In the high-stakes world of Russian learning books, you have countless options for which card to play.
Do you go with an all-around book? Do you choose a good reading book? And how do you choose when there are so many great options?
Well, whenever you start to learn a new language, there is so much to cover and books are your primary guide. You need to pause to consider how to navigate through your learning.
Yes, reading is important for any language learner. But these learning books will help you do more than just read. We’ll help you play the right card.
How to Select the Right Russian Learning Book for You
How do you choose the best books? It’s not as hard as you might guess!
First, assess your proficiency level. This can be an intimidating task. After all, how can you possible guess how much you know in the grand scheme of things? Luckily, there are websites that can help. Learn Russian and Master Russian offer handy tests to determine your level.
Once you know this information, it is time to assess your goals. What do you hope to get out of learning Russian? This will determine what sort of book you will need. For instance, if you are traveling to Russia, a phrasebook is a good way to learn conversational tools quickly. However, if you are looking to become fluent in Russian, you may want to focus on more general books to build a strong foundation.
Last but not least, assess your language weaknesses. What areas of the language do you feel uncomfortable with? What still feels like a lot of work? For instance, if you need overall work, a general book is best. If your weakness is vocabulary, you’ll want a book that focuses on this. If the case system is bringing you down, consider a good grammar book and a strong coffee.
10 Russian Learning Books to Up Your Language Ante
This general information book is great for beginning learners. Not only will it teach you the alphabet, pronunciation, numbers, verbs, vocabulary by theme and the basics of the case system, it will also teach you about Russia and its culture. Plus, it comes with a CD to help you practice your listening, speaking and pronunciation.
This is a great all-around book for anyone looking to build a firm foundation in the Russian language and culture, as it is geared more towards beginning and intermediate learners.
“Living Language Russian Edition” comes with three books, nine CDs and access to online materials. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy, I don’t know what is.
What’s more, the folks at “Living Language” claim that their products are based on linguistic science that will help you learn the whole language.
The helpful charts and practice sections will break up the text and keep you focused on the lessons at hand.
This is geared towards beginning and intermediate students, but even advanced students will find some helpful material.
“A Comprehensive Russian Grammar” is nothing if not thorough. While it is probably best for advanced learners due to the number of very advanced grammar lessons, there is helpful information for any level of language learner. If you have any Russian grammar questions, chances are excellent that the answers are contained in this volume.
If you have time, you can even just page through and find the answers to thousands of grammar questions that had never even occurred to you.
Even if you don’t feel like reading it all, it is a helpful book to have on hand for whenever a question pops into your mind.
“Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar” contains helpful grammar lessons interspersed with exercises to help you practice your grammar.
This is a great book for beginning and intermediate learners. It has lessons for anyone who is just starting out, but it also has some helpful tips and exercises to help intermediate learners get a firmer grasp on Russian grammar.
“Russian Vocabulary” (from the “Barron’s Vocabulary” series) offers words grouped thematically so that you can easily peruse related terms. You can also look up the Russian equivalent of English-language words in the back of the book.
This is a great guide for beginners since the helpful pronunciation guide for each word will allow you to start speaking Russian even if you haven’t mastered the Cyrillic alphabet just yet.
“Using Russian Vocabulary” offers a lot of vocabulary words grouped thematically with additional notes on word formation, origins, etc. for your inner word nerd.
You can also benefit from the book’s exercises which will help you practice using your newfound vocabulary.
While this book is geared towards intermediate and advanced learners, beginning learners can also use it to pick up vocabulary at their own pace.
“Rough Guide Russian Phrasebook” offers a colorful text that comes with a free audio download.
This is great for anyone looking to pick up some quick Russian phrases for travel since it offers thematically grouped phrases with pronunciation guides.
“Lonely Planet Russian Phrasebook & Dictionary” offers a helpful phrasebook chock-full of charts, tables, color coding and pronunciation guides. It is designed for both travel preparation and use on an actual trip, so much of the vocabulary is grouped thematically.
In addition, there is a two-way dictionary and tips on culture to ensure that you are ready for your trip in more ways than one.
Again, this is designed for travelers, but it can also be used by beginning students who are eager to learn complete phrases before delving into the nitty-gritty details of the Russian language.
There are many more Russian phrasebook and guide book options on the Lonely Planet site, so be sure to check them all out!
As you dive into these great reading texts, don’t forget to use these reading strategies.
This dual-language book offers Russian short stories in both Russian and English. Short stories are a great format for learning since they are brief and not overly daunting.
The works in this volume include stories by well-known authors like Tolstoy, Gogol and Pushkin, so this is a good jumping off point for anyone interested in Russian literature.
Additionally, the biographies of the authors will help you understand their histories and roles in Russian literature.
While the Russian texts will be easier for advanced learners, beginning and intermediate students can still enjoy the English-language versions of the stories before slowly dipping their feet into the Russian versions.
Like “Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book,” “Great Russian Short Stories of the Twentieth Century: A Dual-Language Book” offers up short stories in both Russian and English.
This volume, however, focuses on short stories from the twentieth century (you know, the 1900s). The earliest story is actually from 1899 while the most current story is from 1961. This will give you an interesting overview of short stories from both late Imperial Russia and Soviet Russia.
There are also brief biographies of the authors to provide you with some background information and context.
While advanced Russian learners with a knowledge of history will benefit most from this book, any reader can enjoy it simply by leaning on the English translations as needed.
So, are your ready to up the ante in the game of learning Russian?
Be sure to keep some of these books as the ace up your sleeve!
And One More Thing…
Now, it’s time to put your Russian book smarts to real-world use with FluentU.
FluentU takes all kinds of real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences, as you can see here:
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? FluentU makes native Russian videos approachable through interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.