll post on that matter in the future.