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#teapigsbookclub takes on Tolstoy!

Posted by Sarah on 17th June 2015

#teapigsbookclub takes on Tolstoy!

Cup of tea and spectacles at the ready – it’s time to dive into another addition of #teapigsbookclub! 

This month we attempted to introduce a bit of Tolstoy into our lives - slightly daunting, but we’re always up for a challenge.  We thought we’d ease ourselves in gently by starting off with ‘How Much Land Does a Man Need’ and what a great read it was – not scary at all!

If you’re not sure what #teapigsbookclub is all about – we’ve teamed up with Penguin to celebrate the launch of their little black classics, which means we’ll be reading a different book each month and sharing our thoughts over vast quantities of tea (and wine..but mainly tea)      

Below are a few thoughts the team had – general consensus seemed to be that it was an interesting read with lots of relevant morality issues, but the BIG question on everyone’s mind was ‘how much land DOES a man need!? Well, we did a quick survey round the office, and can confirm as long as there’s enough room for a hammock, then we teapigs are happy.  


“I’ve always been scared of reading Tolstoy, as the books are huuuge and I think I’m not prepared for them yet, but reading these two short stories gave me a sneak peak of what to expect, so that’s a good start. It’s probably the most religious stories I’ve ever read, with all the devil tempting people and God’s messengers, but it makes you think how greedy and selfish daily life can make you if you’re not careful. Good stuff.”


"I really enjoyed 'How much land does a man need' as it was an accessible way to test the waters of someone quite as daunting as Tolstoy! Even though I studied English literature at Uni, I somehow managed to avoid ever reading Tolstoy for three whole years (or maybe I just missed that lecture..who knows!)

To be honest, as someone not particularly enamoured with the whole concept of God, it was a bit much. But the values themselves, such as love, kindness, morality and greed, I found myself very much on board with. I think the fundamental morals of the stories are something which should still be held president today - kindness comes from within, whether you believe that to be from God or not, the world could definitely do with some more of it!"


“I liked it, essentially a story about morals through the lens of Tolstoy’s religion. I felt that both stories spanned significant enough time periods to articulate their message in full, and both demonstrated the impact of our decision-making on those around us. This makes the story more relatable to more modern readers – we all know how annoying it is when someone’s cows wander onto your land, and the like. My takeaway was a little bit ‘just be good / don’t be greedy’, but I think there is a lot more depth that could come from reading these alongside supporting material.”  


"The first half of the book highlights how you can become a better person & in the long run benefit from helping people who you think might be less well off than you are, even if you consider yourself to be pretty hard done by.

The second half of the book gives a clear message that taking more than is due to you, or actively seeking more than you are owed will ultimately lead to your downfall."

Whether you loved it or loathed it, if you've got anything to add to the discussion please do leave us a comment - we'd love to know what you made of this month's read! 

Next Month:

Missed out last month? Fear not - We can now reveal next month’s book will be Femme Fatal by Guy de Maupassant – and we’ve got 20 copies to give away so you can join in too!

We asked our friend Sam from Penguin to give us the low down – and we must admit it all sounds very exciting!

What’s it about?

Four sparkling nineteenth-century tales of Parisian high society and rural life. The climax of a secret love affair ends in bitter disappointment; a son is sent to his father’s mistress to break the news of his death; a man loses his love to another woman; and an encounter in a graveyard is not quite as at seems

Where’s it set?

These are all set in and around Paris in the 1870s and 80s

Who wrote it?

Guy de Maupassant – the father of the modern short story – was a protégé of Flaubert and went on to be a tremendous influence on European literature

What makes him so good?

Maupassant’s stories are sparkling in their clarity. This probably has a lot to do with how short they are, most of them being originally published in the newspapers of their day. He explores contemporary Paris with an exactness that brings the city and its characters to life and isn’t afraid to explore the underbelly of society.

For your chance to win a copy of the book as well as a pack of everyday brew – send an email to with ‘PENGUIN’ in the subject line, winners will be informed on the 1st July - good luck and happy reading!