I am a Russian language learner. This year, which ends today, I have started reading Russian literature. Russian literature is famous, phenomenal and very interesting, but much of it is way too difficult for beginners.
Searching for easy literature I encountered that many sites list the classics, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Pushkin, and even though these authors did write some easier works, or works for children - it's still old, it contains many words not used anymore, and often still hard...
What I liked was this advice here on Quora:
As a sort of poll, I asked many Russian colleagues, teachers and acquaintances for their favourite children’s books. Surprisingly, they often named translations. For example: Pinocchio, The Three Musketeers, Tarzan. Nice, probably, but not my target.
Also my Russian colleagues advised me to read “Dunno on the Moon” - and I tried, around two years ago, but it was then still too difficult. But this year I read it! And I’ve read more books, a bit more than ten. This blog contains my top list.
Soviet Children’s Literature
So I started reading Soviet Children's literature and I liked it! Some books are a bit harder than others, and sometimes I needed translations, but in the end I managed to read and understand these books and to enjoy them! Below is the report.
Apart from Soviet writers, I also read some translations which are well-known in Russia. For example: Karlsson is originally Swedish, but there are two popular Soviet animated films. Most Russian watched them and know it.
This link gives some of the Soviet books I read, and some others. I recently encountered it, it was not my guideline.
I was looking for a tool to measure the level of a book, and found some measures such as the Automated Readability Index. It’s a cool index which can be applied to any text - without even knowing in which language it is written.
This Readability Index (and it’s variants) gave surprising results, such as the fact that “Dunno on the Moon” is harder to read than Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment! Therefore (and because I’m a programmer) I made a variant which does not have that problem. I’ll describe it later in another blog. I called it "Text Readability Index".
Ranked list of recommended books
Based on this figures, and on my own experience, I present a list here a list with ordered recommendations:
|Title||Author||Page count||% of top 2500 words||Text Readability Index||Automated Readability Index|
|Uncle Fedya, His Dog, and His Cat||Eduard Uspensky||65||74 %||2.70||3.27|
|Vitya Maleev at School and at Home||Nikolay Nosov||160||78 %||6.46||5.28|
|The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends||Nikolay Nosov||132||70 %||5.61||7.12|
|The Drummer's Fate||Arkady Gaidar||108||73 %||6.28||5.72|
|Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Roald Dahl||87||69 %||6.66||7.60|
|Karlsson on the Roof||Astrid Lindgren||89||72 %||6.59||6.62|
|Dunno in Sun City||Nikolay Nosov||255||71 %||9.01||9.13|
|Chuk and Gek||Arkady Gaidar||31||73 %||8.17||6.45|
|Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone||J. K. Rowling||332||70 %||9.11||8.30|
|Dunno on the Moon||Nikolay Nosov||447||69 %||10.28||10.08|
This list is ordered by the ratings and by my own feeling. I will not describe all the books in detail, links are provided above, and there are many reviews available of these books.
What I can tell is that I've become a fan of Nosov: all these four books are great! Especially Dunno on the Moon is an epic work - and never translated into Dutch. What a miss... Dunno on the Moon was considerably harder to read than Dunno in Sun City, which is also a great book. Self-driving cars, robot vacuum cleaners, it describes current world - but it was written in 1958.
The book of Uspensky is also a must read, it is well known in Russia, one of my colleagues could still recite some citations by heart (mainly from the cat Matrushkin).
Gaidar is sometimes a bit harder to read, but I loved the poetic story of Chuk and Gek (there is a useful English translation too which can be downloaded from archive.org). The Drummer's Fate was a easier to read, cool story! There is a Soviet film based on this book, with the same title.
From the translated work, Karlsson is also cool. It is a trilogy and I read the other two books too - but I think the first one is by far the best. As said above there is a famous Soviet animation film. A must see.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a book I had never read before and I wanted to read it, so why not in Russian... And it was worth it!
And (of course) there is
Harry Potter, I actually started with that one, at the beginning of the year, not really knowing Nosov yet, but it was still quite hard. But now, at the end of the year, I can more easily read it. Nice proof of progress!