28 Best Dostoevsky Books of All Time [Ranked for 2024]

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Fyodor Dostoevsky, a master storyteller from Russia, transformed his turbulent life experiences, including harsh imprisonment and a brush with death, into rich, intricate narratives.

His works, famed for their exploration of psychology, morality, and the human condition, delve into the darkest corners and the most illuminating heights of the human soul, often set against 19th-century Russian society.

With his stories, the mundane becomes extraordinary, and the simplest of stories reveal universal truths. Every word invites you to look deeper into the essence of what it means to be human.

Best Dostoevsky Books

Best Overall: Crime and Punishment

Most Underrated: The Insulted and Humiliated

Most Inspirational: The Brothers Karamazov

Editor’s Pick: A Gentle Creature

1. Crime and Punishment

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02/28/2024 10:41 am GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Philosophy

The plot centers around Raskolnikov’s plan to murder a pawnbroker for her money. He believes this act is justifiable to escape poverty and use the stolen money for good deeds. But it’s not the crime itself that’s the focus of this book, but the aftermath of it.

You’ll find yourself inside Raskolnikov’s conflicted mind, grappling with guilt, fear, and philosophical dilemmas, exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche and society.

This novel is a psychological drama at its best, laying bare the complexities of the human soul. It delves into philosophical questions that are still relevant today. It’s a profound exploration of the struggle between good and evil within us all, making it a must-read.

Your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing.

What you might love:

  • The book vividly portrays 19th-century Russia, focusing on poverty, class conflict, and justice.
  • It explores philosophical ideas like existentialism and utilitarianism, stimulating deep thought.
  • The book prompts readers to consider moral dilemmas about right and wrong and their consequences.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Dostoevsky’s complex language and long sentences can challenge readers.
  • The book’s long dialogues might not suit those who prefer action or straightforward storytelling.
  • Some might find the novel’s deep dive into philosophical and ethical themes overwhelming.

2. The Brothers Karamazov

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Philosophy

Imagine yourself in a small Russian town, getting to know the Karamazov family. There’s the father, Fyodor Pavlovich, a morally dubious figure, and his three sons—the intellectual Ivan, the passionate Dmitri, and the saintly Alyosha.

Each brother represents different aspects of human nature, from the carnal to the spiritual. The plot thickens when their father is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Suspicion falls on Dmitri, but the truth is far more complex.

As you follow the story, it challenges you to question, reflect, and perhaps even understand a little more about the complexities of life and faith. This book is an essential read for anyone who seeks to explore the depths of human nature and morality.

You will burn and you will burn out; you will be healed and come back again.

What you might love:

  • Its characters and plot provide insights into Russian society, religion, and history.
  • The novel explores moral dilemmas, focusing on free will, justice, and the nature of evil.
  • Dostoevsky challenges readers with deep philosophical questions about life, faith, and morals throughout the story.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its complex philosophical and theological themes might overwhelm some readers.
  • The novel’s moral ambiguity and lack of clear answers could be unsatisfying for some.
  • Readers unfamiliar with Russian history and culture may find certain references in the book difficult to understand.

3. Notes from Underground

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Philosophy, Russian Literature

Meet the Underground Man, a unique and complex character. As a retired civil servant in St. Petersburg, he’s far from your average hero. Alienated and self-aware, he embodies the complexities and contradictions of being human.

“Notes from Underground” unfolds in two parts. In the first, he challenges common views on society, rationality, and freedom with his deep, sometimes bitter reflections. He questions the essence of human freedom and individuality.

The second part shifts to his awkward and conflict-ridden interactions with others, underscoring his deep sense of isolation from society.

This book is a profound exploration of the human experience, delving into themes of isolation, freedom, and the search for meaning. It’s a book that invites you to question and reflect on your beliefs and values.

Nature doesn’t ask your permission; it doesn’t care about your wishes, or whether you like its laws or not. You’re obliged to accept it as it is, and consequently all its results as well.

What you might love:

  • Despite its serious themes, the novel is laced with a dark, ironic humor that many find appealing.
  • Unlike some of Dostoevsky’s longer works, this novel is concise, making its powerful message more impactful.
  • The book is rich in philosophical ideas, challenging readers to think about free will, determinism, and the nature of human behavior.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Limited character interaction may disappoint those who prefer character-driven stories.
  • The narrator’s complex personality might make it hard for some readers to connect with the story.
  • The book’s abstract and dense philosophical discussions could overwhelm readers unfamiliar with such content.

