July 06, 2016
Times The Moscow

What Are Russians Reading This Summer?

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2 years, 6 months ago Times The Moscow

Beach books? Murder mysteries? Romances to be read on a chaise lounge at the dacha? Not on your life! The people who make up the most “readingest” nation on earth are spending their summer reading pretty serious stuff. Judging by the Moskva bookstore list of bestsellers this week, they are reading a lot of fiction, both Russian and in translation. But the taste of the Moscow reading public varies so wildly, it’s hard to make any general conclusions. The top ten list also includes books on history, literary criticism and current events, broadly and generously defined. At the top of this list this week is “Zulali,” a book of short stories by Narine Abgaryan, a Russian writer of Armenian background who hit the charts a few years ago with a trilogy of semi-autobiographical works. These stories take place in a kind of magical almost-Armenia.In second place is the opposite in subject matter, style, and time period: “Notes from a Suitcase: the Secret Diaries of the First Chairman of the KGB, Found 25 Years After His Death.” That long, exciting title promises a long, exciting book of horrible revelations by Ivan Serov. Third place is held by fiction again, this time from the U.S.: Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread.” But the book in fourth place boomerangs back to Russia: “Wild Baron” by the improbably named John Shemyakin, a blogger who seems to have done everything from sail around the Pacific Ocean to head up an oil refinery — and managed to have a bunch of kids and make a pile of money in his spare time. This is a collection of stories about some of his adventures and people he met along the way.There are two more foreign authors in the top ten: Guy Mettan, a Swiss national who wrote the book in seventh place: “Russia – the West: A War of a Thousand Years. Russophobes from Charlemagne to the Ukrainian Crisis”; and Gregory David Roberts, the Australian author of “Shantaram.” His story of being a heroin addict and convicted bank robber who escaped prison and fled to India, is in eighth place.The tastes of the Russian reading public are nothing if not eclectic.The list is rounded off with two more Russian novels and a volume of literary criticism and biography, “The Thirteenth Apostle. Mayakovsky. A Tragedy-Bouffe in Six Acts” by the astonishingly prolific Dmitry Bykov, who apparently never sleeps and can write faster than anyone on the planet. The novels are Yevgeny Vodolaskin’s “Aviator” and the award-winning “Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes” by Guzel Yakhina.No. 10 is Zakhar Prilepin’s account of the war in the Donbass, “Everything That Should Be Resolved … A Chronicle of Ongoing War.”