Books To Read After “Anna Karenina”

“Anna Karenina”, Leo Tolstoy’s renowned masterpiece, often leaves readers in profound contemplation, evoking a broad spectrum of emotions. This revered classic, primarily set in late 19th-century Russia, revolves around themes of love, societal norms, morality, and the pursuit of happiness.

Diving into the heart of human existence, it often leaves an indelible mark, a yearning for more literature that provokes similar introspection. This post serves as a guide for those who are on the hunt for their next reading adventure after “Anna Karenina”.

Our aim is to explore a diverse collection of books that either mirror the themes of Tolstoy’s opus, delve further into Russian literature, offer modern perspectives on classic themes, or are directly inspired by “Anna Karenina”. We also recommend some enriching non-fiction that can provide a deeper understanding of Tolstoy and the era in which he wrote.

The world of literature is vast and varied, and our journey begins here.

Similar Themes in Other Novels

The narrative of “Anna Karenina” isn’t just about its characters and their lives. It is a reflection of the human condition, the struggles and triumphs that individuals face in their quest for love, acceptance, and meaning in their lives. Here, we delve into a list of novels that resonate with these themes.


“Anna Karenina” is, at its heart, a novel about the many forms of love: passionate, maternal, fraternal, and unrequited. If you were moved by this aspect of Tolstoy’s work, you might enjoy:

  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: A tale of misunderstandings, prejudice, and eventually, love that withstands societal norms.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This American classic explores the theme of love in the backdrop of the American dream.

Societal Norms

Tolstoy’s exploration of the restrictions and expectations of society is a significant aspect of “Anna Karenina”. If you’re interested in other works that tackle this theme:

  • “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton: This Pulitzer-winning novel provides an insightful commentary on the stringent societal norms of 19th-century New York society.
  • “Middlemarch” by George Eliot: A novel about life in a provincial English town, where societal norms dictate individual actions and decisions.


“Anna Karenina” is also a story of moral dilemmas and the human conscience. If this theme captivated you, consider reading:

  • “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky: This novel presents a profound psychological analysis of a man who is caught in a moral crisis.
  • “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky: A philosophical novel that debates ethics, God, and free will.

Pursuit of Happiness

The characters in “Anna Karenina” are in the relentless pursuit of happiness, a universal human theme. To explore this further, try:

  • “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert: A poignant tale about the discontentment and tragic life of Emma Bovary, who yearns for love and luxury.
  • “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin: This novel narrates the journey of a woman who seeks personal fulfillment and happiness, challenging the conventions of her time.

Russian Literature Post-“Anna Karenina”

Russia has produced a rich tapestry of literary works, many of which grapple with the themes and concerns raised in “Anna Karenina”. Exploring these works can deepen your understanding of Russian culture and history, as well as the ways in which different authors have responded to the human condition.

Russian Realism

Realism was a defining characteristic of Russian literature during the 19th century. If you are fascinated by the realistic portrayal of life in “Anna Karenina”, you might appreciate:

  • “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy’s other epic masterpiece, this novel takes us through the lives of five aristocratic families during the French invasion of Russia.
  • “Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev: A novel that explores the generational divide and societal change in mid-19th century Russia.

Modern Russian Literature

Modern Russian literature offers a different perspective, often engaging with the radical social and political changes of the 20th and 21st centuries. For those interested in how Russian literature has evolved:

  • “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov: A complex and multifaceted novel that interweaves a realistic portrayal of Moscow with supernatural and satirical elements.
  • “Day of the Oprichnik” by Vladimir Sorokin: A dystopian novel set in a future Russia that has returned to the autocracy of the past.

Russian Short Stories

If you prefer shorter narratives, Russian literature offers an abundance of poignant and thought-provoking short stories:

  • “Lady with the Little Dog” by Anton Chekhov: A profound exploration of love and infidelity.
  • “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol: This short story explores the themes of bureaucratic inefficiency, class distinctions, and existential crises.

Modern Takes on Classic Themes

Modern literature often revisits themes found in “Anna Karenina”, such as love, societal pressure, morality, and the search for happiness. Contemporary authors provide fresh, diverse perspectives on these timeless concerns, addressing them in new contexts and through the lens of different cultures and experiences.

Love in Contemporary Settings

While the nature of love remains a constant, the way it manifests and is perceived changes with time and society. Here are some modern novels that explore this timeless emotion:

  • “Normal People” by Sally Rooney: A complex portrayal of love, friendship, and growing up in contemporary Ireland.
  • “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman: A sensuous and emotional tale about a burgeoning romantic relationship during a summer in Italy.

Societal Pressures in the Modern World

The societal norms that constrained Anna Karenina are still prevalent today, though they take on different forms in different societies. Here are some novels that address contemporary societal pressures:

  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This novel explores the intricacies of race, immigration, and identity in today’s global society.
  • “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath: A classic that deals with societal expectations on women, mental health issues, and individualism.

Morality in Contemporary Contexts

Modern literature continues to probe the question of morality, often in contexts that challenge conventional understandings of right and wrong. Consider the following:

  • “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro: A dystopian novel that raises ethical questions about humanity, love, and sacrifice.
  • “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy: A story that delves into moral complexities of love, social prejudice, and political unrest in India.

The Pursuit of Happiness Today

The quest for happiness, a key theme in “Anna Karenina”, remains a driving force in many modern novels:

  • “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho: An inspiring novel about a young shepherd’s journey in search of worldly treasure, representing his pursuit of happiness.
  • “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd: A coming-of-age tale about a girl’s search for the truth about her mother, ultimately leading to her own path of happiness.

Books Inspired by “Anna Karenina”

“Anna Karenina” has been an enduring source of inspiration for authors worldwide. From direct adaptations to creative riffs on the novel’s characters and themes, these works offer a fresh take on Tolstoy’s masterpiece while also standing as compelling works of literature in their own right.