4. The Idiot

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Philosophy

In “The Idiot,” you meet Prince Myshkin, an almost supernaturally innocent and honest character. After returning to Russia from a Swiss clinic, Myshkin gets caught in love, betrayal, and social schemes.

As you read, you’ll see Myshkin trying to find his way into the complex 19th-century Russian society. His simplicity and kindness starkly contrast with the ego-driven, greedy characters around him.

This explores love, morality, and the fine line between sanity and insanity. Myshkin’s interactions with Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya Yepanchin make the story emotionally intense and deeply thought-provoking.

What makes “The Idiot” stand out is Dostoevsky’s challenge to the reader: he makes you question the real meaning of goodness in a world that often values the opposite.

A fool with a heart and no sense is just as unhappy as a fool with sense and no heart.

What you might love:

  • Dostoevsky examines deep moral questions, especially about being good in a corrupt world.
  • Its dialogues are realistic and meaningful, offering insights into the characters’ thoughts and their society.
  • The novel critiques the upper class and societal norms, remaining relevant to modern discussions about class and society.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The novel’s length and detailed descriptions may overwhelm those who like shorter stories.
  • The complex characters, though interesting, might confuse or overwhelm some readers.
  • Its dense philosophical discussions could be too heavy for those who prefer action-packed or lighter reading.

5. White Nights

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Russia, Short Stories, Romance

You’ll follow the story of a young, solitary man whose life changes when he meets Nastenka, a charming and equally lonely young woman.

As you delve into the pages, you’ll be captivated by their nightly conversations. The narrator, whose life was once isolated, finds a kindred spirit in Nastenka. Their bond deepens as they share their innermost thoughts under the light of the white nights.

“White Nights” reflects the human condition, the search for connection, and the bittersweet nature of unrequited love. The book portrays the inner turmoil of characters caught between their dreams and the harsh realities of life.

But how could you live and have no story to tell?

What you might love:

  • The first-person narration creates an intimate and immersive reading experience.
  • The novel explores themes of loneliness and longing in a relatable and heartfelt way.
  • It touches on universal themes of love, hope, and the search for connection, resonating with many readers.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The narrative’s dreamlike style might confuse fans of realistic stories.
  • Its abstract themes could fail to engage readers seeking tangible elements.
  • Focusing on a few characters and a limited setting may feel too narrow for some.

6. The House of the Dead

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02/29/2024 09:35 pm GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Novels, 19th Century

“The House of the Dead,” drawn from Dostoevsky’s own experiences, gives you an unfiltered look into 19th-century Russian prison life. You’ll follow Aleksandr Petrovich Goryanchikov, a nobleman serving hard labor for his wife’s murder.

As you read, you’ll experience the brutal conditions and the intense struggle to survive in the prison camp. Through Goryanchikov’s eyes, you’ll navigate the camp’s complex social world, meet various characters, and ponder over crime and punishment.

This novel offers a rare insight into a world few have seen. Challenging readers to understand and empathize with the plight of these prisoners.

Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him.

What you might love:

  • The story prompts moral and ethical reflections about crime, punishment, and redemption.
  • The narrative is emotionally powerful, evoking empathy and reflection in the reader.
  • It serves as a critique of the Russian penal system and broader social issues of the time.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Graphic scenes of prison life and cruelty might disturb some readers.
  • The book’s detailed observations can seem tedious to those who prefer action.
  • Readers might struggle with historical and cultural references specific to 19th-century Russia.

7. The Grand Inquisitor

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Philosophy, Russian Literature, Short Stories

You’ll be plunged into a fictional world where Christ returns during the Spanish Inquisition, only to be arrested by the Grand Inquisitor. As you delve into the story, you’ll witness a gripping dialogue between Christ and the Grand Inquisitor.

The Inquisitor argues that humanity needs to be guided and controlled, while Christ’s message is freedom and faith. This intense exchange will challenge you to think deeply about the human desire for freedom versus the lure of authority.

