Stories that you can read

18 Great Short Stories You Can Read Free Online

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(Editor’s note: this post was updated in August, 2021, with current links to all stories.) When I have no idea what to read, I find a bunch of free short stories online, save them onto the Pocket app, and read them as if I’ve compiled my own short story collection. Like a music playlist I create to match a mood, I create short story playlists to break a book slump, or to sample a bunch of different authors’ writing.

As to where to find great stories, The New Yorker stories are generally best, but require a subscription if you read too many in a month. I also like Narrative Magazine, which will ask you for an email, but their stories are free too. Tor of course has some great free stuff, and you can find most of the classics through Gutenberg. The stories on this list that are not from any of these publications, I found through simple Google searches. If I’m interested in an author, but don’t necessarily want to read a whole book, I look to see if they have any short fiction available that I can read first.

From this list, my favorites are Zadie Smith and Italo Calvino’s stories. I’d never read Zadie Smith, but after loving “The Embassy of Cambodia” I started On Beauty (a 500 page book) and I absolutely love it. Both stories satisfied a reading itch I needed scratched.

Here are a few of my favorite free short stories you can read online right now.

The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges

The world is a library that contains all the books that have ever been written, but most of them are indecipherable. Many people venture to the library to find the meaning of life. It reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld library.

“Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species—the unique species—is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

This used to be my favorite short story, and I might only think that because I read it when I was a freshman in high school and I remember being shocked by the ending. It’s always stayed with me.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

Another story with an ending that you won’t forget anytime soon. O’Connor was a master. If you’ve never read any of her work I would start here.

“In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka

It’s a chilling story. A man known as the Traveller is visiting a foreign penal colony where he is shown a special machine used to execute prisoners. The machine inscribes the prisoner’s crime onto their body until they die (kind of sounds familiar if you’ve read the fifth Harry Potter book). It takes twelve hours of torture before the prisoner dies. I told you it was chilling!

“The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor)

Kai Ashante Wilson has quite a talent. This ties present day police brutality towards African Americans to post-emancipation America and a family of freed slaves that are living with the Devil that followed them from Africa.

“The City Born Great” by N.K. Jemisin (Tor)

Cities, once they are old enough, must be born. New York City is ready to be born, and must be led into the world by a reluctant midwife.

“Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor (Lightspeed Magazine)

Okorafor is a wonderful storyteller, and if you’ve never read her books, this would be a great place to start. And if you like this short story, Binti: The Complete Trilogy was released in February!

“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Lightspeed Magazine)

Oh, you’ve never read Ted Chiang? Well, you must go out now and read this story and then read Stories of Your Life and Others and his new collection Exhalation: Stories, which comes out in May. I was shocked by how good and complex his writing was. I had no idea that the movie The Arrival was based on one of his short stories.

“The Daughters of the Moon” by Italo Calvino (The New Yorker)

I don’t know. It’s either Zadie Smith’s “The Embassy of Cambodia” or this story that is my favorite on the list… I can’t decide. I think it’s this story. A story about the people of Earth deciding to throw away the Moon. It’s a story of consumerism. Luckily, I own “The Complete Cosmicomics“, so I can continue reading Calvino’s magnificent short story collection.

“The Embassy of Cambodia” by Zadie Smith (The New Yorker)

After you read “The Devil in America” read this story and see if you can find the parallels. This was my first time reading Zadie Smith because I’d always heard mixed reviews, but if her longer fiction is anything like this short story, I’m in love. If you need help figuring out where to start with Zadie Smith’s books, check out our Reading Pathway guide to Zadie Smith.

“Sweetness” by Toni MOrrison (The New Yorker)

A prelude to Morrison’s book God Help the Child, this is the story of Bride’s mother, and her rationale for raising her daughter in a loveless home.

“Girls, At Play” by Celeste Ng (Bellevue Literary Review)

“This is how we play the game: pink means kissing; red means tongue. Green means up your shirt; blue means down his pants. Purple means in your mouth. Black means all the way.”

The first four sentences of this short story sent chills down my spine. A superbly told story of the extremes of girlhood and adolescence; the pressures girls face as they get older.

“On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” by Haruki Murakami (Genius)

Love at first sight, if you believe love is predestined rather than a choice. Fated love, to me, no matter how hard my heart becomes, still seems ridiculously romantic. I haven’t read Murakami in a long time but now I’m itching to pick up one of his books (I really want to read 1Q84, but it’s soooo long!).

“Chechnya” by Anthony Marra (Narrative Magazine)

This was Anthony Marra’s first published short story, and works as an outline for his novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon. It’s the kind of story you read while holding your breath.

