SnowBrains “Stay-at-Home” Book Recommendations: Our Top 5 Russian Novels

miles clark |
The Master & Margarita

Hello, my name is Miles Clark and I’m the CEO/Founder of SnowBrains.

I read a ton and I admittedly skew towards the classics although I enjoy anything well written in any genre.

During this Coronavirus crisis, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite reads from my reading experience of the past 25-years or so.


Today, I’ll be sharing my 5 favorite Russian novels.

The main reason I’m doing this is that my very favorite book in the world is “The Master & Margarita” by Mikail Bulgakov and the best-written book I’ve ever read is “Lolita” by Nabokov.

“The Master & Margarita” is intense, spell-binding,  tells 2 stories at once, and you’ll never know what is going to happen next.

If you have a book you think should be on this list, please let me know in the comments.

SnowBrains Top 5 Russian Novels

"The Master & Margarita" by Mikail Bulgakov

“The Master & Margarita” by Mikail Bulgakov

  • My favorite book of all-time
  • You’ll never see what’s coming next
  • 2 stories at once
  • A masterpiece of magical realism
  • A main character is a giant, talking cat
  • Premise:  The devil comes to Moscow and causes all kinds of hell – and maybe the devil isn’t such a bad guy afterall…

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

  • The most eloquently written book I’ve ever read
  • The subject matter is very challenging
  • Reading this book will make you a better writer or at least show you how bad a writer you currently are

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

  • Eye-opening book that reveals the inner workings of a Soviet work camp in Siberia
  • One of my favorite lines in any book ever when they call the moon “the wolf’s sun”:

“What are you scared of you idiots?  Never seen the Siberian frost before?  Come outside and warm yourselves by the wolf’s sun.  Give us a light, uncle.”  He lit his cigarette at the door and moved onto the porch.  “Wolf’s sun,” that’s what they’d called the moon in Shukhov’s village. – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, page 59

"War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

“War & Peace” by Leo Tolstoy

  • Often called the “greatest novel of all-time”
  • I tried to read this book right after college and only made it 16-pages…
  • I read it in its entirety this year and was impressed with the book’s flow, nimble back and forth between aristocratic life and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and powerful character development
  • The book is, for the most part, historically accurate, so you also get to learn about how Napoleon took Moscow, how he lost this war to Russians, and how he marched into Russian with 685,000 soldiers and limped back into France with only 22,000 soldiers
  • It’s also fun to hear Tolstoy repetitively bash Napoleon and discredit his “genius”

"Crime & Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Crime & Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  • To be honest, I didn’t love this book, but it is one of the most classic books on Earth and in reading it, you’ll go through Rodya’s mental torment as he tortures himself to no end via a myriad of bizarre circumstances – and it’s the best of the rest of the Russian novels I’ve read
  • And Fyodor Dostoevsky’s personal history is absolutely INSANE:
    • “On December 22, 1849, Dostoevsky was led before the firing squad but received a last-minute reprieve and was sent to a Siberian labor camp, where he worked for four years. He was released in 1854 and worked as a soldier on the Mongolian frontier.”  –
    • “Arrested in 1849 for belonging to a literary group that discussed banned books critical of Tsarist Russia, he was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted at the last moment. He spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, followed by six years of compulsory military service in exile.” – Wikipedia

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5 thoughts on “SnowBrains “Stay-at-Home” Book Recommendations: Our Top 5 Russian Novels

  1. Wow, thanks for posting. I am looking forward to reading the Master and Margarita. I have read some Russian classics by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and loved them. So I am looking forward to some of your other top Russian suggestions.

  2. I had a couple Russian lit classes in college so I’ve read all of the these books as well. Ivan Denisovich is my favorite and also the shortest. No coincidence. Anna Karenina is another great one I’d add to the list. I personally like the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. Great story.

    1. Denisovich is SO GOOD. I read Anna K and it didn’t quite hit me but it’s undoubtedly a masterpiece. Ah, ok, I’ll look up Magicians right now. thx so much

  3. Wow Miles- I am a big fan and read your blog everyday. I have read most of the books you mention and “The Master and Margarita” is also one of my favorite books of all time. “A Dog’s Heart” is also a good read, but “The Master..” is a book you never ever forget. Not Russian, but have you read “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga? Also one of my top 5 – I just got his new book today “Amnesty”. How about some of the stuff by Will Self – “Great Apes”, “Butt”, “My Idea of Fun”, and his epic “The Book of Dave”? In my opinion we are living in the renaissance of English literature right now. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Glenn, thanks for reading everyday! Oh my gosh, yes, M&M is incredible…. I will check out “Dog’s Heart” right now. I’ll also put on my list “White Tiger” and Amnesty and the Will Self books. I greatly appreciate book recommendations. Wow, ok, I guess I need to lay of the classics for a bit and start reading some contemporary English lit! thanks so much

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