Upgrade Your Reading Skills with 8 Easy Russian Books
The right Russian textbook will help you learn Russian. Russian learning books will also help you up your Russian game.
But there’s nothing quite like reading easy Russian books to help you improve your reading while enjoying entertaining stories.
This is what makes easy Russian books the best learning companions of all. Read on to find eight excellent books to start learning!
Why Read Easy Russian Books?
Reading easy Russian books will help you improve your reading skills. Practice makes perfect. But when you’re learning Russian, just recognizing the Cyrillic letters can seem a challenge at first. That’s why it’s important to start out with easy books—you won’t get overwhelmed, but you’ll still get the practice you need to improve your reading.
Additionally, easy Russian books will help you learn new vocabulary. As you read, you’ll encounter some words you don’t already know. Luckily, since the books are easy, you might be able to figure out the words from context clues alone. Beyond that, many easy books we recommend are graded readers or bilingual books, where you’ll be able to see any unknown word defined or translated. This is a good way to learn new vocabulary with very little effort.
Finally, reading easy Russian books will help you transition into more advanced works. Russian literature is well known for a reason, and being able to read Russian classics in the original Russian will broaden your literary horizons. The easy books recommended below aren’t just for building your reading skills in general—some of them will introduce you to folk tales and classic stories from Russian literary history.
How to Improve Your Russian Reading Skills
Read aloud to practice your speaking. Sure, reading easy Russian books is a great way to practice your reading. However, you can also use them to practice your speaking and pronunciation. Since easy Russian books lean on familiar, common vocabulary, you’ll probably already be familiar with many words. Practicing speaking them out loud as you read won’t only improve your ability to match the sound of the word with the written word, it will also help you practice your pronunciation.
Make notes to yourself in the margins. You can note the meanings of unfamiliar words to help yourself out when you reread. Better still, take notes in Russian about your feelings about the story, what’s happening in the story, the major themes, etc. This way, you can also practice writing in Russian.
Dogear particularly notable pages to reread. Whether you find a quotation you can’t resist or an example of a grammar rule you struggle with, dogearing the page or affixing a sticky note will help you remember to return to it to read over and over again.
Find more resources for reading. Once you’ve read through these books you’ll probably want more resources to use to continue improving your reading skills. Podcasts with transcripts are a great place to start, as are Russian blogs.
YouTube videos with captions can also help, though the subtitles on YouTube videos aren’t always accurate.
You can rectify this issue with a program like FluentU, where you’ll find authentic Russian videos with interactive captions. The captions here are in Russian and English (though both can be turned on or off) and they’re vetted by language experts so they’re very accurate.
FluentU can also help with your reading skills thanks to its transcripts. Both the transcripts and the subtitles are interactive, allowing you to click on a word to see its flashcard with a contextual definition, grammar info, example sentences and videos, as well as audio pronunciations. This makes it easy to check a word’s meaning without needing to get the dictionary—something that traditional books haven’t implemented yet, sadly.
You can also make flashcard decks from vocabulary words that you find as you read your books. These flashcards can be studied through personalized quizzes so that you’ll feel more confident actually using them. And, if you’re on the iOS or Android version of FluentU, you can even try speaking the words thanks to FluentU’s speech recognition technology.
Read while you watch to improve your reading and listening skills in one entertaining learning session.
Ease into Reading Russian with 8 Easy Books
1. “Russian Reading: 20 Easy Stories for Beginners”
“Russian Reading: 20 Easy Stories for Beginners” was written by a native Russian speaker.
The book uses basic grammar and vocabulary paired with present tense verbs to ease you into reading in Russian.
The stories focus on everyday Russian life, so you’ll get some cultural lessons along with your language practice.
What’s more, there are vocabulary lists at the end of each story to help you learn and study new vocabulary words without having to crack a dictionary.
2. “Книга шуток, по-английски и по-русски 1: The English Russian Joke Book”
“Книга шуток, по-английски и по-русски 1: The English Russian Joke Book” (The Book of Jokes, in English and in Russian 1: The English Russian Joke Book) offers easy Russian jokes, perfect for the Russian learner and the aspiring comedian alike!