“The Fruit of My Woman” by Han Kang (Granta)

This story was written in 1997 before the publication of The Vegetarian. The two stories share many of the same themes, and it’s evident that this story served as a blueprint for the later book. In “The Fruit of My Woman” the wife is slowly turning into a tree (something that also comes up in The Vegetarian). The allusions to Daphne turning herself into a laurel tree to escape the advances of Apollo are hard to miss, but there’s no clear indication that Daphne was an actual influence on either story. Han Kang can do no wrong in my eyes.

“A Lady’s Maid” by Sarah Gailey (Barnes & Noble)

I love Sarah Gailey. This is a great introduction if you’re unfamiliar with her work. It’s Victorian London with androids—so much to love!

“A Bruise the Size and Shape of a Door Handle” by Daisy Johnson (American Short Fiction)

A hot and bothered story about a house falling in love with the girl who lives in the attic. I loved everything about this story. This is included in Johnson’s short story collection, Fen, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Also, the writing style reminded me of Samantha Hunt.

“Hollow” by Breece D’J Pancake (The Atlantic)

Breece D’J Pancake died when he was 26. He was from West Virginia, and I would label his writing “grit-lit”. This story was almost too gritty for me. He’s the kind of writer that other writers love. His short story collection has a blurb from Joyce Carol Oates.

Want more short stories? Check out our post on the 100 best short story collections!

13 of the Best Short Stories Online

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It only takes ten minutes to escape.

By Michelle Hart

If a novel is a marriage, then a short story is a love affair. So said Lorrie Moore, one of the undisputed masters of the form. There's an inherent intensity to really good short fiction, an every-word-matters fervor urging readers to a revelatory finish. Below are thirteen of our favorite short stories, from irrefutable classics by Jamaica Kincaid and Flannery O'Connor to newer additions to the pantheon—spanning crime, magical realism, and snackable tales you can devour on the beach. An added bonus? You can read these all online for free.


"In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried" by Amy Hempel

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"The Husband Stitch" by Carmen Maria Machado

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"Birdsong" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Jacques De Loustal / The New Yorker

A story of infidelity in the New Yorker might be as commonplace as an MTA delay, but here, the fearless author of Americanah renders an illicit relationship between a Nigerian woman and her married lover (and the remorse the former may or may not feel years later) with heart-shattering nuance.

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"The Semplica-Girl Diaries" by George Saunders

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"Lady Tigers" by Nick White

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"Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid

Photograph by Nina Leen / Time Life Pictures / Getty

It's tempting to call this classic story "short and sweet" but that latter descriptor might not be totally accurate. "Girl" unfurls as a list of dos and don'ts (mostly don'ts) for how to be a respectable lady, and at just one page, it packs a punch.

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"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu

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"Island" by Alexia Arthurs

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"The Frog King" by Garth Greenwell

Photograph by Ryan Pfluger for The New Yorker

Every line in a Garth Greenwell story brims with devastating beauty, his sumptuous sentences filled with an almost operatic longing. In "The Frog King," the nameless narrator, an American teaching in Bulgaria, vacations to Italy with his Portuguese boyfriend. "I wanted to challenge myself to write happiness," Greenwell told the New Yorker. The story, like the holiday the characters take in it, offers a needed respite.

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"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor

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"Cosmopolitan" by Akhil Sharma

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"What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" by Lesley Nneka Arimah

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"The Knowers" by Helen Phillips

Adam Thompson / Electric Literature

What if you could learn the date of your death way before it happens? Would you? And what would you do with that information and your remaining days among the living? That's the hook of "The Knowers," a story so wondrous and affecting that you should read it even if you only have a few minutes left to live.

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Michelle Hart Michelle Hart is the Assistant Books Editor of O, the Oprah Magazine.

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Top 15 best history books worth reading

LinDeal has compiled a selection of the top 15 history books why you should read and analyze them.

