You may have noticed that over the past few months I haven’t read any fiction. If you know me, you may have wondered why since I’m typically much more of a fiction reader than non-fiction. Or more likely you have a life of your own and haven’t been losing sleep over my reading choices.
The reason for my fiction fast is that I’ve been immersed in reading War and Peace. I started it last year, but then got sidetracked by too many other books. I often read more than one book at a time, especially if one is something that is difficult. War and Peace is tough to cart around to a lot of the places I like to read (stoplights, baseball games, the pool). I picked it up again this year and decided that to make a commitment to it I would only allow myself to read non-fiction until I finished it. I felt like War and Peace is already so full of characters that other fiction just ended up distracting me. But I could handle non-fiction at the same time.
For the past few years, I’ve been working my way through a list of classic literature. The list I’m using is from The Well Educated Mind because I like Susan Wise Bauer but there are many other lists of great books out there that are probably equally good. I don’t think picking a list matters as much as doing the reading. Reading from a list isn’t really necessary but it is helping me fill in some of the gaps in my own education.I’ve been mostly pleased with the books I’ve encountered in this project. I’ve been surprised how much I liked some (Don Quixote and Uncle Tom’s Cabin), re-introduced to some that I read long ago (Jane Eyre) and really only had one where I wished I hadn’t spend the the time reading it (Moby Dick).
After finishing War and Peace I admit to a certain amount of pride at the accomplishment. Sort of a 1200 pages! Take that! feeling. On closing the book I felt myself making a mark on a mental checklist. There were definitely parts that bogged me down (the battle descriptions, the pages and pages of philosophizing). But I also felt swept up into the story. It’s a classic for a reason. I loved Natasha and Pierre. And Andrei. And Nikolai. I cared about them and immensely enjoyed the time I spent with them.
But I’m also happy to be moving on, I’ve got a long list with a lot of stories crying out to be read.