The Possessed by Elif Batuman
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
By Elif Batuman
304 pages; FSG


Elif Batuman's audaciously funny debut, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them , unravels the language, plots, and personal lives of the country's greatest writers. Part travelogue, part memoir, this book is ultimately about what happens when an unlikely infatuation becomes a life's work: "I now understand that love is a rare and valuable thing, and you don't get to choose its object," Batuman writes. "You just go around getting hung up on all the least convenient thingsā€”and if the only obstacle in your way is a little extra work, then that's the wonderful gift right there."