If you are a fan of monumental, important and thought-provoking reading, want to better understand how our world works and are able to think critically, we bring to your attention our selection of the best books on history. We deliberately did not focus on any one topic, but selected for you the most popular works that are aimed at the general public and enjoy consistently high popularity among readers. The information in them is presented simply and clearly, so that you do not need to have a doctoral degree to get acquainted with them. nine0005

TOP 15 history books:

  • "Illustrated Russian History", Vasily Klyuchevsky
  • "Jewish War", Josephus Flavius ​​
  • "History", Herodotus
  • “Secret teachings of all times. An Encyclopedic Exposition of Hermetic, Kabbalistic, and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy, Manly P. Hall
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • "History of the Russian State", Nikolay Karamzin
  • Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • History of Reading by Alberto Mangel
  • Rise and fall. A Brief History of 10 Great Empires, Paul Strathern
  • “Inconvenient past. Memory of state crimes in Russia and other countries, Epple Nikolai
  • "The Disappeared Peoples of the World", Evgeny Yarovoy
  • A History of Civilization, Herbert George Wells
  • Edible history of mankind. Food as it is - from sacrifice to tin can, Tom Standage
  • War. Complete encyclopedia. All the battles, battles and military campaigns of world history from the 4th millennium BC to the end of the 20th century, Richard Ernest Dupuy
  • Silk Road. The Road of Fabrics, Slaves, Ideas and Religions, Peter Frankopan

Best non-fiction history books

As you read the books in our selection, you will be able not only to expand your knowledge of the history of the world, but also to better understand the ways in which modern society moves. And, of course, you will get tremendous pleasure from reading, because most of the works from the TOP are written by talented and well-known authors who have received many prestigious awards. nine0005

In a word, forward - into the past!

1. "Illustrated Russian History", Vasily Klyuchevsky

A course of lectures on Russian history was published by V.O. Klyuchevsky in 1904. In his work, one of the greatest historians of pre-revolutionary Russia not only talks about key milestones in the history of the country, but also reveals his own point of view on the connections that existed between various political, economic and social events. He also pays a lot of attention to the importance of Russia in the global historical process. This publication includes descriptions of 100 events, facts and famous personalities that had the greatest impact on the formation of the Russian State. An interesting and entertaining story is accompanied by bright, colorful illustrations based on drawings and engravings of the Russian Empire. The book can be a great gift and decoration for the home library of every person interested in Russian history. nine0005

2. "The Jewish War", Josephus Flavius ​​

The book introduces readers to one of the most famous ancient historians - Joseph Flavius. His works have survived to this day almost unchanged. The reason for this lies in the extreme popularity of the works of Flavius ​​in the Christian world. The Jewish War consists of seven volumes. The book was written around 75 AD, that is, four years after the hostilities described in it. In the works of history, readers can get acquainted with the testimony of a contemporary of the events associated with the birth of the Christian religion, literally learn first-hand about the situation in Palestine during the life of Jesus Christ and the apostles. It is known for certain that many details from the narratives of the New Testament were taken by the first preachers of Christianity precisely from the “Jewish War” by Flavius. nine0005

3. "History", Herodotus

"History" is the work of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. It became the first fully preserved historical work in European literature. For writing this book, Herodotus was awarded the honorary title of "Father of History" by Cicero. It is noteworthy that the famous manuscript was quite by accident in the fifteenth century during the evacuation of Constantinople on the eve of the capture of the city by the Turks. As modern researchers note, when writing the work of his entire life, Herodotus systematized, analyzed and wrote down everything that he saw and knew. The book is based on descriptions of the Greco-Persian wars, the origins of the enmity of the parties, the cultural and historical characteristics of the peoples participating in the conflict. Being a great storyteller and an educated person, the ancient Greek historian not only rethinks and retells dry historical facts, but transforms them into some kind of fantastic mixture of reality, fiction and myths. nine0005

4. “Secret teachings of all times. An Encyclopedic Exposition of Hermetic, Kabbalistic, and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy, Manly P. Hall

Manly P. Hall's Complete Encyclopedia of Secret Societies, Ancient Mythology, and Secret Symbolism is today considered a classic of world literature. The first version of the book was published back in 1928, since then it has been repeatedly reprinted. It has been translated into all major languages ​​of the world, and its total circulation has exceeded 1 million copies. According to researchers, Hall's work includes a colossal amount of information, it covers almost all dogmas and teachings known to modern history - from the philosophy of the Pythagorean school, Greek and Egyptian mysteries, cabalistic, Masonic and Rosicrucian doctrines to Kabbalah, Zodiac, Tarot, alchemical rituals , pagan, Islamic and Christian mysticism. The narrative is diluted with numerous illustrations and quotations from ancient treatises and works. nine0005

5. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs and Steel is an international bestseller that brought its author, Jared Diamond, the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, instantly turning an unknown American geographer and ornithologist into a star of the first magnitude. In his work, the writer tries to answer the question why different regions of our planet developed so unevenly that some Australian aborigines and African tribes still live in "wild" conditions, while the world's largest powers successfully explore space and create innovative technologies. Based on the data of zoology, botany, geography, linguistics and a number of other sciences, Diamond quite convincingly and clearly shows that the asymmetry in the historical development of different parts of the world is not accidental and relies on a huge number of natural factors: climate, habitat, size of the continent, the availability of suitable for cultivation of plants and domestication of animals. The author supports all his conclusions with a huge number of examples from the experience of observing peoples, which today are called only “primitive” and the history of world civilizations. nine0005

