I did it.
I started on New Year's Day, and following Jillian's proposal of a chapter a day (it has 365 chapters), I finished this morning.
So I can say this:
SUCK IT TOLSTOY, I READ YOUR DAMN BOOK.
I'm so glad I read it. It's much more accessible than I expected it to be. Although some of the war parts were a slog for me, overall I was caught up in the story and deeply interested in the characters. Tolstoy has some very tart words for warmongers and historians (he really dislikes the latter), and it was fun to occasionally imagine putting him up against, say, Dubya in a discussion about the Iraq war.
I'm also very glad that the epilogue was an epilogue and not a prologue, or I might never have gotten to the actual story. Tolstoy, dude, I get it--you think historians are a bunch of flimflam artists. Way to pound that idea deeply into the ground in that there epilogue.
I'm not sure why he felt the need to go into such pedantic detail in the end, when he covered the same ground so beautifully towards the end of the novel itself:
"A bee sitting on a flower stung a child. And teh child is afraid of bees and says that a bee's purpose consists in stinging people. A poet admires a bee sucking from the cup of a flower and says that a bee's purpose consists in sucking up the fragrance of flowers. A beekeeper, noting how a bee gathers flower pollen and brings it to the hive, says that a bee's purpose consists in gathering honey. Another beekeeper, who has studied the life of a hive more closely, says that a bee collects pollen in order to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that its purpose consists in reproducing its kind. A botanist notes that, as a bee lands with pollen on the pistil of a dioecious flower, it fertilizes it, and in that the botanist sees the bee's purpose. Another, observing the migration of plants, sees that the bee contributes to that migration, and this new observer may say it is in this that the bee's purpose consists. But the final purpose of the bee is exhausted neither by the one, nor the other, nor the third purpose that human reason is able to discover. The higher human reason rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious for it is the inaccessibility of the final purpose.
"All that is accessible to man is the observation of the correspondence between the life of a bee and other phenomena of life. It is the same for the purposes of historical figures and peoples."
So, yes, I'm glad I read it; I ended up overall loving it, in spite of a few slow spots; I could definitely see a re-read in a few years; and I'd definitely recommend it to others.
Now what on earth should I tackle in 2012?