reading in Russian
July 15, 2006 7:34 PM   Subscribe

What should I read in Russian and where can I get it?

What current Russian novels should I read? Also, aside from my school library, where could I order these books in Russian online without having to pay ridiculous amounts of money?

I am a native speaker of the language but, having lived in the United States for most of my life, am not great at reading in Russian. I really need to improve my abilities.

Most of the current/modern books that have been suggested to me are dull - I don't want to read romance detective novels. The first book that I picked up and loved was Nochnoi Dozor (got it after I watched the movie and found that I liked the plot and the writing style was at the right level for my reading level]

I would not mind reading classic literature in Russian but I've found that there are too many hard signs and unfamiliar words floating around [not to mention depressing plots] for me to really feel comfortable in my reading.

In English the authors of the style of thing I would want in Russian are Tom Robbins, Terry Pratchett, Murakami, Richard Brautigan, or Neil Gaiman. But really any book that can hold my interest would be good.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any book suggestions, but as far as where to buy is concerned, Schoenhof's Foreign Books has reasonable prices and a great selection.
posted by sueinnyc at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2006

Have you tried The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov? It's a Soviet-era satire, full of fantastic elements. It was a samizdat back in the day, but my Russian GF says that her mother and her used to read it together, so I'd assume there's a published version out there now.

(I've not read the book in Russian, though, so I have no idea how easy or difficult it is to read.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2006

If you want to try Bulgakov, consider starting with "The Heart of a Dog" -- it's a shorter, easier read, and if you like the author, you can move on to "The Master and Margarita."
posted by Krrrlson at 8:41 PM on July 15, 2006

I have never ordered from online, but in San Francisco I visited Znanie (large) and SoyuzVideoFilm (mostly music and videos, fewer books, but the staff there were very helpful). Neither was particularly expensive. There seem to be a bunch of websites based out of Brighton Beach that have books for sale, although I have no idea how reliable they are. In terms of reading, I really want to like Boris Akunin but find him slow-paced, so that's not particularly helpful.
posted by posadnitsa at 9:36 PM on July 15, 2006

Take a look at LanguageHat's collection for some inspiration...
posted by Liosliath at 9:47 PM on July 15, 2006

Based on what you like, you might enjoy either Bulgakov (mentioned above) or Gogol, both of whom I've enjoyed in translation. They're early 20th century.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:59 PM on July 15, 2006

Another US Russian bookshop, this one in Los Angeles.

Kovcheg Russian Bookstore
7508 W Sunset Blvd
posted by sagwalla at 10:48 PM on July 15, 2006

I personally would recommend Akunin, who writes fun, literate detective/historical novels; check him out, at least. Also Venedikt Erofeev (his masterpiece is Moskva-Petushki) and Sergei Dovlatov (Russian site), both very funny and compulsively readable. When I lived in NYC, I routinely went to Brighton Beach to visit the excellent Russian bookstores there; my favorite was Санкт-Петербург, which has an online store here. Another Brighton-based online store is; a Manhattan-based one is RussianBookStore21. All of these have good prices and selections; compare for the books you're interested in. Are you familiar with Moshkow? You can read stuff there for free, and if you like the author, order some books.

They're early 20th century.

Uh, you're a century off with Gogol, who's a superb writer but probably not what the poster (I'm not going to try typing out that username) is looking for.
posted by languagehat at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2006

I'd recommend Andrey Kurkov, who is Ukranian but writes in Russian. His Death and the Penguin is very good, and was written in 1996. He has some other novels that are good as well, including the follow-up to Death, Penguin Lost.

Wikipedia plot summary (since I'm too lazy):
The novel follows the life of a young aspiring writer, Viktor Alekseyevich Zolotaryov, in a bleak post-Soviet city. Viktor has a pet penguin, Misha, obtained after the local zoo gave away its animals to those who could afford to support them. Viktor, whilst aiming to write novels, gets a job writing obituaries for a local newspaper. After initial success, Viktor's obituaries become cause for his concern as they drag him deeper and deeper into a world of Mafia run organised-crime.
That makes it sound a little dry, but it's a funny, satirical, edgy book.
posted by mekanic at 8:06 AM on July 16, 2006

Victor Pelevin!
posted by jenh at 7:25 PM on July 16, 2006

If you can handle reading a book off your screen check moshkow's library out. If you're longing for a hardcopy, ozon is the way to go.

Check out Lukyanenko's other works, they are pure entertainment.
posted by aeighty at 11:49 PM on July 16, 2006

« Older Help me design a website + sex   |   (NYC, Japanese) Martial arts recommendations... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.