War and Peace

Looking for some amazing summer reading? Look no further than Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace." This is how Isaac Babel described Tolstoy's writing after reading the novel, "If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy."

A lot of people put this book on their literary "bucket list," planning to eventually, someday, maybe, getting around to reading it...you shouldn't wait.

Don't be intimidated by the length of the book (almost 1500 pages), as soon as you're hooked (about 10 or 20 pages in) you're grateful for the length because the story won't end anytime soon, and you can spend the rest of the summer periodically immersing yourself in the human drama, battles and intrigue of the Napoleonic wars and the Russian aristocracy of the day.

But to be turned off by the idea of the Napoleonic wars or Russian aristocracy (as I easily could be) would be a mistake, these are merely the events, the excuses, the backdrop that serve as Tolstoy's canvas for painting a powerful treatise on the human condition...it's the characters, their inner thoughts, passions, moral struggles and transformations that are the meat of "War and Peace" and that make it such rich reading.

Almost an ethnography, the story is based on extensive historical research and there are approximately 160 real persons "named or referred to" (according to Wikipedia) in the novel. That's perhaps why it all feels so real. And despite being intensely human and intimate, the work is also cinematic in its scope, delving into long battles described in such rich detail and with such fluid prose that it's as if you're watching "Band of Brothers" or a similar Spielberg/Hanks WWII collaboration.

Make sure you get the latest translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky (preferably at a local, independently owned bookstore).

Happy reading!