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?

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33 thoughts on “Read War and Peace – in just 10 minutes a day!

  1. Oh my goodness – how weird. I bought W&P a few yrs ago and was never able to get into it, but this summer, about 3 days ago, I decided since I was hardly doing anything (that being because i am student) I would give it a try. Randomly tonight I just had a quick search of the internet for how to read it, because my first read was tiring and I only managed one chapter (if that) which is nowhere near my usual book-a-day pace. So, to end my long spiel, yes I agree to the challenge (altho I am a few wks late starting).

  2. All right, Matt. I’ve just downloaded a copy of the book. I’ll go two chapters a day to begin with, which should see me catching up to y’all at the end of September.

    See you then.

  3. how is the easiest way to read war and peace with all the books put together as one because i got one from the library and its not in volumes it just the whole volumes put together

    1. yeah i m american but i will read quickly ! I’ve read every Dostoyevski 2 or 3 times, every Dickens, every Conrad . and you , young lady , sound hot !

  4. Reading W & P was one of those thing that I promised myself I would do “Someday”, my great concern that being the ripe old age of 78, I may never get to the end!!!!.
    Learning of Mathew Hodge”s theory of reading one chapter a day I thought, I can do that, and so, starting today 2 July 2010, I am, in to days parlance, going for it.

    WISH ME LUCK

  5. I just ordered War & Peace from Barnes & Noble a few minutes ago. It wont be shipped until 7/28 because Im pre ordering a book that hasn’t been released yet(Mockingjay~). I am so determined to read W&P, Im only 19 but Im sure I will be able to do it.

  6. I have a subgroup of my book club that is planning to read W&P during the course of 2011. The chapter-a-day plan sounds perfect.
    If anyone has actually gone through with this method, especially if you did it along with some other people, I would really LOVE to have any feedback you might have about how it went… any suggestions?

  7. Hi Steve,

    Glad t hear that you’ve got a bookclub planning to read the book. With regards to how it went, if you check out the rest of the blog, you’ll see that 4 or 5 of us did get all the way through the book in one year – in fact, I was the one to be slack – I got busy and didn’t finish my blog posts until a month late.

    But for the most part, it was a great project, and gave us plenty to talk about. If you’re doing it with a real book group that meets physically, you’ll have great fun. My suggestion would be to spend a bit of effort in the first part of the book (there’s about 15 parts or books that make up the whole novel) mapping out the characters and their relationships to one another. Usually the thing that people struggle with the most with War and Peace is keeping track of the characters. So if you can map them out with their relationships, you’ll do a lot better.

    The other thing is just to enjoy reading it at a slow pace. Tolstoy’s philosophy is that history is made up of the little details in life, so reading one chapter a day and drinking in the little details will get you on Tolstoy’s wavelength.

  8. I am thinking about reading War and Peace. It is not the longest book I have ever read. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon is far more massive and certainly cluttered with many details. However, having heard so much about its legendary length, breath and range of characters, War and Peace seems like a challenge. I just cannot imagined anyone feeling forced to read this book for a literature class. As soon as I finish reading these other 5 books I am reading, I will pick up the challenge. Tolstoy is a worthy opponent.

  9. This is great. Four years ago I counted up the chapters in my War and Peace and came to 365 on the nose. So I started reading a chapter a day on the subway commute to work and during the weekends. I’ve cycled through it each year since then. I love reading it like this. Did you ever complete your year-long reading of it? What did you think?

  10. Hello i’ve set myself a challenge to read this book i joked to myself i might get it read by Christmas may have to read more than a chapter a day, i have other books to read as well.Found your blog by googling how long it takes to read W&P … lol wish me luck

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