Book: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

Author: George Saunders

Genre: Essays; Literary Criticism; Writing Craft

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: January 12, 2021

Format: hardcover

Length: 403 pages

Confession: I’ve always been intimidated by Russian literature. Those books have just seemed so big and dense and not cheerful at all. I’ve also been kind of curious, though.

In this book, author and professor George Saunders walks readers through short stories written by four of the classic Russian writers: Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol. For each one, an English translation of the entire story is included followed by George’s thoughts about it. He approaches this from the perspective of a writing teacher, so he’s usually pointing out patterns or storytelling techniques or encouraging readers to explore their own writing voice.

I found it both insightful and very helpful. I also feel like I understand these stories much better than I would have whether I’d just read them on my own.

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