A Year-Long Read Along of War & Peace


I am not exactly sure how this happened, but one day the wonderful Amy mentioned that she would love to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 2013 and I said that I would happily join her. Today, we are announcing it to the world and making it official: 2013 is the year in which we will read War and Peace. We plan to read an installment of around hundred pages each month, which means that by the end of the year we will have tackled this major book that I admit intimidates me a little bit.

This is the schedule Amy and I came up with (but in case you hate it, it is all my fault as I tried to design it without actually owning the book yet). It is open to renegotiation or change if we encounter problems throughout the year, but right now it looks manageable:

Book I
part 1 by 31 Jan
part 2 by 28 Feb
part 3 by 31 Mar

Book II
part 1 by 31 March
part 2 by 30 Apr
part 3 & 4 by 31 May
part 5 by 30 Jun

Book III
part 1 by 31 Jul
part 2 by 31 Aug
part 3 by 30 Sep

Book IV
part 1 & 2 by 31 Oct
part 3 & 4 by 30 Nov

part 1 & 2 by 31 Dec

So why am I posting this besides the fact that by going public I feel like I am truly committing myself? Well, there are two reasons:

Firstly, we would love for you to join us! The more the merrier, and most of all, by having a group of readers we could offer each other support, discuss the book, and get to know each other better. Those all sound like good reasons to join, right? (or at least I hope they are!)

Second, Amy and I are both hesitant about the choice in translation and we would love to have your input! I know that a few years ago a new translation appeared by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, but I remember that it wasn’t received well by some of the bloggers I followed at that time. Have any of you read it, and is there a translation you would recommend?

* I stole the image Amy used in her announcement post earlier today.

70 responses to “A Year-Long Read Along of War & Peace

  1. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Yaaaay! I’m so excited to read this book with you even though I thought you regretted agreeing to it afterwards. :)

    • I don’t regret it, I’m just a little intimidated by the size of the book & the text itself possibly? Russian classic and everything :) But I’m sure we’ll have fun!

  2. I would like to join in on this. I’ve been so bad at read-a-longs and I pretty much no longer blog, but I would like to give it a go if you guys don’t mind me possibly dropping out because I’m a bad reader lately!

    • Of course Carin! I would love for you to join us. And for me, personally, I feel it is the trying that counts. None of us can guarantee making it to the end, I’m sure. I’m so glad you might join in!

  3. How exciting! I read the P&V translation earlier this year and adored it. I had planned to pace myself but ending up reading the book in only a couple of days. It looks intimidating from the outside but it is so fun that you quickly realise why it has been such a favourite among readers all these years.

    • That sounds exciting! I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it so much that you ended up reading it very quickly! I have received a lot of P&V recommendations so I a currently leaning towards that one.

  4. I’m currently reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. It’s very good!

  5. I loved the P&V translation of Anna Karenina, so would definitely recommend them for War and Peace. My track record for read-alongs is dismal (case in point – Clarissa, which I am co-hosting), but I’ll give this some serious thought. It sounds very manageable.

    • Hehehe, I actually thought about the Clarissa read along as I committed myself to this one. I think (hope?) that this book will end up being more enjoyable. Then again, Tolstoy can also write some very longwinded passages! I hope you will contemplate joining, but I can imagine you feeling a little burned out after such a heavy read this year. (Or am I making Clarissa sound worse than it is?)

  6. I generally don’t do well with readalongs. I sign up and then forget. I’ll try to join in – please send LOTS of reminders! I’ve no idea which translation my copy is. It’s a BBC tie-in from 70s with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre on the front and hopefully will see out another re-read before falling apart.

    • Count this as your first reminder ;) I don’t like being pushy, so I don’t feel very confident about reminding you actually. Let’s just see whether you feel up to it in the end. What might make this read along easier is that because the installments are doable, it might be easier to catch up if you fall behind during one month.

  7. I would love to join in this read-a-long. Great idea!

  8. Cool cool cool! Good for y’all! I cannot participate in this, I’m afraid, because I tried to read War and Peace earlier this year and could not make it through. It’s not the peace parts! It’s the war parts.

