The Greatest Russian, French "Contemporary" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Contemporary

Contemporary books are a genre that focuses on stories set in the present day, often exploring current social, cultural, and political issues. These books are typically written in a modern style and often feature relatable characters dealing with real-life situations. Contemporary books can cover a wide range of topics, from romance and family drama to coming-of-age stories and thrillers. The genre is constantly evolving to reflect the changing world we live in, making it a popular choice for readers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and issues.

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  1. 1. The Lover by Marguerite Duras

    "The Lover" is a poignant exploration of forbidden love, power dynamics, and colonialism. Set in 1930s French Indochina, it tells the story of a tumultuous and passionate affair between a 15-year-old French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. The narrative delves into the complexities of their relationship, the societal norms they defy, and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The protagonist's struggle with her family's poverty and her mother's mental instability further complicates the story, making it a compelling exploration of love, desire, and societal constraints.

    The 299th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq

    "The Elementary Particles" is a provocative novel that explores the lives of two half-brothers, one a molecular biologist and the other a disenchanted teacher, against the backdrop of late 20th-century France. The narrative delves into their personal struggles and emotional turmoil, resulting from their dysfunctional upbringing by a self-absorbed, hedonistic mother. Throughout the novel, the author uses their stories to critique contemporary society, touching on themes such as sexual liberation, consumerism, and the decline of traditional values. The book also delves into the implications of scientific advancements, particularly in the field of molecular biology.

    The 910th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Clay Machine-gun by Victor Pelevin

    "The Clay Machine-gun" is a surreal and complex novel that explores the nature of reality and illusion. The story is set in post-Soviet Russia and follows a protagonist who has multiple identities, including a poet in 19th-century Russia, a 20th-century psychiatric patient, and a 21st-century advertising executive. The narrative moves between these identities and realities, blurring the lines between them and creating a layered and philosophical exploration of Russian society, identity, and the human psyche.

    The 2292nd Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Childhood by Nathalie Sarraute

    "Childhood" is a memoir that delves into the fragmented memories of the author's early years, exploring the complexities of growing up and the formation of identity. Through a series of vignettes, the narrative captures the nuanced emotions and experiences of a young girl navigating her way through the challenges of family dynamics, societal expectations, and self-discovery. The author employs an innovative literary style, characterized by introspection and a stream-of-consciousness approach, to reflect on the elusive nature of memory and the ways in which our childhood experiences shape who we become.

    The 4524th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade by Assia Djebar

    "Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade" is a multifaceted novel that intertwines personal narratives with the history of Algeria's resistance against French colonialism. Through a blend of autobiography, historical documentation, and fictional reimaginings, the book explores the complex layers of identity, memory, and struggle from the perspective of Algerian women. The narrative shifts across time, recounting both the 19th-century French invasion and the 20th-century war for independence, while delving into the author's own experiences and the broader cultural and linguistic challenges faced by Algerian society. The novel stands out for its poetic style and its innovative use of language to capture the voices of those often silenced in historical discourse.

    The 4937th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

    The novel is a profound contemplation of life as seen through the eyes of two female protagonists: a 54-year-old concierge and a precocious 12-year-old girl, both living in the same upscale Parisian apartment building. The concierge, who conceals her intelligence and passion for literature and philosophy from the wealthy tenants, and the girl, who plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday due to her disillusionment with the world, form an unlikely friendship. Their lives are forever changed when a wealthy Japanese man moves into the building.

    The 5708th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov

    "The Good Life Elsewhere" is a darkly humorous and satirical novel that follows a group of Moldovan villagers who embark on a chaotic journey to Italy in search of a better life. Through their misadventures, the author exposes the harsh realities of poverty, corruption, and the desperate measures people are willing to take in pursuit of a brighter future. With a blend of absurdity and poignant social commentary, the novel offers a compelling exploration of the human condition and the universal desire for a better life.

    The 6723rd Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Case Of Dr Sachs by Martin Winckler

    The book is a compelling narrative that delves into the life and practice of a compassionate and unconventional French general practitioner. Through a series of vignettes and patient encounters, the novel explores the intricacies of the doctor-patient relationship, the challenges of the medical profession, and the ethical dilemmas faced by physicians. The protagonist's approach to medicine is deeply humanistic, focusing on the individual needs of his patients rather than strictly adhering to medical protocols. His dedication to his work and the personal stories of those he treats paint a vivid portrait of a small community and the pivotal role a caring doctor plays within it.

    The 6983rd Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Mr. Ibrahim And The Flowers Of The Koran by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt

    The book is a poignant novella set in Paris in the 1960s, telling the story of a blossoming friendship between a young Jewish boy and an elderly Muslim shopkeeper. The boy, neglected by his family and living in a poor neighborhood, forms an unlikely bond with the wise and kind shopkeeper, who becomes a mentor and father figure to him. Through their interactions, the boy learns valuable life lessons about love, happiness, and religious tolerance, with the shopkeeper imparting wisdom from the Koran. Their relationship transforms both their lives, illustrating the power of human connection and the beauty of cross-cultural understanding.

