Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Top 20 Russian books that influenced me the most

Prince Myshkin after witnessing the death of Nastasya Filippovna, I. Glazunov, 1966

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).

  1. Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky – for exploring the destructive effects of the unprotected humanism and uncontrolled emotions; have a hanky in the pocket.
  2. War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy – for creating the most ambitious literary snapshot of the human society; have patience, it’s big.
  3. The Portrait by Nikolai Gogol – for showing the purpose of the art and the pitfalls of wealth and fame.
  4. A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov – for its beautiful language and portrayal of the great man with no stamina.
  5. Eugene Onegin by Aleksandr Pushkin – for its powerful poetic depiction of love, but also of selfishness, boredom and arrogance.
  6. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – for showing static morality and sinfulness of the mankind.
  7. 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.
  8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov – for compellingly showing the tragedy of inaction and apathy.
  9. Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoevsky – for creating the purest female character; my favourite and the first, unfinished Dostoevsky’s novel.
  10. Peter the First by Aleksey Tolstoy –for showing how a small child became the greatest Russian monarch.
  11. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol –for unearthing the roots of corruption of the Russian state.
  12. Tikhii Don by Mikhail Sholokhov – for its epic portrayal of the post-1917 and the Civil War Russia.
  13. The Golovlyov Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin – for its witty psychoanalysis of greed.
  14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky -for exploring what is more important people or ideas.
  15. The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskovfor its beautiful language, story and the character.
  16. What is To Be Done by Nikolai Chernyshevsky – for its revolutionary idealism; arguably the worst famous Russian novel.
  17. The Captain’s Daughter by Aleksandr Pushkin for exploring the importance of the core moral values.
  18. White Garments by Vladimir Dudintsev – for its portrayal of the Soviet science and the role model of a scientist.
  19. The History of a Town by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin – for its literary grotesque perfectly matching the absurdity of Russian life.
  20. 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.



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