Friday, September 20, 2013

Russian Reads!

I LOVE books set in Russia. I am not Russian, I have never been to Russia, and I cannot speak a word of Russian, but there is something about the culture and the richness of its history that attracts me. So here is a list (by no means exhaustive; I have much more reading to do!) of some great reads set in Mother Russia.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Soviet Union-inspired literary satire with a heaping ladle of magical realism poured on top! I won’t say more than that. This book can speak for itself: “Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar's vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!”

Erast Fandorin Mysteries by Boris Akunin
Historical mysteries set right before the Russian Revolution starring an unusually perceptive government employee! Boris Akunin is the real deal, people. As long as you can wrap your head around the seemingly endless number of patronymics (which to be honest is a shared trait among most novels set in Russia), these books will hold you captive. (Just don’t be too put off by the arm’s length the protagonist is held at—think of it as increasing the wow factor when he finally reveals the results of his astute deductions.)

Sister Pelagia Mysteries by Boris Akunin
More historical mysteries by Boris Akunin! But this time the books comprise a trilogy featuring a nun with a mysterious past and a whole lot of pluck. These have  more depth to them, or as Booklist puts it, the Erast Fandorin mysteries come off as "light, almost campy comedies compared to the Pelagia series." I wasn’t thrilled with the first one (dogs are poisoned—enough said), but the second is fantastic and the third is a remarkable achievement: intelligent, complex, and poignant.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Young adult fantasy fiction about super-powered peasants in an alternate Tsarist Russian world! Leigh Bardugo has a killer imagination and wields it like a boss in this atmospheric and richly textured trilogy. I can’t wait for the final installment!

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