6. History of the Russian State, Nikolai Karamzin

"History of the Russian State" was written by the outstanding historiographer and writer N.M. Karamzin on behalf of Alexander I. To describe the picture of the life and life of the country from the ancient Slavs and Rurik to the Time of Troubles, the author did a titanic work, systematizing and analyzing a vast amount of historical materials. Karamzin spent several decades creating his main work. His first version came out at 1916 year. In the future, the multi-volume work was finalized and republished. An important advantage of the book is a large number of hand-drawn illustrations that allow you to get a better idea not only about the events, but also about the heroes of past eras.

7. Sapiens. A Brief History of Humanity, Yuval Noah Harari

100,000 years ago Homo sapiens was one of the six human species that lived on planet Earth. At that time, our distant ancestors were as close as possible to the animal world, while they played a small role in the ecosystem than gorillas, jellyfish or fireflies. But about 70,000 years ago, due to some mysterious changes, there was a sharp development of the cognitive capabilities of Homo sapiens, as a result of which Homo sapiens became the real master of the planet and a nightmare for the environment. What made this happen? Hundred became with other types of man? How and when did the first states and religious cults originate? Why, in almost all world societies, women have always stood below men on the social ladder? How did capitalism and science become a priority creed of modern civilization? After all, what is the future for all of us? The answers to these and many other questions can be found in the book by Yuval Noah Harari. nine0005

8. History of Reading by Alberto Mangel

When and how did the first letters appear? Who taught camels to walk in alphabetical order? Is it true that one could be left without a head for the love of reading? A History of Reading is a book about how a person perceives the process of reading as a passion, seduction, rebellion, obsession or inspiration. Despite the fact that the work is positioned as an artistic narrative, it can be considered as a full-fledged scientific study. Alberto Mangel, a well-known Canadian writer, culturologist, director of the National Library of Argentina, offers to go on an exciting journey into the “history of reading”. The heroes of this amazing book are writers, philosophers, church saints and mere mortals, with whom you will gradually learn how people wrote in ancient times on clay tablets, then moved on to scrolls, and then to printed text. nine0005

9. “Rise and fall. A Brief History of 10 Great Empires by Paul Strathern

How and from what are great empires born? Passion for adventure and travel, the use of pure force, inspiration and desire for power - all these are indispensable conditions for the creation of powerful and highly developed powers. Here are just often listed conditions, in addition to positive aspects, include elements of self-destruction. As a result, in the DNA of absolutely every empire, from the very moment of its birth, a course of death is laid. This thesis is confirmed by the conclusions reached by the famous British historian Paul Strathern in his work The Rise and Fall. On the example of the 10 greatest empires - from the Roman and Akkadian to the American and Russian, the author demonstrates to his readers how the mechanisms and formation, development and extinction work. nine0005

10. “Inconvenient past. Memory of state crimes in Russia and other countries, Epple Nikolai

What is an "uncomfortable past"? According to the author, this term should be understood as numerous crimes in which the state is to blame. Admitting your own mistakes and taking responsibility for them is sometimes very difficult from a psychological, political, economic and legal point of view. And while some Western and Russian critics of the authorities tirelessly accuse Russia of being unable to overcome its difficult past, Nikolai Epple in his work compares Russian history with the experience of other countries in Germany, Argentina, Poland, South Africa, and Japan using illustrative examples. The author is sure that not a single modern state has an ideal past. Even the highly developed powers, which today are actively promoting democratic values, have their “skeletons in the closet”. nine0005

11. "The Disappeared Peoples of the World", Evgeny Yarovoy

Cretans and Trypillians, Seljuks and Saxons, Sarmatians and Sevs. The history of human civilization has known many tribes and peoples. Today only professional historians and archaeologists know about many of them. The author of the book "The Disappeared Peoples of the World", a well-known scientist - archaeologist, Doctor of Historical Sciences Yevgeny Vasilyevich Yarovoy devoted his work to the ancient peoples who managed to leave a mark on the history of our planet. As you read the work, the reader will learn about the many forgotten and little-known facts and the role played by different nations and nationalities in the formation of modern ethnic groups living in different regions of the globe. nine0005