This book is a profound exploration of freedom, faith, and the nature of power. Whether you’re a fan of philosophical literature or just looking for a story that makes you think, this work stands out as a must-read in Dostoevsky’s work.

Nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom

What you might love:

  • The story’s rich symbolism offers many layers of meaning for readers to explore.
  • Its intellectual depth encourages readers to think critically about complex issues.
  • Themes in the chapter, like power abuse and the fight for freedom, are still relevant today.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Focus on slow-paced conversation may not appeal to those who like faster-paced stories.
  • Readers uninterested in religious topics might struggle with the theological arguments.
  • Interpreting the story’s symbolism can be challenging without a strong interest in symbolic literature.

8. The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Genres: Short Stories, Fiction, Classics, Russian Literature, 19th Century

In this collection, you’ll find a diverse range of tales, each brimming with psychological depth and insight.

From the intense emotional drama of “White Nights” to the philosophical depths of “Notes from the Underground,” each story invites you into a different aspect of human experience.

Dostoevsky’s characters are complex and multifaceted, grappling with existential dilemmas, moral crises, and the often harsh realities of 19th-century Russian society.

What makes these stories stand out is they explore themes like redemption, suffering, and the quest for meaning with a depth that is both unsettling and enlightening—making you question and reflect on the deeper aspects of life.

What you might love:

  • Each story offers a unique theme, providing a diverse reading experience.
  • For those new to Dostoevsky, these stories are accessible introductions to his style and themes.
  • His use of language is masterful, combining simplicity and depth to convey complex ideas and emotions.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The collection’s depth may be too demanding for casual readers.
  • Its slow pace, emphasizing psychology over action, might not suit everyone.
  • The stories’ philosophical complexity could overwhelm those who prefer simpler storytelling.

9. Letters of Fyodor Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends

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Genres: Nonfiction, Literature, Biography, Russia

In these pages, you’ll discover Dostoevsky’s personal side—his hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows. He writes to his family and friends with the same intensity and depth he brings to his novels.

His letters reveal his struggles with financial difficulties, his experiences in Siberian exile, his insights into human nature, and his deep love and concern for his family. Each letter is a piece of the puzzle that makes up this literary genius.

What sets this collection apart is the unguarded honesty and raw emotion that Dostoevsky pours into his writing. It starkly contrasts the polished prose of his novels, offering a more direct and personal connection to the man behind the celebrated works.

To be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart—that’s what life is all about, that’s its task.

What you might love:

  • Readers get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of his famous works.
  • He shares his thoughts on literature and writing, inspiring aspiring writers.
  • Readers see a different side of Dostoevsky’s writing style, more personal and less formal than his novels.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Certain letters focusing on everyday details can seem irrelevant or mundane.
  • Some readers might find recurring themes and concerns in the letters repetitive.
  • Fans of Dostoevsky’s fiction may not be as engaged by these real-life correspondences.

10. The Gambler

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02/28/2024 10:50 am GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature,19th Century, Novels

Meet Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor working for a Russian family in a German town. The twist? Alexei has a gambling addiction.

As you follow him, you’ll experience his intense addiction to roulette, his turbulent romance with the Polina, and his desperate attempts to understand and navigate the intricacies of luck, chance, and love.

It’s a captivating and insightful look into the human obsession with luck and risk. This novel isn’t just for those interested in gambling; it’s for anyone who’s ever faced the thrilling yet dangerous allure of taking a chance.

A true gentleman, even if he loses his entire fortune, must not show emotion. Money is supposed to be so far beneath a gentleman that it’s almost not worth thinking about.

What you might love:

  • The book is known for its fast pacing, keeping readers engaged throughout.
  • Dostoevsky delves into the psychology of addiction, particularly gambling addiction, offering deep insights.
  • The setting in a European spa town provides interesting cultural insights, particularly into the lives of Russian aristocrats abroad.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Readers might not engage with the novel’s social and economic commentary.
  • Moral ambiguity in the characters’ actions may disturb readers seeking clear morals.
  • Complex and flawed characters could be difficult for some to relate to or sympathize with.

11. The Insulted and Humiliated

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature,19th Century

You will journey alongside Ivan Petrovich, a young writer drawn into the turbulent lives of the Ikhmenev family, the heartbroken Natasha, and the scheming Prince Valkovsky.

