Terry Teachout resolves to read War and Peace (link). He makes it sound like a chore, as if he were resolving to visit his Aunt Minnie in the nursing home once a week.
Here is news for Terry: War and Peace is too short. Indeed, the only dull sentence in it is the first one--a bit of a hurdle if you don't get it, but not an overpowering blockade. Other than that, you read like the fit is on you.
Here's another piece of news. It's not really a long book at all. It is a series of individual scenes, each inimitably and intensely realized and entirely capable of standing on its own. Read them until you are exhausted, then fall back and regroup and read some more.
I know whereof I speak. I read W&P for the first time in my 30th year. I was working at an indoor job in Washington DC, but I would sneak out into Lafayette Park to get my novelistic fix (this inattention to my nominal duties may explain why I am not President of the United States). Mrs. Buce and I read it again a couple of years ago; I found I understood it better, but that it was otherwise none the worse for wear.
For a long time I said it was my favorite novel. Tastes change. In my 40s, I had a girlfriend who instructed me to correct a cultural deficiency by reading Middlemarch. She was right; I don't know of any novel anywhere that creates a more fully realized sense of place. In my 50s, my daughter told me to go back and take a second look at Charterhouse of Parma, which I had earlier slogged through without comprehension. And she was right; these things take a certain maturity, and some of us grow up faster than others.
I also would have said W&P was the great historical novel. On seasoned reflection, I think that may miss the mark. The magic of W&P is the way it captures life in tooth and claw--but not specifically Napoleonic life, however plausible the telling. For capturing a vanished past, and for catching the sense of a dynamic past, I might now favor l'Education Sentimentale (not least because it makes me as cool as Woody Allen).
Terry resolves also to read Little Dorrit, and bully for him: I'm not a super Dickens fan, but I'd say it is the one I like best of the (not very many) I've read. But for W&P--let's just say I envy him the pleasure of having this to look foward to.
Afterthought: If he is still doubtful and wants a warmup lap, he might try Hadji Murat. It's just as good as W&P and only a fraction as long