I split up the post that I did yesterday... The post was way too long. So the below is verbatim half of yesterday's post.
* * * I said that I would posts the books/programs/city that I recommend for students coming to Russia. It seems to be a common question that I get. If you can't find the below listed books on Amazon (etc) try checking to see that I spelled the name correctly, I am a horrid speller (as this blog has proven). Also, check that the below books are the newest editions. Newer editions are always better than outdated ones. My comments are written below each book. In no particular order, here they are:
Schaum's Outlines Russian Grammar, By James Levine, 0-07-038238-7
This is really an outstanding book. I used it during my Russian classes in the US, as well as here in Russia. It is as useful in 100 level Russian as it is after a year in Russia. You MUST bring a grammar book with you to Russia. You can't live without one. This is the most popular book amongst my colleagues. It has lots of very good examples and explanations. Of all the ones I have seen, it gets my strongest endorsement. You cannot live without it.
The Russian's World Life and Language, By Genevra Gerhart, 0-89357-293-4
This book is an awesome. You would do yourself a favor to bring it with you to Russia. It is (more-or-less) a one volume, cultural encyclopedia of Russia. There are sections on every aspect of Russian life (from weddings, to the schools, to religion, to home appliances, to common adages/poems). It is very readable and is not very heavy. If you have interest in Russian culture, you should own a copy. Though, the book (published, I think, in 1998) has become dated. Though I have heard that a new edition is coming out in the near future!
Any atlas. I would bring a simple atlas with me to Russia. It will come in handy. I didn't know where Sochi was... Until I looked on my atlas.
Towards the Spiritual Convergence of America and Russia: American Mind and Russian Soul, American Individuality and Russian Community, and the Potent Alchemy of National Characteristics, By Stephen Ludger Lapeyrouse.
This book is hard to find. It is a long essay on the difference of world perception between the east and the west. Like a lot of books on Russia, it has become dated. Though if one wishes to seriously understand Russian thought, this book is wonderful.
Harper Collins Russian Concise Dictionary 2nd (or newer is always better) edition 0-06-095661-5
This dictionary has proven to be a wonderful tool. Rarely do I encounter a word that is not in this dictionary. Importantly, it gives the case that various verbs take, etc. It has been my companion for over five years, and thousands of words.
The Rough Guide to Moscow, By Dan Richardson 1-84353-282-4
This is the most readable and interesting guidebook I have ever seen. I (no joke, really) read it at nights for pleasure. It is awesome. It covers not only the cool things to see in Moscow, but gives a very anecdotal history of everything. It also seems to be tremendously well researched.
Langensheidt's Pocket Dictionary English-Russian, Russian-English
You need a pocket dictionary for class (and for other situations). This one is good for a pocket dictionary, though it has some problems. I cannot stand when a Russian book doesn't give the case that a verb should take. The language is already nearly impossible, and often times this dictionary doesn't do much to improve the situation. To be fair, I have used it for a couple of years, and only a few times a month does it not have the exact word that I need. I give it a mild review. Though, equally, I don't know much about its competitors.
501 Russian Verbs, By Thomas R. Beyer, jr 2nd Edition 0-7641-1349-6
This book is logical and simple. It has the full declension for more than 501 verbs. It also gives the case that they should take. My criticism is that for a lot of the verbs, their explanation is ambiguous. I might read (and understand) the declension, but I may not better understand how to use the verb in a sentence. It does not give examples! I have heard that the Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs is good... But I really don't know. You can probably flip threw both of them at your local bookstore and decide for yourself. I give this book a decent rating.
Русский язык как иностраный, Н.С. Новикова и О.М. Щербакова 5-89349-393-1
This is a great book for learners of all levels. It is a soft covered collection of short stories, with all of the words that a foreign is unlikely to know, in bold, and translated in the column. I have enjoyed it for a couple of years and it has done a lot for my Russian reading ability. It was recommended to me by a professor, and I recommend it to you!
Говорите по-русски С.А. Хавронина (14th Edition) 5-9576-0206-x
This book is great for improving reading and vocab. After each short story there is an explanation of the key grammatical lessons of the story. The stories are enjoyable. The explanations are excellent. The book really is fantastic. It was given to me by a professor (with his recommendation that I use it) and I am better for having listened to his advice.
The Ugly American By William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick
This book should be required reading for anyone looking to live/study/serve abroad. It is a (fictional) account of US diplomats' behaviour (and disgrace) while living overseas. The book was first published around 50 years ago, and it is as relevant then as it is today.
There is nothing that angers me more than too see the behaviour of some of the Americans in Russia. As cliche as it sounds: When abroad, you are representing your country. Read this book.