ES, I comprehend what you said about the great books evolving over time as one matures. "Anna Karenina" is a case in point. I've read it three times. It is two books, really. The last time, I wanted to enjoy the tale of the love of Levin and Kitty. I didn't skip over them, but the sections on Anna and Vronsky became a chore to read. I lost patience with Anna altogether. She ceased to be a sympathetic character. I wonder if Lev Nikolayevich would close his eyes with pleasure, and nod to hear me say that? Do I get it?
Lisa, you have a great adventure before you.
Solzhenitsyn's debut work, "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," can be read in a single day. It's worth a read. There is a great joke in it, but you have to know that mercury freezes at -40°F.
Dostoevsky's debut was also a tale of prison life, "The House of the Dead." It's a dark tale, but useful toward an understanding of the man's later work. He was an epileptic for one thing, as you will discover two of his key characters in later novels are, i.e., Prince Myshkin, in "The Idiot," and Smerdyakov, in "The Brothers Karamazov." Dostoevsky was a student activist in St. Petersburg during the pre-Revolutionary era. He was arrested for sedition, and imprisoned, sentenced to death. On the day of execution, he was stood before an open dug grave, blindfolded. The officer in charge went so far as to order present arms and take aim to the firing squad. Then it was announced to the prisoner that he had been granted a reprieve, and was sentenced to ten years exile in Siberia. That was the occasion on which Dostoevsky had his first epileptic seizure, which he continued having for the remainder of his life. The Tsar's men were a rough crowd.