People sometimes joke about very long books by calling them doorstops, implying that they are good for little else because no one can screw up his courage sufficiently to read them. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is probably referred to in these terms more than any other novel. I finally decided to confront the beast and read the book, despite the fact that I’m fairly confident that no English teacher who values his or her life would actually assign students to read the novel in an era where even a book of a few hundred pages is considered too much of a burden for young people. The book is hard to categorize. It is at the same time a novel of romance, a history of the part of the Napoleonic Wars that brought Russian into conflict with France, and a treatise on the meaning of history, and indeed of life itself. War and Peace was written by an author who had not yet become a Christian and was grappling with the questions for which only Christianity provides real answers. At the same time, he was questioning the popular interpretations of history and asserting that it was controlled by a force outside man of which he understood little. If you are up to the challenge, you should enjoy the romances, marvel at the battlefield descriptions, and give serious thought to Tolstoy’s ideas on the meaning of life and history.