Reading ‘War and Peace’

Yes, I’m reading War and Peace. I’m finally doing it. But before you roll your eyes or think I’m crazy, know this: I have a plan.

I told a friend about this yesterday and she’s like, “Wow! You’re organized.” You could say that. Or, you could say I know how to break a large project into manageable chunks and get things done. Because, goddamit, I’m going to finish this book and I’m going to remember what it was about. And I don’t take quitting lightly.

I know quite a few book bloggers are reading War and Peace this year, which contributed to my decision to pick it up now. It’s also on Seventeen magazine’s 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25. Though I’m no where near to finishing the list, I turn 25 in September so I feel I should step up my game a bit.

I’ve noticed that other book bloggers, in their attempt to tackle War and Peace, are doing it all wrong. They’re reading it in large chunks, and they’re reading it alongside other books. That’s why, after all, it’s an all-year readathon title. However, I feel like this is the wrong way to go about things. One, I’m not a fan of trying to seriously juggle two books. If you’re making your way through your TBR list, reviewing new titles and, you know, enjoying your real life, there’s just no time. Sure, not everyone has a ridiculous job that takes up 90 percent of your life; some people have free time (whatever that is). But if you’re going to seriously tackle War and Peace, you have to have a plan. You have to know what you’re doing. Big books take patience, skill and endurance, and you can’t do that while reading sixteen other books.

My plan is simple: There are 1,274 pages in my copy of War and Peace. I will read 20 pages a day. That’s it. 20 pages. It takes me around an hour to get through those pages, depending on what’s going on (party dialogue, easy; battle description, hard). An hour per day is the length of time I force myself to read anyway, so this works. You’re still fitting in plenty of action during those 20 pages, but you never feel burnt out in any one sitting. Because I’m obsessive compulsive, I made an Excel spreadsheet mapping where I should be expected to be at the end of each week. Every week, I then stick a second bookmark at this end-of-the-week goal line, giving me motivation to move toward a smaller goal.

I figure if I follow this regimen, I’ll finish the book in around 60 days. If I read every-single-day, that means I’ll finish by July 25. I know this seems like a long time, but frankly, two months to read a book like War and Peace sounds fair. This is Tolstoy we’re talking about — you want to make sure you slow down once and awhile and appreciate what he’s talking about. Plus, it’s not like you’re going to re-read it anytime soon. Two months is also fair because while it gives you plenty of time to enjoy and absorb the novel, it’s not too long. You try to read War and Peace any longer and you’re going to forget what happened in the beginning.

This means I’m not reading anything else during that time, something many book bloggers would shy away from. Only ONE book in two months — sacrilege! But you know, my job has severely cut down my reading count anyway, and I’ve stopped worrying about whether the number of books I read reflects my intelligence or general awesomeness. Yes, it’s nice to say “I’ve read 100 books this year.” But just to tell my co-workers “I’ve read two books this month!” is miraculous news.

So that’s it. War and Peace is part of my Big Books project, and I believe everyone should inject their reading schedule with some larger tomes. So if you’re interested in reading Tolstoy, try this method out and tell me what you think. I know it can seem formidable but if you stick with it, follow your schedule and read every day, it can be done.

Next up: Moby Dick. Bring it Melville.

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