6 Beautiful Bilingual Books You Can Enjoy in Russian and English

Иногда вы хотите читать по-русски.
Sometimes you want to read in Russian.

Иногда вы хотите читать по-английски.
Sometimes you want to read in English.

When you want to read in both Russian and English, though, there’s a great option: bilingual books!

Read on to discover six great bilingual books to learn Russian with.


Why Read Bilingual Books in Russian and English?

There are plenty of benefits to using bilingual books in your Russian studies:

  • Bilingual books are convenient. If you don’t know a word in Russian, you don’t have to keep referring back to a dictionary. All you have to do is look at the accompanying English translation. So, rather than spending valuable time thumbing through a thick reference volume or trying to remember how to type in Russian on your favorite device, you’ll get to spend more time actually reading in Russian.
  • They’re unintimidating. When you first try to read in a foreign language, it can be daunting. Reading is a challenging test of your learning, and it’s hard to anticipate how successful you’ll be. With bilingual books, you have the translations handy, so you can approach reading practice without any nervousness. And do you know what less nervousness means? It means you’ll probably be less likely to put off reading practice and more likely to actually enjoy it.
  • They grow with you. How you use the books will vary based on your level of proficiency. When you’re a beginning student, you may lean more heavily on the English. But as you learn more, you can enjoy the Russian text alone without referring to the English version. This makes bilingual books surprisingly versatile.
  • They provide a great support for other learning resources. Use bilingual books along with other forms of Russian media (like TV shows, movies and music) to round out your learning skills. If you want a more organized approach, consider a virtual immersion platform. FluentU, for example, uses clips from longer content in conjunction with interactive subtitles and adaptive review quizzes to boost vocabulary skills. 

Convinced yet? Read on for our favorite bilingual Russian-English books!

6 Beautiful Bilingual Books You Can Enjoy in Russian and English

1. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy

There’s nothing like reading a Russian masterpiece in the original language. But Russian works are notoriously complex and often difficult to follow. Luckily, bilingual books are here to help.

Interlinear Books offers a downloadable bilingual version of Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” which follows a dying man as he grapples with how he’s lived his life. You can download the text onto your favorite device or print it out and read a paper copy.

“The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is a novella, so it isn’t as long as most full-length Russian novels. Therefore, it’s a good jumping-off point for anyone looking to try reading authentic Russian literature.

What to expect:

In this bilingual text, the English version appears directly below the Russian text, so it’s easy to switch between the two. Each word is translated directly below its Russian version, so you can not only put together the meaning of the sentence but also know what role each and every word plays in its construction.

2. “Chekhov Bilingual” by Anton Chekhov

Chekhov Bilingual: Readings from Russia (Chtenia)

If you can’t get enough Russian short stories, “Chekhov Bilingual” is for you.

This edition contains eight pieces by noted playwright and short story writer, Anton Chekhov. The works compiled here include his popular “The Little Trilogy” and an excerpt from the play “The Seagull.”

There’s also some information on Chekhov himself written in both languages, describing his life and eccentricities for anyone curious about the mind behind the literature.

What to expect:

Pages alternate between English and Russian, making it easy to read each story completely in one language or switch fluidly between the two. The Russian text contains accent marks so readers can easily see where to put the stress in each word, and the translations are literal and take few literary liberties—meaning you can usually see the exact translation of each line (even in the poems!).

3. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky is one of the biggest names in Russian literature. To read his books in the original language, you’ll need an advanced understanding of the Russian language… or a handy-dandy bilingual text!

In short, “Crime and Punishment” is about a poor man who commits a murder but ultimately feels guilt over his actions (though not for the reasons you might expect). The story is complex and compelling, but it can be a little difficult to follow, especially if you aren’t fluent in the language. Luckily, this bilingual text can act as a crutch until you can understand it on your own.

What to expect:

This downloadable text is designed to be used on your favorite device. Simply click a sentence (or part of a sentence) to see its English translation. The translations are expertly done and focus on getting the gist and meaning across, rather than the literal translation, so you can’t use it for word-for-word translation. As a result, this one is recommended for higher-level learners.

4. “The Spine of Russia” by Paul E. Richardson and Mikhail Mordasov

Do you enjoy gazing at beautiful pictures of Russia? Do you want to get your cultural and language education all at once? “The Spine of Russia” is a great option.

This book is a collaboration between a journalist and a photojournalist that provides a unique look at Russia and its people. The book offers readers a journey across Russia, showing places and people that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s filled with images of Russia and Russians, along with thoughtful descriptions in both English and Russian.

What to expect:

Because it includes a lot of photographs, it’s an easy, unintimidating read. Some captions describe the image. Others include commentary from the people featured in the pictures. You can enjoy the brief descriptions in Russian or refer to the English versions. Regardless, the photographs will provide you with a clear context to help you understand the descriptions.

For the most part, the text is an exact translation, but some phrases are not translated literally, instead opting to convey the bigger meaning. Challenge yourself by finding these discrepancies and figuring out what a literal translation of each might look like!

5. “Russian Fairy Tales” by Svetlana Bagdasaryan

Russkie skazki. Russian Fairy Tales. Bilingual Book in Russian and English: Dual Language Russian Folk Tales for Kids (Russian-English Edition) (Russian and English Edition)

If you have a soft spot for fantastic tales, you’ll love Russian fairy tales.

“Russian Fairy Tales” features five stories, including familiar tales like “Jack Frost,” alongside Russian classics that any Russian student should know, like “Vasilisa and Baba Yaga.”

Since the stories are intended to be appropriate for children, the language level isn’t too advanced.

What to expect:

The text is broken up into chunks and jumps back and forth between languages, so if you don’t understand something, it’s easy to check the English translation.

Be warned that the translations here are rudimentary and don’t always use the best English, but they do a good job of getting the meanings across, and often opt for literal translations—perfect if you’re hung up on a particular word or phrase.

6. “Yum! Let’s Eat!” by Thando Maclaren

Want to learn the Russian words for delicious international dishes? “Yum! Let’s Eat!” is a fun, illustrated way to learn all the vocabulary you’ll need to name your favorite foods.

This picture book from Language Lizard is intended for children, so the vocabulary is simple. “Yum! Let’s Eat” is available in a number of different language options. If you want it in Russian and English, just use the drop-down menu.

If you’re learning multiple languages, you might even use different volumes to learn the same words in several languages. Or check out the rest of the “Our Lives, Our Worlds” series, which includes similarly structured books about games/sports and modes of transportation.

What to expect:

This is an excellent book for beginner learners. Each Russian word is accompanied by its English translation and a colorful illustration, so there’s never any doubt regarding what each word means.

Unusually for language learning books, this one is not specific to the Russian culture, and instead uses 11 children from different places around the world to introduce cultural foods and dishes, all in Russian with full English translations. Use it to learn simple sentence structures as well as how to say ethnic food names like “sushi” and “tagine” in Russian.


With these six beautiful bilingual books, you can start reading in Russian today, regardless of your current proficiency level!

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