10 Best Stories by Leo Tolstoy | TheReviewGeek Recommends

If you’ve never read any Leo Tolstoy, you’re in for a treat. The Russian author, widely considered one of the greatest of all time, wrote some of the most acclaimed and influential short stories in literature. His works explore deep philosophical ideas and the human experience with a style so gripping you can’t put them down.

Whether you’re looking to dive into Russian literature for the first time or revisiting old favourites, here are Tolstoy’s greatest stories to read right now. Get ready to be moved, challenged, and transformed by these timeless tales from a true master. As usual, your thoughts are welcome.


10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

Master and Man

This short story tugs at the heartstrings. It follows Vasili Andreevich, a merchant, and his servant Nikita as they travel into a snowstorm. At first, their relationship seems typical of a master and servant, but their harrowing journey reveals their humanity.

As the blizzard rages around them, they struggle along snowdrifts in their sledge, desperately trying to find shelter. Exhausted and freezing, they finally spot a village in the distance. But their relief turns to despair when they become lost and disoriented in the swirling snow.


10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

How Much Land Does a Man Need? – A Sobering Parable

This short story is a sobering reminder of how greed can lead to ruin. It follows a peasant named Pahom who lusts after more land to call his own.

Pahom already owns enough land to sustain his family, but he craves more. He makes a deal with his village elders to acquire as much land as he can walk around in a day for 1000 rubles. At dawn, Pahom sets off at a brisk pace to encircle the largest plot of land possible.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Three Questions – Seeking Answers to Life’s Biggest Mysteries

One of Tolstoy’s most thought-provoking short stories is “The Three Questions”. In it, a king seeks answers to three important life questions: What is the right time for every action? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do?

To find the answers, the king consults wise men from his kingdom. He receives many conflicting responses and remains confused. Eventually, he meets a hermit who shares three stories that provide insight into the questions that have been plaguing the king.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Coming to Terms With Mortality

The Death of Ivan Ilyich grapples with profound questions about life, death, and finding meaning in suffering. Published in 1886, this short story follows the final months of a middle-aged Russian judge named Ivan Ilyich Golovin.

As the story opens, Ivan’s friends and colleagues learn of his death. While saddened, their grief is perfunctory – more focused on how his death will impact them. Only later do we realize how little anyone truly knew Ivan.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Forged Coupon – How Small Acts of Kindness Matter

One of Tolstoy’s most poignant short stories is “The Forged Coupon”. While less famous than epic novels like War and Peace, this short story illustrates how small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect.

The story begins with a young man named Fedya forging a coupon to get some money. This single act of dishonesty sets off a chain reaction of consequences, both good and bad. When Fedya’s neighbour Stepan finds out about the forgery, he chooses not to turn Fedya in to the police. This small act of mercy allows Fedya to avoid jail time.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

A Grain as Big as a Hen’s Egg – Appreciating Life’s Simple Pleasures

A Grain as Big as a Hen’s Egg is a simple story with a powerful message. Tolstoy reminds us to appreciate life’s small pleasures and moments of beauty rather than always chasing after bigger and better things.

The story is told from the perspective of a farmer named Ivan. While threshing grain, Ivan discovers an enormous grain of rye, “as big as a hen’s egg.” At first, he’s overjoyed at his discovery and imagines how famous and wealthy he’ll become by showing off this oddity at the local fair.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

After the Ball – A Cautionary Tale of Vanity and Regret

Leo Tolstoy’s short story “After the Ball” follows the vain and frivolous young Natalia as she attends her first ball. Like many of Tolstoy’s works, it serves as a cautionary tale about living an unexamined life focused on superficial pleasures.

At the ball, the belle of the ball Natalia enjoys dancing the night away, relishing in the attention of her many suitors. She feels beautiful and desired. The next morning, however, Natalia’s maid helps her undress and removes her makeup. Looking in the mirror, Natalia is horrified to see her unadorned reflection.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Coffee-House of Surat

The short story “The Coffee-House of Surat” by Leo Tolstoy promotes religious tolerance and highlights the need to avoid close-mindedness.

The story is set in a coffee shop in Surat, India during the 17th century where people of different faiths gather. A heated debate breaks out between an Englishman and a Brahman regarding their religious beliefs and customs. The Englishman criticizes Hinduism for practices like worshipping idols and believing in reincarnation. The Brahman argues that Christian beliefs and practices like the trinity, the resurrection of Jesus, and communion are equally implausible.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Kreutzer Sonata

The Kreutzer Sonata is one of Tolstoy’s most controversial novellas. Published in 1889, it explores themes of jealousy, passion, and morality in relationships. The story is told from the perspective of Pozdnyshev, a man on a train recounting his tragic relationship with his wife to a fellow passenger.

Pozdnyshev marries a younger woman but grows increasingly jealous and suspicious over her relationship with a violinist, Troukhatchevsky, who gave her violin lessons. His jealousy poisons his marriage and leads to disturbing consequences.

10 Best Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace

War and Peace is Tolstoy’s epic historical novel published in 1869. Spanning over a decade, from 1805 to 1820, the story primarily follows five aristocratic families in Russia during the Napoleonic Era.

From the lens of the characters’ personal lives and relationships, Tolstoy examines major themes of war, history, youth, society, religion and philosophy. The scope is grand, with over 500 characters and many important historical events woven into the narrative. Yet at its heart, War and Peace is about the lives of a few individuals and their search for purpose and meaning.

There we have it, our list of 10 best stories by Leo Tolstoy. What do you think about our picks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:


2 thoughts on “10 Best Stories by Leo Tolstoy | TheReviewGeek Recommends”

  1. Hi Sevda, you’re absolutely right! I have changed the title of the article to avoid any further confusion. Thanks for the heads-up!

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