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Reading Takes You Places: Week 2 - Russia

Posted: June 17, 2020, 8:33PM

Where do you want to go this summer? This week we're heading to Russia!

This week we are visiting Nigeria for summer reading!

Dobro pozhalovat' to week 2! For class two, students will depart Sweden to fly 1,000 miles southeast and a century back in time on June 18, exploring Russia through the novellas of Leo Tolstoy. Led by Dr. Ian Lanzillotti, Bethany History Professor and Russian speaker, the class will include useful words and phrases in Russian.

Watch live this People's University live, June 18 at 6:30 pm on YouTube, Facebook, or the OCPL website. The program will also be recorded and available for playback through all three platforms. 

Featured Russian Literature

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other StoriesThe Cossacks
Tolstoy's short novel of a privileged young man's journey to self-discovery in the Caucasus is as relevant today as it was when he penned it in 1862. It holds a few prescient observations of the nature of the region and the peoples tied to the current troubles in the Ukraine and in the broader regions of Chechnya and Armenia. It is a fast and enjoyable read with insights into human nature and faithful illustrations of the diversity of the Russian empire. Each person is treated equally as a character with strengths and weaknesses and he writes with a hint of disdain for not just the aristocracy but the expansionist nature of the empire.

Reserve for Curbside pickup at Library
Regular print

Read for free online
ebook (Project Guttenberg)
audiobook (

Hadji Murad Book CoverHadji Murád
In 1851 Leo Tolstoy enlisted in the Russian army and was sent to the Caucasus to help defeat the Chechens. During this war a great Avar chieftain, Hadji Murád, broke with the Chechen leader Shamil and fled to the Russians for safety. Months later, while attempting to rescue his family from Shamil’s prison, Hadji Murád was pursued by those he had betrayed and, after fighting the most heroic battle of his life, was killed.

Tolstoy, witness to many of the events leading to Hadji Murád’s death, set down this story with painstaking accuracy to preserve for future generations the horror, nobility, and destruction inherent in war.

No waitlists through Hoopla!

Other Tolstoy Books

Leo Tolstoy is considered a master of realistic fiction and one of the world's greatest novelists, especially known for Anna Karenina,  The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and War and Peace.

Available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
Available to reserve digital copies through WVDeli
No waitlists through Hoopla

Recommended Book on Russian History

Natasha's Dance book coverNatasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, by Orlando Figes
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself⁠—its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. Skillfully interweaving the great works⁠—by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall⁠—with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, Figes reveals the spirit of "Russianness" as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory⁠—and more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.

Reserve for Curbside pickup at Library
Regular print

Other books on Russian History:
➤ Available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
➤ Available to reserve digital copies through WVDeli
➤ No waitlists through Hoopla

Other classic Russian authors

Anton ChekovAnton Chekhov
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian playwright and short-story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. His career as a playwright produced four classics, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics.

Reserve for Curbside pickup at Library
Regular print

Reserve digital copy through WVDeli

Available through Hoopla - no waitlist!
ebook & audiobook

Fyodor DostoyevskyFyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821-1881) was a Russian novelist and short-story writer whose psychological penetration into the darkest recesses of the human heart, together with his unsurpassed moments of illumination, had an immense influence on 20th-century fiction. Dostoyevsky is best known for his novella Notes from the Underground and for four long novels, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed (also and more accurately known as The Demons and The Devils), and The Brothers Karamazov

Reserve for Curbside pickup at Library
Print and audiobook (on CD)

Reserve digital copy through WVDeli

Available through Hoopla - no waitlist!
ebook & audiobook

Recommended Russian Literature Classics

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovichby Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan DenisovichFirst published in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is considered one of the most significant works ever to emerge from Soviet Russia. Illuminating a dark chapter in Russian history, it is at once a graphic picture of work camp life and a moving tribute to man’s will to prevail over relentless dehumanization.

Reserve a copy from the Library for curbside pick-up
Audiobook available to reserve digital copies through WVDeli
Audiobook available immediately through Hoopla
Audiobook available immediately through RBDigital

We (1921) by Yevgeny Zamyatin 

We book coverWe is the classic dystopian novel and was the forerunner of works such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful ‘Benefactor’, the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity – until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul. 

