Book Review: Give War and Peace a Chance

I'm here today to bring you my thoughts on the best nonfiction book I read last month: Give War & Peace a Chance.  It was so good, and I'm really excited to talk about it.

At the beginning of this year, I expressed my hearty intention to read Leo Tolstoy's War & Peace within the year.  I started out strong, talking about the section I read each weekend.  And then, it petered out.  I got tired of having to recall what I read and write about it.  Also, it got boring real fast.  But!  My desire to read it has been reinvigorated, and so I ordered a beautiful Penguin Deluxe Classics Edition of War & Peace and this book, which I had heard good things about.  Turns out, neither of those moves was a bad one, as this book was fantastic, and now I cannot wait to start War & Peace (I'm starting over completely from the beginning, as my original edition was abridged).  The new one could tone up your arms – I'm convinced.  #1400pagesletsdothis

Title: Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

Author: Andrew D. Kaufman

Publisher/Price: Simon & Schuster / $12.59 here

Type: Nonfiction

Genre: Literary Criticism

Number of pages: 304

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Overview: War and Peace is many things. It is a love story, a family saga, a war novel. But at its core it's a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by social change, political divisiveness, and spiritual confusion.

Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times and survive them. Touching on a broad range of topics, from courage to romance, parenting to death, Kaufman demonstrates how Tolstoy's wisdom can help us live fuller, more meaningful lives. The ideal companion to War and Peace, this book will also be enjoyable to those who have never read a word of Tolstoy, making that masterpiece more approachable, relevant, and fun. (Amazon)

My thoughts: This book was so great.  It was SO GREAT.  I loved it so much, and I want to reread it again really soon.  The thing that excited me most about it was the fact that it got me so incredibly enthusiastic about reading War & Peace.  Like, I cannot wait.  And that's coming out of the mouth of the girl who originally put that book down because it was boring.  But this second time reading it, I'm going to take it slow, I'm gonna write all the things and mark up all the margins, and highlight all the awesome quotes, because Give War & Peace a Chance has gotten me so pumped.  It helped me realize and understand why War & Peace is considered one of the greatest novels ever written, and I honestly could not be more excited to jump in.  How many times can I possibly say "excited" in a paragraph?

This book was just so much fun to read.  And I absolutely mean that.  The author was able to write about his subject in an engaging manner that made me not want to put it down.  His writing style made whatever he was talking about seem totally interesting.  This book was insightful and brilliant and anyone who has the slightest interest in reading War & Peace or any of Tolstoy's work needs to read it.

Give War & Peace a Chance is organized topically, with each chapter focusing on a timeless theme that one finds in War & Peace and expounding upon it, using passages and characters from the novel to illustrate each theme.  Those themes are Plans, Imagination, Rupture, Success, Idealism, Happiness, Love, Family, Courage, Death, Perseverance, and Truth.  All of these themes are timeless, meaning they are always pertinent, and people are always asking questions about them and thinking about them.  One of the best things about this book is that the author comes at these questions simply from how they are portrayed in War & Peace.  He doesn't come at War & Peace from a Christian perspective, or any other perspective, for that matter.  I found that really refreshing and the absence of those perspectives added a lot of clarity.

Mostly, this book helped me realize that War & Peace is a sweeping tale about humanity.  It's a book about people and universal truths and experiences that everyone relates to.  It's about themes that are deeply and fundamentally human.  It's a book about life, and death.  Sadness and happiness.  Hope and despair.  Kaufman quotes War & Peace in his books when he writes "Love awoke, and life awoke."  And not only will that end up being one of my favorite quotes – I can tell – I think it also sums up what War & Peace is ultimately about (without having read the book) :P

Just from having read this book about War & Peace, I can see that War & Peace is a book with a heart and a soul and one that will definitely change the way I see the world.  And that's why I can't wait to read it.

I plan to read this book again while I'm reading War & Peace and then at the end.  And I'm sure I will refer back to it countless times throughout.  Another thing I love about this book is the excellent appendices.  The first is a chronology of Leo Tolstoy's life, and the second is a guide to the characters of War & Peace, which I was absolutely thrilled to see.  It has a pronunciation guide (bless you, Andrew Kaufman) and a short description of the character.  And as the author mentions in the book, there are almost 600 characters (what??) in War & Peace, and that character guide is going to be a lifesaver, lemme tell you. 

In conclusion, when a book about a book, or, more accurately, a literary criticism, makes me want to read the book in discussion, like, now, that makes it a firm favorite.  This book was totally that for me.  Seeing how much I loved Give War and Peace a Chance, I have high hopes that I'm going to really love War & Peace.  Despite the page count.  Fingers crossed.  Anyway, I loved this book like crazy, and if you or someone you know has the slightest inkling of an interest in reading War & Peace, this is totally the book for them.  Or, whatever, it's such a good book, everyone should read it.  And then they'll want to read War & Peace.  And then maybe we'd all be better off.  And now I'm going to stop, because it's late and I'm tired and I'm rambling with run-on sentences and getting carried away (wow). 

I hope you liked this review and found it informative and interesting, and I will be back to share the books I hope to read in June.  Wait, how is it already June?  That cannot be happening!

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