Best books for learning Russian

If you are ready to get serious about your Russian learning, you've found the right article! 

As you may or may not know, I taught myself Russian using books I recommend here and then of course, I came to Russia. I've been interviewed on Russian radio and conducted interviews in Russian myself.
(If you are interested, you can listen to me giving a live interview in Russian on football hooliganism, bear in mind I was unprepared and, actually, know nothing about football hooliganism!) 

Bellow you will find some of the books I found to be most effective.
To learn what kind of methods I used, glance over my guide for Learning Russian.

FYI, I also add user recommendations to this list. If I missed one you think is astounding, message me on the FB group or hit me up by mail.

Finally, if you're interested in language apps for Russian, two I recommend looking into are (obviously) DuoLingo and LinguaLift. Now, let's go old school and check out the books:

I would go as far to say that this is one of the best and most vital tools in any Russian-learning kit. What was the old penguin course like? Who knows and who cares, the new penguin is where it's at! 

It has enough detail to take you right from the alphabet, develop a good vocab and have you talking, basically, correctly on those subjects. It covers all the most important  all grammar with some impressive depth for its size (size matters!). 

For the self learner who is serious about Russian this should be an absolute must. Its downside is that it's quite bland and lacks the bright and sparkly colours that I love so much. Alas. Also, it doesn't come with audio so you'll need to get your listening fix elsewhere. Start with online radio.    


I never actually used this for Russian but I'm using the same book by DK, for Bulgarian - and it's awesome!

Seriously, it's so nice to have things in pictures and in context. Where relevant, you get the phrases too. So, if you are say, on the 'office' section, you'll get the phrases and verbs to print, download etc etc

Here's what it looks like inside:



Ah, I remember this one well. TY Russian is OK. It covers the most important grammar aspects at a basic to intermediate level and comes with CDs (when I first got it, it came with tapes – the dark ages of my Russian learning). 

The recordings are pretty slow and are nowhere near spoken speed, but it’s better than nothing. This is a decent book that will have you spewing out some phrases and using the genitive plural, but shouldn't be used on its own. This would be perfect for someone who is not ‘hardcore’ and who wants an introduction. It can help re-enforce concepts if your using other methods too.                                        

Much like Russian while you sleep and Russian while you watch TV (both of which I just made up) Russian in three months will most certainly not have you speaking Russian in three months. It’s a bit like a glorified phrase book and covers most main grammar points at surface level.

It’s fine if you just want some basic Russian or a basic introduction. I originally used it in conjunction with the two above-mentioned books and helped because I got to repeat each new grammar point in each of the  books. It’s cheap and you can get it with or without CDs. I recommend it simply for the re-enforcement factor.
 10000 russian words review
This is something that was recommended for inclusion and I have to say, it looks good. When starting a language, the most efficient way to begin is by mastering the most commonly used words. Also, in this case, the author is Nicholas Brown - the author of the legendary Penguin guide. The downside to this one would be the price because baby, it don't come cheap!  

 Step by Step Russian review

Another reader recommendation here - the Step by step Russian guide. This one has 21 lessons especially for those who are going the self study route. Once you get done with this one, there is a more intermediate level to try.

The Amazon reviews seem positive, although some say the audio CDs are hard to obtain but critical for the book to be effective. Anyhow, this link should be to the book containing a link with the download for the audio. 

 Russian verb prefixes: A breakdown of the most common Russian verbs with all their prefixed versions for Intermediate learners 


This is an E-book (no hard copy) for advanced learners that want to get a bit slicker with their verb prefixes. It looks at 18 of the most common verbs and breaks them down with translations and prefixed forms. As an example, the verb смотреть has a load of prefixed meanings - this book lists them all with translations and modern examples showing how they're used.

This is more of a reference book, although you can study the verbs as they're listed too. Plus, it's literally only $2.99, Go grab it today.

Intermediate Russian: A Grammar and Workbook (Grammar Workbooks)

This is basically exactly what the title says: a work book covering some of the more intermediate themes in more detail. Useful because there are a lot of exercises to reinforce subjects or brush up on other things and some good newspaper excerpts and alike to help increase your vocabulary. 

