10 Best Books by Dostoevsky To Add To Your Library

Explore top 10 best books by Dostoevsky to get an authentic feel for 19th-century Russia in our guide.

As one of the most influential writers in Russian history, Fyodor Dostoevsky is an interesting author to study when trying to understand 19th-century Russia. He was well-known for writing about everyday people rather than people in high society and understanding the psychology of the ordinary person. However, this Russian author was not without his controversy. In 1849, he was arrested and imprisoned for his liberal political leanings. He was sentenced to four years of exile in Siberia, followed by five years of service in the Siberian Regiment.

Dostoevsky has 11 novels to his name, multiple novellas, and two works of non-fiction. He published his first novel in 1846 and his last in 1880, the year before he died. He lived his entire life in Russia.

If you want to explore his works, here are the best books by Dostoevsky to put on your reading list.

1. Crime and Punishment

Best Books by Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
The book is set in St. Petersburg and follows many people who live on the street in that city

Crime and Punishment were published in 1866, and this book is one that most Russian kids are required to read in school. It tells about a poor man that commits a crime in order to live, yet is plagued by guilt throughout his life. The book is set in St. Petersburg and follows many people who live on the street in that city. Dostoevsky called this psychological work. In it, he attempted to see precisely what the characters felt as they moved through life.

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment (Everyman's Library)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 608 Pages - 05/25/1993 (Publication Date) - Everyman's Library (Publisher)

2. The Idiot

Published in 1868, The Idiot has a gentle, kind main character named Myshkin. After visiting a mental institution, he returns to Russia only to have his kindness mistreated by those around him. He ends up involved in a love affair and faces tremendous judgment from the people in his circle. The sad part about this book is that the mistreatment Myshkin receives lands him back in a mental institution.

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“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot (Everyman's Library)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 672 Pages - 04/30/2002 (Publication Date) - Everyman's Library (Publisher)

3. Poor Folk

In this 1846 novel, Dostoevsky explores many poor people’s plight. The characters live in St. Petersburg and are both poor and in love. However, as the man, Makar Devushkin, searches for money so he can marry his love interest, Varvara Dobroselova, she gets a proposal from a rich man. Facing love versus financial security, Varvara must make a difficult choice, and her parents push her toward the rich man. Poor Folk maintains a great storyline while exploring one of humanity’s oldest questions: love versus wealth.

“My sweetheart! When I think of you, it’s as if I’m holding some healing balm to my sick soul, and although I suffer for you, I find that even suffering for you is easy.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Poor Folk (Dover Thrift Editions: Classic Novels)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages - 04/19/2007 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

4. Demons

If you want to see Dostoevsky’s political leanings, pick up a copy of Demons, published in 1871. This book follows the events that take place after the murder of Ivan Ivanov, a student who a revolutionary group allegedly killed. Because Dostoevsky was a free thinker and often labeled as a revolutionary, this work clearly shows his political thoughts. The work shows a significant amount of irony along with the ideology it conveys.

“God is necessary, and therefore must exist… But I know that he does not and cannot exist… Don’t you understand that a man with these two thoughts cannot go on living?”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Demons (Everyman's Library, 182)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 776 Pages - 10/24/2000 (Publication Date) - Everyman's Library (Publisher)

5. The Gambler

The Gambler is one of the few works Dostoevsky wrote because he needed money. In 1866 he lost money gambling, and the growing debt pushed him to quickly sign a contract to write the book. He wrote about the psychological state of gambling and how it takes over the player’s mind during the game. Sadly, Dostoevsky did not learn from his work on the book. Instead, he continued to lose money gambling until his wife caught on and made him swear to give it up for good.

“People really do like seeing their best friends humiliated; a large part of the friendship is based on humiliation; and that is an old truth, well known to all intelligent people.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Gambler
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 138 Pages - 04/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

6. The Brothers Karamazov

In 1880, Dostoevsky completed his final work, The Brothers Karamazov, a book he took two years to write. This book explores freedom, religion, and ethics as it follows the lives of three brothers. The plot includes tales of love and murder woven with societal issues. Many literary critics believe that The Brothers Karamazov reflected Dostoevsky’s life. However, it also weaves in a murder mystery, which makes it an engaging tale.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov: Introduction by Malcolm Jones (Everyman's Library)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 840 Pages - 04/28/1992 (Publication Date) - Everyman's Library (Publisher)

7. Notes from the Underground

The main character in this 1864 novel never receives a name. Instead, he spends his time trying to find truth and goodness in a world with few absolutes. The main character is pretty alienated from society, and the goal is to make the reader think rather than tell a plot-driven story. Notes from the Underground stands out because it introduces the religious and political themes that became part of Dostoevsky’s later works. In addition, it is a profoundly introspective work and shows much of the inner thinking and psychology of the influential author.

“To love is to suffer and there can be no love otherwise.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from Underground
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages - 12/17/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

8. The Insulted and Humiliated

Best Books by Dostoevsky: The Insulted and Humiliated
oevsky got the idea when he moved to St. Petersburg after his time in Siberia, and the book has some autobiographical leanings

Though the title is depressing, The Insulted and Humiliated is an 1861 novel that deserves a spot on this list. Dostoevsky got the idea when he moved to St. Petersburg after his time in Siberia, and the book has some autobiographical leanings. It tells the tale of Vanya, a young writer struggling to earn money with his work. As you read this work, you will see the lifestyle of St. Petersburg come to life before your eyes. You will also experience what the poor people of the era felt and saw throughout their daily lives.

“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Humiliated and Insulted: New Translation
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 03/19/2019 (Publication Date) - Alma Classics (Publisher)

9. The House of the Dead

The House of the Dead contains ideas pulled from Dostoevsky’s time in Siberia. The 1862 novel tells of a young man sentenced to 10 years in Siberia for the alleged murder of his wife. Even though he sees the worst of humanity, the young man in the story never loses faith in the goodness of people. This particular work has many accolades to it. Tolstoy said, “I know no better book in all modern literature.”

“Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Sale
Notes from a Dead House (Everyman's Library Classics Series)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 376 Pages - 02/02/2021 (Publication Date) - Everyman's Library (Publisher)

10. White Nights

Published in 1848, White Nights is a short story by the author. Like many of his works, it takes place in St. Petersburg. The main character is a young man who faces inner restlessness while trying to find his place in society. Despite its shorter length, this story remains an excellent example of the author’s work. Thus, it is a great way to introduce new readers to his writing.

“But how could you live and have no story to tell?”

Fyodor Dostoevsky
White Nights
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 12/17/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the 7 best books about civilization.

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