The 40+ Books Leo Tolstoy Recommends Reading

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, better known as Leo Tolstoy, was a renowned Russian writer and perhaps one of the greatest authors of all time. Best known for his two novels “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”, Tolstoy also wrote several short stories and a semi-autobiographical trilogy.

Author Virginia Woolf once called Tolstoy “the greatest of all novelists.” Even today, over a hundred years after his death, Tolstoy’s thousand long page books are still in print and continue to sell well.

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy ( source ).

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (source).

A few of Tolstoy’s bestselling books.

Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.
— Leo Tolstoy

Being one of the greats is no easy feat so I began to research which books Tolstoy loved most during his life in an attempt to gain insight into what influenced this genius writer.

According to an article by Russia Beyond, Tolstoy decided to compile a list of his own 100 must-read books after reading and being dissatisfied with author John Lubbock’s list which was published in 1891.

However, Tolstoy found that creating a list of the 100 greatest books to be difficult, so instead, he sent a letter to his publisher Mikhail Lederle with 45 books that impressed him the most. Tolstoy’s list contains a wide range of books from religious texts to Chinese philosophy, and is divided into five ages of man with their actual degree of influence ("enormous," "v. great," or merely "great").

Tolstoy’s list of the 45 books he recommends reading:


Childhood to the age of 14 or so:

Age 14 to 20:

Age 20 to 35:

Age 35 to 50:

Age 50 to 63:

Portrait of Tolstoy, 1887 ( source ).

Portrait of Tolstoy, 1887 (source).

How many books on Tolstoy’s list have you read?

I’ve read only a couple books on this list (the English versions), but it looks like I have a lot more reading to do. If there’s a book on here that you think is a must-read, let me know in the comments below!

You may also want to check out these book recommendations from:


If you want to check out my list of recommended books, you can find that here.

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This article was based on several articles. The sources can be found here, here and here.

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