A Summer thing that I’m doing

If Laura @ Reading in Bed is like “hey, come read this mammoth book with me this summer” I seem to be unable to say no. This summer, she is hosting a read-a-long of War and Peace!

If you’ve always meant to read it but haven’t found a reason to, maybe this is your reason? This read-a-long is geared towards Tolstoy newbs, so don’t be intimidated. There’s totally still time to join – reading officially started July 1st! Check out Laura’s blog post for the schedule to get started.

Before we start to get into the nitty-gritty reading, Laura set up a short little book tag to introduce ourselves. So here we go:

  1. Have you read (or attempted) War and Peace?

Sure have. I even wrote about how that went (spoiler: not good). I haven’t ever finished it though!

  1. What edition and translation are you reading?

Vintage Pevear & Volokhonsy translation, physical book only (I already regret this, mofo is heavy!)

  1. How much do you know about War and Peace (plot, characters, etc)?

It’s funny, even though I read most of it that one time, not much! I clearly retained almost nothing and even the 70 or so pages I’ve read this weekend, haven’t made much of an impression on me.

  1. How are you preparing (watching adaptations, background reading, etc.)?

I am doing absolutely nothing? Maybe the more that I get into it, the more I will want to learn about the War and Peace universe. For now, I’m content to just read it.

  1. What do you hope to get out of reading War and Peace?

Finally getting it actually read all the way through! This book has haunted me for years because I couldn’t finish it. And then of course, the bragging rights that come with having actually read War and Peace. I look forward to the days of casually dropping into conversation my having read War and Peace (like an a-hole).

  1. What are you intimidated by?

The sheer length of this book! I do appreciate the schedule – I’m hoping that breaking it up will make it more manageable. I’m also having a hard time keeping the characters and their relationships straight…

  1. Do you think it’s okay to skip the “war” parts?

No, but if it gets really boring, I just might. I remember that I was actually pretty invested in some of the war parts the first time I tried to read this. And I totally skipped like 80 pages of farming in Anna Karenina and I feel really OK about it.

There we have it. All set to finally read this monster. Anyone else joining in? Thanks to Laura for hosting!


War and Peace – An Abrupt End

Picture this. You have finally decided to dust off the copy of War and Peace that has been reproachfully sitting on your bookshelf for over a year. You are excited to finally tackle this behemoth of literature and look forward to speeding through and smugly telling everyone “oh, I’m just reading War and Peace.”

It turns out to be a lot more difficult to slog through this ‘masterpiece’ than you thought it would be. You’ve read Dickens and Eliot and Thackeray without any trouble. Anna Karenina, that other Tolstoy epic, provided you with hours of enjoyment, despite the tragic nature of the work. You push on, determined to finish it (especially since you’ve told everyone you know that you’re reading it and it would be so embarrassing to admit defeat).

You drag it with you on a business trip, doggedly hoping that you will be able to at least make a large dent in it when you are waiting on any number of flights to get you home. You read it on the bus, on the couch, before bed, outside, inside, on cloudy days and sunny ones – any time you have a spare minute you try to get another page, chapter, section finished.

You’ve finally cracked 900 pages. Then 950. You reach 968 and flip ahead to see how many pages you have left to finish the chapter.

And then you notice it. Page 968 should be followed by 969. This turning point scene in an empty Moscow should carry on. Instead, 968 is followed by 1017. It’s not a page numbering error – page 1017 is some kind of ball with some Countess glittering in diamonds.

Your copy of War and Peace is defective!

This is what happened to me. Like any self-respecting reader in the 21st Century I went on Facebook and Twitter to complain about it. And then I emailed the Publisher (Oxford University Press) to demand that they do something to fix it.

I’m Canadian though so that went more like “Hi, sorry to bother you but my book is broken and I’m hoping you may be able to fix it?”

That was last week and I have yet to receive an answer. So far not even a “the system thanks you for your email which will be read never.”

I would take it back to the store where I bought it, but it’s a) beat to hell, b) I have no receipt since c) I bought it last year and d) I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the bookstore’s problem, rather the publisher.

But I haven’t heard anything from them. So I’m left with one option: take it out of the library, read the missing section, and return to my copy to finish it. The silver lining here is that the library is sure to make some sort of “bad-ass reader” notation on my account when I take War and Peace out and return it, read, a couple of days later.


UPDATE: The lovely people at Oxford University Press are totally sending me a new copy of War and Peace with all the pages! The power of social media folks.


War and Peace and I

War and Peace has been sitting on my bookshelf taunting me for over a year. I bought it in a moment of book club induced smugness, convinced that War and Peace and I were going to spend magical quality time on the couch together getting better acquainted. I had visions of a cozy blanket, roaring fire, stormy weather outside and hot chocolate inside.

I don’t even like when the fireplace is on (it’s gas and the place is so small that it heats everything up so much that a blanket isn’t even necessary and come on! That’s the whole point of reading) and when exactly did I envision myself having all of this time available to me?


