Before encountering Anna Pavlovna Scherer—the first of literally hundreds of characters—it's helpful to understand that traditional three-part Russian names can have masculine or feminine endings; this explains siblings with different last names. If the system makes you dizzy, take a shortcut—read just first names. Bear in mind that Russians are fond of nicknames. Thus Piotr = Petya; ditto Natalia, Natasha. Rule of thumb: When you're wondering, "Is this the same person?" the answer is yes.
In Search of Lost Time: 4,000 pages--aaagh! War and Peace: hundreds of Russian names! Moby-Dick: guy obsessed with a whale--so unlikely. Here's advice on how to tackle a tough book from three accomplished professors.
Our December issue features Oprah's Favorite Things—as well as your chance to win them all! You'll also find our easy holiday declutter plan, Dr. Oz's guide to sleeping better (starting tonight) and the ultimate holiday menu.