Finishing War and Peace
I’ve not got a long history of trying to read War and Peace but I do have a recollection that I tried to read it when I was 18. I was in Nepal at the time and I am fairly certain that I dragged the full paperback copy around the Annapurna circuit, including over the 5400m Thorung La in some stormy weather. I was wearing Doc Martens and a pair of cheap sportsocks on my hands as mittens. That’s another story though.
I don’t remember getting very far into it at all.
This time, I started reading it at the beginning of 2022 and I was following The Big Read Substack. Each week, you read seven chapters or so, and the author of the Substack, Jeremy Anderberg, would provide a summary and some comment. It’s a great way to get through it, adds some useful context, and adds a lot of value to the experience.
I fell off the Substack wagon last summer when I was about two-thirds of the way through the 600,000 words or so. I binged it this Easter weekend and carved off the remaining 200,000.
I read the Penguin translation by Anthony Briggs. This came out in 2005 and is incredibly accessible. (My original trip to Nepal was in 1991 so it sure as hell wasn’t that one I dragged around the Himalaya.) The chapters of War and Peace are short and the sheer readability of Briggs’ translation should banish any concern you’ll be wading through turgid prose. There are, handily, about 360 chapters in the book so set yourself the entirely manageable target of one a day and you’ll get there.