The Possessed by Elif Batuman

Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

The Possessed
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 things—and if the only obstacle in your way is a little extra work, then that's the wonderful gift right there."
— Kristy Davis