2019 non-fiction book fair moscow image hannah johnson

Top Russian Titles and Highlights at Moscow’s 2019 Non/Fiction Book Fair

In Feature Articles by Hannah Johnson

A new location for the Non/Fiction Book Fair in Moscow brings together higher book sales, international contacts, and a look at some of 2019’s top Russian books.

2019 non-fiction book fair moscow image hannah johnson

2019 Non/Fiction Book Fair in Moscow. Image: Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnson

A New Location for the Fair
This month, the 21st Non/Fiction Book Fair in Moscow opened its doors in a new location—Gostiny Dvor—bringing its exhibitors and author events closer to the city center for the five-day fair (December 5 to 9).

The new location, close to Red Square and other popular gathering places in Moscow, proved to be a success for this public-facing fair at which Russian publishers promote their latest titles, sell books, and generally engage with readers.

Aisles of the fair buzzed with book buyers, and though most publishers were kept busy by the crowds, many also made time to meet with their industry colleagues and make new connections among the foreign publishers at the fair. The atmosphere was one of friendly enthusiasm.

Book Sales at the Fair
Independent publishers at 2019 Non/Fiction Book Fair

Small, independent publishers at the 2019 Non/Fiction Book Fair in Moscow. Image: Hannah Johnson

Several Russian publishers told Publishing Perspectives that while the income from selling books during the fair more or less covers their exhibition costs, the overall visibility and business meetings makes Non/Fiction a must-attend event for them.

The fair’s director, Maria Fedotova, told Publishing Perspectives that book sales during the show are very impactful for small and independent publishers that don’t always get enough visibility in bookstores.

It’s because of this—and Fedotova’s commitment to supporting independent publishers—that the fair subsidizes more than 40 small, independent publishers to exhibit at Non/Fiction in a dedicated area at the front of the fair.

Fedotova said it can be difficult to start a business in Russia, and she wants to help new publishers get their books into the hands of readers.

Highlights from Russia’s Largest Trade Publisher

Ekaterina Kozhanova, director of strategic communications for Eksmo-AST, told Publishing Perspectives that the group’s book sales during the Non/Fiction fair this year were stronger than last year. She attributed this rise, in part, to the fair’s new location, which she said “caused a new wave of reader interest.”

Eksmo-AST, Russia’s largest trade publishing group, sold its books during the fair using the infrastructure of its online bookstore, book24.ru. Looking at the sales data from the platform, Kozhanova shared with Publishing Perspectives lists of the group’s most popular authors and top-selling titles at this year’s Non/Fiction fair.

Eksmo-AST’s Top 10 most popular authors of the fair:

  1. Lyudmila Ulitskaya
  2. Yuri Slezkine
  3. Madeleine Miller
  4. Dina Rubina
  5. Boris Akunin
  6. Evgeny Vodolazkin
  7. Michel Houellebecq
  8. Dmitry Bykov
  9. Vladimir Pozner
  10. Julia Latynina
Four highlighted titles from Eksmo AST

From left are On the Body of the Soul by Lyudmila Ulitskaya; The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine; History of the Russian State: Alexander the Blessed and Nicholas the Unforgettable by Boris Akunin; and Napoleon’s Train, Book 3: Angel Horn by Dina Rubina

Among these 10 authors, Kozhanova said that four stood out in particular.

Lyudmila Ulitskaya, widely known in Russia and internationally, was at the fair to present her newest book, a collection of short stories called On the Body of the Soul (AST). Ulitskaya’s work has been translated into many languages and recognized with, among others, the Russian Booker Award and Austrian State Prize for European Literature. [Editor’s note: In a September 23 statement, organizers of the Russian Booker Award announced with regret that they were terminating the program after two years of unsuccessful efforts to obtain funding.]

Yuri Slezkine’s true story The House of Government has been a bestseller since March, said Kozhanova, and interest remains high for this chronicle on the lives of Soviet officials living in an  apartment building in Moscow.

