Category: Readalong

The Brothers Karamazov: A Superfluous Read-along

Brothers and sisters, are you ready?

Getting through summer 2022

Announcing the sixth Reading in Bed summer read-along, and the first one since 2018, when we went Full Monte. In the years before that, we read about whales, tales, the ton, and Napoleon. This year we turn to The Brothers Karamazov, which as far as I know, doesn’t include any of these elements, but with over 900 pages in my edition, it certainly could.

I call this a “superfluous” read-along for a few reasons:

  • As in the trope: The “superfluous man” is a common trope in Russian literature that I’ve wrote about before. It’s basically a Byronic hero, and was popularised in Russia by Dostoyevsky’s arch-enemy Turgenev. In a story of four brothers, I’m guessing at least one of them is a little superfluous. 
  • As in too much: There were so many Dostoyevsky read-alongs and events in 2021, because it was his bicentenary, that running one now does feel a little superfluous; but if you were also too busy doom-scrolling, now is the time!
  • As in unnecessary: Several bloggers have expressed ambivalence about reading Russian literature while Russia is invading Ukraine, notably the late Jenny Colvin of Reading Envy (see episode 243), but like her, I’ve come to the conclusion that reading about something is probably a pretty neutral endeavor.

In other words, this read-along is already a day late, a dollar short, and possibly in poor taste. And yet it somehow feels like just the right time to read The Brothers Karamazov.

I’ve been reading through Dostoyevsky’s catalogue for about the last ten years. I started with The Idiot, which I found rather challenging (let’s blame baby brain, for some reason I chose to read this when Henry was about four months old), then moved on to some shorter works (my favourite is still Notes From the Underground), then Crime and Punishment and Demons in recent years. If The Brothers Karamazov is a culmination of these major and minor works, it should include lots of religious and philosophical questions, family drama, political intrigue, and, of course, murder.


I will attempt to post according to this schedule, broken down here into even smaller chunks for those who like to track their progress (I borrowed heavily from Rincey Reads to make this daily tracker):

  • August 1: Master post
  • August 8: Books 1-3
  • August 15: Books 4-6
  • August 22: Books 7-9
  • August 29: Books 10-12
  • September 5: Epilogue and wrap up

This amounts to an average of about 36 pages per day, if you start reading August 1, though I encourage you to start early!


I chose the Penguin Classics edition, translated by David McDuff. I’d like to say I have strong evidence that this is the best translation, but really, I’d like it to match all my other Penguin Dostoyevskys! I will also purchase the bicentennial edition ebook, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, because paper + ebook is my only hope with this aggressive schedule, and I like to compare different translations. I generally find P&V a little obscure in their wording choices but pretty easy once you’re used to it. I’ve heard mixed things about the Oxford World Classics edition, translated by Ignat Avsey, supposedly more readable but not overly faithful to the Russian.

Let’s get ready

Pick your edition, clear your schedule, and participate as much or as little as you like; as host, I will put weekly posts up and hope to chat with you in the comment section. You can post your own reflections on whatever platform you like. Twitter hashtags don’t usually take off for these things but let’s go with #TheBrothersK22.

Between now and August 1 I will share some resources and past read-alongs for inspiration, while clearing the decks to prepare for my favourite kind of summer reading: big, translated, and on the 1,001 Books list.

I’m still participating in book blog events ft. Nonfiction November and Novellas in November

My favourite part of blogging has got to be the events. I love hosting a good read-along, but I don’t have the energy right now. So I’ve decided to throw myself into some events hosted by other, more ambitious bloggers.

Nonfiction November

I’ve never participated in Nonfiction November, despite nonfiction making up a significant portion of my reading (about a third of the books I’ve read in 2021, up from about a quarter in 2020 and 2019). It’s time to correct this gross oversight.

Nonfiction November has been running for many years. Returning hosts Doing Dewey and What’s Nonfiction are joined by newcomers The Thousand Book Project (sounds like we’d get along), Plucked From the Stacks, and The OC Book Girl.

You know I love to dive into book blog lore, and I see someone already tried to piece together the origins of Nonfiction November, tracing it back to 2013 and two defunct book blogs (the sad part of looking into book blog history is how many blogs are abandoned… or in this case, one of them redirects to a porn site, beware!). I also found a podcast where the current hosts reminisce about the origins of this event.

As for me? I’m trying to go all in, which means blogging about each of the weekly prompts, starting with a fairly easy one about your year in nonfic so far. I’m most looking forward to “be the expert” week, where I will choose between my expertise in tech pessimism (finishing up The Ugly Truth as we speak), and Jonathan Franzen’s nonfiction, which I should complete at some point during the month (just his most obscure work, The Kraus Project, to go!)

Novellas in November

This one should need no introduction – I did a whole post on the history of my beloved #NovNov and despite appearances, I’ve never hosted, just participated enthusiastically. Which I hope to do again. Capable hosts Bookish Beck and Cathy of 746 Books have not only created weekly themes, but will host read-alongs for each – this might be too much for me and my pandemic-addled brain to keep up with, but on the other hand, it saves me the trouble of choosing books. Territory of Light has been on my radar… and I can’t quite remember if I’ve read Ethan Frome.

Depending how this goes, I might see what’s happening for December as well, anyone organizing anything?

Reading Dostoyevsky to own the libs

A weird thing happened to me on Twitter the other day…

I’m participating in a Crime and Punishment read-along on Booktube this month. I’ve been dutifully tweeting my observations, but the readalong doesn’t really have a Twitter presence, so I’m mostly tweeting into the void. I might get a pity like from Michael, if I’m lucky.

