Give War and Peace a Chance

Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

Give War and Peace a Chance

From a popular Tolstoy scholar: an entertaining, thought-provoking, and accessible argument for why War and Peace is more relevant to readers now than ever.

Considered by many critics the greatest novel ever written, War and Peace is also one of the most feared. And at 1,500 pages, it’s no wonder why. Still, new editions keep appearing. In July 2009 Newsweek put War and Peace at the top of its list of 100 great novels and a 2007 edition of the AARP Bulletin, read by millions, included the novel in their list of the top four books everybody should read by the age of fifty. A New York Times survey from 2009 identified War and Peace as the world classic you’re most likely to find people reading on their subway commute to work. What might all those Newsweek devotees, senior citizens, and harried commuters see in a book about the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s? A mirror of our times.

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 war, social change, political intrigue, 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.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451644708 | 
  • May 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Give War and Peace a Chance includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Andrew D. Kaufman. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Despite War and Peace’s long-lived position at the top of many critics’ lists of the greatest novels of all time and abiding popularity with readers all over the world, few of us think of the famed novel as relevant to our modern era as well as to our daily lives. But according to professor Andrew D. Kaufman, War and Peace is not only a mirror of our times, but also an urgent moral compass and a celebration of the complexities, joys, and challenges in our lives. By breaking the 1,500-page novel into chapters that touch on each of the book’s most important themes—whether Death or Love, or Courage or Perseverance—Kaufman highlights Tolstoy’s topics of wisdom for the modern reader. By showing how the quest of the book’s characters to find themselves in a ruptured world reflects our own contemporary quest for meaning, Andrew Kaufman reveals just how much Tolstoy has to say about being alive in troubled times, and surviving them.  
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About the Author

Andrew D. Kaufman
Sarah Cramer Shields

Andrew D. Kaufman

Andrew D. Kaufman, internationally recognized Russian literature scholar at the University of Virginia, is the author of Understanding Tolstoy and coauthor of Russian for Dummies. An award-winning teacher of Russian language, literature, and culture, he is a featured Tolstoy expert on and is frequently invited to discuss Russian literature and culture on national and international television and radio programs.