Definitely on the dry side though and a bit pricey. Not perfect, but I picked this one up to help me re-enforce some grammar concepts when I was still in the UK learning.

                                          A Comprehensive Russian Grammar

This one is another reader recommendation. I'm told this is one of best explained and most in-depth grammar books out there, however, it's probably best as a reference book as it might just be a bit too dry for learners to use from scratch.

 Russian in exercises review

This one comes highly recommended from one the Facebook group fans and brute force repetition lovers should enjoy it. It's more geared to those who already have a grasp of the case system. The book is made up of 800 exercises on the most fundamental and typical points of Russian Grammar and vocabulary. Essentially  this should help you solidify grammar concepts with a wild range of, well, exercises.             


Personally, I used Barron's 501 Russian Verbsand while it was a fine reference, Silver seems to have it beat (501 V 555!).
It's massive, silver and makes a great addition to any learner's arsenal. Plus, it's well-priced and shiny. What more could you want?

If you love idioms and then you will love this (and has a nice front cover, which, let’s face it, is the most important thing).
When I used this, I went thorough the whole Russian section and wrote out every idiom I liked the sound of. Them I wrote them up to keep in a word file. It's a good way of getting them in your brain. Each idiom has the words it contains broken down and explained too, it definitely makes life easier.

A fantastic reference to have around

This book is fantastic. It's a reader made up of twelve classic Russian short stories with Russian on one page with the corresponding English translation on the other page. In addition to this it has a glossary in the back too. It’s a nice collection of stories and a great introduction into reading Russian and experiencing some of the great Russian authors in their native language. 

An absolute must have.
                                     Руссий язык Практическая грамматика с упражнениями

A serious title for a serious mother of a book. This basically covers all grammar, in serious depth and in comes in a couple of different languages. It doesn't come with audio and is pretty brutal but is a great as a reference guide. 

If something of the grammar variety confuses you, this book should help clear things up with detailed explanation and examples. Perfect for the grammar whores (you know who you are!)

The downside, finding it outside of Russia could be tough! 

Употребление видов глагола в русском языке

And the least jazzy book title of the year goes to...This is for the upper-intermediate/advanced students who already have most grammar down. It's completely in Russian and details only with verb aspect. I've seen a few other books like it, but this was the one I used as part of some classes I was taking at the foreign language faculty of MGU.

It’s quite good as this topic is deceptively complex and this book has lots of exercises and repetition. Very cheap too, although you may only be able to get it in Russia and your Russian will already need to be solid.

Русский язык как иностранный – лексика русского языка

Another 'only in Russia book' sadly, but if you can get it, you'll find it a detailed and very useful guide. Basically the whole book is broken into four sections: The first deals with common verbs with many prefixes and their meanings.

Then come tricky verbs, that are essentially the same in translation, but with different shades of meaning (e.g. руководитьуправлять, заведовать, командовать).

Then it breaks down adjectives that often share the same translation but are used in different contexts (разный, различный) and the same thing with adverbs (вполне, полностью).

If you are in Russia, get this book, it's very, very cheap too, although not the best paper quality.


If I had to pick just three of these books as my only building blocks, my choices would be:

1) The New Penguin Russian Course 
2) Russian Learners' Dictionary
3) Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book

If you are coming from absolutely nothing, you could swap out 3 for something like Russian in exercises or one of the other reference guides, like the verb or idiom book.

IF you can afford more, add in the picture phrases book and Russian in exercises to help practise the grammar. Also, add in another light and easy grammar book like Russian in 3 months - it will be a form of spaced repetition.

Did miss anything?

Let me know what you think here in the comments, shoot me an e-mail or head over to the FB group. Happy learning guys and good luck. Now go DOMINATE the Russian language!

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Grey on September 9, 2012 at 7:03 PM said...

Hello Lt Colombo,
I think this course at deserves your attention

Lt. Columbo on September 16, 2012 at 9:17 PM said...

Thanks Grey, i'll look into it once the link is up and working again

Unknown on January 5, 2013 at 3:25 AM said...

Amzing thank you for this huge list
it helps a lot

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. I am looking for some books for teach russian. Your information was very helpful. If you may recomend me something else please conect me

Unknown on January 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM said...