As you navigate the twists and turns of the plot, you’ll find yourself deeply involved in the characters’ struggles with societal norms, personal betrayals, and the pursuit of redemption.

The book doesn’t shy away from the complexities of emotions like pride, despair, and forgiveness. His portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity and humiliation is inspiring and deeply reflective, making it a read that shouldn’t be missed.

All love passes, but incompatibility stays for good.

What you might love:

  • The emotional struggles and triumphs of the characters resonate strongly with readers.
  • The story explores the themes of redemption and forgiveness in a thought-provoking manner.
  • The relationships between characters are portrayed realistically, adding to the narrative’s authenticity.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Lengthy descriptions might bore those who prefer action.
  • The story’s slow pace in introspective parts may not suit all readers.
  • The novel’s complex philosophical discussions could confuse some readers.

12. The Possessed (also known as The Devils / Demons)

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Philosophy, Novels

Set in a provincial Russian town, the novel is centered on the young revolutionaries led by the charismatic and manipulative Pyotr Verkhovensky. Next to him is Nikolai Stavrogin, a complex and troubled aristocrat whose nature drives the novel’s tension.

These characters become embroiled in a plot to overthrow the existing social order, leading to a series of tragic events that shake the very foundations of their community.

The book challenges you to think deeply about the nature of ideology, freedom, and the consequences of political extremism. It’s for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of human society and the dangers of unchecked ideological fervor.

"Do you believe in a future everlasting life?"
"No, not in a future everlasting but in an everlasting life here. There are moments, you reach moments, and time comes to a sudden stop, and it will become eternal."

What you might love:

  • The book is rich in Russian cultural and historical context, providing an immersive experience.
  • Readers get a deep look into the psychological motivations and turmoils of the characters.
  • Despite being set in the 19th century, political extremism and moral confusion are relevant to contemporary times.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Complex characters may be hard for some to relate to or empathize with.
  • The novel’s intricate structure and numerous subplots can be hard to follow.
  • The story’s moral ambiguity might unsettle those who prefer clear moral messages.

13. The Adolescent (also known as An Accidental Family or Raw Youth)

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Genres: Fiction, Russian Literature, Novels, Classics, 19th Century

Meet Arkady Dolgoruky, the protagonist, an illegitimate son eager to establish his own place in society. Raised in a rural area and later moving to St. Petersburg, Arkady’s story is about ambition, struggle, and the search for a father’s recognition.

Arkady’s journey involves intense relationships and moral choices. His interactions with characters like his self-absorbed aristocrat father and his nihilist half-brother add depth to his story of conflict and self-discovery.

This novel highlights the universal challenges of growing up and connecting with readers across generations. It gives readers a glimpse of Russian society during a period of significant change while touching on timeless themes that are still relevant today.

…to be able to judge the others, a man needs to gain himself the right to judge by suffering.

What you might love:

  • The story includes elements of mystery and intrigue, adding entertainment.
  • “The Adolescent” delves into identity, self-discovery, and the struggle to find one’s place in the world.
  • The novel presents a compelling coming-of-age story, exploring the journey from youth to adulthood.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Rapid mood shifts in the novel could disorient some readers.
  • The story’s slow pace in introspective and philosophical parts may not suit all readers.
  • “The Adolescent” requires significant attention and intellectual engagement, which might not fit everyone’s reading style.

14. A Gentle Creature (also known as A Gentle Spirit or A Meek One)

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Short Stories, Russian Literature, 19th Century

The story revolves around a pawnbroker and his young wife, the ‘gentle creature.’ The narrative unfolds through the pawnbroker’s perspective after a tragic event. He reflects on their relationship, filled with misunderstandings and emotional distance.

The young wife, despite her quiet demeanor, holds a depth of emotion and inner turmoil, which the pawnbroker fails to comprehend until it’s too late.

The story is set against the backdrop of a society where material concerns often overpower deeper emotional needs. It’s a concise yet moving piece that resonates with the universal human experience of trying, sometimes failing, to connect with others.

Alas, I had always loved sorrow and grief, but only for myself, for myself; for them I wept in my pity.

What you might love:

  • It raises significant moral and ethical questions that provoke thought and discussion.
  • The story is an intense study of its main characters, especially the ‘gentle creature’ herself.
  • Despite its specific setting, the themes of love, regret, and misunderstanding are universal.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The story’s minimal action and drama might not appeal to fans of dynamic plots.
  • Its slow pace could be unappealing to readers who prefer action-focused stories.
  • Some might find the complex and contradictory characters hard to understand or empathize with.

15. Poor Folk

Genres: Fiction, Russian Literature, Novels, Classics, 19th Century

“Poor Folk” unfolds through letters between Makar Devushkin, a humble clerk, and Varvara Dobroselova, a young woman in St. Petersburg. Their correspondence shares their daily challenges and aspirations, revealing a life marked by poverty but rich in joy.

The book vividly depicts the harsh realities of poverty and social injustice in 19th-century Russia. Despite their struggles, Makar and Varvara’s resilience and dignity in adversity are both moving and inspiring.

This novel offers deep insights into the lives of society’s marginalized, highlighting the enduring dignity and humanity found even in the most challenging situations.

I was too dreamy, and that saved me.

What you might love:

  • The prose is simple and accessible, yet it carries a powerful emotional weight.
  • The novel explores the depth of human emotion in the face of hardship and love.
  • Using letters to tell the story creates an intimate and personal reading experience.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Focusing on just a few characters could seem too limited for some readers.
  • The lack of dramatic events may disappoint those who prefer plot-driven stories.
  • Without historical context, key themes and references in the story might be missed.

16. Uncle’s Dream

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Novels, 19th Century

Prince K., an aging and somewhat senile nobleman, is known affectionately as ‘Uncle.’ The town’s social climbers, particularly the scheming Maria Alexandrovna and her daughter Zina, see the Prince’s visit as an opportunity to secure a prosperous marriage.

What ensues is a comedy of manners filled with misunderstandings, manipulations, and the ridiculousness of societal pretensions. The characters are vividly drawn, representing different facets of society’s obsession with status and appearance.

What sets “Uncle’s Dream” apart is its blend of comedy and social commentary. The book uses humor and satire in a story that still resonates with modern audiences, highlighting the timeless nature of societal absurdities.

Can you blame me, my dear, for looking on this attachment as a romantic folly inspired by that cursed Shakespeare who will poke his nose where he is not wanted?

What you might love:

  • The dialogue is often witty and entertaining, adding to the enjoyment of the story.
  • The story includes many comedic situations and characters, providing laughter and amusement.
  • Dostoevsky provides sharp commentary on the pretensions and follies of provincial Russian society.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Those uninterested in social satire may not find the novel’s societal focus engaging.
  • The novel’s heavy irony and sarcasm might not resonate with fans of direct humor or storytelling.
  • Exaggerated, caricature-like characters might not appeal to readers seeking realistic development.

17. A Writer’s Diary

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Genres: Non-fiction, Biography, Russian Literature, Classics, Writing, Essays

Spanning from 1873 to 1881, this work is a compilation of Dostoevsky’s articles, essays, and notes. He reflects on a wide range of topics, from everyday events to critical social and political issues of his time.

His commentary on Russian society, literature, and personal anecdotes provide an invaluable perspective on 19th-century Russia. This diary is a vibrant and living text that offers a deeper understanding of one of literature’s greatest minds.

Through his diary, you’ll experience Dostoevsky’s world as he saw it, making it a uniquely personal and insightful addition to your understanding of this literary giant. It’s an excellent read for those interested in Russian literature, history, or the human condition.

Rather than go preaching to people about what they ought to be, show them through your own example. Carry it out yourselves in practice, and everyone will follow you.

What you might love:

  • Readers can track how Dostoevsky’s ideas evolved and influenced his later works.
  • The diary shares his thoughts on socio-political issues, which are still relevant today.
  • It features a mix of autobiographical sketches, reflections, short stories, and journalism.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The diary’s mix of genres might not suit readers who prefer a single genre.
  • The non-linear format could confuse readers accustomed to traditional narratives.
  • Its personal, subjective style may not appeal to those who like objective or fictional stories.

18. The Eternal Husband

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Novels, Short Stories

The plot centers around the character of Velchaninov, a middle-aged man leading a life of indulgence. His world is turned upside down with the sudden appearance of Trusotsky, the husband of his former lover, now deceased.

The arrival of Trusotsky and his young daughter in Velchaninov’s life brings a series of psychological confrontations and revelations, unveiling a tangled web of past emotions and resentments.

“The Eternal Husband” delves into the darkest corners of the human heart, exploring themes of obsession, guilt, and the inescapable past. It’s a concise but powerful read that will leave you contemplating the intricate dynamics of human relationships.

A dead enemy is good, but a living one is better.

What you might love:

  • The novel explores timeless themes of love, betrayal, and jealousy compellingly.
  • The characters are complex and well-developed, each with unique motivations and flaws.
  • There are undercurrents of dark humor throughout the story, which add a unique flavor to the narrative.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The novel’s deep psychological themes can be dense and hard to understand.
  • The story’s slow pace in introspective sections might not appeal to all readers.
  • Its emphasis on psychological and emotional dynamics over physical action may not suit everyone’s tastes.

19. Netochka Nezvanova

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Genres: Classics, Russian Literature, Fiction, Literature, Novels, 19th Century

Netochka Nezvanova takes you on a journey from her troubled childhood to adolescence. Orphaned at a young age and raised by a stepfather who is both talented and troubled, her life is a tapestry of emotional ups and downs.

Netochka’s story is one of resilience and determination in the face of adversity as she navigates a world that often seems cold and unfeeling.

The book offers an intimate and touching exploration of growth, resilience, and the enduring strength of the human heart. It is a must-read for anyone who appreciates literature that touches the soul.

"You sensed that you should be following a different path, a more ambitious one, you felt that you were destined for other things but you had no idea how to 
achieve them and in your misery you began to hate everything around you."

What you might love:

  • The psychological complexity of the characters, especially Netochka, is intriguing and well-crafted.
  • The settings in the novel are atmospheric and contribute significantly to the overall mood of the story.
  • The novel features a strong and unique female protagonist, offering a different perspective than Dostoevsky’s other works.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its slow pace, particularly in introspective sections, might not appeal to some.
  • The novel requires substantial intellectual and emotional involvement from readers.
  • Being unfinished, the novel may leave readers unsatisfied or frustrated due to its unresolved ending.

20. The Village of Stepanchikovo

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Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, 19th Century, Novels

In “The Village of Stepanchikovo,” Sergei visits his uncle, Colonel Yegor Rostanev, only to find him under the thumb of the manipulative Foma Fomich Opiskin. This pseudo-intellectual has taken over the Colonel’s household and estate.

The story unfolds with humorous incidents as Sergei and other vivid characters try to liberate the Colonel from Foma’s clutches.

This novel mixes humor with sharp commentary on the absurdities and pretensions of manipulative social figures like Foma. It showcases comedy’s power to shed light on serious matters.

…he craved other people’s company: he loved to chat and argue and relished the fact that there was always someone there, sitting and listening to him.

What you might love:

  • The story is engaging with its mix of family drama, comedy, and intrigue.
  • The lively and often humorous dialogues add to the novel’s overall charm.
  • Despite its humorous tone, the novel offers deep insights into human nature and relationships.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its culturally specific humor might not resonate with all readers.
  • The novel’s complex relationships and social dynamics could be confusing.
  • The unique narrative structure may not suit fans of conventional storytelling.

21. The Double

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02/28/2024 10:55 am GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, 19th Century, Novels

Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, a low-level clerk in St. Petersburg, faces a bizarre situation when he meets a man who is his doppelgänger. This man not only looks exactly like him but also shares his name.

This encounter sets off a series of increasingly strange and disturbing events as Golyadkin struggles with the reality of his double, who begins to take over every aspect of his life.

“The Double” is a pioneering work in psychological fiction, vividly portraying the complexities and inner turmoil of the human mind. It’s an intriguing exploration of identity, duality, and the darker sides of human nature, making it a compelling read.

Good people live honestly, good people live without falseness, and they never come in twos.

What you might love:

  • The book offers a critique of social norms and the bureaucracy of the time.
  • Dostoevsky explores the protagonist’s psychological state deeply and insightfully.
  • The story is rich in symbolism, offering various interpretations and deeper meanings.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its heavy symbolism might be hard for some to interpret or appreciate.
  • The story’s intense focus on the protagonist’s mental state could overwhelm or unsettle some readers.

