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Coronavirus self-quarantine. Time to read books about Russia.

a view of a field

Quarantine is not only a necessary measure but also a great opportunity to engage in self-development. Finally, you find time to do exercises watch your favorite series or read a book that was once shelved. We decided to make a selection of books about Russia that will not let you get bored. For those who are into movies, just let’s stay in touch and the next week we will prepare a list of some film adaptations of Russian literature instead.

a tree in a forest

1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The story of the epic novel takes place around Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Leo Tolstoy as an expert describes panoramic battle scenes and finds descriptions for every feeling. We can see the feelings of hundreds of characters as well as the image of Prince Andrei, Natasha, and Pierre who struggle with love and look for the right path in life. 
“War and Peace” grabs the reader because it explores the eternal philosophical problems of humanity what love means and what evil is.
“War and Peace” is an electric shock for the soul. You will find hundreds of tips (“Life is too long to say anything definitely; always say perhaps.” ), reflection (““How can one be well…when one suffers morally?” ), dialogues about death.
All these make the book the favorite one not only among Russians but all over the world.
The American magazine Newsweek rated the epic novel “War and Peace” higher than Homer’s Iliad and Bible. The novel took the first line in the list.

a close up of a sign

2. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

Why do Russians call Pushkin the sun of Russian poetry? Why is the birthday of this writer widely celebrated in Russia? And why do teachers torture children, forcing them to learn by heart huge passages from Eugene Onegin? The answers to all these questions can be partially found in the novel.
“Eugene Onegin” is a novel in verses written in 1823-1831, one of the most significant works of Russian literature. “Encyclopedia of Russian life” and love story. Pushkin worked on this novel for over seven years.
You will see the Russian life descriptions and the dramatic fate of the best people of the noble intelligentsia. There is a love affair in the center of the novel. And the main problem is the eternal problem of feelings and duty.

a close up of text on the side of the water

3. A Hero of our Times by Mikhail Lermontov

1837 one more year of exhausting and painful Caucasian war. The young officer Grigory Pechorin was sent into exile in the army for participating in a duel. Here in the Caucasus Pechorin will become an involuntary participant in the rapidly unfolding events. Smugglers, the kidnapping of a young Circassian princess, another duel.
And when the whole world is against Pechorin, and a close friend dies, he will continue his journey alone like a hero, the creature of a new era …
This is the only completed novel by Lermontov standing at the origins of Russian psychological prose. The author called his complex, dangerous and incredibly attractive hero the symbol of all the vices of his generation, but readers notice in Pechorin primarily a unique personality.

a close up of food

4. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

In 2015, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Svetlana Aleksievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” One fact of her biography demonstrates the complexity of the mosaic of identity of post-Soviet people. Born in Ukraine she is a Belarusian author who writes in Russian.
“The Unwomanly Face of War” – the experience of the unique insight  into the spiritual world of a woman who survives in the inhuman conditions of war. We would say that it is not a book about Russia but about all women suffered in the World War II.
The book contains the voices of dozens of living people who survived grief, fear, pain during the Second World War. Unfortunately even the desperate joy of Victory fades amid their suffering.
Separate memories are woven into a common mosaic creating the different face of war in comparison with that we used to see in movies and read in other books. Such books are must-read, although it is impossible to do without tears.

a vintage photo of a sign

5. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

One more book about Russia that is worth reading. Being a poet is dangerous – especially after the revolution. In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov falls under the tribunal for a poem. Instead of capital punishment, the Count is exiled to an extremely unusual place  – to the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. And he has no right to leave the hotel. No way!
The owner of a large estate who had never worked in his life Count Rostov must adapt and survive in the new conditions, observing the most terrible, life-changing events in the history of Russia. Gradually Rostov realizes that there are no former gentlemen.
The story is fiction but the hotel is real. The luxurious Art Nouveau hotel was opened in 1905. Electricity, elevators, refrigerators, hot water, telephones in the rooms – all these were at the Metropol. Since then it has become a favorite destination for wealthy travelers, businessmen, the political and cultural elite.
The book was written by American author Amor Towles. Though the Russian reader will find the story a bit artificial, Amor Towles created a beautiful artistic canvas. The book is similar to a picture looking at which you do not immediately notice all the details but gradually the jigsaw put together and you see the author’s brilliant idea. An interesting idea and easy language. Highly recommended!

a person standing in front of a building

6. Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today by Simon Morrison

Need more books about Russia? In 2017, the United States published a study by Princeton University professor Simon Morrison called Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today.
On a frosty night of January 2013 the attacker poured acid on the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theater of Russia Sergey Filin. The crime, organized by a leading ballet soloist engulfed Russia’s most famous theater into the flames of scandal. In this book the famous musicologist Simon Morrison opens the details of the attack, the consequences of this world scandal, revealing the importance of the Bolshoi Theater for the world of ballet, Russia and the whole world.
With access to public archives and private collections, Morrison tells about the history of ballet tracing the political ties that connect the Bolshoi Theater with various Russian regimes. He also describes the appearance of some of the best ballets in the theater’s repertoire.
Having survived 250 years of artistic and political upheaval, after the reconstruction cost 450 million pounds, the Bolshoi shone with its former greatness in order to continue to form not only Russian culture but also the culture of the whole world.
The book is full of myths, rumors, gossips and legends. Only the reader decides to believe it or not. Essays on the history of the Bolshoi, of course, have a right to exist.