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Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li

ISBN: 9781734590760
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Pages: 256

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“You know how, very occasionally in your life, there’s a ‘before and after’ reading experience? Well, reading War and Peace with Tolstoy Together has been that for me—a milestone not just in reading but in living.” —Michael Langan


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From the acclaimed author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, a book about the art of reading. In Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace, Yiyun Li invites you to travel with her through Tolstoy’s novel—and with fellow readers around the world who joined her for an online book club and an epic journey during a pandemic year.

“I’ve found that the more uncertain life is,” Yiyun Li writes, “the more solidity and structure War and Peace provides.” Tolstoy Together expands the epic novel into a rich conversation about literature and ways of reading, with contributions from Garth Greenwell, Elliott Holt, Carl Phillips, Tom Drury, Sara Majka, Alexandra Schwartz, and hundreds of fellow readers.

Along with Yiyun Li’s daily reading journal and a communal journal with readers’ reflections—with commentary on craft and technique, historical context, and character studies, Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace includes a schedule and framework, providing a daily motivating companion for Tolstoy’s novel and a reading practice for future books.

Yiyun Li

is the author of seven books, including Where Reasons End, which received the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award; the essay collection Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life; and the novels The Vagrants and Must I Go. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and Windham-Campbell Prize, among other honors. A contributing editor to A Public Space, she teaches at Princeton University.


The brilliant novelist Yiyun Li has started a War and Peace book club online at A Public Space. You read twelve pages a day of War and Peace in a whole community of readers. And the next thing you know, you have read War and Peace, which is terrific.

Ann Patchett, PBS Newshour

A paradoxically rich connection with strangers who are widely dispersed yet linked by their predicaments and imaginations…. Thousands of isolated souls are on the same page.

Alix Christie, Economist

​Tolstoy Together presents and re-presents—in a wonderful economy of style—passages from ​War and Peace​ and deposits them next to tantalizing fragments of thought.​.. a work that operates by echolocation: an entertaining miscellany of personal anecdotes, close reads, contextual clues, and trivia that reinforce and refute each other in playful turns​.​

Rhoda Feng, The Smart Set

​​Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li ​delivered me to a new publisher (A Public Space) and a collective reading of Tolstoy’s novel…Yiyun Li’s single, thoughtful gesture broadened my reading and life. While we may be presently forced to live in more isolation, we do not need to think in isolation and expanding our thinking and reading should also not become an isolated event.

Anakana Schofield, the Irish Times

Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li, edited by Brigid Hughes, is a convivial companion that infuses the experience of reading a long, difficult novel with joy and revelry.

Christine Jacobson, Los Angeles Review of Books

Among the many pleasures of the #TolstoyTogether group [is] seeing how much we’ve read reminds me I’ve been traveling all along, and not alone.

Carl Phillips

Tolstoy Together is a testimony to and a celebration of close reading when we afford literary text dedicated time and devotional attention…a rich handbook for writers with Li’s notes frequently pointing to the formal aspects of War and Peace. At a fundamental level Li teaches us to observe life.

Isabelle Li, Sydney Review of Books


Yiyun Li on starting a virtual book club during the pandemic: An Interview with Yiyun Li and Annie Liontas in Electric Literature

Tolstoy’s Uncommon Sense and Common Nonsense: Yiyun Li’s Introduction to Tolstoy Together in the Paris Review Daily

Yiyun Li on taking writing lessons from War and Peace in Lit Hub

How the Pandemic Inspired Even More People to Join Book Clubs: Yiyun Li on Tolstoy Together in Shondaland

Yiyun Li, Garth Greenwell, & Idra Novey, a conversation about Tolstoy Together hosted by Politics & Prose

Yiyun Li in conversation with Ayana Mathis, hosted by Left Bank Books

Yiyun Li in conversation with Amitava Kumar, hosted by Skylight Books

How to Start Reading More Books—and Enjoying It Again in Metro

The Best Books for Every Type of Mom: Tolstoy Together in The Strategist

Six Introductions That Will Change How You Read These Classics: Tolstoy Together in The Atlantic

Profile of Yiyun Li in New York Times Magazine