Leo Tolstoy was born into an aristocratic family in 1828. His real name was Count Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy. Both his parents and two guardians died before he was 12. Leo and his siblings ended up living in Kazan with an aunt.
Reckless behaviour at the university in Kazan meant Leo never finished his studies. He joined the Russian army and took part in the Crimean War between 1853 and 1856. Shortly after, he lost all his money gambling in Paris and returned to Russia, started a school, got married, and began writing.
The stories vary from a daring thriller in the Caucasus when a Russian soldier is kidnapped by Tartars, to the benefits of not having any wealth, via a parable on how to go on pilgrimmage and the perils of trying to grab too much land at once.
All the stories have a meaning and are very well written without any smugness or pretence. The translation is excellent with clear, simple words and descriptions.