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Are you looking to learn Russian but haven’t found the right way for you? It may seem old-school, but using a textbook to learn Russian is a tried and true method. There are many options available for the independent learner and those that want to refresh what they’ve learned in the past. This article is a guide to the best Russian books available. No matter what level you are, there’s a book on this list that will help you learn Russian effectively.
Best Books to Learn Russian
With over 258 million speakers, Russian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Of course, it’s the official language of Russia, but it’s also the official language of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, it’s similar enough to other languages like Ukrainian, Polish, and Czech that it’s an excellent gateway to learn any of these languages.
How Long Will It Take You To Learn Russian?
What is your current level?
What level do you want to reach?
How many hours will you study each day?
Even if you aren’t traveling to Russia specifically, knowing Russian can help you communicate and travel throughout any country that belonged to the former Soviet Union, where Russian is often used as a lingua franca. It’s also one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations and is taught as a second language in many other Eastern European countries.
To find the best books to learn Russian, I found popular choices used by Russian learners as well as books from well-known language learning companies. Then, I examined the books to see the key features of each one and who could benefit from using them. Finally, I compiled the list below to provide options for every type of learner.
Here is the list of the best books to learn Russian. Scroll down to read more about each one.
|Best Overall Russian Book||Complete Russian|
|Best for Beginners||Beginner's Russian|
|Most Comprehensive Book||Russian for Dummies|
|Best for Grammar||Russian Tutor|
|Best for Reading||Russian Short Stories For Beginners|
|Best for Travel||Easy Russian Phrase Book|
|Best for Speaking||Conversational Russian Dialogues|
|Best for Learning Cyrillic||Learn the Russian Alphabet|
|Best for Vocabulary||Russian-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary|
Complete Russian is the best overall book because it guides you through the language from the beginner level (A1) to upper intermediate (B1/B2). It focuses on the 4 skills of language learning: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There are also cultural notes so you can learn more about the people of Russia and you can access audio tracks to hear authentic spoken Russian.
It’s a good choice for learners that have had some exposure to the language but are still at a beginner or low intermediate level. You can learn by yourself and check your progress with practice activities and quizzes. Reviewers found the book to be helpful but learning with it requires dedication and hard work. See what they had to say here.
- 25 learning units
- Go from beginner to intermediate level
- Develop cultural awareness
Beginner’s Russian is best for beginners because it’s a self-study guide that can be used by people with no previous experience with Russian. Each lesson teaches grammar and other important topics by using everyday situations, such as introductions, jobs, and dining out. By the end of the course, you’ll attain a low-intermediate level.
One of the best elements is the interactive online workbook. You get access to audio from native Russian speakers as well as additional practice activities. Many reviewers were using the book for self-study purposes and thought that it was a good starting point. See what others thought about the book here.
- Designed for complete beginners
- Interactive online workbook
- Learn through the context of everyday situations
Russian for Dummies is a comprehensive option because it covers all of the important topics to get you conversational. It focuses on grammar, frequently used words, and how to handle common situations. This book is a great resource for learning tricky subjects like verb conjugations, different tenses, and the Cyrillic alphabet.
The book now includes access to online resources that help you practice your listening and pronunciation skills. There’s also an expanded dictionary of frequently-used words. Reviewers liked the grammar explanations, but recommend learning the Cyrillic alphabet first. See what other people thought here.
- Learn all skills in this extensive edition
- Online resources
- Great resource for grammar
Russian Tutor is a detailed workbook to perfect your Russian grammar and continue to learn new vocabulary. It’s a great “tutor” because there are explanations of difficult topics, cultural points, and helpful hints for learning Russian. That’s in addition to the over 200 practice activities that focus on real-world tasks so you’re learning how to use the language naturally.
It’s best for advanced beginners and isn’t meant for someone who is just starting to learn Russian. However, it is a useful option for someone looking to brush up on their skills. Reviewers agree that it’s more for intermediate learners, but is a great way to practice important grammar topics. Learn more about the book here.
- 200+ practice activities
- Explanations, culture points, and helpful hints
- Communication goals for each of the 20 units
Russian Short Stories for Beginners is effective for practicing reading in Russian. The book features 20 stories that cover typical situations and contain dialogues with examples of how people speak. Each story is written in Russian, but there is a summary in both Russian and English.
After you read the story, you can study the included vocabulary lists of words that were in the story as well as any sayings or colloquial words you might not know. There are also comprehension questions to test your understanding of the story. Reviewers of the book liked that it was helping them increase their Russian vocabulary. You can read other reviews here.
