Is War and Peace worth reading? A review

Originally published at:


tl;dr: maybe.


Between it and Anna Karenina, War and Peace is a better read.


The fog of war.


The original text. Not all translations are public domain. I wouldn’t be surprised if the free Kindle version mentioned was the Constance Garnett translation. Her Russian translations no longer have the best reputation.


A long time ago, before the internet and hundreds of channels and streaming options, I decided to read War and Peace. Bought a cheap paperback copy (£1!) and brought it home. Started reading it that night and didn’t sleep or stop reading until three days later. It’s an amazing book to completely immerse yourself into, if you have the time and can keep track of the characters (and avoid the weird proselytizing at the end, which I did). I highly recommend it (one of my favorite three books ever), if you can invest the time, since it’s genuinely enjoyable. After that, Gravity’s Rainbow and The Brothers Karamazov beckon!


Why not get it as an audiobook, and listen to it while sleeping.

There was a time when that was supposed to work.

As for Woody Allan, he turned it into a movie, “Love and Death”.

The problem with big books is what’s important, and what can be skipped. When I tried to read “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, lots of people would be introduced and I’d think “so?” , and then have to back up when they were mentioned in more detail later.

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I listened to War and Peace on cassette tape - 48 of them, borrowed a dozen at a time from my local public library. It was a haul, but I listened to them while I was driving.


IMHO: worth it. The romances are viewed with a slightly cynical eye & the battle scenes – especially the last death scene – really beautifully written.



I’m saving this one for when I’m on a desert island. Or prison, maybe.


Supposedly, Mum read one of those triple decker novels to us when we were babies-- as a soporific.


I’m talking about “sleep learning”, in science fiction and I think real life suggestiins… Get the results without the work.

“Yes, the Russian names are problematic…” I’ve always just skipped trying to pronounce hard-to-pronounce character names when not reading aloud. I don’t see a need to get bogged down trying to understand how a name should be pronounced when you can just look at it and go “that’s that name” and move on with the story.

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War and Peace is a collection of four books and an epilogue. Pace yourself by going for one book at a time then read something a bit lighter in between.


I read it for fun—I don’t suppose it’s assigned reading in any American school—and what I loved about it is that stuff happens: big stuff, war, love, defeat, winter. In my mind it’s a lot more fun than Dostoevsky, who’s books (to the extent I can remember them) are about Raskalnikov agonizing for weeks about whether he should murder the pawnbroker with the edge or the blunt end of the axe.


I’ll get right on that. Just after I finish Infinite Jest and Ulysses.

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Much the same: I read it over a weekend. If possible, find a copy that has a table of the characters, as it can be hard to recognise a character when they may be called by their first name, diminutive name, surname, or patronymic. I had to restart Doctor Zhivago when I was young when I found two people were in fact one.