Then one of my C&P tweets got retweeted by Ben Shapiro.

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The Full Monte Read-Along Chapters 80ish-117: Adieu, Dirtbag Dumas

If you have trouble maneuvering your ship into port at Marseilles, steer yourself over to the master post.

Me before this read-along vs. me after this read-along:

Well, mes amis, a wise man once said that all human wisdom is contained in these two words: “wait and hope”. Or, more precisely, “attendre et espérer”.

So let’s wait and hope that the next Reading in Bed read-along goes better, n’est-ce pas? Continue reading

The Full Monte Read-Along Chapters 41-80ish: I Need a Hero

If you have trouble maneuvering your ship into port at Marseilles, steer yourself over to the master post.

I need a hero in two senses:

  1. A hero who can get me back on track with this read-along
  2. A hero in this story so I can have feelings about it

I don’t mean a hero I can “root for” (ugh, hate that phrase.) And I don’t mean the archetypal hero, like, an Odysseus type. I don’t need a hero’s journey and I don’t need Dantès to be more virtuous.

Image result for cold mountain gif

Unless the Odysseus part is played by Jude Law, as in loose-Odyssey-adaptation Cold Mountain. Then I’m here for it.

I need him to be wrong sometimes, to go too far. I need him to get what he wants and realize he wanted the wrong thing. I need him to have a fatal flaw.

I need him to have some passion, damn it!

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Who Wrote The Count of Monte Cristo?

Welcome, readers-along! As we start reading on this fine (Canadian) long weekend, let’s ponder what should be a very simple question: who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo?

Here’s the evolution of my answer:

Had you asked me a year ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, dead white dude.

Had you asked me six months ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, dead, but not white, dude. I found Alex on this list of classics by authors of colour, which lead me to choose it for my read along this year.*

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, père, and probably have tried to make a “Big Poppa” joke. I learned that Alexandre Dumas has a son of the same name, also a writer. He’s known as fils. The père designation stuck, though I think there should be some sort of statute of limitations on that, because who’s reading fils theses days?

big poppa

Given what I’ve learned about Dumas, you could probably find him in the back of the club sippin’ Moët too, tbh

Ask me now? I have no idea! Continue reading

The Full Monte Read-Along

I would have posted this much sooner, but I was struggling to find a good name for my momentous fifth summer read-along, in which we will tackle Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

Count Along? Count Me In? No. Sometimes you must wait for the muse to show up.

The title is relevant too, because there are abridged versions out there. Do not be fooled. We are going FULL MONTE, people.

Image result for the full monty gifs

Large and in charge

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War and Peace Newbies Read-Along: All’s Well That Ends. (Well…)

happy ending

How Convenient

Alternate post title: All’s Well That Ends Well (If You Are A Rich, Titled Male)

“All’s Well That Ends Well” was the working title of what eventually became War and Peace. AWTEW was to be set just after the Crimean War, in which Tolstoy fought during the 1850s. But Tolstoy decided he couldn’t just start there. If he was going to talk about the Crimean War, he had to explain the Decemberist revolt of 1825, so he started again, with the working title The Decemberists. Then he backtracked even more, to the French invasion of Russia in 1812, but he couldn’t very well talk about Napoleon without talking about his 1805 antics. It’s all very Captain Underpants (… for those without children, flashbacks in Captain Underpants are always preceded by the line “But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story…”)

Did it all end well, though? Let’s not worry about the posts I skipped (lesson learned: eleven weeks is too long for a read-along) and see where our friends ended up in the epilogue, seven years after the events of 1812.

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War and Peace Newbies Read-Along Volume III, Part III: Fan Video Appreciation Week

Et bien, mes readers-along, si vous n’avez rien de mieux à faire, go to the master post for the read-along schedule and more.

I was going to save this for the end of the read-along, but I didn’t find much to remark on in this section. Well, okay, two quick things:

  1. Helene tries to get out of her marriage to Pierre by… converting to Catholicism?? I thought Pierre was being a dick when he insulted Helene’s intelligence, but I’m sorry, that’s just dumb. Have you seen The Tudors? You need to get away from the Catholics, girl!

Henry VIII knows: say “nope” to the Pope


2. Pierre figures out a way for the letters in his name to add up to the same number in Napoleon’s name… so… he has to…. murder him… this whole plot has got me like:Moving on! Let’s talk about the world of fan videos.

I don’t even know if that’s the correct terminology, but I’m talking about videos one finds on YouTube, which are spliced together from TV shows or movies, either to celebrate the themes or relationships within that show, OR, to insert the creator’s own interpretation of what the themes and relationships SHOULD have been. Like… video fanfic? I became aware that this was a thing when I was searching for the theme song in Far From the Madding Crowd (wonderful movie, watch it!) and found stuff like this.

With a recent adaptation of War and Peace, there’s a whole world of this stuff to explore. Let’s get to it!

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War and Peace Newbies Read-Along Volume III, Part II: Napoleon Bonaparte Has a Cold


Et bien, mes readers-along, si vous n’avez rien de mieux à faire, go to the master post for the read-along schedule and more.

Several of our main characters do important things in this chapter. Pierre joins the war as a spectator, which is apparently a thing you can do. The old prince dies, and Marya tries not to be happy about it. The peasants revolt, and Nikolai gets a chance to help a (rich, single) damsel in distress. Andrei broods, and is badly wounded.

The real star of this section, though, is Napoleon Bonaparte. And he has a cold. Continue reading