23 Best Books to Learn Russian for Beginners to Advanced Learners

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Learning Russian beyond saying hello is a mighty but exciting challenge. To get to the finish line, some books to learn Russian are a must.

In this article, I’ll be listing the best textbooks, grammar books, audiobooks, and even storybooks for Russian learners, from beginners to advanced.

The best part? You can find all of these on Amazon so you can learn Russian from anywhere in the world.

With some hard work and dedication, you’ll start to follow along to Russian rap and understand the words of Tolstoy and Chekhov.

Let’s get started.

Editor’s note: To reach fluency faster, combine these books with apps like Babbel and Mondly, and grow conversational skills with Pimsleur. Find more options in this list of 40+ Russian learning resources.

Best books to learn Russian for beginners

A quick Google search for books to learn Russian yields so many results. But how do you find the best Russian language books in a sea of choices?

If you’re just starting, I recommend finding easy Russian books for beginners.

Start with books that teach Cyrillic script or the Russian alphabet, azbuka. Then dip your toes into Russian grammar and learn more Russian words and phrases with vocabulary books.

Good Russian textbooks will give your learning journey a structure. But you can also keep it fun and engaging with audiobooks and Russian short stories.

Books to master the Russian alphabet

1. Teach Yourself Beginner’s Russian Script

A favorite amongst novices, this book introduces a great method to learn how to write and pronounce Cyrillic script.

Each chapter is accompanied by dialogue and exercises with phrases that come in handy whether you’re at a restaurant, a metro station, or need to ask for directions in Russian. 

Overall, this book is a must-have for self-taught beginners.

Why you should get this book:

  • Compartmentalization of pronunciation and writing
  • Best value for money as a starter’s guide
  • Revision quizzes to re-assess your knowledge
  • Perfect for learners who plan to visit Russia

2. Master the Russian Alphabet, A Handwriting Practice Workbook

Generally, the Cyrillic script comes with heavy baggage. The modern Russian alphabet has 33 letters: 20 consonants, 10 vowels, a semivowel, and two modifier letters.

It may sound disheartening but fortunately, workbooks like Master the Russian Alphabet can help you assimilate faster.

Perfect for both kids and adults, this workbook teaches the Russian alphabet with ease and lets you master the Cyrillic script the best way possible – by writing. Sure, you can type out Russian letters with a keyboard but learning to write on paper will strengthen your muscle memory.

Why you should get this book:

  • Upper and lower case variations of Russian letters in both print and cursive
  • “Trace and Learn” sections for detailed stroke order and strengthening stroke technique
  • Simple pronunciation guidelines
  • Extra pages dedicated for handwriting practice

3. Russian Alphabet In 33 Moves

Russian Alphabet in 33 Moves is one of the most refreshing and non-boring books to learn Russian. It uses visual prompts or mnemonics, which are among the most effective tools to learn a foreign language.

It’s proven that one can learn faster and remember longer after making connections between letters and their respective pronunciation. This is exactly what this book does.

For example, Б looks like a creature with a big belly and is pronounced “b” like in the word “belly.” Ч, which looks like an upside-down chair, is pronounced “ch” like in the word “chair.”

This book definitely makes learning the Russian alphabet easier and more fun. Highly recommended for learners who have zero background in Russian.

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Why you should get this book:

  • An engaging way to learn the Russian alphabet
  • Learning with visual prompts is fast, effective, and efficient.
  • A great resource for making flashcards
  • Comes with easy-to-understand explanations and quizzes

Textbooks to learn Russian

4. Russian for Dummies

Having cold feet at the daunting task of teaching yourself Russian? Then Russian for Dummies is the book for you!

This all-encompassing beginner’s guide is a perfect option to grasp the basics: learn how to count; write in Cyrillic; confess to your friend how many pounds of Borscht you ate; talk about your hobbies, and much more.

It combines fun facts about Russian culture with humor-driven text and poignant illustrations. You will learn about common phrases, favorite holidays, traditional dishes, and things that you should never do in Russia.

Why you should get this book:

  • User-friendly and conversational format
  • Focus on oral and listening skills
  • Supplemented by audio CD with conversations
  • Gives you a taste of Russian traditions and customs

5. Sputnik: An Introductory Russian Language Course

If you feel ready to dedicate yourself to the glory of the Russian language, opt for this holistic option.

A go-to book to learn Russian, it’s packed with listening, grammar, and vocab exercises. It explains the rules of grammar and sentence structures in a way that’s easy to grasp.

It also comes with accompanying audio materials that will help you improve your pronunciation skills.

