By Angie Georgeff
Whenever I visit my three grandchildren, I read them stories. Robbie is now eleven, so he does not need me to read to him, but he still enjoys a story as much as anyone. Elizabeth is six, so she and I take turns reading paragraphs, with Robbie stepping in if he thinks his sister is taking too long to sound out an unfamiliar word. I hope I was more patient with my younger brothers back in the day, but we were closer in age than Robbie and Elizabeth. Caleb is five and still primarily a listener, so he is happy to have me read to him.
When Robbie objected to a proposed book on the grounds that it was too long for a bedtime story, I countered that it wasn’t exactly “War and Peace.” Of course, I then had to explain that “War and Peace” is famous as a very long book. That prompted Robbie to ask how many pages it had.
While it sounds like a straightforward question, it actually isn’t. If there were only one edition, I could easily have checked the bibliographic record online and given Robbie the precise answer I know he was expecting, but “War and Peace” was originally published in Russian in 1869 and has been reissued many times in numerous languages. There is no consistent number of pages in these versions. The edition we have here at the library has 1,136 pages, but others available in the OWL catalog have between 696 and 1,456 pages. Perhaps the best answer would have been to say the first edition published in 1869 had 1,225 pages. I settled the question for Robbie by saying “about 1,000.”
Naturally, Robbie was intrigued and he wanted to know whether I had ever read such a long book. I told him that I read it in high school, along with another novel by Leo Tolstoy called “Anna Karenina,” which was a little bit shorter and a lot better. For now, I advised him to stick to “Harry Potter.” The Battle of Hogwarts is a lot more exhilarating than Tolstoy’s exhaustive description of the Battle of Borodino. Napoleon might have appreciated that level of detail, but I did not: I just wanted Tolstoy to get on with Natasha’s story.
James Patterson’s “BookShots” lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from “War and Peace.” These small paperbacks average fewer than 150 pages and are designed to be consumed in just one sitting. In response to requests from our patrons, we were one of the first libraries in the region to get them. Whether you prefer a quick read or an extended “vacation” to a new world set apart from ours by time or space, we have books you will love. Come in soon to choose yours so you’ll be ready for that snow day you know is coming!