Let's talk about death.Picasso had his "blue phase", and Tolstoy had his "obsession with death" phase. This collection of short stories all relate to death in some way. The best and most widely-known of these is The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Ilyich is a successful lawyer who has gone through life checking all the right boxes to ensure respect and material success. His shallow understanding of the people around him resembles the title character of Upton Sinclair's Babbitt.When Ilyich develops cancer, he suddenly reevaluates the values which have driven his actions heretofore.My second favorite in the compendium is The Forged Coupon. As I have already said in the comments section below, this tale describes how a petty crime results in one worst-case scenerio building on another, until several peoples' lives are destroyed and several more people are killed. Death is capricious and comes unexpectedly here. The snowballing of events reminds me of Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder". The Raid, Woodfelling, and After the Ball are all take place in a military setting. Tolstoy's forte is in creating believable characters, and he populates these three stories with soldiers sufferring and celebrating together. Death enters sporatically, punctuating the boredom of their chores with tragedy- kind of like a Crimean War M*A*S*H.