I read Anna Karenina a few years ago and it made such an impact on me. The story (or stories, as it were), are a patchwork of vivid tragedy, romantic intrigue, and humility. It is in the character, Levin, that I feel the most allure due to his humility and benevolence juxtaposed against the inevitable faults of the human condition... After reading the novel, I read that the author, Leo Tolstoy loosely modeled Levin after himself.
By happenstance, I came across another book by Tolstoy recently: Wise Thoughts for Every Day. It is not a novel but rather a book of his philosophies about life, God, and love. I was a bit skeptical at first (as always) but soon this little book found a home in my heart. It is divided into daily passages, of which I do not always agree, but never do I finish reading a passage without subsequent thought on the subject. It's such a pleasure to spend a little snippet of each day reflecting on living life with purpose and altruism.
So, right along with Steinbeck, I place the literary great, Tolstoy, among my literary heroes----but not only for his wonderful writing skills but his peaceful and compassionate outlook on life. I very much recommend this little book----it would make an excellent holiday gift.
Here is a passage from the book:
"Everything good, even the smallest good act, takes effort. Nothing can stop you from making an effort to improve your life. Always remember this.
We think of work as the things we can see with our eyes: building houses, plowing fields, feeding cattle. However, your only true work is invisible: it is improving your inner spirit.
To live a good life, do not neglect even the smallest good act. Such acts require the same amount of energy as the greatest deeds and the most important actions." ~Tolstoy