Prolific and popular Russian writer Boris Akunin was among the top-selling authors with the latest volume in his nonfiction series documenting the history of Russia, Alexander the Blessed and Nicholas the Unforgettable.

And the third book in bestselling author Dina Rubina’s Napoleon’s Train trilogy called Angel Horn landed at spot No. 3 on the group’s list of top-selling titles during the fair.

Eksmo-AST’s Top 10 bestselling books during Non/Fiction:

  1. Lyudmila Ulitskaya, On the Body of the Soul (О теле души)
  2. Boris Akunin, History of the Russian State: Alexander the Blessed and Nicholas the Unforgettable (Первая сверхдержава. История Российского государства. Александр Благословенный и Николай Незабвенный)
  3. Dina Rubina, Napoleon’s Train, Book 3: Angel Horn (Наполеонов обоз. Книга 3: Ангельский рожок)
  4. Michel Houellebecq, Serotonin (Серотонин)
  5. Madeleine Miller, The Song of Achilles (Песнь Ахилла)
  6. Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government (Дом правительства)
  7. Evgeny Vodolazkin, Go Fearlessly. Between Literature and Life (Идти бестрепетно. Между литературой и жизнью)
  8. Julia Latynina, Christ with a Thousand Faces (Христос с тысячью лиц)
  9. Sergey Ryazansky, Amazing Land. Planet of a Thousand Colors (Удивительная Земля. Планета тысячи цветов)
  10. Vasily Avchenko and Alexei Korobeshko, Oleg Kuvaev: A Tale of Ad-Hoc Human (Олег Куваев: повесть о нерегламентированном человеке)
International Publishers at the Non/Fiction Fair
German collective stand at Non/Fiction Book Fair

The German collective stand at the 2019 Non/Fiction Book Fair in Moscow, organized by the Frankfurter Buchmesse and BIZ Moskau. Image: Hannah Johnson

While showcasing new titles to the public and connecting publishers with readers are key parts of the fair, Non/Fiction is increasingly seen as a fair where international publishers, agents, and others can make connections in Russia.

In addition to sizable national stands from France, Italy, Poland, and several other countries, the German collective stand grew this year, hosting 10 publishers chosen from a growing number of applications.

“I feel very positive about the Non/Fiction Moscow fair,” said Anne-Catherine Krowicki, head of foreign rights for Gestalten Verlag in Berlin. She attended the Non/Fiction fair to establish new foreign rights connections in Russia.

“The rights potential both for our kids’ titles and adult titles is high on the Russian market, and the fair allowed me to validate that fact as well as meet very relevant publishers for our lists,” she said.

Building Future Readers
BIZ Moskau young readers event at 2019 non/fiction book fair

BIZ Moskau organized a discussion on strategies to encourage children to read more books. Image: Hannah Johnson

As part of the program at the fair, where reader engagement is a priority, BIZ Moscau—the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Moscow office—organized a panel discussion on the internationally ubiquitous challenge of encouraging children to read more books.

Christine Paxmann, publisher of German the children’s literature magazine Eselsohr, joined her Russian counterpart Marina Aromstam, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Papmanbook, in a discussion moderated by Svetlana Zorina, editor-in-chief of Russia’s Book Industry magazine.

As an industry, Zorina said, creating readers of the future is an issue we all need to address. One strategy that both Paxmann and Aromstam said is effective is reading books aloud to children.

Whether at home with family or in the classroom, Aromstam said reading aloud creates positive experiences with books and stories. In Russia, she said, reading-aloud competitions have grown in popularity, along with audiobook sales. Hearing books and the more complex language used in writing—as opposed to spoken language—helps kids, she said, become familiar with more complicated language.

The panelists didn’t agree, however, on whether digital content and formats would encourage children to read more books. Aromstam said that interactive and multimedia elements had potential to engage reluctant readers, and to make reading easier and fun.

Paxmann said that several studies have shown that readers comprehend material differently on paper versus in digital formats.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Moscow’s Non/Fiction Book Fair is here, and more on the Russian market is here. More on internaitonal publishing rights is here.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.