But I finally had enough of looking at that smug spine and so I found myself lugging Tolstoy’s great work with me everywhere. My version of War and Peace is 1308 pages. There are longer versions out there but this one is pretty heavy.

I haven’t finished it yet – I’m about 400 pages in after reading it for just over 2 weeks.  I know right? Slothful reading.

So here’s the thing with War and Peace: you need to spend time with it. Lots and lots of uninterrupted time to get to know (and keep straight) all the Kuragins, Bolkonskys and Rostovs. I like to think that I dedicate a fair amount of my daily life to reading. There is the hour to and from work each day – 2 hours of quality reading time right?

With a hefty tome like War and Peace? No. I didn’t take into account the fact that, leaving for work at 6.25, makes me sleepy. And War and Peace can be slumber inducing if you aren’t paying attention.  Same with before-bed reading. War and Peace is just as likely to guide me into a peaceful slumber (and carpal tunnel) as it is keeping me up long enough to get anywhere with it.

But I finally managed to squeeze in some quality time when my job sent me on a site visit for some meetings. Two hours in the airplane without any of the transit distractions, in the middle of the day when I was wide awake – this is exactly what War and Peace and I needed.

I’m still not far enough into it to offer any sage words of wisdom or my opinion on the work as a whole, but I’m getting there. Finally. I think that War and Peace and I are going to end up coming to a workable arrangement, whereby I devote all large chunks of spare time to it and it blows my mind with awesome.

That’s the hope anyway.

Have you read it? Did your neck hurt this much?


Shelf Log

I think we have established that I am a book hoarder. I cannot help myself. But looking at my bookshelf, seeing all the lovely titles that I had yet to crack, I imposed a book ban on myself. I was not allowed to buy any more books until I had read the ones I already had.

(Notice how we’re using the past tense?)

But then I went to Costco and these 3 books were already on my list and they were cheap so I bought those. And since then, I may have bought a couple more. But most of them have been on my list so it’s like I already had them anyway, but now I actually have them.

You know?

In an effort to curb my insanity, I thought that if I was honest about what is actually on my shelf right now and could see it in black and white it might help to curb my bookish appetite.

Actually it will probably fill me with pride – look at all the excellent books I have chosen! But we’re going to try anyway. In no particular order:

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran. Have you ever been to Madame Tussauds? Any one of them – they have them in London, New York, Vegas and Amsterdam. I’ve been to the one in Amsterdam (and I’m dying to go to the one in Vegas when I go next month) and I’ve never had so much fun in a museum before. The pictures are hilarious. Turns out that Madame Tussaud was a real person. I don’t think that I knew this. But whatevs. I saw this book and I had to have it. And now I do. And one day I’ll read it too.

In this, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, I clearly felt like I needed to flesh out my Dickens’ section a little. I already had Great ExpectationsA Christmas Carol and Hard Times (I think I must have at least another one from my time at school but I cannot think of it at the moment) but this is not enough. I still want to get my hands on the biography that was released last year (good thing it’s my birthday soon) but I recently picked up Nicholas Nickleby and then! A Tale of Two Cities without the Oprah’s Book Club thing on it! Success! (I try really hard never to collect books that have anything to do with Oprah. Ever)Once I actually read them I will feel even more superior to you.

The Kennedy Women by Laurence Leamer is languishing on my shelf for reasons unknown. I love biographies about women, The Kennedy Women should be at the top of my list. The same day I picked up this gem, I grabbed the companion: The Kennedy Men. And I actually read that one. Every time I gravitate towards it, I get distracted by something shiny. But I know once I actually crack this one, I’m going to love it.

Catch-22 has been on my list for a long long time. And I had it in my hand to buy it when I came across Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor and bought it instead. What would convince me to put down such an important work in favour of something with such an unimaginative title? Um, apparently this book was so slutty that it had to be banned in some places when it was published in 1944. Basically, Amber has to prostitute herself to stay alive in 17th century England. And Barbara Taylor Bradford did the introduction and she’s all I loved this book when I was a teenager. If Barbara Taylor Bradford says that it’s a “genuine page turner” and a “smashing read” who are we to argue? It’s heavy though – nearly 1000 pages. I think that’s going to be next.

I was on my way to my book club and had some time to kill so naturally I wandered into a bookstore unsupervised. And I was on my way to book club so I was feeling pretty smug and brilliant. And what do the smug literati buy when they are in a bookstore? War and Peace, naturally. So more than a year later, it’s still sitting on my shelf. I really really really do want to read it. So badly. But every time I get there, something else, easier, shorter, something that will help me get to my book reading goal, gets in the way. One day though, me and Tolstoy? We’re going to make this happen.

That might be it. I fear it isn’t. But these are the ones that I can come up with off the top of my head. What would you read next?