Kseniia: The Steppe by Anton Chekhov
I would like to recommend The Steppe by Anton Chekhov. I remember reading this novella on the night before my exam on Russian literature – I was going to go through it quickly, as there was little time, but I actually couldn’t take my eyes off and read it in one sitting. It’s quite different from other short stories by Chekhov, for there is no irony or satire. Instead, it’s a beautifully written tale of a journey through the steppe with not much action going on – perfect for reading without a haste on a summer evening.
Elizaveta: Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedict Erofeev
Moscow to the End of the Line (also known by its original title Moscow – Petushki) by Venedict Erofeev is a brilliant comic guide to the mysterious Russian soul. A man hops on a suburban train and drinks all the way to his beloved, sharing with the world magnificent monologues on society, politics, and life. A snapshot of the dark Brezhnev years, the novel combines sharp humor, biblical references, and working-class despair in a surprisingly organic way. Despite this amount of wisdom, it's thrilling and easy to read. I think it’s a perfect book to read on a summer train journey and probably the best encyclopedia of alcoholic cocktail recipes which you should never try.
Anastasia: Greek Myths and Legends by Nikolay Kun
I don’t read a lot of Russian literature, but one book that’s been with me since childhood and that I occasionally return to is Nikolay Kun’s Greek Myths and Legends. Kun was an eminent historian and educator specializing in Ancient Greece and Rome, and the book – one of his main works – was very popular in Soviet Union and Russia, and was apparently translated into a number of European languages, too. I have a lovely illustrated copy dating way back when, and I like the way it sweeps you away to this mythical and at times kinda chilling world – a good 10/10 on the distraction scale, which could maybe make it a good summer read.
Anna: Manjunja Writes a Fantastical Novel by Narine Abgaryan
One summer, an ingenious and much feared grandma, referred to as Ba, decides to get her son a birthday present – a decent suit. It’s the Soviet times in Armenia, when shortages and creative bargaining are the name of the game, so to procure this valuable gift, Ba sends a telegram to all her friends who could help with the project. The responses she gets are like, “Can’t help with a suit but what about a tea set?” or “No suits here but can get a sturgeon.” This is the opening to my summer favorite Manjunja Writes a Fantastical Novel by Narine Abgaryan, a story about two tween girls getting into all sorts of mischief over the summer holidays. It’s sunny, sweet, adventurous, easy to read and filled with Russian humor and cultural references that might just be its own adventure if you’re studying Russian.
Catherine: Noon: 22nd Century by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
The first books to bump into my head were Russian classics, but how many times have you had Anna Karenina in your book recommendations (though Levin’s revelations on the field are enough to make it a perfect summer read)? Exactly. That’s why today I’m turning to the classics of Russian sci-fi, namely Noon: 22nd Century by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. This collection of stories set on the almost perfect Earth of the not-so-distant future transports you right into the mid-20th century dreams of space exploration, incredible machines and an ideal society. This book makes a great summer companion by tackling some of the toughest philosophical questions of humanity in a rather unobtrusive way and leaving you inspired to come up with your own contribution to the better world.
Vasilii: Overstocked Packaging Barrels by Vasily Aksyonov
For me, a book that has a very "summer" feel is Overstocked Packaging Barrels (Zatovarennaya bochkotara) by Vasily Aksyonov. Despite the simplicity of its plot (a truck driver has to bring overstocked packaging barrels from a shop in some backwater place to the region's central town, somewhere in rural Russia, and several other people hitch a ride with him), the book itself is a mystical journey full of fantastic dream sequences that gradually immerse you in the feeling of some unexplainable, mystical goodness. To tell you the truth, I don't really remember the characters, or any specific details, just the overall impression – but recalling the joy I felt while reading this one is often enough to lift up my spirits and fill me with hope.
Hooked on reading? Check out our series on essential Russian literature and poetry.
ITMO.NEWS Editorial Team