Russian Books – How Reading Russian Books Will Improve Your Russian

By Ari Helderman
November 15, 2021

Moscow, Russia. Russian books for beginners – If you’re learning Russian you might have already tried to read a couple of simple books in Russian. Or maybe you have played with the idea… but haven’t yet found the right book that’s on your level.

If you identify with any of these statements about Russian books, then I want you to read this article, because I will tell you a couple of reasons why reading books in Russian will dramatically improve your Russian skills.

I will also give you a special technique that you can use to blast through books at high-speed. And as you might know… the more you read, the more you can learn!

So, in this article you will find out everything about Russian books. Why it’s a good idea to start reading in the language that you’re learning? And what are the main benefits that you’ll get out of it? At the end,  I’m also sharing with you a great book that I am reading right now.

Why Would You Read Russian Books for beginners?

If you’re a beginner in Russian, even the thought about trying to read a book in Russian seems daunting to you. If you’re anything like me when I was starting out, it would probably take you half an hour just to get through one single page of Cyrillic writing.

Reading a book in Russian almost felt like torture to me. After a couple of minutes reading Cyrillic my brain would just shut off. It was simply too intense to read for more than 5 minutes at a time…

Luckily for you and me, our reading abilities in Russian develop over time. So, even though the challenge of reading an entire book might seem insurmountable at first, with practice you will get there.

So, don’t worry too much about it. If you can start with reading for 5 minutes – great. Just start there. If you can read more – even better! And if your brain tires already after just 1 sentence of Cyrillic writing – don’t fuss about it.

It will get better over time, as long as you keep practicing.

Want a shortcut to becoming better at reading Russian? Check out Russianpod 101. They offer hundreds of podcasts in Russian including transcript. Listen to the Russian audio while reading the transcript is a surefire way to get better at reading Russian!

russianpod 101 russian
Listening to an audio lesson while reading the transcript will dramatically increase your ability to read Russian!

So, let’s get into the meat of this post and explain why reading Russian books for beginners is so good for your Russian skills.

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

Russian books dramatically improve your vocabulary and speaking skills  while being fun to read!

When you start reading Russian books for beginners you will find that your vocabulary start to improve.Of course, this is very logical thing. When you read a book in Russian, there will be many words that you don’t yet recognize.

Now, I don’t recommend that you take out your dictionary every time you come across a new word. That would only take you out of the story and make reading the book more like an actual boring lesson.

And that’s exactly what you want to avoid when reading Russian books.

You want to pick a book that’s challenging, but not too difficult. Because you want it to be at such a level that you’re still able to follow the story. It’s better for the book to be too easy, than too difficult. Because you will still be able to practice your reading skills in Russian and pick up on some new words and phrases.

But, let’s get back to vocabulary. There are actually 2 ways to learn new vocabulary when you’re reading a Russian book:
  1. Dictionary –  You can look up words you don’t know in your dictionary. I recommend you to not do this too often, as I said before. Save this option for when you really need to know a word in order to understand the story. Or, when it pops up several times, and knowing the meaning would make reading easier for you.
  2. Context learning – Many times you won’t know the exact meaning of a word when you see it. But, when you look at the context and the other words in the sentence – you can probably make an educated guess what the word means. This is by far the biggest vocabulary-learning benefit that reading Russian books for beginners give you!

As I said before, in a different article, knowing a lot of Russian words and vocabulary is one of the cornerstones in speaking Russian well. For more tips on how to speak well, check out my article on speaking Russian, where I give you 5 tips that you can instantly use to speak better Russian.

Reading Russian books for beginners is fun!

The more fun something is, the more time you’re going to spend on it. And this is especially important when it comes to a tough feat such as learning Russian. Learning any language is not something that’s going to happen overnight.

In fact, many of the people who learned Russian (including me) spent a couple of years of intense studying before getting to a reasonable level of Russian.

Now, I’m not saying that fast progress is impossible (it is, if you use the right strategy and program). But this discussion is something for another time.

What’s important now, is the following. The more time you’re willing to spend on learning Russian, the faster you’ll progress and the better you’ll speak.

And one of the easiest ways to spend a lot of time on Russian is – you guessed it – to read Russian books that are fun!

Russian books for beginners: Dual language books

One of the good things to read if you’re starting out are dual language books. They have the benefit of being bot in English and in Russian – so you can easily check the sentences what you’re reading. Recommend you first to try them in Russian. See how far you get. And then you can compare sentences from Russian to English. It’s a very good exercise for learning vocabulary and what specific words mean in a sentences.

here are some recommendations for Russian dual language books that you can use to improve your Russian:

Eugene Onegin by Aleksander Pushkin

You probably know Pushkin as one of the literary giants of Russia. The book has first a chapter in English and then on the netx page in Russian. Even the words in Russian are stressed – so you know how to correctly pronounce it. (I wist every Russian book would have this!) And it’s a fun book to read as well.

You can order Eugene Onegin here on Amazon.

Brothers karamazov by Dotoyevsky

This is a book that is a it more difficult, but can be very worth it if you’re serious about learning Russian. Just like in the previous book it contains both English and Russian + the stresses are in bold. So you’ll know exactly how to pronounce each word. It’s a fun story but very rewarding and you’ll learn a lot.

What I am reading right now:

Right now I am reading the bestseller Metro 2033 in Russian. It’s a book in which the entire world has been destroyed in a nuclear war. The only survivors of this world war are living in the Moscow Metro (one of the biggest nuclear shelters in the world).

The 40.000 survivors have built an entire new society with its own rules and traditions in the Moscow metro. The book is situated in 2033, 20 years after the nuclear fallout. It is still impossible to go to the surface, because of the high levels of radiation and the dangerous mutants now living on the earth.

It is in this world that Artyom is living, and he has to go on a long dangerous journey throughout the metro to save his station, VDNK, from a new mutant species that has appeared… The Dark Ones.

russian books for beginners
The best book to read if you’re planning on going to Moscow.

So far, I’m halfway through the book and it’s a great experience. My vocabulary is getting better every day that I’m reading. And it’s very interesting to see how the new society in the Moscow metro is working. I’m also for several weeks in Moscow this summer, and it’s absolutely fascinating to visit the metro stations for real that I am reading about in the book!

metro 2033 stations
Can you image living in a place like this…?
Click here to get find out how you can also read the fascinating novel Metro 2033 (in Russian)!

P.S. If your Russian skill is not (yet) good enough to read Metro 2033 in Russian, than you can get the English version here. It’s actually a very good idea to read the English version first. so that you can reread it in Russian when your Russian skills are better!

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • listening skills
  • speaking skills

That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

And the best part? If you improve a little bit every day, soon these practices will become daily habits.

And then you will start making progress on autopilot.

This means that learning Russian is now a part of your daily routine. So you won’t even need discipline anymore to get yourself to practice.

If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman