Eager to get a healthy Russian language learning routine going?
Well, you know what they say.
A book a day keeps the doctor away.
Wait…that’s not how it goes, is it?
Regardless of what the popular saying actually states, no one can dispute the benefit of books to entertain us, open the world to us and help us learn.
For those who are considering learning the Russian language, or who have already started, books are an excellent resource to utilize in this endeavour.
But which books, exactly?
Opening a copy of “War and Peace” in Russian will surely not help you learn the basics, so what will?
Read on to find the very best beginner and intermediate books to help you learn Russian.
Benefits of Learning Russian with Books in the Earlier Stages
With so many ways to learn a language—from watching movies, to using flashcards, apps and courses—why should you choose books? For the following reasons:
- Affordable pricing: While Russian courses can be expensive, books can often be found for very affordable pricing. Amazon and eBay offer used selections that are heavily discounted, while finding a book in your local library is completely free!
- No commitment: Are you the type of person who changes their mind a lot? If you haven’t already moved on from reading this blog, you likely don’t have severe commitment issues; however, learning Russian with books doesn’t in any way require you to commit for the long-term. If you pick up a copy of a book and never open it, the consequence won’t be any greater than being out the price of the book. So learning with books is a great option for those who’d like to have some space from their learning materials. Your book won’t send you daily reminder popups on your phone or tablet!
- Suitable books for every level: Watching a Russian movie and really getting some learning out of it may be difficult for someone with no Russian skills, but there are books available for every level of Russian—beginner, intermediate or advanced.
- Visual images help your brain learn better: Most Russian learning books have associated images, which can help you learn more efficiently. Our brains work as image processors, and, as such, visuals help us interpret and remember information better than simple text.
Helpful Strategies for Maximizing Your Learning Potential with Books
So how do you stay on course when learning Russian on your own? These strategies will have you saying “Где моя книга?” (“Where’s my book?”) in no time!
- Start with the basics: Learning a language is like building a house. You need a good structural base in order to build up. So focus on the basics before you jump to intermediate or advanced material. Start with learning the ABCs of Russian, which in Cyrillic would be the AБBs.
- Utilize children’s textbooks: Russian children are learning to read and write in Russian just like foreign language learners such as yourself. Finding and making use of Russian textbooks intended for children can make your learning experience more efficient and fun, as these textbooks are easy to read, and contain simple words with clear messages, meanings and pictures.
- Listen to pronunciations while you read: Russian doesn’t tend to be easy for beginners to pronounce, so seeing the words alone may not be helpful in learning to speak. Some of the books we recommend in this article, such as the “Russian Step by Step” series, come with additional audio material to help you hear Russian as well as read and understand it.
- Use interactive resources like FluentU in addition to your reading: Books are great, but will only take you so far—it’s important to be exposed to native speech and culture as well.
Since the videos show Russian being used in all kinds of contexts, you can gain a much better understanding and appreciation of the language!
The 8 Best Beginner and Intermediate Books to Learn Russian
A traditional alphabet primer, the “Bukvar’” is something every Russian first-grader carries to school. This is an ideal first book for all Russian learners, one that contains keys to learning the language—the letters. This colorful version is compiled by N. S. Zhukova, a trusted author of many Russian learning books.
The book starts with images of letters and accompanying visuals of words, and then moves on to putting letters together to make syllables and then words, noting correct pronunciations.
“Russian Step By Step for Children: Workbook 1”
This book is the first in a series, intended for non-Russian speakers or those with very limited Russian knowledge. Although it was originally written for children, adults can benefit as well. Learning is organized with step-by-step instructions.
In addition to text, this resource includes workbook material to practice your Russian skills and access to an audio download, as well as slides and learning games. Each workbook contains four sections:
- Primary course
- Grammar skills
- Answer key
After completing this book, you should be able to read in Russian, form statements, and answer yes or no and general questions. Then, you can move on to…
“Russian Step By Step for Children: Workbook 2”
The second book in this series has the same types of practice sections as the first workbook, which help to reinforce reading skills and aim to teach general spelling rules, adjectives, colors, numbers 11-20, first and last names, and various types of greetings.
“Russian Step By Step for Children: Workbook 3”
The third and last book in the “Step by Step” series concentrates on forming masculine and feminine nouns, possessive pronouns, verb conjugations for the present tense, numbers 30-100, and discussing different nationalities and professions.
“Russian Picture Word Book: Learn Over 500 Commonly Used Russian Words Through Pictures”
If you’re feeling tired of reading, don’t just stop studying Russian—look at pictures instead! This book has over 500 images in 15 common scenes, such as a picnic, farm, classroom, house, beach, supermarket, town, road, etc. Every scene has dozens of objects with Russian spelling, and each picture can be colored (if you get bored or need a break)!
To test yourself after studying the visuals, you can refer to the back of the book, where the Russian words are listed along with their English translations.
“We Read These Tales by Syllables”
Once you’ve learned the letters and pronunciations of Russian words, you can attempt to read actual Russian books. Russian has no precise rules for which syllable should be stressed, and the vocabulary is packed with long words.
A great way to start reading is to practice reading by syllables, and this book is just the tool you need. Famous cartoonist Vladimir Suteev will entertain you with fantastic yet simple tales that are divided into syllables with the proper stress noted. Reference colorful pictures to help you learn along the way.
“The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners”
To digress from the easier and more fun books meant for children, this text is intended for adults (though you can still make colored notes on the sides!). This book includes 30 lessons with revision exercises that reinforce and test your Russian skills.
After completing the book, you should have gained knowledge in both conversational language and correct Russian grammar by accessing the 1,500 vocabulary words included as well as a glossary of grammatical terms.
“Russian – Learn Russian – In Days, Not Years!: The Secrets To Language Learning, Russian Phrases, & Speaking Russian”
This book is intended for those who are planning a trip to Russia or a nearby Russian-speaking country. It’s a compact lesson plan that includes the symbols and sounds of the Russian language in an easy-to-follow format that breaks down pronunciations. Learn how to greet Russians and how to socialize with them without sounding too touristy.
So put down your phone, close your laptop and go old-school.
Pick up a book to start learning Russian today!
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!
FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:
FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.
The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.
The FluentU app is now available for iOS and Android, and it's also available as a website that you can access on your computer or tablet. Sign up for a free trial today!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.