- 20 interesting stories
- Lists of vocabulary words, sayings, and slang words
- Practice questions to test your understanding
The Easy Russian Phrase Book is a helpful guide for travelers or others who are going to Russia but haven’t had the time to learn the language extensively. It contains 1,500 of the most common phrases that will help you navigate common situations such as ordering food, asking for directions, and transportation.
Each phrase has an English translation so you know what it means. There’s also a phonetics pronunciation guide that helps you say each word and phrase correctly, even if you have no previous knowledge of Russian or the Cyrillic alphabet. Reviewers thought the organization of the book was helpful and liked the pronunciation guide that was included. See what you think about the book here.
- Learn 1,500 common phrases
- Arranged by useful topics
- Pronunciation guides for each phrase
If you’ve thought that you can’t learn how to speak Russian using a book, this is a good choice for you. Conversational Russian Dialogues has over 100 stories that are centered around conversations and how people actually speak Russian. They focus on everyday situations that you might encounter to teach common vocabulary and phrases.
Each story is written in Russian and features dialogue. There is also an English translation available to check any words you might not understand. People who purchased the book thought that people that already have a basic understanding of Russian would benefit more than complete beginners. Learn more about the book here.
- 100+ conversational stories
- Focus on common situations
- All stories have an English translation
Learn the Russian Alphabet is a workbook that helps you practice writing words and phrases using the Cyrillic alphabet. It has both print and cursive letters. There are tons of practice pages so you can practice tracing and re-writing all 33 letters.
In addition to learning the letters, you’ll practice writing and spelling common Russian words. Reviewers liked that this book taught both print and cursive versions of the Cyrillic alphabet. They also liked the included descriptions of how to write the letters. You can see what others thought about the book here.
- Instruction on how to write the Russian alphabet
- Learn cursive and print
- Numerous practice pages
The Russian-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary is a great choice if you want to learn a lot of new vocabulary words. It’s also helpful for children who are new to the language. There are over 10,000 words and each one has a unique illustration. The book includes access to a free audio app so you can hear how the words are pronounced.
It’s arranged by themes and situations and you learn different words related to that common topic. People who purchased this book liked how the topics were organized and liked the romanization of the pronunciation so they could make sure they were pronouncing the words correctly. You can see if this book is right for you here.
- 10,000 illustrated words
- Organized by situations
- Audio app to help pronunciation
Using a book to learn Russian might seem like an outdated method to learn, but most books provide detailed descriptions and practice questions that other resources, like language apps, can’t provide. If you are trying to self-study Russian, a book is an excellent choice because they offer explanations, tips, cultural tips, and more.
If you are studying Russian, it’s best to establish a language-learning routine. The most progress is made when you study every day, or at least frequently, even if you can’t dedicate a lot of time. Consistency is key to remember what you learned and build upon it.
But a book is not the only way to study. It is an effective way to learn Russian but is best used in conjunction with other learning methods. For example, a language app is an inexpensive way to learn a lot of Russian vocabulary and practice basic phrases. And it’s always a good idea to take online lessons with a tutor from Russia so you can better practice speaking and conversation.
Hopefully you’ve found a book on this list that can help make studying Russian easy and enjoyable. There are many excellent options available, but reading user reviews and seeing what additional resources are included can help you choose the book that’s right for you. Once you choose your favorite option, it’s time to get to work! With consistent study, you’ll be speaking Russian before you know it. Удачи!
The most effective way to learn Russian depends on your learning style. If you prefer to learn independently, a book is an excellent choice because they provide descriptions, practice questions, and most have access to online audio so you can also practice listening and understanding. There are also language apps that can help you learn effectively as well as the option to take an online course or private lessons with a Russian teacher.
What you should read to improve your Russian depends on your level. If you are an advanced learner, there are many famous Russian authors that have written works like War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Master and Margarita. But if you are a beginner or intermediate learner, a book like Russian Short Stories for Beginners or Conversational Russian Dialogues is a better choice to help you continue to improve
You can definitely learn Russian by yourself up to an intermediate level. There are so many options available to learn Russian online, such as a language app, course, or online classes with a teacher from Russia. Any of these will help you learn basic vocabulary and grammar to reach a conversational level of Russian.
In three months, you can reach a basic conversational level, but you won’t be fluent in Russian. The US Department of State classifies Russian as a level 3 language, meaning that it’s difficult for English speakers to learn because of the differences between the two languages.
To see how long it will take you to learn Russian, check out this fluency calculator.