Why you should get this book:

  • Concise and easy to read
  • Includes pictures and illustrations
  • Can be supplemented with a free online program

6. Complete Russian (Beginner to Intermediate Course)

The Complete Series by Teach Yourself is one of the best resources for any language learner. This Russian learning book is also one of the most exhaustive books to learn Russian as it covers lessons in the four key skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Complete Russian uses authentic conversations, extensive vocabulary lists, and clear grammar explanations. It also contains lots of review sections to help beginners advance to the next level.

I love that the sample sentences and exercises present a variety of settings and situations that have cultural context, so you also build cultural awareness along the way.

Why you should get this book:

  • Extensive reference for verbs and glossary for vocabulary building
  • Perfect for self-learners, with a tutor, or even for classroom use
  • Plenty of culture notes and everyday conversations that give a flavor of real spoken Russian
  • Includes an audio CD for listening practice

7. Living Language Russian Complete Edition

Living Language is one of the most useful books to learn Russian for serious students. True to its name, it is comprehensive and intended to take you from beginner to an advanced level.

Living Language Russian Complete Edition consists of three books of increasing difficulty. In total, there are 46 lessons, review exercises, culture notes, and a grammar summary.

You also get nine audio CDs for listening practice, but you can also download these online, along with other online learning materials.

Why you should get this book:

  • Thorough and easy-to-grasp explanations of grammar rules, tenses, conjugations, and more
  • All-in-one and multimedia resource for serious Russian learners
  • Complimentary online learning materials
  • Useful tips and hints on how to learn Russian fast

Russian grammar and vocabulary books

8. English-Russian, Russian-English Dictionary

This is an almost exhaustive dictionary that can be your Sancho Panza when you are trying to kill those grammar giants… which are just harmless modal verbs.

More than just a Russian dictionary, it helps with conjugation and declension, imperfective and perfective versions of a verb, and even a bit of Russian spelling rules.

Best of all, it’s written in a clear and precise manner.

Why you should get this book:

  • Good explanations on the multiple meanings of every word
  • Useful for all levels of learners, from A1 to near-experts
  • Lots of Russian language bonuses

9. The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners

Plunging into the unknown sphere of teaching yourself Russian? Then this can be your grammar bazooka.

It’s a no-nonsense introductory Russian language textbook with concise grammar rules, readings, and exercises. It’s ideally combined with Russian learning apps for listening practice.

Whether you are a novice or a well-versed learner, this is one of the best books to learn Russian. It can help you revise the basics of Russian and build your intuition when using different grammatical structures.  

Why you should get this book:

  • Straight-forward with digestible instructions
  • Suitable for self-taught beginners
  • Focus placed on grammar and reading

10. Russian Picture Word Book: Learn Over 500 Commonly Used Russian Words Through Pictures

Building Russian vocabulary can be tough when you don’t have context. Picture books are great because images aid memory through context and association.

One of the best books to learn Russian, this language workbook contains 15 common scenes devoted to a different theme such as picnic, classroom, living room, at the beach, and more. Each scene contains familiar objects labeled in Russian.

By the time you finish the book, you’ll have over 500 terms for various objects in your vocabulary arsenal. The photos for each scene can even be colored, adding another fun element to your language learning time.

Why you should get this book:

  • Contains a variety of words that are used in everyday settings
  • Complete list of Russian words and English translations at the back of the book
  • Fun supplement to your Russian studies
  • Perfect for self-learners or children

Audiobooks to learn Russian

11. Pimsleur Russian

Created by Pimsleur, this audio-focused course which can come in an audiobook form is based on the Pimsleur Method. This effective method enriches your vocabulary through spaced repetition and incorporating a manageable number of new words in different contexts.

Pimsleur Russian provides 30-minute core lessons, with digital flashcards and bonus learning materials. By the end of this Russian course, you’ll be able to understand and speak Russian confidently.

Why you should sign up for this course:

  • Good tool to sharpen listening and oral skills
  • Contextualized and common dialogues
  • Improves comprehension through detailed instructions
  • Can be combined with Russian textbooks for writing as well as the Pimsleur app

12. Learn Russian for Beginners Easily & in Your Car! Vocabulary Edition!

Let’s face it. Not every language learner has the luxury of time to read books and review for hours on end. But the lack of time shouldn’t deter you from learning.

Learn Russian For Beginner’s Easily & In Your Car is perfect for people who have no time because as its title suggests, you can simply listen to it in your car. Or anywhere, really.

This approximately six-hour-long Russian audiobook can help you kill your time productively while practicing your listening skills. 

Why you should get this book:

  • Contains over 1,500 frequently used Russian words, covering several spheres of everyday life
  • Ideally combined with a quality grammar book and a vocab exercise book
  • Contains a PDF with the transcribed version of the audiobook
  • Addressed towards intermediate learners who are comfortable reading Cyrillic text

13. Easy Russian Phrase Book: Over 1500 Common Phrases for Everyday Use and Travel

Russian is a language overflowing with phonetic nuances and accent subtleties. Even if you work hard on your grammar and vocabulary, it still takes a great deal of confidence to be able to speak like a native. Audiobooks are ideal for this purpose.

