Recommendation please - Russian books

Yes, I know! This is a hopeless question, but not as hopeless as figuring it our by myself :wink:

I have almost 16 thousand known Russian words and about 20 thousand lingqed. I have read quite a few articles on Echo Moskvy as part of the 90-day challenge and also imported some book chapters.

Now I would like to try to read a whole book. I tried to read a book in the 2033-universe series, but to my surprise there where too many unknown words for me, at it became too slow and tedious.

Does anybody have a nice recommendation for me. I need something which will land me around 20-25% unknown words, ideally. Within reason, the subject of the book is not too important.

All Russian books can be difficult for you at first, but if you are patient, so in 10 pages it will be easier and easier.
It shows my experiment with other language too.
I remember that I had 20 unknown words on the first page of the novel by Th. Mann and only 2 words on the 20th page.
But you can start with A. Chechov (I sent some his stories to, K. Paustovsky, Yury Kosakov, A. Kuprin.

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I have posted something on your wall about this.

I always find translations much easier than native authors.
For instance I’m reading Knausgård, min kamp 1, in finnish right now, and if there is a russian translation, I will read that also.

Snorre, this is discouraging. You have 16,000+ known Russian words, and you still have difficulty finding Russian books to read. I only have 2500. :frowning:

Colin, I guess I cannot see what is on Snorre’s wall, right? Any reason you don’t want to share with us in this thread?

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@snorrews Do you have a favourite book? Do you know it really well? If yes, and if it is practicable, get a Russian translation. I read “L’Etranger” in as many languages as I can find/afford to buy. No, I don’t have it in Russian, but it may happen…

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These are my personal suggestions:

Вместо меня by Виктория Токарева is a nice, easy shorter read, very “Scent of a woman -esque”
Дама с Собачкой is my favorite story by Чехов (to tag on Evgueny’s post)
Any Russian book that you’ve already read in English, re-read in Russian

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I agree with cribbe, translations are usually easier.

The Histories of Herodotus ( Геродот. ИСТОРИЯ (В девяти книгах). Оглавление. - Ηρόδοτος, Ιστορία. ) is one of the easiest I’ve been reading lately.

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Cribbe and anz are right about translations usually being easier. Rereading favorites of yours in translation is a good thing to try.

Children’s books may work for you. The dialogue can be difficult–just as with books for adults–but usually the narration is written in fairly easy sentences. For instance, you could retry the Russian version of The Wizard of Oz, by A. Volkov, which is a retelling with some changes. Do a search on Александр Волков (the “author”) and Волшебник изумрудного города (the title) and you will probably find copies of the text to sample online.

Something that works for me is to buy a print copy and an audiobook of the same text. It is much like being here on Lingq. (However, it is harder nowadays to find CDs of Russian materials to buy.)

At first you will probably find the going to be very difficult. Keep at it and it becomes easier.

Good luck! You might mention some favorite books of yours. Perhaps someone can recommend similar books in Russian.

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Thanks for all your suggestions and comments.

I was suddenly reminded of a quote from productivity guru Merlin Mann: in order to get better at running, put on your shoes and run! Don’t sit on the couch and read Runners Monthly magazine!

In order to get better at reading Russian, I should just read Russian. It really doesn’t matter now what I read. Main thing is to grasp the main points, get exposed to the language, mark down 1000 LingQs and 500 known words, and then move on to the next text.

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I second Дама с Собачкой. I read it at about 16-20k Russian words and It seemed at about the right level and it remains my favorite story ever in either English or Russian - it is just brilliant. Grammatically it is also pretty straight forward without too many complexities.

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I second @davidked. Дама с Собачкой! Я согласна.


I wouldn’t recommend Checkhov for those who want to dive into the language. Even a short work like “Дама с собачкой” contains lots of marginally obsolete words and phrases. Besides, Checkhov tends to write in long, complex sentences. Even native speakers of Russian have to re-read paragraphs in his works just to understand their meaning.

I think that the best place to start is short sci-fi works, preferably translations. First of all, I assume that you like sci-fi. Second, there are huge (I mean HUGE) collections of sci-fi, fantasy, and other fiction in Russian language out there, many of them free to explore and download (e.g. - This website is for sale! - leeet Resources and Information. ). Just peek some book with short stories (e.g., one of Фата Моргана series: - This website is for sale! - leeet Resources and Information. ), and read a story of your choice.