Available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
Ebook available to reserve through WVDeli
Available immediately through Hoopla

The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and MargartiaOne spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow. Mikhail Bulgakov's fantastical, funny, and devastating satire of Soviet life combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful, and wonderful characters. Written during the darkest days of Stalin's reign, and finally published in 1966 and 1967, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, signaling artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.

Available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
Ebook available to reserve through WVDeli
Ebook and audiobook available immediately with no waitlists through Hoopla

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Doct ZhivagoFirst published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy—the novel was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988, and Pasternak declined the Nobel Prize a year later under intense pressure from Soviet authorities—Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet-physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago's love for the tender and beautiful Lara: pursued, found, and lost again, Lara is the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times.

Multiple formats available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
Ebook & audiobook available to reserve through WVDeli

Interested in reading some great contemporary Russian literature?

Try some books from some of these authors:

Boris Akunin
Boris Akunin is one of the best-known detective story writers in contemporary Russian literature. He is most known for the series of historical novels about the detective Erast Fandorin. Four of the books were made into high-budget Russian films and English remakes are in the making. He doesn’t approve of the current Russian regime, and since 2014 has lived in France. His fiction is an intriguing journey into 19th-century Moscow that is a must-read for those willing to visit the city.

Available to reserve for curbside pick-up at the Library
Ebooks and audiobooks of both books available through Hoopla

Tatyana Tolstaya
Even though her family was only vaguely related to Leo Tolstoy, Tatyana Tolstaya had some very big shoes to fill. She was born into a family of writers: her paternal grandfather was Aleksey Tolstoy, a precursor of science fiction in Russia and a relative of Ivan Turgenev, a shining star of the Golden Age of Russian literature. She’s emerged to be one of the most important writers of the Perestroika and post-Soviet periods. Her love of language and use of the surreal is compared to that of Nabokov, her affinity with nature and attention to detail to that of Turgenev. Tatyana Tolstaya is not only a fiction writer, she’s also an essayist and a TV presenter, actively commenting on the modern Russian reality.

Reserve a copy of The Slynx for curbside pick-up at the Library
Ebook of Puskin's Children: Writing on Russia and Russians available through Hoopla

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky 
Brothers Arkady (1925-1991) and Boris (1933-2012) Strugatsky are the most famous and popular Russian writers of science fiction, and the authors of over 25 novels and novellas. The brothers wrote many novels and short stories critical of Soviet authoritarianism. When they began writing in the 1950s they were able to evade censors by placing subtle criticism in the context of distant planets and universes. That changed as time went on and they faced state censorship.

Ebook and audiobook of Roadside Picnic available through WVDeli
Ebooks and audiobooks of many titles available through Hoopla

Eugene Vodolazkin
Eugene Vodolazkin was born in Kiev and has worked in the department of Old Russian Literature at Pushkin House since 1990. He is an expert in medieval Russian history and folklore. His debut novel Solovyov and Larionov (Oneworld, 2018) was shortlisted for the Andrei Bely Prize and Russia’s National Big Book Award. Laurus, his second novel but the first to be translated into English, won the National Big Book Award and the Yasnaya Polyana Award and was shortlisted for the National Bestseller Prize, the Russian Booker Prize and the New Literature Award, and has been translated into eighteen languages. 

Audiobooks of both books available through Hoopla

Ludmila Ulitskaya
Ludmila Ulitskaya is one of Russia’s most popular and celebrated writers: she is known for creating vivid characters who populate fiction that is set in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras and often includes elements of history and science.

Ebook of Daniel Stein, Interpreter available immediately through Hoopla

Olga Slavnikova
Olga Slavnikova’s fiction braids together complex strands of metaphor and fantasy: Slavnikova considers fantasy a necessary tool for conveying the truths and undercurrents of contemporary Russian reality.

Ebooks available immediately through Hoopla

Have you read some great Russian literature you'd like to share?

Tell us what you've been reading in the comments below!

And don't forget to join our online Summer Reading Challenge, "Reading Takes You Places." Each minute you read between now and August 15th will count as one mile. We'll be keeping track of countries visited in books and miles (in minutes) read through an online platform. Want to participate? Starting June 15, 2020 sign up online at or download the READsquared app at the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Find even more suggested books by Russian authors like Solzhenitsyn, Turgenev, Gogol, and more in the Adult Summer Reading Book List in READSquared. And don't forget to let us know where you've traveled and how far this summer through books!


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