    • O, oh. You have me a little worried about reading this. I’m not very good with war.. I know, this sounds SUPER silly given that the title is called WAR and Peace.

  9. Martha McFadden

    Yes. I will join in. I have wanted to read it ever since high school when I started it, liked it but did not read past page 100. Let us know which translation asap.

    • Hello Martha! I’m sorry for the confusion, but the translation is really a matter of your own choice. As the sections are the same for each book, reading any of the available translations will allow you to keep up with the schedule. I don’t want to prescribe a translation as I feel translations are often a matter of personal preference. So even if I choose a translation you don’t like, you can still join in with any other version :) I was simply asking advice for myself as I really don’t have a clue about Russion lit.

      Anyway, I’m so glad you’re joining!

  10. Don’t be intimidated! It’s not as hard as it is long, and if you keep track of the characters as you go you won’t have any trouble at all. I recommend the Pevear translation which you have pictured in your post.

    A thing that makes me smile a bit, is in several ways this work of Russian literature reminded me of the Amercian classic on war: Gone With The Wind. In a way, there are similar not only for dealing with war, but for the struggle of the classes during and after war time.

    • You ahve just reminded me of another book I really need to read one day: Gone With the Wind. Perhaps I should turn that into next year’s read along? ;)

      I am glad to hear that this is doable, although I admit that the mention of the characters scared me a little. Russian lit and all those characters *shudders*

  11. therelentlessreader

    I’m SO bad at readalongs because I’m impatient and I like to just plow through a book ;) BUT, you may have just inspired me to give this a go this year at some point!

  12. Hmm, give me a bit to think about it… A month ago I finished ‘The Suitable Boy’ (V. Seth), which was wonderful, but a bit “out of size”;). Nevertheless, I would love to join a read-a-long. And to be honest, I have not read Russian literature a lot.

    • Ik ben ook niet echt bekend met Russische literatuur. Ga je voor een Nederlandse of een Engelse vertaling van dit boek denk je? Ik weet eigenlijk niet of er goede Nederlandse vertalingen in omloop zijn. Ik zou het wel super leuk vinden als je meedeed! (A Suitable Boy staat ook al jaren op mijn verlanglijstje, one day!)

  13. Yay for this readalong! I’m so excited for you.

  14. I am hoping to start and finish Anna K this year. War and Peace will be an excellent addition for 2013. I am making it my year of the big books.

    • Wonderful! I have yet to finish Anna Karenina. That is, I started it years ago, but I didn’t have a great translation, and I kind of got stuck in the farming philosophy part. I definitely want to give it another try one day.

  15. I have already read this book otherwise I would join in but this is great idea and a great book!

  16. I love this idea! I shan’t be joining in, but the idea of spending an entire year in the world of War and Peace sounds downright luxurious. Best of luck!

  17. I’ve been taking part in the Clarissa read-along this year and am nearly finished, so I would love to join in with this one next year! The schedule looks very manageable. I think I’ll probably try Pevear and Volokhonsky as I had a lot of problems with the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation of Anna Karenina.

    • It looking managable is one of the reasons Amy persuaded me that I could do it ;) I’m in awe that you managed to read Clarissa this year! I hope you will join us. It’d be lovely to have you read along.

  18. This is one of my absolute favorite books. I read it a few years ago in a class during my time as an undergrad. If you are reading it in English you HAVE to read the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation. It is a fairly recent translation and they are trustworthy award winning translators. They are like the modern day rock stars of the translation world. Also, my professor’s first language was Russian and she said that this was the best translation she had read in English. I’m curious as to why the other bloggers you follow(ed) weren’t pleased with the translation. Either Pevear/Volokhonsky or if you can find a Norton edition of the book (I’m not sure if they have it for War and Peace though) that’s a good idea because there are always helpful critical/theoretical essays by scholars in the back of the text which will really help to guide you through all of the amazing tiny details you will want to experience throughout the saga. It’s easy to miss some because there is just SO MUCH. “The Fox and The Hedgehog” is a great book to read alongside War and Peace so you can get a little extra insight into the saga. Enjoy! This is one dense beauty and I can’t wait to read your write ups. Also, I would love to join but I am doing a “Proust, In Search of Lost Time, year long read along 2013″ thing since I have only read volume 1 and am interested in finishing the series.

