I just read the final chapter of War and Peace this morning. Tolstoy’s epic is long (my translation is 1455 pages) but it is divided into 361 very short chapters. Starting on January 1st, I read one chapter per day.
It is now December 27th, which is 361 days later. And sure enough, I am finished.
I suppose this seems straightforward enough, but any long journey can seem overwhelming. Not so much at the beginning. We all know the saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and yet you have lots of energy and enthusiasm for that first step. It’s the steps at miles 46, and 75, and 126, and so forth, that seem harder.
But when there is a plan, and the plan is straightforward, and you stick with the plan, then eventually you will finish. Reading one 3-4 page chapter per day was always doable. This pace allowed me to get to know and care about the characters in this sweeping saga of Russia during the Napoleonic wars. There is a reason War and Peace is considered one of the world’s best novels.
Now I will take a few days off, and then start my next reading project on January 1st! I’m looking at reading all the works of Shakespeare. The path isn’t quite as straightforward (Shakespeare didn’t divide his work into 361 bite-sized pieces…) but I have a calendar that involves reading about the same amount, roughly 3 pages in the collection per day.
So here’s hoping that in late December of next year I’ll be finished with that. Life is, in many ways, unknowable. But there’s a reasonable chance that 2022 will happen, and that 2022 will have 365 days, and that I will be around for them, and capable of reading a little bit here and there. Since those things are likely to happen, I could end the year not having read all the works of Shakespeare, or I could end the year having done so. I’d like to aim for the latter.