This phrasebook consists of over 1,500 common phrases used in everyday conversations and native surroundings. Lessons cover a variety of topics like ordering food, medical situations, money, and more so you’ll surely go beyond the basic “thank you” and “you’re welcome”.

Why you should get this book:

  • Auditory lessons improve listening, recall, and build confidence to speak.
  • Practical Russian vocabulary
  • Introductory lessons on how to pronounce vowels and consonants in the Russian tongue
  • Includes a section with learning tips

Storybooks to learn Russian

14. Russian Short Stories For Beginners

When Russian learning books become too academic, you can take a break by picking Russian literature. And nope, I don’t mean War and Peace. Russian novels generally won’t help beginners. Instead, I recommend starting with short stories.

Lingo Mastery’s Russian Short Stories for Beginners is a bestseller for lots of reasons. It’s relatively easy to read and compelling. And it contains realistic dialogues and common day-to-day situations.

Story summaries include text in both Russian and English, helping you to easily understand what the story is about. A list of relevant vocabulary is also included, plus questions to test you on what you learned.

Admittedly, this one’s not for absolute beginners. But as you continue learning from other resources, this can be a great additional material for review or expanding your vocabulary.

Why you should get this book:

  • Entertaining and realistic stories that help expand Russian vocabulary
  • Includes Russian slang and sayings
  • Perfect for upper beginners to intermediate learners

15. Short Stories in Russian for Beginners

In my third year of learning Russian, I had been surprised by myself when we did an excerpt from Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (a special recommendation for some of you that are into sonnets).

Despite not knowing most of the words, I managed to understand the gist of the story. When I studied the unfamiliar vocabulary afterward, each word represented a part of the plot, embedding their meaning in my memory. 

If this is an effective learning method for you as well, then you will certainly enjoy these eight short stories, transitioning from romantic to thriller and mystery genres.

Why you should get this book:

  • Contains plot summaries and and a bilingual word list
  • You can test yourself with comprehension questions
  • Ideal for upper-beginner Russian learners

Best books to learn Russian for intermediate and advanced learners

If you’re in your second or third year of studying Russian and have somehow understood the six tricky declensions in Russian, it’s time to delve into advanced books. Maybe you can even take on books that are entirely in Russian.

Once you’ve achieved a higher level, you don’t need to limit yourself to academic materials. Whether you choose to read Russian novels, history books, or Russian travel guidebooks, you will end up challenging yourself while also developing a deeper knowledge of the Russian language and culture.

And if you ever need help, you can always look for an online Russian tutor for guidance.

Textbooks to learn Russian for intermediate and advanced learners

16. Russkij jazyk: 5 elementov

My path of learning Russian began with this textbook.

The book is organized into a conventional teaching structure. It’s filled with real-life conversations so you can acquire essential Russian grammar and vocabulary. Exercises include writing essays, completing audio tasks, and grammar quizzes.

The little appendix at the end of the book contains all the Russian phrases and vocabulary you encountered in each chapter.

I promise that the Russian cultural references and humor in this book will make your baby steps into the world of the Russian language a lot more exciting.

Why you should get this book:

  • Good for building reading and writing skills
  • Works well with a Russian tutor
  • Useful exercises and illustrations

17. Russian: From Intermediate to Advanced

466 pages may seem daunting but this should be fairly manageable for intermediate learners. It’s one of the best books to learn Russian if you’re in year 3 or 4 of studying.

This Russian language course focuses on developing reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills while also expanding cultural literacy. Lessons are structured around contemporary themes and use up-to-date readings and excerpts.

Why you should get this book:

  • Wide assortment of readings that include blogs, forums, surveys, commentaries, and audio and video excerpts
  • Comes with free online resources in audio and video formats
  • All-around resource for learning Russian grammar, vocabulary, and improving oral skills

Russian grammar and vocabulary books for intermediate and advanced learners

18. A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (4th Edition)

This is the book of books to learn Russian grammar.

It covers every subject you can imagine, organized in detailed chapters ranging from numerals to pronunciation, case usage, short and long-form adjectives, and verb conjugation.

The ebook format allows you to write down notes, highlight sections, and browse different chapters smoothly.

Why you should get this book:

  • Caters to English-speaking learners
  • Modern reference grammar book for all levels
  • Covers all topics related to the Russian language
  • Plenty of ebook features that appeal to tech-savvy folks

19. V Puti: Russian Grammar in Context (2nd edition)

Russian grammar can undoubtedly be an enigma. There are only three tenses in Russian, but for some reason, each verb has a myriad of different forms. Is it “поговорить” or “сказать”, “исправлять” or “поправлять”?

This is where learning in context comes in.