    • Martha McFadden

      wow! Thinking ahead let’s do a Proust read along in the future.

    • A Proust read along is something I’d love to do.. one day. I don’t think I’m quite ready for Proust yet. One intimidating author at a time for me! Good luck though! And thank you for the advice. I ended up buying the P&V translation.

  19. Gahhh did my post go through? is is pending or something?

  20. Hmm, well, you know I’m not a P&V fan. My first pick is the Rosemary Edmonds translation, and the Oxford World Classic’s revamped Maude translation is my next favourite. I find P&V’s prose dull and clumsy in comparison. I’m reading War and Peace as my Christmas avoidance book. :)

    • A Christmas avoidance book, well, it’s long enough for that :P I’m not sure I could read it in just a short period of time. But we’ll see how I’ll end up doing.

  21. My copy has just arrived for this read-a-long. I didn’t think much about the translation when I ordered it but its the Maude translation. Keen to be starting .. Come on 2013!

    • Have you started yet? It’s wonderful to have so many people joining us. I hope you end up liking your translation! It’s so difficult to choose one based on a few pages. Or at least I think so.

  22. Iris Iris Iris. Why do you tempt me with your totally manageable read-along schedule?????

    • I am glad I can make it sounds so tempting :P Have I persuaded you to join?

      • Is there a day every month (last of the month) that we all post about it, or what is going on? If you give me deadlines and action points, I might just join in… #playinghardtoget

        • Here we thought we would make it seem more laid back, and say that you can post about the book whenever, and that Amy and I would do regular end-of-the-month cechk-ins as a feature where people can discuss at a regular time each month. I fear we may have lost you to trying to make it more lenient #ohoh

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  25. Juan Manuel Pazos

    War and Peace is a book I definitely want to re-read, but if I do it will have to be in a Spanish translation which is the one I own and love! It’s a huge book but it’s simply astounding. A hundred pages a month should be a piece of cake.

    • Right? A 100 pages a month should be doable? That’s what I tell myself when I’m daunted by the size of the book on my bedside table. Btw, it’s completely okay to join us with a Spanish translation!

  26. I have startEd the Pevear translation and really like it. I am already way ahead of schedule. What a greta idea!

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  28. Hi Iris, I’m in too, if that’s ok? The schedule sounds great. Really looking forward to it!

  29. Room for one more? I’d love to join in :)
    I have no idea which translation is best, but I already own the Peaver one so I’m going to go with that.

  30. i just stumbled upon this…just the motivation needed!

  31. I have the Penguin Classics which is translated by Anthony Briggs.

    I have participated in many readalongs and host a few as well but War and Peace is so daunting, I’m hesitant to say Yes at first instance. After leaving this page on for the entire night, I thought I’ll give it a go and sign up for it and see how it goes. Nothing like having a group of like-minded friends to tackle this HUGE tome! (not quite if anyone is reading it on ebook reader, but I’ll be carrying the Penguin edition shown above). Thanks for hosting. :)

  32. Hi Iris, I was just jotting down the reading dates in my diary and noticed that the 31st March is listed twice; is that a mistake or should we read to the end of both parts for that date? Thanks!

    • I’m going to ask Amy and get back to you on that. I think it is a matter of having to read >100 pages one month in either March or April. I’m not really sure why I decided to do it this way, as its been a while since I made the list. I’ll try to answer asap.

    • I hope you read this, and if not we will be sure to post about it again by the end of January, but Amy and I looked over the schedule, and we think it might be better to change it slightly and read Book 1, part III for March, and then Book 2, part I & II for April. I hope this helps :)

  33. I’m in:) Maybe this year I will finally finish it!

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  35. I don’t know about War and Peace but recently I read the death of Ivan Ilyich and other stories translated by P&V, and the translation was really good. I would like to join the readalong, but I think I have committed 2013 to some Fantasy – Song of Fire and Ice, and that’s enough of chunksters in a year, I guess.

    All the best with your readalong, I look forward to reading about your progress.

    And a happy, if belated 2013 to you!

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