This year, as I do on occasional years, I am reading through the Bible in a year. Anyway, a couple of days ago, the thought crossed my mind: “There are so many one-year Bibles out there, and different plans to get you to read the Bible in a year. I wonder if anyone has thought of doing that with War and Peace?”
So this led me to do a bit of internet research to see whether there was such a reading plan – believe it or not, I can’t find one. (Well, at least not on the first two pages of Googling “war and peace” one year Tolstoy. And let’s face it – if it’s not there on the first two results page, it might as well not exist.)
So then this left me with the next question – does War and Peace lend itself well to this sort of one-year treatment? So, in a moment of sheer nerdiness, I decided to count the number of chapters in my copy of War and Peace.
You know the result? Three hundred and sixty-three chapters.
Amazing! I had long suspected that if you just read one chapter of War and Peace a day, you’d probably knock it over in about a year, but I was never exactly sure. Now, I’m positive. (However, I might have miscounted by a chapter or two, but that won’t make a huge difference.)
Anyway, after making this discovery just this morning, I thought to myself – this would make a good New Financial Year Challenge – to read one chapter per day of War and Peace between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009.
So I was talking to Rachel and I said, “You know what? I reckon if I posted this online, and asked other people to take up the challenge, there’d be a bunch of people that would take me up on the offer.”
She said, “Like who? I don’t think you’d get anyone to read War and Peace in a year.”
So here’s the challenge, dear readers . . . if I can get five volunteers who are willing to have a go at the One Year War and Peace, then I’ll turn it into an internet event, and I’ll put up posts about the chapters as we read through it and we can post our thoughts, comments, discussions, etc. You can either buy your own copy of the book or read it online for free at Project Gutenberg.
If I can’t get five, then I’ll owe Rachel a Gloria Jeans coffee and I’ll hang my enthusiastic little Tolstoy-loving head in shame and slink off into the corner of my blog for a while. What’s there to lose?
For those of you sitting on the fence (especially if you’ve never read the book before), then let me give you five reasons why it’s worth a try:
1. It’s the greatest novel ever written. No, seriously, I’ve already read it once, and it really is.
2. Whether you agree with point 1, you’ll have an amazing feeling of accomplishment if you read the whole thing.
3. The chapters are really short. You should be able to knock over a typical chapter of War and Peace in 5-10 minutes. Some might take a little longer, but on the whole, you could finish this whole challenge really easily just by having a copy of the book sitting in your bathroom next to the toilet.
4. The book is really easy to read. I like classic books, but I do find that I have to steel myself up to get used to all the old language (especially people like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, etc.) But not with Leo Tolstoy. His language is very simple to understand, and yet there is a real depth to his writing that gives you lots to think about.
5. There’s a lot to be gained by reading War and Peace slowly. I know a lot of you who are novel-readers like to go nuts through books and read them all really fast, and that’s certainly how I read W&P the first time. But Tolstoy puts so much effort into his characterisations and descriptions, that it would actually be a really eye-opening experience to just read the book at the rate of one chapter a day and enjoy the world of the novel unfolding gradually.
So, yeah, what do you think? Write a comment if you want to be part of it. (Or your thoughts on the validity or otherwise of the idea.) If we do get it up . . . then we only have 10 days to go before we’d start reading.
As I said: What’s there to lose?