22. The Crocodile

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02/28/2024 10:55 am GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, 19th Century, Novels

You’ll meet Ivan Matveich, a civil servant who, during a visit to a shopping arcade with his wife and a colleague, is swallowed whole by a crocodile. Rather than being a tragic event, this absurd situation turns comical and surreal.

Remarkably, Ivan remains alive inside the crocodile, able to communicate from within. The story then unfolds around the reactions of his wife, the public, and authorities, each displaying varying degrees of concern, opportunism, and absurdity.

You shouldn’t miss “The Crocodile” because it offers a lighter, insightful side of Dostoevsky’s writing. It’s a perfect example of how literature can use humor to reflect on serious issues, making it a unique and entertaining read.

The emptier a man’s head is, for instance, the less he feels the thirst to fill it.

What you might love:

  • The interactions between characters are humorous and reveal deeper societal insights.
  • The dialogues are sharp and contribute significantly to the development of the plot and characters.
  • Through satire, the novel comments on the absurdities of bureaucratic systems and societal norms.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its absurd and surreal plot might not attract those who prefer realistic stories.
  • The novel’s heavy use of irony and sarcasm may not suit readers who like other types of humor.

23. Mr. Prokharchin

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02/28/2024 10:55 am GMT

Genres: Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, 19th Century, Novels

“Mr. Prokharchin” is about a solitary and eccentric man living in poverty in St. Petersburg. Obsessively frugal, he hoards every penny and lives in a run-down room despite having a hidden stash of money.

This paradoxical life highlights themes like loneliness, mental instability, and the false sense of wealth. The story delves deeply into his psyche, making you feel his isolation, paranoia, and the odd comfort he finds in his secret wealth.

It’s a compelling read that offers insight into human nature’s complexities and the irrational behaviors caused by fear and isolation.

What you might love:

  • It subtly comments on urban life’s conditions and the struggles of the lower classes.
  • The novel’s exploration of isolation and loneliness in an urban setting is relatable to many readers.
  • Its characters, particularly the protagonist, offer intriguing and thought-provoking psychological depth.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The lack of action or drama might disappoint fans of more dynamic plots.
  • Understanding or empathizing with Mr. Prokharchin’s complex character could be challenging for some.

24. Bobok

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02/28/2024 10:55 am GMT

Genres: Short Stories, Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, 19th Century, Fantasy

Ivan Ivanovich, a disillusioned writer, finds himself at a cemetery. Here, he overhears the dead conversing beneath the ground. These conversations are absurd, scandalous, and oddly insightful, revealing the deceased’s unfiltered thoughts and past lives.

The dead, unaware of how much time has passed since their demise, engage in discussions that range from the trivial to the philosophical, revealing their most intimate secrets and desires.

He uses the conversations of the dead to critique societal norms, exposing the hypocrisy and pettiness of human nature. “Bobok” is a fascinating exploration of what remains of us after death—our thoughts, regrets, and the unspoken truths of our lives.

The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool—a faculty unheard of nowadays

What you might love:

  • “Bobok” offers clever satire on societal norms and human follies.
  • The dialogue among the characters is witty and thought-provoking.
  • Despite its brevity, the novel explores deep philosophical themes, engaging the reader’s intellect.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The story’s deep philosophy could be challenging and overwhelming for some readers.
  • International readers might find it hard to understand some Russian cultural references.

25. The Christmas Tree and the Wedding

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02/28/2024 10:55 am GMT

Genres: Short Stories, Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Christmas, 19th Century

In this tale, you’re taken to a festive New Year’s Eve party where children and adults celebrate. The story focuses on the interactions between the guests, particularly the wealthy and influential Julian Mastakovich and a poor young girl.

As the party unfolds, Julian’s interest in the girl is revealed not in her as a person but in her future dowry. The story contrasts the pure, joyous world of the children with the calculated, materialistic concerns of the adults.

It’s a timeless commentary on societal norms and the innocence of childhood. It’s a short but impactful read that resonates with Dostoevsky’s keen insight into the human condition.