Retellings of “Anna Karenina”

Some authors have chosen to retell “Anna Karenina”, transposing its plot to different settings or exploring the novel from the perspective of different characters. Here are a couple of noteworthy examples:

  • “Anna K” by Jenny Lee: A reimagining of Tolstoy’s novel in contemporary New York’s high society, narrated from the viewpoint of teenagers.
  • “The Innocents” by Francesca Segal: A modern retelling of “Anna Karenina”, set within a tight-knit Jewish community in London.

Books That Engage With “Anna Karenina”

Other novels engage with “Anna Karenina” in more subtle ways, referencing its characters or themes or drawing inspiration from its narrative structure:

  • “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham: This novel interweaves the stories of three women, including Virginia Woolf as she begins to write “Mrs. Dalloway”. The book resonates with themes found in “Anna Karenina” and even refers to the novel directly.
  • “A Fraction of the Whole” by Steve Toltz: An epic narrative about a father and son that echoes Tolstoy’s exploration of familial relationships and the quest for meaning in life.

Books That Parallel “Anna Karenina”

Some books, while not directly inspired by “Anna Karenina”, feature characters or plots that parallel elements of Tolstoy’s novel:

  • “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell: This epic novel set in the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era shares Tolstoy’s interest in love, societal norms, and the impact of sweeping historical changes on individuals.
  • “House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton: Wharton’s novel about a woman navigating New York’s high society parallels Anna’s struggles with societal norms and expectations.

Recommended Non-fiction

While fiction allows us to explore human experiences and emotions through narrative, non-fiction gives us the context and understanding to delve deeper into these stories. In the case of “Anna Karenina”, several non-fiction works can enhance your understanding of Tolstoy, 19th-century Russia, and the themes present in the novel.

Biographies of Tolstoy

Reading about Tolstoy’s life, his philosophical and political ideas, and his literary career can shed light on the motivations and influences behind “Anna Karenina”:

  • “Tolstoy: A Russian Life” by Rosamund Bartlett: A biography that delves into Tolstoy’s life and explores the political and cultural milieu of his time.
  • “Tolstoy’s Diaries Volume 1, 1847–1894” edited by R.F. Christian: An intimate look into Tolstoy’s personal thoughts, philosophies, and daily life.

Cultural Histories of 19th Century Russia

A comprehensive understanding of 19th-century Russian society and culture can provide valuable insight into the societal norms, beliefs, and tensions that are depicted in “Anna Karenina”:

  • “Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia” by Orlando Figes: A panoramic view of Russia’s diverse and complex cultural history, with insights into the society that influenced “Anna Karenina”.
  • “The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture” by James H. Billington: This book delves into the spiritual, artistic, and intellectual heritage of Russia, offering context for the cultural backdrop of Tolstoy’s novel.

Books on the Themes in “Anna Karenina”

Several non-fiction books explore the themes in “Anna Karenina”, such as love, societal norms, and morality, in historical or philosophical contexts:

  • “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage” by Stephanie Coontz: This book provides historical insights into marriage and love, themes central to “Anna Karenina”.
  • “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm: A classic philosophical text on different forms of love, including romantic love, brotherly love, and self-love.

Additional Recommendations

Delving into the world of literature is a rewarding journey, and if you enjoyed “Anna Karenina”, there are numerous other novels that you might find appealing. These additional recommendations each offer a distinct voice, rich characterizations, and compelling narratives, much like Tolstoy’s beloved classic.

“Effi Briest” by Theodor Fontane

This German realist novel explores societal norms, marital infidelity, and the consequences of violating societal expectations. Its similarity to the themes in “Anna Karenina” makes it a valuable addition to your reading list.

“The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James

James’ novel about a young American woman navigating societal expectations in Europe mirrors the complexities of personal freedom and societal constraint, a central theme in “Anna Karenina”.

“A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth

A sprawling novel that explores love, societal norms, and political unrest in post-colonial India. Its scope and depth echo the panoramic view of society offered in “Anna Karenina”.

“Doctor Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak

Set in Russia between the Russian Revolution and World War II, Pasternak’s novel presents a panoramic view of Russian society and the human condition, much like “Anna Karenina”.

“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen

While a play rather than a novel, Ibsen’s classic addresses themes of marriage, societal norms, and individual freedom, resonating with Anna’s struggles in “Anna Karenina”.

“The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene

Greene’s novel about a tragic love affair during World War II echoes the themes of love, betrayal, and societal norms found in “Anna Karenina”.

“Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s novel explores societal norms, class, and the pursuit of personal happiness. Its tragic exploration of these themes aligns with the emotional resonance of “Anna Karenina”.

“The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende

Allende’s saga of the Trueba family mirrors the extensive family dynamics in “Anna Karenina”, while also providing a magical realist look at Chile’s political history.

“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marquez’s novel offers a profound exploration of love in its many forms, paralleling the love stories woven into the narrative of “Anna Karenina”.

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Buck’s novel depicts the life of a farming family in China, exploring themes of societal norms, family dynamics, and the human relationship with the land, which align with the universal themes in “Anna Karenina”.


After the powerful journey that is “Anna Karenina”, it’s natural to yearn for more books that offer similar depths of emotion and understanding. Whether you choose to dive deeper into Russian literature, explore modern takes on timeless themes, discover books inspired by Tolstoy’s work, or gain insight from non-fiction, the literary world is teeming with works that will enhance your reading journey.

Every reader’s response to a book is personal and unique, shaped by their own experiences, emotions, and perspectives. We hope this diverse list of recommendations will enrich your literary journey and guide you to books that resonate with you and offer fresh insights, thought-provoking themes, and compelling narratives.

Happy reading!

Leave a Comment