History of Civilization, Herbert George Wells

The History of Civilization by George H. G. Wells is a brief history of our world. The book is written in simple and engaging language, making it read like a fiction novel. There is no excessive research and detail here, thanks to which the reader will be able to get a general understanding of how human civilization has developed over several millennia. Modern Wells called this edition "a visual guide through the pages of history with an impressive amount of information and an excellent presentation of events from the beginning of life on Earth to the beginning of the 20th century." nine0005

13. Edible history of mankind. Food As It Is - From Sacrifice to Tin Can, Tom Standage

There are many ways to look into the past: long and tedious to study the chronology of significant events in history, to study the genealogical tree of the ruling dynasties, to read a huge number of scientific works on the birth, rise and fall of great empires. Tom Standage offers to take a different path and look behind the scenes of history through the prism of gastronomy. The author of this wonderful book is convinced that it was food that at one time formed the basis of all civilizations, made it possible to unite entire nations and peoples. As you read on, will you discover how sugar and potatoes sparked the industrial revolution? How has agriculture changed the way people live? Why is farming the cause of political and economic inequality? Why did Napoleon actually lose the war with Russia? nine0005

14. “War. Complete encyclopedia. All the battles, battles and military campaigns of world history from the 4th millennium BC to the end of the 20th century, Richard Ernest Dupuis

Encyclopedia of Richard Ernest and Trevor Nevitt Dupuy is a unique reference book on the history of the development of military art from Antiquity to the present. The authors of this research work managed to collect the richest material in one book: rare maps, archival documents, statistical reports, excerpts from historical and literary sources. For ease of reading, the encyclopedia is divided into 22 chapters, each of which is devoted to a specific time period from the 4th millennium BC to the end of the 20th century. At the end of each chapter, the authors draw conclusions about the principles of strategy and tactics of a particular period, the characteristics of weapons, and list the names of outstanding military leaders of the era. All this allows readers to immerse themselves most fully and deeply in the history of wars, to appreciate the mistakes and victories of the generals of the past. nine0005

15. Silk Road. The Road of Fabrics, Slaves, Ideas and Religions, Peter Frankopan

"The Silk Road" by Oxford University historian Peter Frankopan is a sensational book that fundamentally changes humanity's understanding of the history of the last two thousand years. The author has been studying, systematizing and evaluating primary sources for a long time in order to prove the fallacy of the theory of a Eurocentric world. A few years ago, the scientific, intellectual, political and economic centers of the world were by no means located in Europe, but in the cities of Central Asia. The reader will learn how the Silk Road from Asia to Europe arose, how many times it became the cause of bloody wars between countries wishing to control it. Frankopan firmly believes that history did not develop the way we were taught in school. He reveals his own vision of many events of the past, talks about the contribution of Asian countries to science, culture and development of the whole world. nine0005


Gone are the days when history was considered a boring and incredibly complex science. Many modern authors are able to recount the events of the past in such a way that you not only do not get bored, but also lose sleep, constantly demanding more. It is these fascinating, interesting, and most importantly informative books that we have collected in our today's selection.

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Book selections History

Books that everyone should read

“Books that everyone should read” – 100 works necessary for understanding ourselves and each other. This is not just a list of "recommended literature" like the one that teachers give to schoolchildren, and not just a collection of good and favorite, interesting books. This list is the result of a study, it is based on an in-depth survey, literary investigation and analysis of text references in different eras. Thus, a list of books was formed that everyone who speaks Russian should read. Read to understand the society in which you live, to speak the same language with others: recognize quotes, understand jokes, read images, recognize patterns of behavior. The works are arranged according to the degree of significance and importance for understanding the cultural code of the society. nine0005

The list of books worth reading was compiled in 2015 by Russkiy...More This is not just a list of "recommended literature" like the one that teachers give to schoolchildren, and not just a collection of good and favorite, interesting books. This list is the result of a study, it is based on an in-depth survey, literary investigation and analysis of text references in different eras. Thus, a list of books was formed that everyone who speaks Russian should read. Read to understand the society in which you live, to speak the same language with others: recognize quotes, understand jokes, read images, recognize patterns of behavior. The works are arranged according to the degree of significance and importance for understanding the cultural code of the society. nine0005

The list of books worth reading was compiled in 2015 by the Russian Reporter magazine. And this is not just an ordinary list, but a real in-depth study. "What to read?" Analysts asked thousands of respondents. Then the answers were given to specialists - philologists, who conducted a whole literary investigation. How often these texts were mentioned in different eras, what key features of the “Russian soul” they display. Bottom line: not just a list of books that everyone should read, but a real study of the Russian cultural code. Books for everyone who speaks and reads Russian. This is indicated by the tags that you will see under each book in the list. For example, novel No. 1 - "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Learn more