Unlike some textbooks that veer on the academic side, V Puti teaches Russian grammar through relevant and relatable everyday conversations. The dialogues are realistic and include topics that you normally talk about.

One of the best books to learn Russian, this includes diverse reading exercises lifted from resources like biographies, poems, and historical texts.

Why should you get this book:

  • Helps develop listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills in the intermediate and advanced levels
  • Plenty of conversational exercises and various readings
  • Clear grammar explanations and practice

20. Russian Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook

If you’re a serious self-learner who wants a tighter grasp of Russian grammar rules and vocabulary, you’ll love this book.

With Russian Tutor, you can teach yourself Russian grammar and broaden your vocabulary with 200 activities that have concise explanations and real-world tasks. It also contains illustrations and infographics for extra context and practice.

What’s great is that you can follow along, unit by unit, or dip in and dip out to address your weak areas. This is easily one of the most flexible books to learn Russian while still providing intensive lessons.

Why you should get this book:

  • Interactive lessons allow you to advance in both Russian grammar and vocabulary
  • Strengthens understanding of how the Russian language works
  • Great for self-learners who need structured and engaging materials
  • Bonus tutor hints and tips for learning Russian effectively, as well as culture points

Alternative books to learn Russian

21. Advanced Russian Through History

Who says learning Russian should only be focused on grammar rules and vocabulary indigestion? History books, while not focused on the language, teach culture through a wide lens.

This book is an exposition of the history of Russia, starting from the times of Kyivan Rus’ and reaching up to the Post-Soviet Era. Chapters on Slavic philosophy, the activity of the Samizdat, and the position of women in the 19th and 20th-century are sprinkled throughout the book.

If you are up for a challenge and enjoy a good command of the language, this is one of the best books for you to learn Russian. Highly recommended for insatiable history buffs!

Why you should get this book:

  • Interactive applications, with chapters expanded by mini-lectures
  • Diverse online exercises that cultivate your argumentation skills in Russian
  • Multi-dimensional presentation of Russian history
  • Ideal for advanced learners who want to learn more about Russia as a whole

22. Russian Folktales from the Collection of A. Afanasyev: A Dual-Language Book 

I don’t think that you can really take a deep dive into the Russian soul without knowing the Tale of Tsarevich Ivan, the Firebird, and the Grey Wolf or without being aware of the mythical creature Baba Yaga.

This book features new translations of stories selected from Alexander Afanasyev’s three-volume collection. Left-hand pages feature the original Russian text while right-hand pages contain the new English translation by Sergey Levchin.

These timeless tales are captivating and will no doubt earn you bragging rights.

Why you should get this book:

  • Provides cultural immersion in the world of Russian literature and folklore
  • Gives an insight into the transformation of the language and the thought patterns of the masters of that era
  • Compelling stories with good translations to aid learning

23. Cinema for Russian Conversation, Volume 1

Both cinephiles and movie-mortals will have a blast with this one. A book that acquaints you with the largely unchartered, for most Westerners, world of Russian cinema.

This Russian book covers 14 Russian language films from which you can learn new vocabulary and practice writing and speaking skills. It also includes structured exercises that help in understanding the film better.

The proposed films aim to spark discussions on Russian culture, reflected through the lens of Russian directors at different points in history.

Why you should get this book:

  • Good selection of Russian films that tackle shifting Russian norms and culture
  • Allows students to combine their Russian linguistic and historical knowledge
  • Exercise combinational thinking while improving oral and writing skills
  • Perfect for classroom discussions

How to learn Russian fast

Download some apps

Combine these books with some of the best apps to learn Russian. This will transform the strenuous act of learning Russian into vocabulary-charged games of speed and memorization.

Use a language exchange app like Tandem

Finding an exchange pal is one of the best investments to learn Russian. This way, you can receive immediate feedback on your sentence structure, declension, and verb conjugation. You can also ask for constructive corrections on written assignments and messages.

Even better, study Russian with the guidance of an online tutor.

Watch Russian movies and listen to Russian music

I will make a confession. I have an unhealthy addiction to Soviet Patriotic songs. Also, I have been recently falling into a rabbit hole of Russian Cold War spy movies. All in the name of learning Russian, of course. So, I’d suggest obsessing away on Russian pop, rock, or rap (or even join the Cold War comrade club).

You can always indulge yourself with movies like Ivan the Terrible (1945), Brother (1997), Russian Ark (2002), and Battle for Sevastopol (2015).

Buy Russian cookbooks and make some Blini!

You can experiment in your kitchen preparing Shashliki, Kasha, and Pirozhki, making sure you have nailed down your food vocabulary for a future trip to Russia. 

To conclude, in the world of the Internet and Russian banyas, you can find plenty of resources to learn Russian effectively and pleasantly.

Just remember… Πовторение- мать учения! 

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