Nabokov Novels You Should Read That Don't Start With "L"

By Book Moon

By Book Moon

Most of us have read or are at least familiar with Vladimir Nabokov's esteemed novel, Lolita.  But did you know his other novels are just as brilliant? Check out this list if you want a better understanding of the visionary and ingenious author, Vladimir Nabokov. 

The Eye

Vladimir Nabokov

$15.00 $13.80

The first novel of many featuring an unreliable narrator in which the "real" world blends with a "fantasy" world. A good introduction to Nabokov's writing style and the shortest of his novels coming in at around 100 pages.

Despair

Vladimir Nabokov

$15.95 $14.67

Nabokov loved themes of doubles, reflections, opacity vs. transparency, layers of narration, and epic plot twists. You'll find all of those themes here used to great effect. I would classify the book as a mystery novel but also as an epic tragedy.

Invitation to a Beheading

Vladimir Nabokov

$15.95 $14.67

If you like Kafka, look no further. This one is a favorite and a fun, surrealist read with a beautiful story and epic ending. It contains one of my favorite phrases: "gnostical turpitude" and one of my favorite character names: "Cincinnatus"

Bend Sinister

Vladimir Nabokov

$16.95 $15.59

This is my favorite Nabokov novel. The plot is fascinating. The metaphors are mind-bending. You have no idea what the narrator is doing and the last few pages will make your brain melt.

Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

Vladimir Nabokov

$16.00 $14.72

Woops, not a novel but an autobiography. Did you know Nabokov was an amateur lepidopterist and that he discovered a few species of butterfly? Did you know he was a synesthete? Liked to write chess problems? Taught boxing and tennis. The list goes on.

Pnin

Vladimir Nabokov

$15.95 $14.67

This novel was largely inspired by Nabokov's time as a professor of English Lit. at Cornell University and makes many allusions to the campus, staff, and classes taught during his 8 year stay. Professor Pnin is an absent-minded and awkward Russian language teacher with a knack for getting himself into strange circumstances but also discovering poignant truths about himself and the world.

Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov

$16.00 $14.72

Another favorite, this novel/999 line poem contains two unreliable narrators and stories within footnotes that deconstruct the poem. Trust me, it's fun. Some say this is Nabokov's most perfect novel, and I find it hard to disagree.

The Luzhin Defense

Vladimir Nabokov

$16.95 $15.59

(It doesn't start with "L" technically) Nabokov once wrote that he saw stories hidden in chess problems. He applies that notion in his novel The Luzhin Defense. This is a simple story with a complex middle and shocking ending.

Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle

Vladimir Nabokov

$18.00 $16.56

Save this one for last because if there's one thing Nabokov loved most, it was playing tricks on his readers. He accomplishes this in many ways but especially through hidden references to previous work, either through metaphors, characters, or puns. This novel is a beast and makes the most sense if you have a strong grasp of his previous work. Even then, there's a lot going on here but it's worth the effort.

Many moons ago, Amanda first worked as a bookseller at Buffalo Street Books Co-Op in Ithaca, NY. She’s thrilled to be back among the books, especially here in Easthampton where she’s lived for two years. Amanda holds a B.M. in Music Composition and a minor in English Lit. from Ithaca College. She enjoys all kinds of books but is especially partial to anything involving science fiction, speculative fiction, feminist/LGBTQ themes, and writers of color. She’s a nerd’s nerd and loves being a part of this amazing community of book lovers. Come talk to her about her strange taste in music (jazz fusion, anyone?), books, artsy films, and the Fermi Paradox.