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Top 10 classic Russian books to get you in the mood for the Sochi Olympics

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As the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia, pick up one (or all) of these classics of Russian literature.

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"The Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov": With an effortless style, Chekhov conveys the Russian soul beautifully.

"Eugene Onegin" by Alexander Pushkin: This classic with its unforgettable characters is a novel in verse. Don’t let the rhyme scheme through you off, it’s a devastating read.

"The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky: If you have time between Olympic events, this lengthy tome, somewhere between 800 and 960 pages depending on the edition you pick up, is arguably the best novel about four brothers and patricide ever written.

"A Month in the Country" by Ivan Turgenev: Desperate housewives, 19th century Russian edition. Well, one desperate housewife is featured in this comedy of manners, but she gets into enough trouble to tide you over between figure skating events or during commercial breaks in Olympic coverage.

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Few people went to the gulags and lived to tell the tale. Solzhenitsyn was one of those and his powerful story of survival makes you appreciate living in a free country.

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy: Yes, it’s long, and yes, you’ve probably seen a movie version or two, or three, but it’s Russian and it’s dramatic and you need to read it.

"War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy: Start reading now and you might make a dent in Tolstoy’s epic before the closing ceremonies.

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Not the most lighthearted of tales, but gripping nonetheless. Raskolnikov unravels after committing a heinous crime.

"Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak: David Lean’s epic film adaptation with that evocative score by Maurice Jarre is sort of faithful to the novel, but pick up the book and enjoy the romance and in depth look at the Russian Revolution and its aftermath for yourself.

"The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Another Dostoevsky novel, yes. He’s that good. This one finds Prince Myshkin, naïve and just out of a Swiss sanatorium, thrust into the drama of St. Petersburg society.

All these books are available online, at your favorite booksellers and in your local library. Look for translations by David Magarshack and new translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky where available.


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