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.
Declutter your life! Our March issue features a complete guide to streamlining your life, from Peter Walsh's 30-Day Organization Challenge to innovative ways to clear your mind. Plus, go behind the scenes of Oprah's yard sale and find out how you can improve the world with a simple "hello."