    The 7008th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

    "Absurdistan" is a satirical novel by Gary Shteyngart that follows the story of Misha Vainberg, a wealthy and overweight Russian-American who finds himself stuck in the fictional country of Absurdistan after his father's death. The country is on the brink of a civil war, and Misha must navigate his way through the corrupt and absurd political landscape to get back to America and reunite with his love interest. Along the way, he encounters a cast of eccentric characters and experiences the absurdity of life in a country where everything seems to be falling apart.

    The 7063rd Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. The Years by Annie Ernaux

    "The Years" is a compelling narrative that blends autobiography and collective history to depict the evolution of French society from the 1940s to the early 2000s. Through a blend of personal memories, shared experiences, and common artifacts, the book captures the passage of time and the changes it brings to individual lives and collective identity. The author uses an innovative form of writing, eschewing a traditional linear narrative and personal pronouns, to create a reflective and powerful exploration of memory, aging, and the continuous transformation of societal norms and personal aspirations.

    The 7937th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Simple by Marie-Aude Murail

    "Simple" is a touching narrative that delves into the life of a young man with cognitive disabilities, known by his nickname Simple, and his teenage brother who becomes his caretaker after they are orphaned. The story explores the challenges they face as they navigate a world that is often unkind and unaccommodating to those with special needs. With humor and warmth, the novel addresses themes of family, acceptance, and the societal perceptions of individuals with intellectual disabilities, while showcasing the deep bond between the siblings as they strive to create a life together against the odds.

    The 8147th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes

    The novel revolves around the tumultuous love story of Gloria and Eric, two individuals from vastly different social backgrounds who reconnect after a passionate but turbulent teenage romance. Gloria, now in her thirties and struggling with the mundanity of her life and a history of mental health issues, finds her world turned upside down when Eric, who has since become a famous television personality, re-enters her life. Their intense and destructive relationship is rekindled, challenging the societal norms and expectations that have shaped their lives. Set against a backdrop of punk rock and disenchantment with the conventional, the narrative delves into themes of love, class conflict, and the search for identity in a world that often demands conformity.

    The 8166th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. The Mountain And The Wall by Alisa Ganieva

    "The Mountain and the Wall" is a thought-provoking novel set in a fictional region of Russia, where a massive wall is being constructed to separate the Muslim population from the rest of the country. Through the eyes of various characters, the book explores the impact of this division on individuals and communities, delving into themes of identity, religion, and the struggle for freedom. As tensions rise and conflicts erupt, the story highlights the complexities of human relationships in a divided society.

    The 8244th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère

    "Lives Other Than My Own" is an emotionally charged narrative that explores the lives of two women who have experienced immense loss, one from a tsunami and the other from cancer. The author, through his personal encounters, delves into the raw emotions, resilience, and the profound bonds of family and friendship that emerge from these tragic circumstances. The book is a thoughtful exploration of empathy, offering a poignant look at the strength of human spirit in the face of adversity.

    The 8317th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. That Time Of Year by Marie NDiaye

    "That Time of Year" delves into the unsettling experience of a Parisian teacher who, while vacationing with his family in a rural village, finds himself trapped when his wife and child mysteriously disappear. As he searches for them, the protagonist encounters the village's eerie customs and secretive inhabitants, who seem to be hiding a chilling truth. The novel explores themes of alienation, identity, and the haunting nature of memory, all set against a backdrop of creeping dread and psychological suspense.

    The 8716th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Rock, Paper, Scissors And Other Stories by Maxim Osipov

    "Rock, Paper, Scissors And Other Stories" is a collection of captivating short stories that delve into the lives of ordinary people in a small Russian town. Through these interconnected tales, the author explores themes of love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the human condition, the stories in this book offer a poignant and thought-provoking glimpse into the lives of individuals navigating the challenges of modern-day Russia.

    The 9021st Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry by Galina Rymbu, Eugene Ostashevsky, Ainsley Morse

    "F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry" is a captivating collection of contemporary Russian feminist poetry that challenges societal norms and explores themes of gender, identity, and power. Through the powerful and thought-provoking verses of Galina Rymbu, Eugene Ostashevsky, and Ainsley Morse, this anthology sheds light on the experiences and perspectives of women in Russia, offering a unique and refreshing voice in the world of literature.

    The 9297th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

    This novel delves into the emotional and physical journey of a heart transplant, beginning with a tragic accident that leaves a young man brain-dead and transitioning to the complex process of organ donation. Through a 24-hour timeline, the narrative explores the perspectives of the grieving family, the medical team involved in the transplant, and the recipient of the heart. The story is a poignant exploration of life, death, and the profound connections between humans, highlighting the medical, ethical, and emotional facets of organ donation. The author's meticulous attention to detail and lyrical prose bring to life the intricate realities of this life-saving procedure, making it a deeply moving and thought-provoking read.

    The 9592nd Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

    This book provides a deeply researched examination of the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, focusing on the lives of four individuals born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. The book explores how, after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of moving towards a democratic society, Russia has seen a rise in a new form of totalitarianism under its current leadership. It delves into the psychological shift in the Russian populace, the government's use of homophobia as a method of control, and how the internet and social media have been weaponized for political purposes.

    The 9631st Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download