I found really great Russian books. It's a series of books called Russian Step By Step by Natasha Alexandrova. You can find them on Amazon.
Books are easy to work with and have lots of audio, which really helps to memorize words and phrases.
Grammar explanations are simple and clear.

lauramay on February 3, 2013 at 9:14 PM said...

This one as well - it will definitely look familiar to you!
It's in Russian and English, and as the name suggests, is Russian grammar in tables. It's stupidly useful having all of the grammar you'd ever need one really easy-to-use, slim book. It's certainly better than trying to bookmark 50 pages in another textbook!
I bought it from the Philological Institute of SPb State Uni for 220 rubles, but I'm pretty sure Dom Knigi here would sell it too.

Lt. Columbo on February 4, 2013 at 6:06 PM said...

yeah, they are a good series of books. shame they fall apart so quickly though. still, at least they're cheap!

Liviu A said...

From Romania, thanks for info man.Here paperbased it`s only a single manual at a price of 10 euros at 300 quite small pages, and not convincing appearance and that means the Russian course from the New Penguin is not only clearly better but even cheaper!
In exchange I found for you an exellent free conversation course online of 100 small lessons with proununciation at two speeds (man and women each expression every speed)at The Goethe Verlag Publishing house.

Wait a feed back from you and succes in "detecting" and solving the Russian language problems, Columbo!

Anonymous said...

Sweet! I just caught the Russian language bug...moving there in June; Russian is so cool

Anonymous said...

I kindly invite you to get acquainted with a course book on Russian as a foreign language "Vostochny Express".
Thanks to its clear structure and an in-depth coverage of material, this book is particularly useful for university students, language course participants, as well as for all those who want to visit Russia or Russian-speaking countries or to prepare for certificate in Russian language. The book is also a great aid for school and academic teachers who will find it very helpful in supplementing and supporting their didactic activity.
For additional information, I kindly invite you on web page:

Anonymous said...

I've searching for something like this, thanks from buenos aires!

Lt. Columbo on September 6, 2013 at 1:00 PM said...

Always glad to help out! Good luck with your learning!

Anonymous said...

I like it

Linas on February 22, 2014 at 4:22 AM said...

Hi! I would like to propose you also try the Russian Interlinear book:

Unknown on April 29, 2014 at 12:37 AM said...

Всем здрасте! Я русский, как-то я просто решил набрать в гугле:"How to learn Russian", и он, гугл, показал мне такие результаты, советую всем, кто полностью понимает, что здесь написано, читайте учебники по русскому для школьников.

jaleco on May 4, 2014 at 5:25 PM said...

Hi there,

I would like to suggest ilearnrussian.

This site has books, audio and other things to help with different levels of Russian.

If you email them for a student discount, they might give you one.

Lt. Columbo on May 8, 2014 at 7:46 PM said...

just FYI, Ростислав above there suggests using texts books that Russian school kids used. Someone else actually recommended this to me, although i haven't put it into practise
if any of you have experiance with this, let me know

Phenix2013 on October 15, 2014 at 10:08 AM said...

Excellent suggestions. I picked up the following - The New Penguin's Russian course, Oxford's Russian Englisg Russian dictionary (2013 edition), and the 12 Russian stories book. Wish me good luck. Spasibo!

Lt. Columbo on October 16, 2014 at 12:18 PM said...

i'm sure you won't regret it! 12 stories is a nice introduction to some Russian classics too

TonyTony said...

I know that this post is from two years ago, but if I might add another suggestion I found Schaum's Outline of Russian Grammar to be really good.

I've also got the Comprehensive Russian Grammar and, like you, I found it somewhat dry. I found Schaum's to be easier to get on with but, like the other book, it really is more of a reference book for additional study rather than a primary book to learn Russian from scratch.

But anyway, I would definitely recommend it, as would the reviews from Amazon:-

Lt. Columbo on February 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM said...

Thanks for the recommendation Tony!

Artemiy on January 12, 2016 at 8:22 PM said...

I would like to recommend the book "Russian language for 25 lessons". This book shows "core" of the language and explains essential basics instead of "basic phrases".

Foreign Classes on March 23, 2020 at 8:41 AM said...
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