It was awkward for him because he did not fit in with the crowd; those present had gathered more for the purpose of social networking and climbing than anything else.

What you might love:

  • The story’s rich symbolism adds depth to its narrative.
  • Emotional depth and tragedy subtly underlie the story.
  • The vivid description of a high-society party creates a compelling setting.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Its social commentary might not appeal to those seeking pure entertainment.
  • The story’s moral ambiguity and unclear resolution might disappoint some readers.

26. The Landlady

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02/28/2024 11:00 am GMT

Genres: Short Stories, Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Christmas, 19th Century

Meet Vasily Mikhailovich Ordynov, a young man who moves into a new lodging in St. Petersburg. There, he becomes infatuated with his mysterious and alluring landlady, Katerina.

As Ordynov delves deeper into her world, he becomes entangled in a web of passion, mysticism, and a haunting past. The landlady and her previous lodger, Murin, share a strange and possibly supernatural bond that Ordynov struggles to understand.

“The Landlady” offers a unique blend of psychological thriller and Gothic horror. This story showcases Dostoevsky’s talent for exploring the human condition in extreme circumstances.

What you might love:

  • The story includes gothic elements, adding to its dark and moody tone.
  • The characters, especially the enigmatic landlady, are unique and memorable.
  • The novel is rich in symbolic imagery, which adds layers of meaning to the narrative.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The symbolism in the novel might be difficult for some to understand or appreciate.
  • The story’s pacing can be slow, which might not suit readers who prefer fast-paced narratives.

27. An Honest Thief

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02/28/2024 11:00 am GMT

Genres: Short Stories, Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Christmas, 19th Century

The tale unfolds through the eyes of the narrator, who recounts the story of Emelyan Ilyitch, an impoverished drunkard. Emelyan is taken in by Astafy Ivanovich, a kind-hearted tailor. The crux of the story revolves around a stolen overcoat.

When Astafy discovers that Emelyan is the thief, the story turns poignant. Emelyan’s shame and subsequent actions paint a complex picture of a man struggling with his sense of morality and his dire circumstances.

What sets “An Honest Thief” apart is its exploration of the moral complexities in everyday life. Dostoevsky presents a touching story that challenges readers to consider the nature of honesty, guilt, and the potential for redemption.

To my thinking there is no vermin in the world worse than a thief. Another takes what you can spare, but a thief steals the work of your hands, the sweat of your brow, your time.

What you might love:

  • The themes of the story are universal, dealing with guilt, honesty, and the human condition.
  • The story offers insights into the social conditions of 19th-century Russia.
  • The characters are well-drawn and relatable, each with their own compelling backstory.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The focus on human flaws and moral dilemmas might be discomforting for some.
  • Some readers might want a more in-depth exploration of the well-developed characters.

28. A Nasty Story

Genres: Short Stories, Classics, Fiction, Russian Literature, Christmas, 19th Century

“A Nasty Story” features Ivan Ilyich Pralinsky, a high-ranking official who impulsively visits a subordinate’s wedding party while drunk.

His attempt to seem kind and superior backfires, leading to a series of awkward and embarrassing incidents. Pralinsky’s effort to mingle with ordinary people turns into a night of uncomfortable and humorous events.

This story stands out for its mix of humor and social commentary. Dostoevsky skillfully blends entertaining storytelling with an insightful critique of societal norms and behaviors.

What you might love:

  • It raises interesting moral questions that provoke thought and discussion.
  • The novel is infused with dark humor, which adds a unique flavor to the narrative.
  • The story delves deep into the psychology of its characters, offering insightful observations.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Intense critique of social norms may not suit readers seeking lighter content.
  • Its 19th-century Russian cultural context might not resonate with all international readers.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it—a sneak peek into the world of Fyodor Dostoevsky, where every story is a journey into the heart and mind—intense, unpredictable, and absolutely unputdownable.

Each book is a maze of the human condition, asking questions that don’t always have answers. So, if you’re up for a mind-bending adventure into the depths of human nature, Dostoevsky’s your ticket.

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Erika Maniquiz is a certified teacher and librarian with a Library and Information Science degree. She cherishes the calm moments reading books as much as the dynamic discussions she has in her classroom. Beyond her career, she is a fan of Kdrama and loves Kpop's lively beats.