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Can you give us some examples of the obsolete words and phrases in “Дама с Собачкой”?

snowrrews, Thanks for the rose!

obordal’s suggestion about reading science fiction is a really good one, and to do it in translation is probably even better. That’s pretty much what I’ve done, going through many SF favorites of my childhood in Russian translation. You might try Andre Norton, whose stories are very straightforward, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, or Isaac Asimov.

Be careful, some translations are good, and some are awful. Once you find a translator whose style suits you, you might try reading several books from this translator by different authors, to provide variety, but with a familiar vocabulary and style. Authors and translators have their own pages on this site, . If you like SF at all, you’ll love this site.

(I must admit that the first book I read all the way through in Russian was not a translation but an old SF/adventure story, «Плутония», by В. А Обручев. It took me weeks, maybe months to claw my way through. Yet I still love it. :))

As to where to find books, you can buy them or you can find them posted online for free (often contravening authors’ rights, however).

Also, I’ve been meaning to post this link for you, in case it is of use: . I have never ordered from them so can’t recommend them, but the site looks promising.

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Thanks again, all. I have been reading much from Echo Moskvy during the challenge. Now, I am ready to enjoy some literature. Evgjenij’s suggestion I liked a lot, and I have been reading about the Black Sea.

I was very pleased when I, in the first sentence in Плутония, discovered that Профессор Каштанов has been to Шпицберген - the place where I live!


Well, I am not a definitive expert in modern Russian (in an academic sense), so I will give you the perspective from my highly subjective point of view.

Not that the phrases were outright obsolete, but Chechov’s texts do have distinctively old-fashioned (and even somewhat strange) feel. The way words are used is also quite strange when compared to modern language. The language has drifted substantially towards shorter, more directly phrased, less complex phrases; some words that were used freely now need some helper words to make the meaning clearer, etc. Well, it is still quite understandable and correct Russian. The matter is, no one speaks like this nowadays.

I’ll try to find some examples that are not too long (which is a hard task, given that Checkhov tends to write in longish clauses).

“Если она здесь без мужа и без знакомых”, - соображал Гуров, - то было бы не лишнее познакомиться с ней".

Here, the clause “было бы не лишнее познакомиться” feels quite old-fashioned. Modern language is more determined: “было бы неплохо/было бы здорово познакомиться”. “Было бы не лишнее” is now almost invariably said as “было бы не лишним”.

“Изменять ей он начал уже давно, изменял часто и, вероятно, поэтому о женщинах отзывался почти всегда дурно(…)” - here, “дурно отзываться о ком-то” is somewhat archaic. “Дурно” is a word that is almost never used in everyday speech, and the only phrase where this word can be met today is perhaps “дурно пахнет” (in the sense that something has a foul, unpleasant smell).

“В рассказах о нечистоте местных нравов много неправды, он презирал их и знал, что такие рассказы в большинстве сочиняются людьми, которые сами бы охотно грешили, если б умели(…)” - here we have at least two places where words are used in strange way.
First, the clause “нечистота нравов” sounds peculiar. There is nothing particularly strange about it, it is just that no one speaks like this nowadays. You can find stronger, more direct references to lower morals in modern language, e.g. “разнузданность нравов”. But “нечистота”? That’s weird. The meaning of word “нечистоты” (meaning wastes & faeces) surely affects the feel of the word, because nowadays there is so much talk about environmental problems in the media.
Secondly, in modern Russian the verb “презирать” is used mostly with reference to human beings (of course, I do not mean poetic language here). Chekhov uses this word in reference to inanimate noun “рассказы”, which is quite strange. Modern speakers would phrase it like “он считал их [эти рассказы] чушью”, “не обращал на них внимания” or “он не придавал им значения”.

Sorry, I have to close my speech now. If that is not enough to illustrate my point, I will gladly provide some more examples tomorrow.

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I was very pleased when I, in the first sentence in Плутония, discovered that Профессор Каштанов has been to Шпицберген - the place where I live!

It must be an omen. Read the book. :slight_smile: If you get through the chapter «Бесконечный спуск» you’ll probably be acclimated to his Russian, and things will become easier. I thought of it as “the endless chapter.”

Both «Плутония» and another of his novels, «Земля Санникова», begin with journeys into the Arctic . You might enjoy that facet of them. The author was a well known explorer/geologist of the late 19th and early 20th century who could describe such locales from first-hand experience. He is not a great literary artist, however, but as I said, his books are very enjoyable. . . . And if you read for escape, they don’t stay in arctic climes all the way through.

Thank you for another rose!