Reading a joke book may seem like an unusual learning method, but it offers a lot of benefits. First of all, the jokes are relatively short, so they aren’t as intimidating as other reading activities. Additionally, the jokes are fairly memorable, so you can memorize the jokes to help you remember vocabulary and/or grammar rules. As an added bonus, if you ever travel to Russia, you’ll have some good jokes in your back pocket.
Sure, some of the jokes may be groaners, but you definitely won’t groan at your improved Russian skills!
3. “Russian Short Stories for Beginners: 8 Unconventional Short Stories to Grow Your Vocabulary and Learn Russian the Fun Way!”
This easy book is designed to be both entertaining and educational for Russian learners.
The book contains stories in a wide variety of genres so that there’s something for everyone’s taste. What’s more, in order to make reading less intimidating, these stories are broken down into brief chapters.
You can learn a lot from the stories. While they introduce some new vocabulary, they limit it so that you can understand new words in context. Similarly, the stories use mostly simple grammar. The stories also use dialogue in order to help you learn valuable conversational skills.
As an added bonus, this book offers a five-step reading plan. This approach will help you get the most out of these stories and other reading activities.
4. “Easy Reading in Russian. Russian Classic Fairy Tales: Baba Yaga the Mighty Witch”
“Easy Reading in Russian. Russian Classic Fairy Tales: Baba Yaga the Mighty Witch” is a handy way to learn about Russian culture and language simultaneously.
Baba Yaga is one of the most popular and well-known figures in Russian folklore, so any cultural education is not complete without a little Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is a witch who lives in a house on chicken legs (as one does). This book is a collection of short stories that share Baba Yaga’s often frightening antics. Why are witches always so desperate to eat children?
Perhaps best of all, the language this book uses is simplified from older versions of Baba Yaga stories that use more antiquated terms. This will make it easier for you to read and help ensure that the words you’re learning are worth learning.
5. “First Reader in Russian”
“First Reader in Russian” is a “reader,” which is a book designed to help students practice reading. This is a great tool for very early beginners since the text is relatively simple.
In this book, each chapter is quite brief (so that you’ll never get overwhelmed) and is focused on one main theme like “morning” or “at the cafe.” This makes it easy to select what sorts of vocabulary you want to work on.
Additionally, each chapter uses a lot of illustrations. This will make it easy for you to use context clues to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words rather than needing to refer to a dictionary. That being said, there’s also a helpful dictionary at the end of the book if you need a little extra help.
6. “Russian Folktales from the Collection of A. Afanasyev: A Dual-Language Book”
This book is at an intermediate to advanced level—both the verb tenses and vocabulary are at a higher level than other books on this list. Still, it will still be an easy read for Russian learners since it also offers English-texts of each story.
This volume contains folktales recorded by Alexander Afanasyev in the mid-1800s, so you’ll get some culture mixed in with your language education. Like Baba Yaga? She makes an appearance in this volume along with other classic figures and stories.
The stories are very brief (a page each), so you won’t get overwhelmed.
What makes this volume particularly useful, though, is that it offers the Russian and English texts side by side. The Russian is on the left and the English is on the right. If you don’t know a word or phrase, you can simply refer to the English text. This will make it easy to learn new vocabulary and enjoy classic Russian folktales.
7. “Learn Russian. Easy Reading in Russian. Short Stories for Children: Adapted Texts for Easier Reading to Learn Russian”
This book offers simple stories. While these stories are intended for children, they’re also great for adult learners since they focus on everyday activities and common vocabulary.
The book contains 25 short stories designed for Russian learners. They include helpful examples of different grammar features. There are even dialogues to help you improve your conversation skills.
8. “How the Fox Got His Color: Bilingual Russian”
“How the Fox Got His Color: Bilingual Russian” is intended for children, but it’s also a great read for beginning Russian students.
Since it’s for children, the vocabulary is relatively simple. To make the book even easier, though, each page contains the English text along with the Russian text. This makes it a convenient and easy tool for beginning Russian students.
So if you’re looking to dive into reading in Russian, look no further than these eight great Russian books.
Ease yourself into reading Russian in a completely stress-free way, and you won’t look back until you hit Tolstoy in the original Russian.